Available nearly everywhere, the average coffee mug is ceramic, often with a printed design of some sort. These are usually ass produced and inexpensive. For a bit more, nice etched glass mugs can be bought. For those who are a bit clumsy (especially in the morning before their first cup of coffee) inexpensive and unbreakable plastic mugs work well. All these mugs are fine if you’re going to be drinking your coffee at home right after you brewed it. If, after a while, your coffee gets cold, you can always refresh it with some more hot coffee from the pot.
These are all great for home, but if you’re going to be drinking your coffee on your way to work, you will need something more to make sure your coffee stays warm and doesn’t spill. The solution to both these problems is a thermal coffee mug. Thermal coffee mugs come in a variety of styles, but nearly all of them contain two walls with air, foam or vacuum between. This insulates the coffee (or any hot beverage) from the environment and slows the heat loss so the beverage stays warm longer. The interior wall heats up, but the heat does not reach the outside wall and disperse.
A second benefit of thermal mugs is that they’re usually designed for travel and come with a lid, which can screw on or snap on the top of the mug. The lid performs a dual purpose of keeping the coffee warm and preventing spills – an important thing when you are driving down the highway! A good lid also has a spout that snaps shut, helping to prevent even minor spills.
Nearly all thermal travel mugs are either plastic or steel (and some are both). Each has its own benefits. Plastic mugs are usually inexpensive and lighter, but tend to wear out faster and quite often don’t insulate as well as stainless steel mugs. They can also be more difficult to clean and sometimes they will take on the taste and smell of the beverage – especially if you have the same beverage, such as coffee every day (although if you always have the same beverage, it wouldn’t matter much!). Stainless steel mugs are usually more expensive, but they are more durable and easier to clean. They also tend not to retain flavors and tastes from their beverages. In addition, many stainless steel mugs use a vacuum between the double walls of the mug which is superior to air or foam.