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My travel mug broke :( Looking at replacements, I find that most travel mugs with designs tend to be stainless steel, whereas my prior mug was ceramic. Is there a difference in heat retention between the two materials in this day and age? Are there other considerations I should take into account when choosing between materials?

(Note: I put tea in it)

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If you fill the container with hot water for about five or 10 minutes before adding your tea it'll keep it hotter longer also. I actually pour a second cup of hot water because the temperature of the water changes significantly with the first one. –  MargeGunderson Nov 27 '12 at 8:50
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The biggest deterent to a stainless steel mug, in my opinion, is that you can't reheat your drink in it in the microwave. It maintains the heat better than plastic insulated mugs overall but I hate not being able to reheat a tepid cup of coffee because it is metal. –  Kristina Lopez Nov 27 '12 at 18:31
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Plastic is an option in this day and age - I have a double-walled plastic travel mug with a flip-up lid that's pretty durable and does a better job of insulating than steel. Not as fancy looking as ceramic or steel, tho. –  RI Swamp Yankee Jan 24 at 13:47
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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Stainless Steel

Most stainless steel travel mugs are double walled, but are NOT vacuum flasks

They usually have a screw on stainless steel base, or just a plain plastic base. Both of these stop thermal air losses, but are in no way as efficient as a true vacuum flask. It can't be anyway, due to the lid having a drinking hole in it

Lids with sliding covers are impossible to clean, and should be avoided. Just a simple double wall stainless steel mug, with a "reduced spill" style plastic lid and silicone gasket will last many years, be cleanable, and provide reasonable heat retention

Double Walled Ceramic

Double walled ceramic mugs are heavy, and while reasonable strong, generally have two fundamental flaws:

  • They are very heavy due to having two ceramic layers, even though both layers are quite thin
  • Because the layers are thin, most mugs do not have a handle, as they cannot support one without breaking

Their insulation qualities are fine and they can be-reheated in situ. The typical silicone lids they ship with are easy to wash which is a bonus

If you don't mind not having a handle they are fine, but heavy

I don't like drinking from silicone, it feels weird, and the hole is usually too small. Cutting a bigger hole always ends in disaster (maybe a hole punch would do it?). They also break much more easily than a normal ceramic mug if used while travelling

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My old ceramic one was double-walled. Does this mean if I could find that type of mug again it'd be the same as the stainless steel one? –  Yamikuronue Nov 27 '12 at 0:43
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Metal travel mugs nowadays are made like thermos, so they'll keep an (almost) constant temperature, although not all of them have vacuum betweem their walls.

enter image description here (Source: Wikipedia)

They'll keep the temperature longer if you fill 'em up; having air in a thermo eases the temperature dropping. It's easier drinking a full mug of tea than drinking it full of strong dark coffee, so it will suit you better.

If you enjoy the idea of not having temperature drops, make sure it's designed as an insulated vacuum flask, and not just having double walls. I personally don't like having my drink at an undrinkable 80 C (170 F) 1 hour after having prepared it. In this list of materials, you can see vacuum has the lowest termal conductivity. I don't know which of those materials is ceramic, or if it's not listed there.

Materials for the isolating walls other than stainless steel are also to be considered; glass insulates better, but breaks easylier. Aluminium will be lighter, but you might feel an unpleasant taste (I do).

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Is there a significant difference between metal and ceramic though? And how do you figure it's easier to fill a mug with tea than coffee? –  Yamikuronue Nov 26 '12 at 20:46
    
Try to dring 300 ml of black coffee. I find easier to take the caffeine in 300 ml of tea instead ;-) –  J.A.I.L. Nov 26 '12 at 20:47
    
Ah, I can't drink coffee at all so I don't know much about it. –  Yamikuronue Nov 26 '12 at 21:00
    
Espresso coffee caffeine content is 1,691–2,254 mg/L, whereas tea has 124–416 mg/L (source: Wikipedia) Drinking 300 ml (10 oz) of strong black coffee in one go is just too much. –  J.A.I.L. Nov 26 '12 at 21:24
    
I didn't think you usually drank an entire mug of espresso. Generic brewed is more like 200mg in a 240ml mug according to mayoclinic.com/health/caffeine/AN01211 and many of the teas I drink boast having "as much caffeine as coffee" (teavana.com/the-teas/mate-teas). Anyway this is all entirely off topic, but thanks for explaining what you meant –  Yamikuronue Nov 26 '12 at 21:44
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it maintains the heat even if its away to the fire or heat... . . . .

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What is "it"? Steel or ceramic? As it is your answer doesn't provide any information. Please edit it to actually address the question asked. (Please take a few minutes to visit the about page, this site doesn't operate like usual forums.) –  Mat Jan 24 at 11:02
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