Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world, second only to water and, possibly tea. So, what you drink your daily coffee out of is a surprisingly important question. Single-use coffee cups are an environmental issue. Even paper cups have a plastic barrier on the inside to stop hot coffee from leaking, which makes them harder to recycle.
The simplest way you can help the issue is by using a portable reusable coffee cup. Not only are they better for the environment, but they let you make coffee at home and bring it along when you want to, saving you a few bucks. Really, there’s no reason you shouldn’t have a great one at home—just in case.
What to Look for in a Great On-the-Go Coffee Mug
Reusable coffee cups are for sale everywhere nowadays, but many of them are a pretty poor replacement for a paper cup from your local café. If you are going to the effort of getting an on-the-go mug, get a great one.
Here’s what cup qualities you need to look for:
- Easy to carry and toss in a bag. These are mugs for when you’re out and about. Big bulky thermoses that won’t fit comfortably in your hand or bag are going to give you more hassle than they’re worth.
- Take a beating. You shouldn’t have to worry about your mug getting bounced around in your bag. You want something that will replace hundreds of paper cups, not crumple like one.
- Not spill your coffee. Spilled coffee is both incredibly sad and potentially hazardous to electronics. Again, if you’re getting a portable mug, make sure it’s one that won’t leak.
- Only keep your coffee hot if you want it to. The problem with thermoses is that they actually keep your coffee too hot. A proper camping thermos will keep your morning coffee undrinkable-y warm until well past lunch time. Make sure you get a mug with a level of insulation that suits your needs—or be prepared to leave it cool with the lid off.
- Be losable. Or at least not irreplaceably expensive. You’re going to forget your mug or potentially even lose it entirely. Don’t get something you can’t afford to misplace for a week or two.
- Be sustainably produced. A benefit of replacing single-use products with reusable ones is that they’re more sustainable. Most mass-produced plastic cups are no better for the environment, so look for something made from glass or other non-plastics if this is important to you.
- Easy to clean. Your cup needs to be cleaned after each coffee, especially if you make some kind of milk-infused drink. Don’t get something that’s awkward to take apart to clean. Also, clean your cup yourself. It’s not your barista’s job to wash your mug.
Best for Your Barista: KeepCup
KeepCup is a name that’s practically synonymous with reusable coffee cups. They’re available everywhere—and with good reason. KeepCups come in a variety of sizes, colors, and materials. They’re affordable, customizable, and great to drink out of.
KeepCup was created by two former-baristas and café owners, and it tells in the small details. They’re designed to fit underneath espresso machines so the drink can be made directly into your mug. The edges are also perfectly curved, which lets your barista get perfect latte art. They’re also simple to rinse, so if you forgot to do it yourself, you might only get glared at (instead of murdered).
With all the options available, it’s really choosing your own adventure with a KeepCup. Personally, I love the 12oz glass and cork model.
KeepCup, Reusable Glass Cup Brew Cork, Medium 12oz | 340ml, Press
The original, and still one of the best. It's hard to beat the thought that's gone into KeepCup's design.
Best Eco Option: Ecoffee Cup
Any reusable cup is going to be more sustainable than single-use cups (as long as you actually use it) but there are some specific, even more eco-friendly options. Our favorite of them is the Ecoffee Cup.
The Ecoffee cup is made from upcycled bamboo and corn starch, and “a proprietary resin containing aloe, soy, and <3% melamine.” There’s also some food-grade silicon for the lid. It’s recently upgraded the design, so the new cup is hardier and microwave safe.
Like KeepCups, Ecoffee Cups are available in lots of different sizes with different designs. I’m partial to the 16oz Dark Energy cup.
Ecoffee 16oz 470ml Reusable Cups with Silicone Lid Tops, Made with Natural Bamboo Fibre, Dark Energy
Just using a reusable cup goes along way to help the environment, but you can also get ones made from up-cycled materials—like the Ecoffee Cup.
Best for Brewing Great Coffee at Home: Fellow Carter Everywhere Mug
The Fellow Carter Everywhere mug is a bit bigger—and significantly more insulated—than the other models we’ve looked at, but it’s too good not to feature.
The Carter Everywhere is designed for bringing great coffee with you, rather than getting coffee while you’re out. Its extra-wide rim fits all the most popular manual brewing devices (like the Aeropress and Hario V60), so you can brew directly into it. It also means that when you drink, you get the full aromatic experience of your coffee. Unlike most other insulated mugs, the Carter Everywhere features a thin drinking lip so you get a proper mug-like sip, and it’s ceramic-lined to preserve the flavor of your coffee, too.
That’s not to say you can’t get it filled up at your local coffee shop, it’s just that one of our other picks is more convenient for it. Or, if you want something that’ll keep your coffee warm, check out our full guide to insulated travel coffee mugs.
Fellow Carter Everywhere Travel Mug - Wide Mouth Vacuum-Insulated Stainless Steel Coffee and Tea Tumbler with Ceramic Interior, Matte Black, 12 oz Cup
The Fellow Carter Everywhere is the best way to bring the coffee you make at home, well, everywhere.
If you look after any of the reusable cups on this list, it’ll last for years and replace hundreds of single-use cups. Even if you don’t use it absolutely every time you get a coffee, it’s worth having one around—every small step helps.