Reusable coffee cup FAQs
What should you look for in a reusable coffee cup?
“I’d look for something that won’t break when I’m taking it around in my bag, and something that’s easy to clean,” says David Abrahamovitch, founder and CEO of organic coffee shop Grind. It’s also worth choosing a durable material like stainless steel or ceramic with good insulation and a leak-proof lid if you’ll be on the go.
How do you clean a reusable coffee cup?
“Quickly and regularly,” says David. “I make sure to rinse it out as soon as I finish, then wash it properly once I’m back home.” Some of the cups we tested above are dishwasher friendly, but others have to be hand washed. We’d recommend a bottle brush for this task, with a little washing up liquid and hot water. Your cup’s specs should state the best way to wash.
Which material makes the best reusable coffee cup?
Stainless steel is generally considered the best material for reusable coffee cups because it’s non-reactive, durable and excellent at temperature regulation. However there are five popular materials used to make travel mugs, which also includes ceramic, glass, hard plastic and bamboo.
It’s all a bit confusing, so we asked the experts at Caravan Coffee Roasters to help navigate. Here is what head of coffee Sam Langdon had to say:
“Stainless steel is non-reactive, so it shouldn’t impact flavour,” Langdon explains. “If it’s not properly insulated, however, it can cause heat loss.” Well insulated thermal ones shouldn’t lose any heat, but “if someone has a flask of filter coffee that is sealed and hot for eight hours, you can get an element of staling from the coffee oxidising.”
What about the environment? “Stainless steel has a relatively low carbon footprint compared to glass or ceramics.” It’s also incredibly durable, meaning it can take a bashing and last decades. If you do encounter a problem, it’s usually recyclable.
Ceramic is “equally non-reactive, so shouldn’t impact flavour,” says Langdon. However, it comes with a relatively high carbon footprint (a lot of energy gets used firing it in kilns), and can be fragile. Also, ceramic isn’t the best insulator. Many ceramic coffee mugs, on the other hand, do look quite nice.
Glass is very similar to ceramic, with kiln firing necessitating heavy energy use. “It’s a slightly better insulator than ceramic, but it’s marginal.”
Hard plastics are still used frequently for keep cups, though make sure you choose a BPA-free option. “Plastic can be a tremendously good insulator, has a relatively small footprint compared to glass or ceramic, but it can leach a plastic taste into the beverage the first few times it’s used,” Langdon warns. It’s also quite cheap.
“As a society, I think we should seek to find alternative solutions to plastics, as even with recycling we see issues of ocean microplastics.”
Plastic can be quite durable, but it’s never recycled, only down-cycled, meaning eventually it’ll reach a point where it’s no longer usable.
“Bamboo has zero impact on flavour, the raw materials for production is sustainable (bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants on earth), and the energy cost for production is on par with plastic cups, but with a far better footprint,” says Langdon.
Which coffee shops offer the best discounts for using reusable coffee cups?
At Pret and Paul, if you bring a disposable coffee cup you’ll save 50p. At Starbucks, the figure is 25p. Greggs and Gail’s will slash 20p, while Caffe Nero and Costa will double loyalty stamps. None beat Waitrose, however, who offer free coffee to members who bring their own cup.