As far as we can tell, people have been drinking coffee since the 13th century. After all, the only equipment you really need is water, ground coffee and heat. So why, in 2021, would some spend $100 on a mug that has only one job: to keep your coffee hot? Well — like most things — time, innovation and technology brings about improvements (and we're pretty sure those cups of coffee don't come close to today's pour-overs), and smart mugs are making sure your last sip of coffee is as good as the last.
Smart mugs work by keeping your coffee, or whatever hot beverage, at a certain temperature for a period of time. For someone who tends to take a while to finish a cup of coffee, smart mugs have always seemed like a worthwhile purchase. Well, not withstanding the price. Ember is arguably one of the most popular smart mugs on the market, and it recently released updated its original mug to the Mug², which touts a longer battery life, smaller charging base and improved waterproofing. To see if the mugs are worth around 25 cups of coffee in and of itself, we tested the Mug² to see how it improved our coffee-drinking experience.
Price (Ember): $100+ | Price (Amazon): $100+
The mug works. From the first pour to the last drop, the coffee keeps its temperature. Too often with regular mugs, I've let coffee cool down to the point where I end up dumping it out, but with the Ember mug, I can make sure my coffee is always hot (for up to 90 minutes with the 10-ounce mug or up to 80 minutes with the 14-ounce mug). Out of the box, and after a two-hour charge session, the mug is set to a default 135°F. To change your desired target temperature pair your mug to the accompanying app to change the temperature anywhere between 120°F and 145°F.
We also liked its built-in safety features; it automatically “sleeps” when it’s empty or after 2 hours of inactivity. The mug does most of its "communication" through its LED light, which can get some getting used to understanding, but Ember has a handy LED index on its website. Looking at Ember purely from a mug standpoint, it looks nice, stays cool to touch and a wide-enough handle to accommodate four fingers, a must because the mug is a bit heavy. The core of the mug is stainless steel and is coated to feel you're drinking from a regular ceramic mug. It comes in black and white, as well as a metallics collection that offers gold, copper and stainless steel finishes.
What's Not as Good
The mug is good at keeping the temperature you set it to, but can be a couple degrees off. It's a pretty minor discrepancy that's barely registered on the mouth and it's not like you're going to take a sip and wonder why your coffee is 132° and not 135°.
A two-hour charge time can seem a big long considering the mug lasts for less time, though it's not particularly an issue if you're always docking the mug back while you're drinking. To control the temperature setting you have to download the app, otherwise it's stuck at 135°. The app is easy to use, and you can get notifications for when your beverage is up to temp as well as adjust the LED brightness, but that's really it, and another app is just another app.
Then there's the price. Mugs are a dime a dozen, and you can spend a fraction of the price on, well, just a plain old drinking vessel. But you're not paying for the mug as much as you're paying for the luxury of having constantly hot coffee. If you're not down to drop the dough on Ember yourself, this makes great gift list fodder.
Amazon is full of knockoffs of Ember for significantly less money, though their ability to actually keep their contents at the right temperature is fairly hit or miss (usually leaning towards miss). There are also brands that sell mug warmers, so you can use your own mug.
If you love coffee and would prefer to have a consistency hot sip all the time, get the Ember mug. Even coffee expert James Hoffmann, who regularly demystifies and humbles coffee products that swear will revolutionize coffee, is a fan of Ember. I highly recommend getting the 10-ounce mug, which will require more trips to the coffee machine but $30 more in your pocket as compared to the 14-ounce cup. If you have a power outlet near you, the reduced power supply on the smaller mug will be a moot point. As long as you're not keeping the same serving of coffee warm for hours on end, you can expect each sip to be equally hot and equally delicious.
Price (Ember): $100+ | Price (Amazon): $100+