Drawing up his mini-budget last week, Rishi Sunak drew many an admiring glance. Not for his fiscal prowess, but for the stylish ‘smart’ travel mug by his side.
Claiming to be the ‘world’s first temperature control mug’, the £180 Ember ensures lukewarm cuppas are a thing of the past, using high-tech wizardry to ensure your tea or coffee reaches — then stays at — your exact preferred temperature for hours.
It boasts a spill-proof 360-degree lid, comes with a swanky charging coaster, and can be controlled via a smartphone app which also tracks your caffeine intake and tells you how long to brew your tea for. In fact, the only thing it doesn’t do is wash itself up.
Jenny Wood tested a selection of smart travel mugs, after Rishi Sunak (pictured) was spotted using an Ember Temperature Control Travel Mug 2
Reportedly a gift from Rishi’s wife, billionaire’s daughter Akshata Murthy, the fancy Ember is the latest in a new breed of smart mugs and bottles which do everything from keeping your coffee at the perfect temperature and reminding you to drink it, to sanitising your water with UV light.
But with price tags soaring to more than £100, are these ‘smug mugs’ worth getting hot and bothered about, or are we all being taken for, well, mugs?
We put the best of them through their paces . . .
RISHI’S CHIC CHOICE
Ember Temperature Control Travel Mug 2, £179.99 (next.co.uk)
Jenny was impressed with Ember Temperature Control Travel Mug 2 (pictured), which keeps your drink at the perfect temperature
This arrives in reassuringly expensive-looking packaging, is sleek and leakproof; and while it took me a while to work out how hot to have my tea, it’s easy to use once you have got the hang of it.
You control the temperature of the contents by touching plus and minus symbols on the mug itself, from a toasty 120f to 145f, or link it to the Ember app, which allows you to set the temperature by swiping your phone screen.
It also has timers for tea-steeping, and temperature pre-sets for specific beverages such as cappuccinos. Seven sensors in the mug detect the temperature and amount of liquid inside, while a lithium-ion battery, controlled by a tiny microprocessor — like a mini computer — built into the bottom heats the contents.
Once your drink has reached the perfect temperature, the mug keeps it that way — either out-and-about or sitting on a coaster that recharges the battery — by circulating a convection current from top to bottom. It’s a crazy amount to spend for a warm cuppa, but as someone who leaves half-drunk cold mugs of tea all over the house, it’s been a revelation.
Hot or not: 5/5
Burnout Temperature Regulating Smart Mug, £69.05 (amazon.co.uk)
Jenny said Burnout Temperature Regulating Smart Mug (pictured) looks smart, but the drinking spout is flimsy
The brainchild of rocket scientists fed up with burning their mouths on scalding coffee, this tall mug uses technology developed to cool space shuttles. The triple-layered walls contain a special gel-like material called Heatzorb, which transfers excess heat away from boiling hot tea or coffee, bringing it down to a drinkable temperature — then uses the stored heat to keep your drink warm for hours.
It looks smart; however the drinking spout is disappointingly flimsy. Maybe one for your desk rather than your backpack.
Hot or not: 4/5
Flintronic travel mug with LED display, £11.99 (amazon.co.uk)
Jenny claims Flintronic travel mug with LED display (pictured) is an absolute steal compared with other smart mugs
An absolute steal compared with other smart mugs, this slim, ‘state-of-the-art double-wall vacuum’ stainless steel flask comes with a removable protective neoprene sleeve and keeps liquid warm — or cool — for several hours. To save burning your mouth when drinking your tea or coffee, you can check the temperature of the contents by tapping the waterproof LED display on top. There’s no spout, so you drink straight from the flask, and its battery is non-rechargeable — although the display flashes for only a few seconds, so it should last a while.
Hot or not: 3/5
Noerden LIZ Smart bottle, £65 (noerden.eu or amazon.co.uk)
Jenny revealed Noerden LIZ Smart bottle (pictured) has a built-in UV light that kills any viruses and bacteria in your drink
Tap the lid of this ‘next generation’ insulated bottle and a coloured light tells you the temperature of the contents (blue for cold, yellow for warm and red for hot). Tap twice, and over five minutes, the built-in UVC light will kill any viruses and bacteria in your drink; or sterilise the bottle if it’s empty.
UV light is often used by hospitals and on public transport to kill germs, as it breaks down their DNA. Controlled by a rechargeable battery, if you haven’t touched it for two hours, an indicator will flash to remind you to hydrate. Available in several colours and sizes, it’s stylish and the anti-leak lid lives up to its promise.
Hot or not: 5/5
Tech Tools Retro Heated Smart Travel Mug, £29.99 (amazon.co.uk)
Jenny said Tech Tools Retro Heated Smart Travel Mug (pictured) doesn’t hold a huge amount
Looking like something from a 1950s American diner, this cheery mug keeps your drink constantly warm, showing you the temperature on an old-fashioned analogue temperature gauge at the front. However, the plug it comes with was only suitable for use in my car’s cigarette lighter, the thick walls made it tricky to drink from, and it doesn’t hold a huge amount. The instructions also warn against getting the gauge or switch wet – a bit unfortunate for something designed to hold liquid.
Hot or not: 1/5
Ember Mug 2 Temperature Control Smart Mug, £99.99 (firebox.com)
Jenny said Ember Mug 2 Temperature Control Smart Mug (pictured) is a joy to use when you’re working from home
This black ceramic mug looks unassuming; however, it’s hiding a secret. Working in the same way as Rishi’s travel cup, you can connect it with the Ember app to set your preferred drink temperature; then get phone notifications when that temperature is reached.
The mug then keeps its contents perfectly warm for more than an hour thanks to the rechargeable internal battery; or you can stand it on its matching ceramic charging coaster to keep it warm for longer.
It’s not dishwasher-safe — however, it is a joy to use when you’re working from home.
Hot or not: 5/5
BREW YOUR OWN
Kiss Kiss Fish Travel Mug Smart Coffee Tumbler, £35.99 (amazon.co.uk)
Jenny claims it’s a faff having to remove the filter once your drink is ready, using the Kiss Kiss Fish Travel Mug Smart Coffee Tumbler (pictured)
A steel travel mug and tea/coffee brewer in one.Inside is an optional filter capsule into which you can add ground coffee or loose tea to brew. It’s operated by a replaceable battery, and the lid contains a touchscreen — swipe one way to see the temperature, the other to start a brewing timer.
The leakproof lid twists open, and the whole things comes apart for cleaning. Enjoying a fresh brew on the go is a nice idea, but it’s a bit of a faff having to remove the filter once your drink is ready.
Hot or not: 2/5
Cauldryn Temperature Control Mug, £178.42 (amazon.co.uk)
Jenny said Cauldryn Temperature Control Mug (picturd) can heat the contents to any temperature, up to boiling
Like the Ember, this can be controlled via an optional app. The vacuum-insulated sides keep cold drinks cool and hot drinks hot, thanks to a rechargeable long-life battery in the base, which can also be kept plugged in. An LED screen shows the temperature inside, but its biggest party trick is that it can heat the contents to any temperature, up to boiling. So, although it takes a while, you can even use it to warm your lunchtime soup. On the downside, it’s large, and the intricate design may be difficult to keep clean long-term.
Hot or not: 3/5
WATER GOOD IDEA
H20Pal Smart Bottle Hydration Tracker, £75 (amazon.co.uk)
Jenny said H20Pal Smart Bottle Hydration Tracker (pictured) is more suited to indoors, rather than out-and-about
Designed for those who need help in staying hydrated, this futuristic-style bottle has a detachable tracker on the bottom which links to an app on your smartphone, logging your fluid intake each time you drink and reminding you when to glug more. It’s powered by a large button battery, which will need replacing from time to time, and as the bottle is made of glass with a wide base, it’s more suited to indoors rather than out-and-about. While it doesn’t keep your water cool, it does encourage you to drink. I found it all a bit too much like hard work.
Hot or not: 2/5
ESPRESSO TO GO
Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Machine, £70 (with Nanovessel attachment, £27.50) (divertimenti.co.uk)
Jenny said Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Machine (pictured) is great for camping or holidays
‘The World’s Most Compact Espresso machine’, this hand-held gadget allows you to enjoy fresh coffee out and about. Fill it with grounds before leaving the house; then when you want a caffeine fix, pour in hot water from the screw-on flask (sold separately), press the special pump on the side, and a perfectly brewed espresso is squeezed out into the lid, which doubles as a cup.
It’s a great idea for camping or holidays — and you can buy an attachment to use it with Nespresso pods. But if you’re in town, it’s easier to pop into Starbucks.
Hot or not: 2/5