It’s the age-old question… Okay, so actually a very new-age question. But it’s a big one. Important. Which is the best reusable coffee cup? Plastic? Glass? Ceramic? Or stainless steel? Before we go any further, let it be known that I have done extensive research into this topic and drunk A LOT of coffee to bring this post together.
Below I’m going to write about the four coffee cups in my life. Truth be told, I love them all. They meet a need for me, which is to avoid single-use anything (except for toilet paper). In Australia alone, more than a billion coffee cups are produced each year, generating an uncool seven tonnes of waste. Some takaway coffee cups are paper and can be recycled, but not all of these end up in the right bin. Some are lined with very thin plastic and can’t be recycled so end up in landfill where they release methane, which is 25 times worse that CO2. Some are mistakenly put into recycling bins and contaminate a whole lot of otherwise recycleable stuff. Boohoo.
Today, reusable coffee cups are widely accepted by cafes, well designed and readily available. Here is more info on the different styles… and I’ll let you know my favourite at the end of the post.
1. Plastic reusable coffee cups
If you’re going to go for a plastic cup, make sure it’s BPA-free. If it’s really cheap and doesn’t mention BPA – avoid! Keep Cup dominates the market here in Australia with a huge range of funky colour combos, which you can buy in cafes or online. My hubby has a red 12oz Keep Cup and he’s definitely got more than 15 uses out of it (this is how many times you need to use it to break even in terms of embodied energy). The Keep Cup has a tight-fitting plastic lid based on the familiar takeaway-cup lid, with the added bonus of being able to close the mouthpiece to prevent leaks. KeepCup is made from recycleable BPA-free plastic and has been tested for toxins. It’s lightweight, durable and dishwasher safe. See the range here.
2. Glass reusable coffee cups
Glass is the coffee fanatic’s choice as it leaves no trace in terms of flavour. Our Joco 12oz cup is made from tough, thin, lightweight glass with a silicone sleeve the whole width of your hand to keep the coffee warm. It’s a joy to drink out of – if you’ve ever used a Bodum cup, Joco has a similarly delicate feel. The lid is designed to resist dribbles and ensure you don’t bash your nose when slurping the last dregs. Keep Cup now also makes a glass range, although I haven’t yet tried the cups, they come with the no-spill closeable lid (check them out here).
Obviously, the first concern with glass is breakage. I’m most likely to drop my resusable cup as I’m getting out of the car or as it tumbles out of my bag while I wrangle a child, therefore I only take my Joco cup when I know I’m getting a coffee then going straight home (for example after the school run). Also, the Joco cup doesn’t have a plug for the mouthpiece and for both these reasons, throwing it into your handbag after use is not an option.
See the range of Joco glass coffee cups here.
3. Stainless steel coffee cups
Until now, most stainless steel coffee cups have been for those who like to drink vast amounts of filter coffee that they want to keep hot all day… The new stainless steel cup from Cheeki, however, has been designed to reach the “latte-set” and ticks all the boxes: it fits under coffee machines, comes in standard takeaway sizes and replicates the experience of having a takeaway coffee. While I was initially excited about the new Cheeki coffee cup (not to be mixed up with an older version that doesn’t have a closeable lid), I was concerned about the metal affecting the taste. After many uses of my 12oz Cheeki coffee cup, I’m pleased to report this is not the case.
The Cheeki cup (buy it here) is made from unlined, double-walled stainless steel and has a BPA-free plastic lid with a special no-spill mouthpiece that can be closed off. The hole of the mouthpiece is bigger than any other reusable cup mentioned here, which takes a bit of getting used to, but I actually prefer it as you don’t feel like you’re sucking the coffee out, if you know what I mean. The double wall is a great feature as it keeps the coffee hot, but the cup is cool to touch. Actually, the only fault I can find with the Cheeki is that it’s a little bulkier in the hand. But there is the smaller 8oz version which would probably suit me better as I can’t really handle my caffeine…
4. Ceramic reusable coffee cups
I’m putting this option last, even though my first reusable coffee cup was ceramic. I found it in a gift shop and it has a great shape and is lovely to drink out of. I remove the soft plastic lid though, as there was no description of the materials used therefore I assume it’s dodgy. The thing I love about my ceramic cup is that you feel like you’re in a cafe even though you’re actually (kind of) watching your kids in the park. But ceramic is non-recyclable and easy to break, therefore it’s not the best option. Which brings me to the big question…
Which do I think is the best reusable coffee cup?
The hands-down winner for me is the Cheeki stainless steel cup. I love the drinking experience and the fact I can chuck it in my bag or the basket of my bike when I’m done and not worry about breakage or leaks. It goes in my car’s cup holder and keeps my coffee warm. Plus, stainless steel is so easy to clean and doesn’t hold a grudge when you forget to wash it for a few days.
I’m a big fan of KeepCup, particularly for their brand ethos, which is not about selling reusable cups but getting people to actually use them, but… I just don’t enjoy the experience of drinking out of plastic and I’m not 100% convinced that it doesn’t leach some other chemical into hot beverages. Let me say again, the product has been vigorously tested for known toxins but, as I practise the precautionary principle, I’m less likely to choose plastic over the other materials available.
This brings my epic post to a close. I’d love to hear some debate on this topic because I’m sure you have an opinion.