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Whether you take your coffee hot or iced, a reliable thermos will keep the drink at its ideal temperature for hours. In fact, the century-old vacuum technology used in thermoses was originally invented to keep liquid hydrogen (aka rocket fuel) cold.
Today, everyone from campers to commuters use thermoses. Most are affordable, so picking the right one comes down to your specific needs. Do you want a trigger-action lid to sip while driving? Or a leak-proof bottle you can trust in your purse? Below are some of our favorite options, broken down into different categories to make it easier to decide.
For the coffee drinker on the go, here are the best thermoses to buy.
Best Overall: Thermos Vacuum Insulated Compact Beverage Bottle
Multiple sizes available
Excellent temperature retention
Exterior can scratch
Retains coffee smell inside
Hard to drink on the go
A few of the main details we look for in coffee thermoses are convenience, reliability, and affordability. Combine all three and you get the Thermos Vacuum Insulated Compact Beverage Bottle. Whether it's for yourself or a gift for someone else, this classic thermos gets the job done and looks good doing it.
After testing the item firsthand, we found that it lives up to the brand's claim of keeping coffee hot for 12 hours and iced coffee cold for 24. Both cups of coffee tasted just as good after that time had elapsed, too. One quick tip: fill the thermos with hot water for a couple minutes before your coffee is ready; doing so will pre-heat the material and ensure your coffee stays hot longer. This holds true for any stainless steel coffee thermos.
Another observation we noted is that the thermos' two-part lid is "easy to open and close but will take longer than thermoses with a one-part lid." There are pros and cons to this. On one hand, "it prevents any leaks," even after we shook the thermos upside down. On the other, it's not ideal for commuters, as the lid is not designed to be opened while driving.
Capacity: 16, 25 and 32 ounces | Dimensions: 2.6 x 2.6 x 10 inches (16-ounce model) | Color Options: No | Warranty: 5-year limited
"This thermos lets you take coffee, tea, or water on the go without fear of leaks or spills. It's also reasonably priced considering its sturdy design and long-lasting temperature retention." — Derek Rose, Coffee and Tea Expert for The Spruce Eats
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Stanley Classic Legendary Vacuum Insulated Bottle
Excellent temperature retention
Hard to get last sips out
Not the easiest to drink while moving
Another popular thermos, especially for people who love the outdoors, is the Stanley Classic Legendary Bottle. Its durable stainless steel is designed to withstand the wear and tear from all kinds of adventures. Plus, it's backed by Stanley's lifetime guarantee.
It's available in five different sizes, starting at less than 1 quart and working up to 2.5 quarts. We tested the 1.5-quart model ourselves and gave it an overall positive review. The lid has two parts—a stainless steel cup and plastic stopper—that successfully kept it from leaking during our testing process. One downside to the lid, however, is that it's not easy to sip from while walking, unless you eschew the rubber stopper and only cover the lid with the stainless steel cup. Note that the 1.5-quart model is too large to fit in a cupholder.
As far as temperature retention goes, Stanley claims that the 1.5-quart model keeps drinks warm for 40 hours and cold for 35 hours without ice. Our testing corroborated the first claim, as we filled the thermos with hot coffee and, 40 hours later, found it still drinkable and warm. When testing cold drinks, however, we used refrigerated coffee without ice and found that the temperature warmed up slightly over 35 hours. The coffee remained "suitable to drink," though, which is why we still recommend the item.
Capacity: 0.6, 1, 1.5, 2, and 2.5 quarts | Dimensions: 4.7 x 3.9 x 14.1 inches (1.5-quart model) | Color Options: Yes | Warranty: Lifetime
"I would trust this thermos in any bag and on any trip. It's also easy to carry thanks to the sturdy but flexible handle, which is a bonus for hikers." — Derek Rose, Coffee and Tea Expert for The Spruce Eats
Best Budget: Contigo Autoseal West Loop Vacuum Insulated Travel Mug
Value for money
Can lock and unlock with one hand
Effective autolock and anti-spill lid
Body is hand-wash only
Possible to dent
The Contigo Autoseal West Loop is an unbeatable budget pick that's available in dozens of colors and three sizes. This inexpensive option keeps coffee hot for five hours and iced coffee chilled for up to 12 hours. The easy-to-use, spill-proof, button-release top makes for a convenient and trustworthy travel mug.
Our product tester called it "a financially savvy move for those trying to avoid the cost of daily coffee runs." She added that, "the Contigo performed even better than promised. When filled with hot coffee, the mug maintained high heat for roughly three hours and was warm even longer. When filled with ice water, the Contigo kept it cool enough to maintain the ice cubes for 12 hours." One of the few criticisms our reviewer had is that the thermos isn't the easiest to clean, as only the lid is dishwasher safe.
Capacity: 16, 20, and 24 ounces | Dimensions: 3.5 x 3.5 x 7.8 inches (16-ounce model) | Color Options: Yes | Warranty: Lifetime limited
"If you’re an urban commuter, you’ll love the anti-spill, single-hand operation of Contigo’s Autoseal West Loop Stainless Steel Travel Mug." — Suzie Dundas, Product Tester
Best Commuter: Contigo Snapseal Byron Stainless Steel Travel Mug
Especially good for iced coffee
Convenient rubber grip
Body is hand-wash only
If you like sipping hot coffee during your morning drive, walk, or ride, try the Contigo Byron Travel Mug with SnapSeal Technology. The thermos is available in three sizes: 16, 20, and 24 ounces. The 20-ounce model is designed to keep coffee hot for seven hours and cold for 18. When we tested the Byron firsthand, we found both figures to be accurate. The drip coffee we poured in was "hot and drinkable" when we checked it again, and the cold coffee was "still tasty even without ice."
The Byron also has a "one-of-a-kind lid" that, according to our testing, is "convenient while walking and safe to use while driving." Thanks to the brand's SnapSeal technology, the Byron mug is completely leakproof; there won't be any prevents spills whether you're on a crowded subway or throwing the thermos in a backpack. One drawback to this otherwise highly rated product is that the stainless steel body is hand-wash only, yet the lid opening is "too small to fit your hand inside." Instead, a long, non-abrasive bottle brush is recommended.
Capacity: 16, 20, and 24 ounces | Dimensions: 3.25 x 3.25 x 8 inches (20-ounce model) | Color Options: Yes | Warranty: Lifetime limited
"The Contigo Byron can be used for a variety of purposes. It's durable enough to take hiking, safe and convenient to use while commuting, and slim enough to store in a bag or backpack. It's a true value-for-money option and one of the best thermoses I have tested." — Derek Rose, Coffee and Tea Expert for The Spruce Eats
Runner-Up, Best Commuter: Thermos Stainless King Travel Mug
Fits most cupholders
Comfortable to hold
Paint peels off
Can dent if dropped
Handle may not fit some cupholders
The Thermos Stainless King Travel Tumbler is everything you could want in a commuter mug. The sliding lid is safe and easy to open while driving or walking. It can be purchased with or without a handle depending on your preference. It's large and durable but slim enough to fit in most cupholders (especially when purchased without a handle). Tea lovers can even enjoy the mug because it has a built-in hook for tea bags.
Our product tester gave the Stainless King an outstanding review, writing, "We’re happy to say that this travel mug stands up to its claims and will keep your coffee hot for most—if not all—of your shift, even on a cold day." The interior and exterior steel also prevents any annoying condensation.
She praised the brand for its clever DrinkLock Technology, which allows the lid to "form a tight seal so no liquid (or heat) passes through it." Keep in mind that the lid should be disassembled and washed by hand.
Capacity: 16 ounces | Dimensions: 4.9 x 3.3 x 7.8 inches | Color Options: Yes | Warranty: Lifetime limited
"The Thermos Stainless King Travel Mug might be a little pricey, but it keeps hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold for longer, making it a worthwhile purchase, especially if you work outdoors or have a long commute." — Rebekah Joan, Product Tester
Best Carafe: Cresimo 68 Oz Stainless Steel Thermal Coffee Carafe
Lightweight yet durable
Hard to clean
There's plenty of coffee to go around with the Cresimo Thermal Coffee Carafe. Its 68-ounce capacity makes it a worthwhile pick-up for small business owners, avid hosts, and more. The classic stainless steel design with a black-accented cap matches everything from kitchen décor to conference rooms and even more formal settings.
When we tested the item, we found that the vacuum insulation kept coffee hot for 12 hours and iced coffee cold for a full 24 hours. It also has a comfortable handle and an easy-to-use, no-spill spout. The pouring is slower than expected, but this will help you and your guests avoid making a mess. Unfortunately, we found it "difficult to get the last couple ounces of coffee out." Another testing observation to note is that the lid opening is too small to clean inside the carafe by hand, so you will need a long brush to get all the nooks and crannies.
Capacity: 68 ounces | Dimensions: 6 x 6 x 10.8 inches | Color Options: No | Warranty: 1 year
"It's surprising how affordable this carafe is given its large capacity and the sturdy material it's made from; it's even cheaper than many personal coffee thermoses. Overall, this is a great serving pitcher for parties and events." — Derek Rose, Coffee and Tea Expert for The Spruce Eats
Best Large Capacity: Stanley Classic Easy-Pour Vacuum Insulated Growler
Stress mark appears on latch
Can dent and scratch
The Stanley Classic Easy-Pour Growler is a 64-ounce vacuum insulated container that's great for camping, hiking, hunting, and more. Hugely popular and just plain huge, the item is leakproof, dishwasher-safe, and backed by a lifetime warranty. It's available in three colors and has a handle that makes pouring easier.
After testing the growler ourselves, we were impressed by its heavy-duty design and by the length of time it keeps drinks at their ideal temperature. Coffee stayed warm (though, not "piping hot") for 18 hours and iced coffee remained cold for a whopping four days, even though the ice cubes melted over that time. The "clasp-style lid takes a little finger strength to open, but that just demonstrates how sturdy and well-built the item is." While the growler is completely leakproof, it may be too large for tossing in smaller hiking backpacks; as a result, you may want to attach it to your bag with a carabiner.
Capacity: 64 ounces | Dimensions: 6.48 x 4.92 x 11.57 inches | Color Options: Yes | Warranty: Lifetime
"This wouldn't be my personal choice to bring to work because it's too large for a car cupholder, but I would absolutely use it while hiking or camping. It's best suited for water (unless you can somehow drink 64 ounces of coffee). You could also share it at a peak with some coffee-loving friends." — Derek Rose, Coffee and Tea Expert for The Spruce Eats
Best Mug: Avito Stainless Steel Coffee Mug Set
Larger than most mugs
Multiple color options
Not microwave safe
These brushed stainless steel mugs from Avito come in sets of two, so you can share your morning coffee with someone whether you're enjoying a woodsy view or simply sitting in the comfort of your own kitchen. They are a particularly durable option for coffee lovers with a hectic workplace where mugs might get broken. And they come in an array of fun colors to showcase your personality.
Unfortunately, we were not overly impressed by the mugs' heat retention upon testing them. The coffee we added was "lukewarm after just two hours." This should be plenty of time for most people to drink their coffee, of course, but the temperature retention pales in comparison to other thermoses we tested. In addition, the mugs are not microwave safe, so you cannot heat up your coffee after it starts to cool off.
On the plus side, they are not a very pricey investment, so if you are looking to stock a cabin or RV we fully recommend them. The hand-wash only mugs are also "extremely easy to clean because of their large lids." They are even easier to clean by hand than most standard coffee mugs.
Capacity: 14 ounces | Dimensions: 7.72 x 5.16 x 3.98 inches | Color Options: Yes | Warranty: None
"The Avito mugs can be a good purchase for particular situations. It's too bad that they aren't leakproof and are also too large to fit in most cupholders. But if you're sitting outside on a chilly day, I would certainly prefer these over regular mugs." — Derek Rose, Coffee and Tea Expert for The Spruce Eats
Best Design: Hydro Flask Travel Coffee Flask with Flex Sip Lid
Excellent temperature retention
Multiple sizes and colors
Poor lid design
There are so many thermoses on the market that will keep your coffee hot and won’t spill but have a traditional, metallic design. If you're looking for something a bit more fun, try the Hydro Flask which still has all the benefits of a classic thermos. You can buy one of these vacuum insulated stainless steel coffee or beverage bottles in many colors including Pacific, Sunflower, Watermelon and Olive. The sleek cylindrical design, matte-colored steel, and minimalist cap give the Hydro Flask one of the coolest looks on the market while keeping your drink hot or cold.
While our testing process confirmed that this thermos keeps drinks hot or cold for the length of time the brand advertises, we were disappointed by the lid design. It is "surprisingly difficult to take the entire lid off when filling the thermos," and even sliding it open to take a sip isn't very smooth. The pros are that it's cupholder friendly and generally safe to place upright in a backpack (it only leaked for us after being shaken upside down). Hydro Flask also guarantees the item for life.
Capacity: 12, 16, and 20 ounces | Dimensions: 2.9 x 2.9 x 7.9 inches (16-ounce model) | Color Options: Yes | Warranty: Lifetime limited
"Even though the lid can be a little frustrating, this is a great commuter mug." — Derek Rose, Coffee and Tea Expert for The Spruce Eats
Best High-Tech: Ember Travel Mug²
Battery lasts up to three hours
360-degree leakproof lid
Stainless steel interior affects drink taste
Now you can keep your coffee hot through the morning with smart technology. The Ember Travel Mug² uses both app connectivity and a sleek, high-tech design to do so—and makes sure nothing spills or leaks in the process. You can use the thermos' touchscreen panel to control its temperature, or you can do so by pairing it with the Ember app on your smartphone; the panel can be particularly useful when you're driving and you don't want to pull out your phone. Our tester found that the thermos could keep her drinks hot for up to three hours and that the battery lasts for about as long. Another standout feature (one also convenient for driving) is the thermos' lid: it's leak-proof, only needs a push to open, and gives you a 360-degree drinking experience—meaning you can essentially sip from any side of the mug.
Capacity: 12 ounces | Dimensions: Mug is 3.14 x 7.9 inches and base is 5.63 x 3.88 inches | Color Options: No | Warranty: 1-year limited
"The lid is one of the mug’s best design features. ... When driving, I could lift the mug from any angle and begin drinking—no need to search for the side with the opening." — Cheyenne Elwell, Product Tester
Affordable and built to last, the 16-ounce Thermos Vacuum Insulated Bottle (view at Amazon) gets the job done whether you're camping or commuting. Those looking for a larger item may prefer the Stanley Classic Vacuum Bottle (view at Amazon), however. It's available in multiple sizes and equipped with a handy strap for when you're on the go.
What to Look for in a Coffee Thermos
Hot vs. cold
Will you be using your thermos for hot coffee every morning, or do you prefer iced coffee? Some mugs keep beverages cold for hours upon hours but lack in the heat department, and vice versa. No matter the type of drink you plan to store, there’s an option on our list that will suit your needs.
A huge coffee thermos may be great for the office, but if you’re bringing it on a walk or a bike ride, a smaller, lighter model may make more sense. Also, some larger thermoses might not fit in your car’s cupholder, so it’s wise to check those dimensions beforehand.
One factor that differentiates thermoses is the way you drink out of them. Typical options include a trigger-action lid, which is especially handy while sipping on the go, or a twist lid, which is common among leakproof models. Thermoses don't often have straws, like other reusable mug brands, but you can always buy a permanent straw separately if this is the style you prefer.
How do I clean a thermos?
Many thermoses are dishwasher safe, but you should check manufacturer recommendations beforehand. Some thermoses are labeled dishwasher safe, yet the brand may recommend cleaning them by hand to protect the material and finish. If your thermos is hand-wash only, you can likely clean it with water, dish soap, and a soft cloth or bottle brush. Start by filling the thermos with warm water and a few drops of dish soap, then let it sit for three to five minutes before scrubbing or rinsing. Silicone gaskets can be cleaned by soaking them in white vinegar, lemon juice, or a mixture or water and baking soda. Plenty of coffee and tea drinkers are familiar with set-in stains and odors in their thermoses; in those instances, cleaning with a combination of vinegar and baking soda should make your thermos like new again.
How long does coffee stay hot in a thermos?
The best thermoses can keep coffee hot up to 24 hours. These are usually vacuum insulated and made of stainless steel—a material which retains heat longer than plastic. The majority of thermoses fall below this 24-hour figure, however. A more common range is anywhere from 5 to 12 hours. You should preheat your thermos by rinsing it with hot water before use to maximize its heat retention. As for the iced coffee lovers, you're in luck because thermoses typically keep drinks cold longer than they keep drinks warm, no matter what material they are made from.
How do I dispose of an old thermos?
Metal thermoses cannot be recycled through regular curbside recycling pick-up. Instead, they can be recycled by dropping them off at your local metal recycling facility. Plastic travel mugs can usually be recycled through your standard home recycling process, but it varies based on the type of plastic (often labeled on the bottom of a mug) as well as local recycling policies. There are a number of ways to repurpose old thermoses too, like using them as vases, change holders, dry food containers, and more.
Can I add milk to my coffee if it’s in a thermos?
Can I put a thermos in the freezer?
Users should not put thermoses in the freezer. The liquid would freeze, expand, and likely damage the thermos—and that's not to mention the mess it would make.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
This piece was written by Derek Rose, the coffee and tea expert for The Spruce Eats. He researches a variety of coffee products, from measuring scoops to commercial espresso machines, and interviews field experts for their insight.