Whether you take your coffee hot or iced, a reliable thermos will keep your 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?
To help you decide which coffee thermos is right for you, we tested them side-by-side and evaluated each on its design, size, ability to keep drinks hot and/or cold, and overall value. Many hot and iced coffees were consumed and transported (to make sure there weren't any leaks or spills in transit) by our home tester to make sure these thermoses are truly the best.
For the coffee drinker on the go, here are the best thermoses.
Stanley Classic Legendary Vacuum Insulated Bottle
Excellent temperature retention
Hard to get last sips out
Not the easiest to drink while moving
A 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 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 (which is expected given its large capacity).
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 (note that our tester first rinsed the thermos with nearly boiling water to preheat the material before adding coffee). 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.
As far as cleaning goes, the opening of the thermos was too small for our tester to clean the inside by hand, but this is a non-issue in most cases because the item is dishwasher safe.
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
Price at time of publish: $31
"Hikers, campers, and travelers of all sorts would be hard-pressed to find a better coffee thermos than this. It’s durable, easy to clean, and has excellent temperature retention."
Runner-Up, 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 so.
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 hours. 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 of minutes before your coffee is ready. Doing this will preheat the material and ensure your coffee stays hot longer. This holds true for any stainless steel coffee thermos.
Another observation our tester 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. There also isn't any indication that this thermos is dishwasher safe, so our tester cleaned it by putting a drop of dish soap inside and rinsing it with hot water.
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
Price at time of publish: $20
"The two-part lid prevented this item from leaking in my backpack and even after I shook it upside down over my sink. It also fit in my cupholder, so it could be a viable option for commuters. I would caution, however, that the lid is not made to open while driving."
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 value pick that's available in dozens of colors and four sizes. This inexpensive option keeps coffee hot for seven hours and iced coffee chilled for up to 18 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. When filled with hot coffee, the mug maintained high heat for roughly three hours and was warm even longer. When filled with ice water, however, the Contigo only 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: 14, 16, 20, and 24 ounces | Dimensions: 3.5 x 7.8 inches (16-ounce model) | Color Options: Yes | Warranty: Lifetime limited
Price at time of publish: $30
"This is a great option for coffee lovers—especially those who drink 20 ounces or more each morning. With a leak-proof design, superior insulation, and one-hand operation, it’s well worth it for those on the go." — Suzie Dundas, Product Tester
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 this firsthand, we found both figures to be accurate. The drip coffee our tester poured in was hot and drinkable when he 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 easy to use while driving. It even fits in a standard cupholder. Thanks to the brand's SnapSeal technology, the Byron mug is completely leakproof; there won't be any 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
Price at time of publish: $32
"This can be used for a variety of purposes. It's durable enough to take hiking, 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."
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 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 that the 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
Price at time of publish: $30
"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
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 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 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, our tester found it difficult to get the last couple ounces of coffee out, the spout continues pouring for a second even after you release the trigger, and 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
Price at time of publish: $30
"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."
Stanley Classic 64 oz 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, our reviewer was impressed by its heavy-duty design and the length of time it was able to keep 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. When it comes time to wash it, the opening is too small to fit a hand inside, but fortunately the growler is dishwasher safe, so it’s still very simple to clean.
Capacity: 64 ounces | Dimensions: 6.48 x 4.92 x 11.57 inches | Color Options: Yes | Warranty: Lifetime
Price at time of publish: $44
"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."
Hydro Flask Wide Mouth Flex Sip Lid Bottle
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, Carnation, Rain, 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 our testing process confirmed that this thermos keeps drinks hot for six hours or cold for four, our reviewer was disappointed by the lid design, citing that it was surprisingly difficult to take the entire lid off when filling the thermos (he said it felt a little sticky), and even sliding it open to take a sip wasn't very smooth. The pros are that it's cupholder friendly, generally safe to place upright in a backpack (it only leaked after being shaken upside down), and can be cleaned in a dishwasher on the top rack, though our tester was able to fit a sponge into the mug and reach all parts. Hydro Flask also guarantees the item for life.
Capacity: 12, 16, and 20 ounces | Dimensions: 7.76 x 3.31 x 3.07 inches (16-ounce model) | Color Options: Yes | Warranty: Lifetime limited
Price at time of publish: $22
"This is an excellent travel companion because it’s small and light. It fits in a cupholder and is easy to hold in your hand. I would not trust it in a bag or backpack, however."
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 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 that is also convenient for driving) is the thermos' lid: It is leakproof, 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
Price at time of publish: $190
"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 Stanley Classic Legendary Vacuum Insulated Bottle gets the job done whether you're camping or commuting. For a top-performing option that's a little less expensive, our tester really liked the Contigo Autoseal West Loop Vacuum Insulated Travel Mug.
How We Tested
We sent 10 coffee thermoses to our experienced coffee experts and product testers, who tried each out with hot and cold coffees as well as water to determine which vessels are truly the best. Each coffee thermos was rated on design, size, insulation/ability to keep beverages hot or cold, and overall value. Our tester then offered additional insights on each coffee thermos' strengths and weaknesses.
Other Options We Tested
- Avito Stainless Steel Coffee Mug Set: We think these stainless steel mugs are handy for camping, but they aren't quite as useful around the house or on the go. They keep coffee hot for around two hours, which is longer than most mugs, but the downside is that you can't put them in the microwave after that. The mugs aren't leakproof or dishwasher safe either.
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.
If you glance at the product description of any vacuum thermos, you will likely come across the phrase "18/8 stainless steel." It's a type of stainless steel made from 18 percent chromium and 8 percent nickel. Graham Nearn of the Stanley brand says 18/8 stainless steel is commonly used for drinkware because it's "food-grade, durable, and resistant to corrosion."
How do I clean a thermos?
Many thermoses can go in the dishwasher, but you should check manufacturer recommendations to verify. 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 that retains heat longer than plastic. The majority of thermoses fall below this 24-hour figure, however. A more common range is anywhere from five 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, as thermoses typically keep drinks cold longer than they keep them warm—no matter what material they are made from.
The terms "hot" and "cold" are so subjective, however, that we asked Graham Nearn of the Stanley brand to define a generally acceptable temperature range. He told us that during Stanley's testing process, a drink is considered hot if it's between 140 to 203 degrees and cold if it falls between 39 and 50 degrees.
How do I dispose of an old thermos?
Metal thermoses cannot be recycled through regular curbside recycling pickup. 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?
Most brands do not advise putting milk or creamer in thermoses unless it's for a very short period of time. Storing dairy products at warm temperatures can lead to bacteria growth, especially if the thermos is not cleaned properly afterward. This opinion was echoed by Graham Nearn of the Stanley brand who told us, "We don’t recommend putting milk or dairy products in Stanley vacuum bottles or food jars for extended periods of time, as bacteria growth can occur at certain temperatures."
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. He personally tested seven coffee thermoses on this list.
Graham Nearn, the Senior Vice President of Product Creation & Design for PMI Worldwide, was interviewed for this piece. He oversees the Stanley brand, which has manufactured vacuum flasks and more since 1913.
University of Connecticut, College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. Dairy Foods: Milk, Cheese, Yogurt, Butter, Ice Cream.