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Let’s set the scene – you pour yourself a nice cup of coffee. It’s hot, far too hot to drink – not right away. You’re at the office and one of your colleagues calls you over, asks for your assistance for a minute. This minute quickly turns into fifteen and by the time you’re back at your desk, your cup of coffee has gone from hot to warm and is rapidly approaching the state of a cold brew. With the use of a cup warmer, it doesn’t have to be this way – you can enjoy your coffee at its peak temperature for hours – the entire time that it’s in the cup. 

What Is a Mug Warmer

A mug warmer is a neat little electronic device, generally designed to be used at a desk, that heats and maintains the temperature of a cup of coffee. And when done well, this item is a game-changer for busy coffee loving individuals. Why? Because your coffee will never go cold again!

There are a few different gadgets and containers we can use to keep coffee at the perfect drinking temperature for longer. Though some of the options, travel thermoses, for example – are not technically ‘mug warmers’, they all aim to achieve the same goal. Preventing the dreaded luke-warm cup of coffee.  

Benefits of Using a Mug Warmer

Coffee is easy enough to reheat. Throw it in the microwave (please don’t throw it! gently place it), set for thirty seconds and you’ll have piping hot coffee –easy. The issue with reheating coffee is that it majorly affects the delicate flavors of the coffee. It essentially cooks it, which is not ideal. What started as a delicious, berry-filled cup of coffee from Kenya, ends up tasting like any old supermarket store-bought instant

Our best bet is to stop our coffee from becoming cold in the first place. And this is where a mug warmer comes in – it will keep your coffee at a set temperature, allowing you to be as distracted as you want, without being punished with stale, reheated coffee upon your return. 

These warmers can be an excellent addition to any home coffee brewing set-up – whether you’re using an alarm clock that brews coffee from Barisieur, or a dual coffee maker (dual coffee makers usually have a lot of features, excellent for a household of different coffee needs.)

How Does a Mug Warmer Work

While most warmers have the same esteemed goal – eradicating the horrifying situation mentioned above and keeping a cup of coffee at the perfect drinking temperature – each warmer will do so in a slightly different way. Some use what you could think of as a small hotplate, which plugs into either a power outlet or USB port— gently heating the cup that sits on top, and in turn, heating the lucky coffee within the mug. 

Others, like the Ember Smart Mug, go for a much more high-tech approach, heating the mug without a hot plate, allowing its user to control the temperature of their coffee down to the degree with the use of an app on their smartphone. 

Types of Mug Warmers

Mug warmers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and with varying features. From heated cups to set temperature and variable temperature hotplates, and thermoses. Let’s break down the most popular types, and take a look at how they work and what they are good for.  

Travel Thermos

A travel thermos is the most basic of the four options. It is essentially an insulated vessel with a lid or a mug that keeps your coffee warm for a long time. A travel thermos doesn’t actively heat the coffee— it just stops the heat from escaping. A good travel thermos or insulated cup will keep your coffee warm for around three or four hours. 

The best thing about a travel thermos is that it is portable and doesn’t require power. You can bring your coffee from home, enjoy it on your morning commute, or out for a walk in the park. 

Travel thermoses are an excellent choice to bring camping or on a winter hike, keeping your coffee nice and hot for quite a long time.   

Electric Hot Plate

Electric Hot Plate Mug Warmer

The electric hot plate warmer is the next rung up on the ladder of high-tech-ness. They are simple and easy to use— place your mug on the platform and the small hotplate will keep your coffee warm for as long as you need it to. Another big plus is that most electric hot plates are compatible with a range of cups, including glass, ceramic and premium stainless steel coffee mug

Many electric hot plate warmers allow the user to control the temperature of their coffee to the degree, while others may offer a few different temperature options, or only one.

Electric Cup

The most tech option we have is futuristic— the electric cup— a few of which are dubbed as ‘smart cups’ thanks to their integration with smartphones. If you’re a fan of the hilarious and always ridiculous television show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, these cups may look familiar (if not, google Latte Larry’s self-heating cups).

Rather than using a hot plate to heat the mug, the electric mug itself is temperature-controlled via a smartphone app, allowing for a more precise temperature to be maintained. Electric mugs are usually USB chargeable with a battery life of between one and three hours, and are great to use with both black coffee and coffee with creamer (btw, if you are living the vegan life and too want to drink white coffee, check out these coffee creamers for vegans).

USB Port Mug Warmers

Need a mug warmer but have no power outlet available? Or maybe you need a USB hub, but are running low on desktop space? There are a number of USB powered warmers, some of which include a USB hub. Keep your coffee warm and your devices charged!

How to Choose the Best Mug Warmer

The first step in making any coffee-related purchase is to figure out exactly how, and where you like your coffee. Here are some of the most important aspects to consider when choosing the perfect mug warmer for you. 

Material

Stainless steel, glass, ceramic, or plastic – they all have their pros and cons. A mug warmer that is mostly made of plastic may be cheaper than a glass or stainless steel one, but it certainly won’t last as long. Price aside, the material will also play a part in how quickly and effectively the warmer does its job. Steel, glass, and ceramic transfer heat more efficiently than plastic, making any of them a more ideal option. They will also be more durable and are better for the environment. 

Price

Mug warmers can run from around $10, and go upward from there. So it’s needless to say that there is an option for every budget. The midrange devices are generally the most popular, providing efficient heating, durability and nice design. Generally, the more you spend, the more durability and control over the temperature you will receive.   

Size

Whether you’re needing to keep your cup of coffee hot on a camping trip, in the car, or at the office, there will be an option that fits your spatial requirements. Many mug warmers plug into a laptop and take up no more space than a coaster – making them perfect for use at a small desk. Others, electric cups, for example, take up even less space, with their footprint being the same as any regular mug. 

How to Choose the Best Mug Warmer - Size

Portability

Obviously, a plug-in unit is not portable— whereas a rechargeable electric cup, or a travel thermos is. Think about where you’ll be when you want that delicious cup of coffee kept warm. In the office? Then it probably doesn’t need to be portable. A cup of coffee on the go? Portability is essential.  

Temperature

The ideal drinking temperature for most people is between 55°C (131°F) and 60°C (140°F). Not all warmers have the same temperature settings— with many offering a simple on/off control, while others offer adjustable temperature settings. If you want your coffee to stay super hot, or are very particular about needing your coffee at exactly 56°C, make sure the warmer you’re looking at can offer what you need. 

Cord Length

Not everyone has a power outlet available on their desk. Be sure that the power cord is long enough to reach your power source. If you have no power outlet available, a USB powered warmer or an electric mug may be right up your alley.    

How to Use a Mug Warmer

The cool thing about pretty much every warmer is how simple they are to use. They are as easy as pouring a cup of coffee, flicking a switch, and placing your mug down! This, of course, doesn’t include the ‘smart cups’ which require installation of the app and setting up a Bluetooth connection. For smart cups, it is best to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for tips on installation. 

Step 1 — Brew a cup of coffee

The first step, of course, is to brew a delicious cup of coffee! Choose a bag of specialty coffee from a local roaster, or your favorite pod (a neat way to store pods— organize your coffee pods with a holder) and get ready to brew. You could do your coffee brewing in a pour-over unit, or use one of the best Keurig coffee makers— there is only one rule here: make it tasty!

Step 2 —  Set up the mug warmer

Next, figure out where your new mug warmer’s home will be. Clear some space, and to be safe make sure no papers (or anything else for that matter) will touch the hot plate. Plug the warmer in and turn it on.

Step 3 —  Place the mug down

Place the mug down on the mug warmer. The hot plate will transfer heat to the mug, which will in turn heat the liquid within. Enjoy your delicious coffee at the perfect temperature for longer!

How to Maintain a Mug Warmer

Because mug warmers never really come into contact with coffee— other than the occasional spill— they require nearly no maintenance. Just a quick wipe down as you would with any other household appliance will do the trick. 

If you do however spill coffee, no need to worry, most are spill-proof— meaning that the internal heating system is protected from the liquid on the surface of the device. 

Step 1 —  Unplug the mug warmer

You’ve had some spillage! That’s ok— no need to panic! The first step is to unplug your warmer.

Step 2 — Dry the mug warmer

Next, take a few squares of paper towels, or a dry cloth and soak up the coffee. Be sure to get any coffee that may have leaked under the mug warmer too. 

Step 3 — Clean

Use a clean, damp cloth and wipe the warmer to remove any of the oils that the coffee may have left. Get underneath it too, making sure there is no stickiness whatsoever.

Step 4 — Dry

Lastly, using a few more squares of paper towel, or a dry cloth, wipe down the entire unit, top and bottom, to ensure everything is nice and dry. Plug it back in and your warmer is ready to keep your coffee warm once again!

 

Does More Spending Mean More Quality

In certain situations, especially with manual coffee-related items, like a coffee maker crafted from stainless steel, spending more won’t necessarily mean that the job will be done any better. This is not so much the case with mug warmers. 

Because most warmers are electronic and will be used fairly frequently for long periods of time (up to a couple of hours, every day), a cheap unit may quickly stop working, or might not be capable of keeping coffee as hot as you were hoping, in the first place.

So spending more might buy you a longer-lasting product, made of higher quality materials. It may also buy you more features –  variable temperature settings, auto-shutoff, and waterproof design are just a few of the things that spending a little more might buy you.  

Luckily though, cup warmers aren’t the most pricey items on a coffee gear list— with many capable options available for under $30. 

Do’s and Don’ts With Mug Warmers

  • Do use your unit with glass, ceramic or stainless steel mugs.
  • Do use your mug warmer to keep other liquids warm. Soup, tea and hot chocolate can also be kept warm.  
  • Don’t use a hot plate warmer with plastic cups. Plastic has a very low melting point.
  • Don’t leave the device turned on all night. 

FAQ About Mug Warmers

FAQ About Mug Warmers

Are mug warmers safe?

Most good warmers have an auto-off function, making them very safe. If yours doesn’t, be sure to never leave it unattended. 

How hot do mug warmers get?

There is a massive range of temperatures covered by different warmers. Some of the lower-end models might keep the coffee a slightly above room temperature, while some of the better models can keep a mug of coffee piping hot. It is best to check with each individual product for temperature specs. 

How long does a mug warmer stay warm for?

Essentially, it will stay warm until it is turned off. Some do have an auto-off feature after a certain amount of time. 

Does a mug warmer have an auto shut-off feature?

Not all, but some do, yes. An auto shut-off feature is commonly found in the mid to higher-end mug warmers. Most manufacturers will advertise it if their product includes this feature. 

Do mug warmers come with the option of temperature control?

Many mug warmers certainly offer temperature control, but not all do. If it links to a smartphone app or has a small screen on its face, it will most likely offer some form of temperature control. Many warmers offer temperature control by different power settings— something similar to low, medium and high. 

How long will it take for a mug warmer to heat my coffee?

A good mug warmer should heat up a room temperature cup of coffee within thirty minutes – though this entirely depends on the unit you are using. Having said that, mug warmers are best used to maintain already warm coffee, rather than heating it up from cold.   

Can you put a paper cup on a mug warmer?

This is somewhat of a grey area. While some say a paper cup is completely fine, for safety reasons, it is probably best avoided. Besides, coffee tastes far better out of ceramic or glass!

Conclusion

Regardless of how and where you brew your coffee, there will be a coffee warmer that suits your needs. Choose the perfect mug warmer for you, and you will be rewarded with nice hot coffee that never goes cold, regardless of how long you are away from it!