In 2020, apparently, having a reusable coffee cup is almost a fashion accessory – an item that suggests you care about the planet, that you know all sorts of superfluous facts about coffee, and that you have impeccable taste because you’ve coordinated your cup with your phone cover.
But whatever your reasons, there’s one thing for sure: using a reusable cup is one of the best ways to cut down on single-use plastics. Paper coffee cups have particularly come under fire for their inner plastic layer that renders them incredibly difficult to recycle, so much so that being seen using one has almost become the kind of millennial faux pas.
Last year, the government even considered a 25p “latte levy” for coffees served in single-use cups, but the proposals were eventually scrapped after protests from the likes of coffee giant Costa.
Of course, many coffee shops are now offering compostable cups. Sadly, these aren’t an effective solution. While the cups are technically compostable, the UK doesn’t have the technology to process them, so they end up in the usual rubbish or in recycling bins – which can then compromise the recycling process, too.
So all in all, reusable coffee cups are the best way to go. And there’s a plethora of options on the market, from folding cups to travel cafetieres to flasks that keep your coffee at your ideal drinking temperature.
We’ve tested the products below, assessing them for their ability to stay leak-free, keep their contents warm over a period of several hours, and, ultimately, for the drinking experience.
And with such brilliant alternatives available, why would you want to drink out of a flimsy paper cup in the first place?
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KeepCup thermal, 340ml
Widely regarded as the original and one of the best reusable coffee cup brands out there, KeepCup has just launched its new Thermal range. The new cups have upgraded from tempered soda-lime glass to double walled stainless steel and vacuum sealed thermal insulation so your drink stays hot for hours (ours was still piping hot well after we completed our hour-long commute), but remains cool enough to hold, handily solving two of the very few complaints with the original model.
Elsewhere the design is pretty similar, with a brilliantly designed leak-proof lid with a “twist and click” plug – easily the nicest one for actually drinking out of. In fact, the entire thing is created for the coffee drinker, right down to the dedicated shape that gets the best pour, as vouched for by baristas.
B Corp-certified KeepCup also has impressive sustainability credentials throughout its supply chain, maintaining long-term relationships with its suppliers. We particularly like that you can buy replacement parts for your KeepCup, which is much less wasteful than buying a whole new one. Throw in loads of choice across colour, finish and size, and you’re onto a winner.
Bodum travel press, 350ml
Bodum’s travel press is essentially a mini cafetiere, with a coffee press (although this can also double up with loose leaf tea), so you can get your morning coffee all ready to go before you head out the door.
Made out of plastic, rubber and silicone, it feels less high-end than some of the other reusable mugs out there, but then it does ring in at a wallet-friendly £16. For the price, you get everything you need from an on-the-go coffee mug: the contents stay warm for a decent length of time, and the exterior stays cool to the touch. That said, it’s not BPA-free, if that’s something you worry about.
The only problem with the design is that if you want milk, you have to wait till your tea or coffee has brewed, then press, then add the milk in – added faff if you’re using it on a busy morning. It’s also worth noting that this one isn’t leak proof, but the brand does have leak proof varieties available.
Frank Green ceramic reusable cup, 295ml
The best looking of the bunch, Frank Green’s is also one of the most leak-proof. The brand offers two versions, one made out of fully recyclable co-polymer, the other from a ceramic inner layer and a stainless steel outer. We tested the latter, and found it kept our tea hot for at least two hours, if not more. The press-to-sip mouthpiece is a bit fiddly, but it’s also reassuringly reliable – we never even spilled a drop, but make sure it’s properly closed if you’re going to put it in a bag.
The best bit about the Frank Green cups, though, is that you can customise to your heart’s content, with different options for the lid, the button and the base. What’s more, you can also add accessories like a tea strainer to your order. They’re lovely both to hold and to look at, and recyclable at the end of their life.
Turtle Cup coffee cup, 340ml
Made with high-grade borosilicate glass and a medical-grade silicone lid, Turtle Cups are satisfyingly solid and feel nice in your hand, even when the contents themselves are boiling. The company’s dedication to cutting down on single-use plastics is admirable, and it donates 50p from every sale to charities that are working to clean up the oceans. The brand itself is carbon neutral, offsetting all of the carbon created during the manufacturing process of its cups.
The Turtle Cups aren’t leak proof, and you need to make sure you wash the lid thoroughly before the first use as otherwise it tastes a bit chemical-y (this applies to all cups made with jelly-like silicone lids, not just this one), but from then on they’re great to drink out of. If you’re after something that holds heat, though, this one probably isn’t for you – but for £12.99 and a charity donation, we’re not complaining.
Bru coffee cup, 340ml
Thanks to a heavier bottom and matte finish, Bru touts its coffee cups as being incredibly durable and long-lasting. At 340ml, the cups are the ideal barista-approved size, while double-wall insulated keeps things piping hot for up to three hours. It’s also dishwasher safe, and the stainless steel cup can be recycled at the end of its life.
The Bru cup did indeed keep things toasty while the exterior always stayed ambient temperature, so no burnt fingers – but the wider design without a handle made it a bit cumbersome to hold. Throw in the fact that the lid isn’t leak proof (this is on purpose to reduce the buildup of air pressure), and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a few spills. That said, this is the best-value insulated cup – and if you’re not clumsy, you’ll probably be safe.
Kambukka Etna, 300ml
Belgian brand Kambukka prides itself on its practical yet stylish approach to its reusable flasks. The design is fuss free: sturdy, leak-proof and with a mouth piece that has three positions – shut, always open, or push to take a sip. It also, very conveniently, has a function to unclip part of the lid to make it easier to clean. Oh, and this one’s dishwasher proof too, unlike many others.
It promises to keep contents hot for at least five hours (a little longer than many of the other varieties), and it lived up to its claim. The best thing, though, is that it really is incredibly leak proof: it withstood the test of being chucked in a gym bag and lugged around London all day. The screw-top lid is reassuringly safe, while the clip-style lid on others always feels likely to come undone. At £26.95, this seems like a very reasonable price for a cup that will last you for years and years.
Hydroflask coffee mug, 340ml
As magical as reusable coffee flasks are, there’s something that just doesn’t beat drinking out of a proper mug. Enter Hydroflask’s newest baby, its 12oz (340ml) mug, available in black and olive green. It has all the Hydroflask signatures: BPA-free materials, superior insulation that keeps the contents piping hot for up to four hours, soft-feel exterior and a design that means the cup never actually feels warm on the outside – making this less ideal if your cup’s secondary purpose is warming your hands on chilly commutes.
The press-in lid has a flat mouthpiece for drinking out of, which can make it feel a bit like you’re drinking out of an adult sippy cup (including slurping noises). It’s definitely splash proof, but not entirely leak proof – there’s nothing to stop liquid coming out of the mouthpiece – which means it won’t survive being thrown in a bag or any particularly violent tube or bus lurches. That said, we’ve taken to using it around the house because it’s so nice to drink out of, and keeps liquid hot even when you’ve forgotten about it for hours.
Ember travel mug 2, 400ml
This is the fanciest reusable coffee cup we’ve ever clapped eyes on – and so it should be for the price. Not only does this cup maintain your preferred temperature (with both suggested and customisable presets), but it also shows when the contents have reached that temperature, so you don’t burn yourself.
The nifty app does just about anything you could ask for, with brewing timers for tea, suggested presets for latte, green tea, cappuccinos and so on. There’s also an interesting recipe section, with ideas for a cinnamon matcha latte, a beet latte and more. It’s sparsely populated at the time of writing, but we’d be interested in seeing how it develops.
The other interesting aspect of the app is that it tracks your caffeine intake. You can then upload the information to Apple Health, along with your heart rate and sleep data. This is a nice touch, but of course you need an Apple Watch in order to be able to use it effectively.
The cup itself has an appealingly sleek design, although it’s a little on the large side for just throwing in your bag. The mouthpiece (a circle in the lid that you press down to open) feels quite cool at first but could get a bit dribbly as residual liquid sits on top. That said, it’s definitely leak-proof – and keeps your tea or coffee warm. As for the battery, you can use it at least twice, keeping the liquid warm for the entire day, before recharging. And when it’s not in use, you can park the mug on its own little charging stand. One for health and tech junkies.
Stojo cup, 340ml
If one of your complaints about using a reusable coffee cup is having to carry it around all day, Stojo has you covered. When not in use, the cup folds into a disk shape that takes up minimal space and is incredibly light – vital if you cycle or lug around gym kit or a laptop. In fact, Stojo’s cups (and new water bottles) are handy because you can just leave them in your bag almost all the time, just in case you want a hot beverage en route.
Of course, there’s a price to pay for the slimmer design: the cup isn’t insulated, and isn’t all that sturdy, although there’s a thoughtful rigid plastic band that keeps hands protected and makes the cup itself more solid. It’s surprisingly leak-resistant, but we wouldn’t put it in a bag when full, and we wouldn’t vouch for it not dripping in the event of vigorous bumps and bashes on busy pavements.
Elsewhere, the Stojo folding cup is also dishwasher safe and easy to clean, BPA-free and made without phthalates, leads or glutes. And for a snip of a price at around £12, we’d say it’s a hard one to beat – and it comes in heaps of millennial-friendly colours, too.
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