The Coffee Spot Guide to Reusable Cups

Some lovely latte art from Rag & Bone Coffee in my Therma Cup, a double-walled, thermally-insulated ceramic cupIf you have been following the Coffee Spot for any length of time, you’ll know that I really, really dislike the way coffee tastes when drunk from disposable cups. This has led me to adopt a somewhat evangelical attitude to reusable coffee cups and, while I’ve been championing them for some time now, I realise that I’ve been doing it in a rather haphazard fashion. This page is my attempt to address that, along with a wider article that I wrote on the subject of reusable cups.

What you’ll find in this page is a short summary for each of the reusable coffee cups that I use, my thoughts on each one, plus links to the articles I’ve written about them. I’ve grouped them as follows in what I hope is a fairly logical manner:


Please note that this page does not pretend to be a comprehensive guide to the reusable cups available in the marketplace. These are simply the cups which I own (all of which were given to me as gifts). I also have very specific requirements: for example, with the odd exception, I am not interested in anything with a capacity over 8 fl oz (about 225 ml), nor am I that bothered if the cup keeps my drink warm for long periods of time. Another example is lid design: I never drink coffee with the lid on, so I can’t tell you which particular opening is best for taste, etc.


Glass Cups

Glass cups are still, in my opinion, something of a benchmark. I like drinking coffee out of glass. I like the way it feels and tastes. One initial problem I had with glass was a fear that the cups would break too easily, but years of carrying them around in my rucksack and in coat pockets has proved this fear to be unfounded. The other, on-going issue with glass is that it doesn’t keep the drink warm. For me, this is rarely a problem, since my flat white rarely lasts long enough to get cold. However, one issue I do have is that the cups can get very warm to the touch (even with the various sleeves designed to make them easy to hold. I’m aware of three makes of glass cup, all from Australia. For me, there’s not a lot to choose between the three, the choice largely coming down to aesthetics/ethics (and probably availability).

KeepCup

A fine flat white to go from Beany Green in my Keep Cup BrewThe Australian KeepCup is so successful that “KeepCup” has become synonymous with “reusable cup” in some circles. I’m only talking here about the 8 oz glass KeepCups. For me, they are still in many ways the benchmark cup. I’m now onto my third KeepCup (a gift from The Roasting Party). Although the KeepCup has proved durable, I broke both my previous ones. The first slipped while posing for a photo in Dublin and was dashed to pieces on unforgiving flagstones. The second met a similar fate on the tiles of my kitchen floor when it jumped out of my rucksack. These days, I keep a closer eye on my KeepCup!

I wrote two major articles about the KeepCup:

JOCO Cup

Amazing latte art in my JOCO Cup at Notes, Canary Wharf.JOCO Cups is another Australian firm, but, unlike KeepCup, which has plastic versions, JOCO Cups only makes glass cups. Again, I’m looking here at the 8 oz version, although larger sizes are available. There are slight differences in look and feel, the main one being the lid, although I have no strong opinion either way. What I have found is that both my JOCO Cups (both gifts from the UK distributor) cracked during washing, one in a dishwasher, one while running under hot water. Currently I do not own a JOCO Cup.

I wrote two major articles about the JOCO Cup:

SoL Cup

My SoL Cup on tour in Japan in 2017, enjoying a cappuccino at Blue Bottle in Shinagawa Station, Tokyo.SoL Cups is yet another Australian product, which was launched in late 2016. Like JOCO Cups, the SoL Cup is only available in glass. As usual, I’ve only considered the 8 oz version, although it also comes as a 12 oz. One of the SoL Cup’s standout features is that each one is hand-blown. I don’t know if this is a consequence of the method of production or not, but the resulting cup is much thinner and lighter than either the JOCO Cup or KeepCup, so if you are worried about weight, this could be the cup for you. I was initially concerned that this might make it fragile, but after 2½ weeks of travelling around Japan with it, I’ve put those concerns to rest!

I wrote one major article about the SoL Cup:


Plastic Cups

I’ll confess, I’m not a huge fan of plastic cups. There’s something about the way that the coffee tastes from most plastic cups that puts me off. Plastic is not something that I want to drink coffee out of. The two cups listed here are exceptions to that rule, although I fear my inbuilt prejudice against plastic still makes me look down on them. One major advantage of plastic over glass is that plastic is much more durable. I never had an issue with putting my plastic cups in a bag/pocket nor do I worry about dropping them. Another major advantage is that they have far better thermal insulation and hence are much cooler to the touch.

UPPERCUP

My new UPPERCUP in action at the London Coffee Festival, 2015The UPPERCUP is another Australian product, a double-walled BPA-free plastic cup which was a gift from the UK distributor. It is light and durable, which won it a place on my coast-to-coast trip across the USA in 2015 and my around-the-world trip in 2016. However, for day-to-day use in the UK, it often losses out to my other cups. A major issue I have is with the lid, which although very secure once on, is so fiddly to put on that I rarely bother. It’s also extremely hard to photograph, although I guess that’s more a coffee blogger problem!

As well as reading about my travels with the UPPERCUP, I wrote one major article about it:

Smart Cup

Latte Art in my 8 oz Smart Cup from Frank Green at 6/8 Kafe in BirminghamThe Smart Cup, by Australian company Frank Green, is probably not the product for me. It’s a neat piece of design, effectively a plastic cylinder surrounded by thick insulation. It easily has the most secure lid, which screws on and which can be closed completely to stop spillage. However, I find it bulky and so when I’m looking for something light, it usually loses out to the UPPERCUP. It also has an in-built payment method, although this requires the payment terminals to be implemented which I don’t think has happened in the UK.

I wrote one major article about the Smart Cup:

When I first had a Smart Cup, it was the 12 oz version, which was way too big for me. Since then Frank Green provided me with the new, 8 oz version. Although this is smaller, it is still too bulky for me. However. if you want something that is effectively spill-proof, then this is hands down the cup for you!


Other Materials

These days there are cups in a variety of other materials, which include ceramics, bamboo and recycled coffee grounds!

Therma Cup

A flat white from Carvetii in my Therma Cup at the Manchester Coffee Festival, 2016.I’ll be honest. If I have a current favourite, it’s my Therma Cup, a gift from the designer Jody Leach. In contrast to what has, until now, been an Australian-heavy list, the Therma Cup is designed and manufactured in the UK. It’s a beautiful, double-walled, thermally insulated 8 oz cup, which combines all the advantages of a glass cup with the thermal insulation of a plastic cup. My main concern was, like the glass cups, its perceived fragility. However it’s been knocking around in my rucksack for several months now and recently survived a trip to Phoenix and the Grand Canyon, so I think it has proved its worth. Although wonderfully light, it is quite bulky, a legacy of its double-walled nature.

I’ve written twice about the Therma Cup:

Kaffeeform Cup

My Kaffeeform Cup, made of recycled coffee grounds, in action at the London Coffee Festival, 2016Technically, the Kaffeeform Cup is not a reusable cup in the sense that it is being marketed as a straight espresso cup, it’s unique claim to fame being that it is made from recycled coffee grounds. However, I use it as a reusable cup and have been carrying it around since the 2016 London Coffee Festival with no ill effect (I used to carry a china cup around with me, but that chipped far too easily). It’s also surprisingly light, which is something people invariably comment on when I hand it over.

You might wonder why, since I have all these other cups, but the simple truth is that espresso tastes better out of an espresso cup, which is where the Kaffeeform Cup comes in. In an 8 oz cup, an espresso looks a little lost, but in my Kaffeeform Cup, it’s perfect.

I’ve only written once about my Kaffeeform Cup, which was an accidental gift from the manufacturer:

Ecoffee Cup

My new Ecoffee Cup, made from bamboo fibre, in action at the Notes stall in Borough Market.The Ecoffee Cup, which I first came across at the 2016 London Coffee Festival, is the latest addition to my growing arsenal of reusable cups. It’s made from bamboo fibre and, like the Kaffeeform and Therma Cup, it’s surprisingly light. Originally, it only came in two sizes, 12oz & 14oz. However, a smaller, flat-white friendly 8oz cup came out in September 2016 and Ecoffee kindly sent me one. I took it on a month-long trip around the USA at the start of 2017 and was suitably impressed with its durability.

I wrote two articles about the ECoffee Cup:


Miscellaneous

This section covers things that technically aren’t reusable cups, but which definitely fall into the reusable/travel section.

Travel Press

My Travel Press (left) on the southern rim of the Grand Canyon with my Therma Cup.The Travel Press, from Canadian firm Espro, is a combined travel cup and coffee maker (so in that sense, I suppose it is a reusable cup, although I don’t use it as one). I was given one as gift at the World of Coffee in Dublin and, as is the case with several of the reusable cups I’ve discussed here, I was initially sceptical. However, within a week of owning it, I was a convert. I don’t use it as a cup, but I do use it to make my coffee (it acts like a cafetiere), which I then pour into a cup to drink.

The key feature is that the Travel Press keeps the coffee warm for several hours and has a leak-proof lid, so I can make my coffee in the morning and then take it with me, for example, on planes, on hikes to the Grand Canyon and to business meetings where the coffee is terrible!

Other than my experience on planes, I’ve written one article about my Travel Press:


For a different perspective, try European Coffee Trip’s guide to reusable cups.