We Tried the Ember Mug—And It’s a Game-Changer for Morning Coffee
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The novel temperature-controlled Ember Mug takes your homemade cup of joe from just good to just right.
The year is 2020. I’m bored at home, just like everyone else. And I, a non-coffee drinker, am starting to eye up my roommate’s coffee maker. It’s far beyond the sourdough stage of quarantine, and the monotony of spending so much time in my apartment is really starting to weigh on me. What better way to jazz things up, to get me excited about my day than a cup of joe? And with that simple query, a coffee drinker was born.
I started with Dalgona coffee and graduated to more straightforward cups of the black stuff—with a splash of these healthy creamers, of course. I’ve since experimented with lattes, bottled cold brews and homemade iced coffee, which I make in my beloved HyperChiller. (Here’s the difference between cold brew and iced coffee.) I’m even toying with the idea of ordering a coffee subscription box.
I’ve successfully kept my caffeine consumption in check, but that solitary cup of coffee remains a bright spot in my morning routine each day—no matter where I am.
So, when I heard about the Ember Mug, a revolutionary heated mug, I just knew I had to give it a whirl. Fortunately, I had the chance to—and here’s my full review so you can decide if it’s right for you.
What Is the Ember Mug?
In short, the Ember Mug is a temperature-controlled mug. The handy gadget enables you to choose the exact temperature at which you want to enjoy your morning sipper, then keeps it that temperature for upwards of 80 minutes.
Inspired by a plate of cold scrambled eggs, CEO and founder Clay Alexander set out to create self-heated receptacles for food and drink. And these sleek cups, available in a variety of styles, sizes and colors, are the fruition of this novel idea.
Unboxing the Ember Mug
Annamarie Higley for Taste of Home
Unsurprisingly, the packaging of the Ember Mug is as stylish and polished as the product inside. I ordered the copper mug from Ember’s Metallic Collection. It’s gorgeous—and reminiscent of a Moscow mule mug (is it 5 o’clock anywhere?).
This mug is more than just good-looking, though. It has a nice thin lip and a largely heatproof exterior. It’s a little heavier than your typical mug, but that can rightfully be attributed to the heating mechanism in the bottom.
In addition to the mug itself, customers receive a charging coaster and cord, both labeled with easy-to-understand instructional stickers. Bonus: The charging coaster and the mug match, making an ultra-aesthetic duo.
Oh, and let’s not forget perhaps the most important component: the smart-phone application. More on that now.
Check out these other super-cool smart kitchen gadgets.
How the Ember Mug Works
Annamarie Higley for Taste of Home
This mug is almost impossibly attractive. There’s nothing on it aside from a sliver of LED light at the bottom, which indicates whether it needs to be charged. There are no unsightly buttons, display screens or random doodads. And it’s the smart-phone application, aptly called “Ember,” that makes this possible.
While apps can be clunky, confusing and take up precious storage on your already-brimming iPhone, the Ember app offers a truly great user experience. Available on both the Apple App Store and Google Play, it is straightforward and multifunctional. (Here are some more food-related apps well worth the download.)
The app connects to the mug via Bluetooth and controls it from there. With it, you can easily adjust the mug’s temperature, ranging from 120 to 145°F, or select from one of the convenient presets (e.g., latte–131° or black tea–137°). And, of course, the app can be switched to Celsius, if needed.
Some additional features include a tea timer for optimal steeping and recipes, including one for a cinnamon matcha latte and another for lemon honey ginger tea. (Here’s the health-backed reason why you should always add lemon and ginger to tea.)
If you don’t have a smart phone, don’t despair. You can still use the mug without one—it will just stay at the factory setting of 135°F.
Testing the Ember Mug
Annamarie Higley for Taste of Home
I tried to be as thorough as possible when testing this mug. After all, it’s quite expensive, with the cheapest model costing $130. It’s the first of its kind, sure, but I wanted to be certain it was actually worth the hype—and the cash.
I made both coffee and black tea in the appliance. And admittedly, it does require a bit of patience—or at least planning. The mug takes about two hours to charge to 100%, so I’d recommend plugging it in overnight. Remember: You only need to charge the mug if you’re taking it off the charging coaster. Otherwise, it can rest there all day, keeping your coffee or tea at its ideal temp for hours.
Once I poured my piping-hot coffee (or tea) into the mug, it took 20-25 minutes to come down to my preferred drinking temperature. (But anyone who’s used to drinking coffee knows this wait time is inevitable.)
For the coffee, I let it cool to the factory setting of 135°F. I purposely didn’t take a sip until then, and it was a relief knowing I wasn’t going to scorch my mouth. Although 135° is slightly too hot for my taste, I think it’s a totally acceptable universal drinking temperature. (Psst! Be your own barista with our favorite coffee products.)
For the tea, I used the Black Tea preset of 137°, as well as the steeping timer. (Here are some of our best-loved teas.) This seems like a good time to mention the app’s push notifications—I would absolutely advise turning them on. I was alerted when the steeping timer was done and when the tea had reached drinking temperature.
I also was alerted when the mug was about to shut off and, as a result, stop heating my beverage. The Ember website promises that the 10 oz. and 14 oz. mugs can warm liquid for 90 and 80 minutes, respectively. And this is no joke. Like clockwork, my 14 oz. mug would shut off after 80 minutes.
If you don’t always have your phone on you, I’d recommend learning what the different LED light functions mean so you know when your mug is fully charged, when it’s still reaching target temperature, when it’s achieved target temperature or when it’s dead.
What we liked about the Ember Mug
- Completely personalized temperature settings
- Easy-to-use app with genuinely helpful features and extras
- Aesthetic appeal
What to consider about the Ember Mug
- High price point
- Smart-phone requirement for temperature control (it will stay at 135° otherwise)
- 80- or 90-minute battery life
How the Ember Mug Holds Up
As I’ve mentioned, the Ember Mug is a total original; there aren’t other temperature-controlled mugs out there. With that being said, there are a few products that can potentially produce similar results.
For example, there’s the Mr. Coffee Mug Warmer, which is $12 and has more than 45,000 reviews on Amazon (yes, you read that right). Although this gadget is much cheaper than the Ember Mug, it doesn’t allow for the same level of customization. It simply keeps your drink, well, warm. But as I alluded to earlier, we all have different preferences when it comes to temperature. What’s “just right” to some might be way too cool or way too warm to others. Plus, the coffee cup needs to stay put on the heating pad in order to remain hot.
Same goes for super-insulated coffee mugs and cups, such as those from YETI, which are between $25 and $42. These keep your drink hot, hot, hot (or cold if you like), but that’s about all they can do. There’s very little control—and very much potential for a burned mouth.
Taking all this into consideration, I think the Ember Mug successfully stands out. Any coffee or tea fanatic knows that hot beverages, especially tea, are best when brewed and consumed at very exact temperatures, and the Ember Mug is the only one that can truly deliver.
I’d imagine after reading this review, most people are still hung up on the price: $130 (or, in my mug’s case, $180) for a coffee mug… really? And it is completely understandable if this isn’t the splurge for you. (Here are some other amazing coffee-themed presents and cute coffee mugs to pick from.) But the Ember Mug has tons of merit if you’re a religious coffee or tea drinker.
As someone who has used a mug warmer and my fair share of insulated coffee mugs, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Ember. But in the end, I was very impressed—much more so than I anticipated.
The design is meticulously thought-out, and the app is a streamlined and, frankly, genius way to operate the mug. And there’s something so satisfying about taking a sip of your hours-old drink and having it be the exact right temperature. It’s the perfect addition to my coffee arsenal, next to my best single serve coffee maker.