“How bad’s the coffee, how good’s the pie?” John Hiatt sang on one of his overlooked albums from the early 2000s, illustrating one kind of coffee drinker. The other is, well, a snob.
If you’re cut from the same mold as his character in the tune, opting for anything dark and steaming from your nearest gas station or street cart, then the new Ember Ceramic Mug—an $80 temperature-controlling coffee cup—probably isn’t for you.
But, for those of us who pour 205-degree (exactly!) water over 25 grams of hand-ground Ethiopian Sidamo beans, read on.
The ceramic mug, much like the company’s travel tumbler that’s been sold at Starbucks around the country, lets you dial in the exact temperature you want to drink your coffee (or tea). But this one is designed to sit on your kitchen table or office desk, so you can leisurely sip your joe without it going cold.
Is this really a problem, you ask? Sure is. After all, there’s a big difference between “hot,” “cold,” and “just right”—ask Goldilocks.
Coffee, whether it’s a scalding Pikes Place or your own home brew, is too hot to drink at the moment you pour it into your standard coffee mug. The temperature drops a few degrees every minute and, soon, that piping hot java turns to lukewarm mud. If you’re not quick about it, you’ll miss the too-short window to gulp it down when the temperature’s just right.
Of course, you could get around this by buying one of those cheap Mr. Coffee burners, which will keep your coffee “warm.” But how hot exactly? Is “warm” good enough?
We used to think so. Hell, there was a time we happily slugged back room temperature joe (milk and sugar, thanks). But we’ve been using an early sample of the Ember mug for a few weeks and have found it joyful in ways hard to describe. Every sip, down to the last drop, is exactly at 135 degrees. That’s the perfect temp we’ve found to slightly sting the lips. It’s hot enough that we inhale deeply with every drink, enjoying the flavor more with every swallow.
The 10-ounce mug ships with a charging base—the cup itself has a battery and built-in heating elements that keep coffee hot for nearly an hour. You can leave it powered on all the time; the mug automatically detects when you’ve filled it and starts to regulate the temperature, otherwise it sits idle. If you want to change the temperature–maybe you like your tea at a different temp than your coffee—you can adjust that in Ember’s smartphone app. But, if you always drink at the same setting, you can mostly disregard the app after initial setup.
At our office, we just leave the cup on the charger all day so it always has a full charge. We take it with us to meetings, enjoying 135-degree coffee until it’s adjourned. You can do the same if, for example, you like to read the New York Times on the back porch in the morning.
We’ll readily admit, it’s completely ridiculous. But it’s changed our relationship with our favorite morning beverage. And we’re not turning back.