Give me two insulated travel mugs and a free morning

I received a new travel mug for Christmas, from a much-touted brand, so naturally I wanted to know whether it lived up to its reputation. 

New silver mug on the left, identified as "Y" for the purposes of our experiment. Older red thermal mug on the right, identified as "C."

New silver mug on the left, identified as "Y" for the purposes of our experiment. Older red thermal mug on the right, identified as "C."


1 - Heat 2 cups of water to a set temperature (150 degrees, or as close as possible). Divide the liquid into the the tumblers, with each receiving 1 cup. This is just under half full. The reason I picked this amount was that this seems to be the tipping point where insulated mugs begin to lose the battle with lukewarmness. 

2 - Using a meat thermometer, measure the temperature of the fluid at the center of mass, using as uniform sampling techniques as possible.

3 - Record the temperatures on your fridge white board.

4 - Consider transferring the data to an excel spreadsheet so you can generate handsome, informative graphs.

5 - Get back to editing a story instead. 



"C" (a Contigo autoseal) wins by a small margin in both the "no lid" (left) and "lid" (right) conditions. "Y" (a Yeti rambler) puts in a decent performance but is edged out. After 30 minutes, the Contigo's liquid is 3 degrees warmer than the Yeti's. 

Not pictured: When temperatures were tested after three hours, the Contigo still had a 3 degree advantage (107 degrees) over the Yeti (104 degrees).


The Yeti experiences a significant decline in temperature initially; after that, the two tumblers cool at a fairly constant rate. 

I theorize that the Yeti has a larger thermal mass, causing initial cooling as heat is drawn out of the liquid to raise the temperature of the tumbler. Heating both mugs before the liquid is added might give different results, but I will leave that important work for other scientists. 

Keeps the hot stuff hot and the perils of old age at bay

It was a Sunday, L was still in bed, and I was puttering around, getting a fire started on one of the first genuinely cold days of fall. I started a pot of coffee and opened up a kitchen cabinet to get a coffee mug. 

When I go to work, I carry coffee in a thermos, because the coffee at my firehouse is the worst I've ever tasted, anywhere. I actually feel a little pride in the awfulness of our coffee, but not enough to drink it. So most of the time, I drink my coffee out of a vacuum insulated metal container, which keeps it hot for supernatural lengths of time. 

On this morning at home, though, I picked out a mug. And then my brain, because it looooooves to be busy on a peaceful fall morning when it could just chill out and not bother me, was like, "Why are you drinking out of a mug when your thermos will keep the coffee hot longer?" And then my brain replied, "This is weird, but I actually like drinking the coffee as it starts to cool. I enjoy it more when I happen to drink in that brief interval between scalding and tepid." And then my brain said, "It's almost like using your thermos is a means of denying the passage of time." And it replied, "And by association, your own mortality!" And it agreed, "Letting the coffee get cold is a form of acceptance that you will grow old and die." And added, "How appropriate that you use the thermos at work, where your job is to resist the wages of mortality." And then asked, "Does the coffee go cold, or does it grow more beautiful?" And my brains laughed. 

"Pipe down, brain," I said. "Or no more coffee for you,"