Ember Tumbler with handle lid on top and sippy lid at a jaunty angle next to the tumbler

Ember Tumbler Keeps My Coffee Hot But … a Tough Review

I made a rule way back when I started podcasting nearly 19 years ago that I would only review products that were either good or great. I’ve gotten comments from a few people that they wish I’d review bad products too when I come across them because then people would know to stay away from them. That doesn’t sound like any fun to me at all. If a software or hardware product has promise but doesn’t quite hit the mark, my strategy is to send constructive feedback to the company telling them what I think they can do to improve. It seems more polite and friendly overall and I think it’s served the public interest better that way.

This week I’ve had a real struggle trying to review something. The problem is that there are nearly as many pros as there are cons to the products which you’d think would take it out of the running, but Steve and I love the products and we keep buying them. It’s not a love/hate relationship, it’s more of a love/”you disappoint me intermittently” relationship.

I’ve been waffling for two weeks on whether and how to do the review and I decided the best path was to do the review but to constantly waffle back and forth on whether I should recommend it. That’s really the only honest way for me to do it, and I really do love the product, but it’s going to be a smidge more uneven than it would be otherwise.

With that annoying preamble, I’ll stop being mysterious and tell you that the products are heated mugs and cups from Ember. You may remember that we interviewed Jake Singer from Ember at CES this year where he talked about the mugs, tumblers, travel mugs, and even baby bottle warmers they make. If you’ve been around for a while, you may remember that I reviewed the Ember ceramic mug in 2018, and we interviewed them at CES way back in 2016 three months before they launched their first product.

Steve and I both like our coffee hot, and if it gets too cool will run to a microwave to heat it back up. But in the six years since we bought our first Ember mugs, Steve and I have been delighted to have coffee that stays hot while we sip it throughout the morning.

Ember Mug 2 in Copper.
Ember Mug 2 – Comes in Pretty Colors

So what’s not to like? Ember mugs keep the coffee hot by using an internal battery which is charged by placing it on a little saucer that’s plugged into the wall. The saucer has two pogo pins sticking up that make contact with circular metal rings on the bottom of the cup and that makes the electrical connection to charge the device. The new containers, like the tumblers and the travel mug, all use the same design to charge the devices.

Ember mug saucer showing pins that fail.
Ember Saucer – Pins that Fail

The problem is that the saucers are highly failure-prone. The little pins have a tendency to get pushed in which makes it impossible to charge the cups. Early on in our Ember journey, you had to buy a whole new mug/saucer combo so it was pretty expensive when they failed. Eventually, they started selling the saucers by themselves, which made it a bit less painful when the pins inevitably went bad.

The regular cup/saucer combo runs $130 to $150 depending on whether you want the 10 or 14-oz cup, and replacing the saucer will cost you $40. That’s an awful lot of money to keep your coffee or tea hot. But still, we bought new ones when the old ones failed us because we love having our coffee stay hot.

I have a 10 oz and Steve has a 14 oz regular cup, which are a couple years old. Shortly around the time we interviewed Ember this year at CES, we started having new problems with our cups. Keeping your cup at the optimal temperature requires a Bluetooth connection between your phone and the cup. My cup would maintain that Bluetooth connection and stay toasty hot, but only when the cup was on the saucer. If I held the cup in my hands too long, it would start to cool down.

Steve’s cup found a way to be even more annoying. Like mine, his cup would not connect to Bluetooth if it wasn’t on the saucer. But even worse, it only stayed connected right after he’d poured in brewed coffee that was hotter than his set temperature of 145°. So let’s say it was 165° when poured in, it would stay connected till it got to 145° and then disconnect. Also known as not heating his coffee.

It had one job, right?

We started looking at the newer offerings of Ember after CES.

Bart recently bought the new Ember Travel Mugs at $200 each for himself and his darling beloved. These are really cool because they have the temperature displayed on the outside and you can tap the plus button to increase the temperature without messing around in the app. It even shows you the battery level on a second display. They’re tapered down so that they fit nicely in a cup holder. They also feature built-in Find My which is great if you let your mug wander and you use an iPhone.

Ember Travel Mug showing temperature and + button - also says Apple Find My.
Ember Travel Mug that Bart Favors

The only downside to the Ember Travel Mug is that it’s only 12 oz, and we like to order Grande Mochas at Starbucks, which are 16 oz. We opted to replace both our at-home Ember mugs and our inexpensive plastic cups for Starbucks with just the 16-oz Ember Tumbler. The Tumbler lists on the Ember website for the same $200 as the Travel Mug, but Amazon has it for 20% off right now so for $160 we got our 16 oz of happiness.

The Tumblers are great. They keep our coffee hot and toasty for hours because they have a big battery. They say it will keep the liquid at 135° for 3 hours, and I’m sure I get at least 2 hours at 145°.

Ember Tumbler with handle lid on top and sippy lid at a jaunty angle next to the tumbler.
Ember Tumbler Showing Both Lid Options

They came with two lids. One is a screw-on lid with a handle which is great if you’re carrying it around, but not great because you can’t drink out of it without unscrewing the top.

The second lid is a press fit that’s quite snug, and it has one of those sippy cup things you slide back and forth to open it up for the sipping. It works really well and we’ve had no spillage from it. In fact, if you have the sippy thing closed, it’s pretty hard to shove it into the Tumbler because it’s such a snug fit.

I also find it pleasing to drink directly out of the Tumbler with no lid at all. Since it’s constantly heating my coffee, it doesn’t cool down because I have the lid off. I tend to drink my first cup of coffee from home with the lid off, but my Starbucks coffee with the lid on.

I mentioned the nice long battery life but that comes at a price. The price we pay for 2-3 hour battery life is that the Ember Tumblers are heavy. And by heavy I mean more than a pound – 17 oz (487g) to be specific, and that doesn’t include the weight of the lid and it’s without any liquid in it. I’m not kidding when I say if you have any trouble with hand or wrist strength, the Ember Tumbler isn’t for you.

Ember Tumbler Dimensions 6.5 in tall 3.3 in diameter 17 oz.
Ember Tumbler Dimensions

The Ember Travel Mug Bart bought isn’t much lighter – it weighs 15.2 oz (432g), and remember it holds a quarter less liquid than the Tumbler.

The weight isn’t a huge deal for us and since the Tumblers keep our coffee nice and hot, we love them.

Except on rare occasions (happened to each of us once in about a month) when the app decides that our cup is empty. When it’s in that mood, there’s not a darn thing you can do to convince it that you really do have coffee left and would like it heated please, and thank you. But 95% of the time it’s been rock solid.

The Travel Mug is designed to fit nicely in a cup holder in your car, but the Tumbler most definitely is not. We can squish it down into our rubber-lined cup holders hard enough to hold it securely in place, but the bottom of the Tumbler is still a good inch above the base of the cup holder. Makes me nervous, but we’ve had no cases where it tipped over. If you want to measure your own cup holders to see if a Tumbler will fit in yours, the Tumbler is 3.3″ (83mm) in diameter.

When we repeatedly bought the regular coffee mugs, we bought them in different colors so we could tell them apart. I’d buy white, and he’d buy black. The next time I bought silver, and he bought the copper-colored one. The Ember Tumbler comes in any color you want, as long as it’s black. I’m going to have to break out my Cricut and make a cute sticker for mine so we can tell them apart.

Bottom Line

Do you see why I had so much trouble writing about the Ember Tumbler and all of the Ember products? At the high prices they charge, their heated mugs and tumblers are definitely luxury items, and you would think for these prices you’d get a product that would last longer than they do.

I’m afraid their customer service isn’t great either. On their website, they show product reviews. The Tumbler we bought has 220 reviews, 108 of which are 5-star, but 53 of which are 1-star. Nearly all of the 53 said they had trouble contacting customer service. Steve wrote a lengthy request to customer service for his little mug and hasn’t heard back in the 2 or 3 weeks since he wrote to them. I’m sure it was out of warranty but you’d expect some sort of response.

You can buy a 2-year warranty for $19 from the Ember site so that might not be the worst idea.

Should you buy an Ember mug of any kind? All I can say is I was really happy when I stopped by a friend’s house for a quick chat that turned into an hour visit and when I returned to my car, my coffee was still nice and hot.

3 thoughts on “Ember Tumbler Keeps My Coffee Hot But … a Tough Review

  1. PDX_Kurt - April 3, 2024

    I listened to this segment with bemusement… the Ember solutions seem like overkill to me, but then I don’t drink coffee. My coffee-swilling relatives swear by vacuum bottles made by Zojirushi:


    I have one of these, and last week I put hot soup in it in the morning. Eleven hours later I unscrewed the top, and poured out soup that was still hot! Not burn-your-mouth hot, but still impressively hot. In contrast to the Ember products, the Zojirushi is lightweight, needs no batteries, has no app, and is way more affordable (you can get it much cheaper at big box retail stores). It also is leak-proof, and can be opened with one hand.

    Obligatory dad joke follows…

    Son: “Dad, what is greatest invention humankind has ever made?”

    Dad: “That’s easy, son. The vacuum thermos bottle! It keeps hot things hot, and cold things cold.”

    Son: “That doesn’t sound so special. Why is that so great?”

    Dad: “Well, how does it know which way to go, son?”

  2. Allison Sheridan - April 3, 2024

    Kurt – I love everything about this. We swear by our Zojirushi rice maker (recommended by a Japanese friend of ours). The simplicity of a really good thermos makes me feel so silly. I’m tempted to buy one of these just to see how well it works. We are very picky about how hot we like our coffee – but what if it works? And the dad joke is fabulous.

  3. Les Orchard - April 4, 2024

    FWIW, I’ve got ADHD and regularly forget I have coffee. I used to have a rather dumb mug-and-hotplate thing to keep the coffee warm, which was alright.

    But, I’ve had one of those little Zojirushi vacuum bottles for about 2 years now. It’s been perfect. Keeps a couple mugs worth of coffee at a pretty constant temperature for the first half of the day until I finish drinking it. The lid flips open with springs on a button push and snaps closed securely. It’s survived many knocks off my desk by cats. No batteries, easy to clean, not expensive at all considering what it does.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top