A while ago my parents gifted me with an Ember Bluetooth coffee mug.
The phrase “Bluetooth coffee mug” would make absolutely no sense to anyone living in the 1990s, and would perhaps be even more confusing to someone living in the early 2000s and just encountering the idea of Bluetooth for the first time, so it always makes me smile to think about all the strange ways that the ordinary objects in our lives slowly adapt new technologies over time.
The mug was a Christmas present, because for one I didn’t know what to ask for and my parents insisted on getting me something, and for another it was the type of thing where I would never spend my own money on it, but I couldn’t deny my curiosity to try it.
The ember mug is a drinking mug with a heating element in the bottom, that regulates the temperature to keep your coffee, tea, or hot chocolate at your precise, preferred temperature setting.
The mug itself is nice and sturdy. I’ve heard reports online of the coating chipping off during wash, but as someone who only uses a small rubber spatula to stir the drinks, and hand-washes it after each use, I’ve found no such chipping issues. Because the heating element and the electronics take up a fair bit of room at the bottom, it holds a slightly smaller amount of liquid, but I find it’s perfectly adequate for a nice cup of joe in the morning. I have the 10oz version, although a larger 14oz option is available. The handle is a bit square and cramped, but it gets the job done.
I must confess, it’s a bit of a pain to figure out where to keep the saucer that chargers the mug (dear lord). My kitchen is too small and has too few outlets. Putting it on my desk makes the most sense, so I can sit the mug on the saucer in between sips. But, the AC adapter is kind of bulky, and outlets near my computer aren’t as plentiful as I would like.
Once paired with my phone, and the accompanying app is installed, I can set my preferred drinking temperature, and a personalized color (it supports multiple users, as any good mug would) for the LED ring near the bottom. It’s an odd sensation for your coffee to be hotter the closer you get to empty, but it’s something you grow used to quickly, and is rather pleasant. I am the kind of coffee drinker that takes his time and takes a sip every three or four minutes, so drinks often do go cold on me.
So really, I have nothing bad to say about the functionality or promises of the Ember mug. It works well, and keeps the drink warm. Overall, I quite like the design!
But I must confess, it does have its UX downsides. The first, most obvious one, is that never being able to throw it in the dishwasher is a bit inconvenient. While I use a small rubber spatula to stir my coffee anyway, I know others prefer wooden spoons or even metal implements, and those simply cannot be used here. Having to leave a saucer connected to an electrical outlet all the time, and out on your counter or desk is a bit inconvenient. I’d love to be able to store this in a counter like a normal mug. And on that same note, leaving it stored out in the open, cup-side-up presents some hygiene issues. I live with my girlfriend and her cats, so it’s almost a given that when I pick it up it will have several tufts of cat hair in the bottom, requiring another good wash before I can use it.
And that’s not to mention the price! At $100-$130, a nice, big, ceramic mug that you get for $1 from your local thrift shop is almost certainly a better choice, for the environment and for your wallet. And it might come with a free cartoon of Garfield stating how much he hates Mondays, and you can’t really put a price on that, can you?
So overall, if cold coffee is a big problem for you, the Ember might be a good solution. But if you live an active life that involves having limited counter space, a need to be able to throw mugs in the dishwasher, or drinking more than 10oz of coffee at a time, the Ember might not be a good fit for you.