I am a man who very much enjoys a cup of coffee.
Wait a minute. That’s not quite right.
I am a man who very much enjoys a lot of cups of coffee, on a daily basis.
While it’s not strictly mandatory, drinking a lot of coffee is something of a journalistic staple.
In the similar way that professional wrestlers figure that their knees and backs will be blown into dust by the time they’re 50, I’ve long figured that if you took a blood composition test from most journalists (including me) at any given time of day, at least 20 per cent is going to be pure, sweet caffeine. It’s like a law, or an ancient charter, or something.
I can’t be having energy drinks, and tea is OK, but coffee is by far my preferred caffeine delivery system. This might be my worst health habit, depending on whose research you read… or maybe I’m going to live forever, it’s hard to say.
Which was why, when Ember offered me one of their Smart Mug 2 coffee mugs to test, I was definitely keen. I write a lot of reviews, but it’s rare that I’ve been paid to write a review where I also get to drink coffee at the same time. Basically coffee machine testing, and that’s it.
In many ways, this could be my dream job, though I guess if I scored that gig, the amount of caffeine sloshing around in my system would mean I’d never sleep or indeed dream ever again.
What is the Ember Smart Mug 2?
It’s a coffee cup, but then those have been around ever since we worked out just how good coffee is, but that trying to drink scalding hot liquid as it dribbled through our burning fingers was a bad idea. Nothing new or special about a receptacle for coffee in and of itself.
What makes the Ember Smart Mug 2 special is that it’s a smart coffee cup with inbuilt temperature sensors and a battery-based heater that can keep a cup of coffee at your ideal temperature for up to 90 minutes, so the final slurp is just as hot as the first sip was.
At least that’s the theory.
What’s good about the Ember Smart Mug 2?
The setup of the Ember Smart Mug is refreshingly simple – and in fact, if you were happy with its presets, you could ignore the Ember app altogether. By default, if it detects that there’s hot liquid in the cup, it will keep it hot at just above 57 degrees Celsius for as long as its battery lasts.
Still, I can’t see the sense in buying a smart mug – Gizmodo Australia’s Zac very quickly noted that if you were constantly showing off your smart mug in order to impress people you’d have to call it a “smug” – without the app side of it.
From there, you can select from a range of pre-designed temperature profiles for drinks such as Lattes or Cappucinos, set a Tea Timer or, weirdly, read a very short list of hot drink recipes.
I mean, they’re well presented and everything, and I get the idea that a maker of a smart mug might want to encourage you to have even more hot drinks… but a shortlist of just five recipes feels like a half-hearted effort. I’m already looking at my phone and thinking about hot drinks, Ember app – I can probably find a few ideas on the Internet, no?
You can also personalise the Ember Smart Mug’s RGB charging/pairing light, though unless you were investing in a lot of them and wanted to identify them by colour code, I’m not sure why you would. Like a lot of RGB-lit products, it feels like it’s there because it’s there, not because it makes a big functional difference.
If you’ve got the Ember Smart Mug 2 paired to an iPhone, you can also opt into letting it snitch on you to Apple Health about your caffeine intake, though it uses a degree of averaging here given the variable levels of caffeine in some preparations and beans and such. I probably should pay more attention to the amount of coffee I drink – maybe I can research that the next time I’m awake and jittery at 3am staring at the ceiling. Yeah, that sounds like a good plan.
I also like the design and physical heft of the Ember Smart Mug 2. Depending on your size (6 oz, 10 Oz or 14 Oz) you can pick from Black or Copper (6 Oz), Stainless Steel, Gold or Black (10 Oz) or White (14 Oz Only) finishes.
The black has a nicely minimalistic look, I think, plus it reminds me of an industry coffee cup I’ve been using as my daily drinker for way too many years now, which was also black when it was new. It’s now a touch faded, but you can still make out the “Sony Ericsson” logo on the side… just… and if you know how long ago that was a brand, you’ll appreciate just how old that cup is!
The Ember Smart Mug 2 won’t actually make the coffee for you (mental note: suggest this as a version 3 feature), but as soon as you pour your chosen tasty hot beverage inside it, it will kick into gear, popping up a notification on your phone asking you what kind of drink – and ergo what temperature – you’re having. It tracks the temperature, and for everything I’ve drunk from it, this starts with a temperature well above the ideal.
It’s funny; when I first started using the Ember Smart Mug 2 I thought it might deliver a slightly cold cuppa, simply because my brain wants to say that if I’m using boiling water, then while it won’t be actually 100 degrees for long, it’s still going to be warmer than the maximum 62.5 degrees Celsius setting the Ember Smart Mug 2 supports.
I was wrong, and that’s probably why I haven’t melted the top of my mouth off… at least not yet.
The app does invite a degree (pun intended) of experimentation with temperatures, because everyone’s tastes will vary. For me, I’ve hit a happy medium at 59.5 degrees precisely, though the research continues, which is to say that I want to drink more coffee and that sounds like a good excuse to do so.
The key detail here is that it does work, and it does make a difference to my appreciation of decent coffee.
It’s a sad fact of life that I can’t spend all day just drinking coffee (though my heart is probably happier that way), so what often happens with me is that I’ll make a cup, have some of it, get a phone call that requires an email, some frantic writing or testing, maybe a video meeting… and 30 minutes later I look down and realise that I’ve got a cuppa that’s gone from steaming hot to tepid mediocrity.That’s a big plus if you’re an
Recharging is via an included pogo pin equipped plate, and smartly, Ember’s designed the coil on the underside of the mug in a circle. It will always connect up with the pins no matter which relative orientation its handle might be in as a result.
I’ve not yet been able to keep it going for a full 90 minutes, but then it’s rare that a cup lasts 90 minutes around me unless I’m super distracted. One upside to that battery life is that it is quite feasible to get through a few brews in a day before the battery starts giving out – though again if I have caffeine tracking enabled, it’s going to squeal on me to Apple Health about all those extra cups I’m ingesting.
What’s not good about the Ember Smart Mug 2?
The price is absolutely and without a doubt the biggest sticking point for anyone considering the Ember Smart Mug 2.
The 10 Oz Black mug I’ve been testing out will set you back $199, and no, I didn’t miss some kind of decimal point there. If I wanted it in any of its metallic finishes at 10 Oz, I’d be looking at $225 instead.
That’s a LOT to pay for a coffee cup, any way you look at it.
Even if you dropped down to the smaller 6 Oz mug, that’s $150 for the Black or $199 for the Copper, at which point you might as well go for the Black or White 10 Oz mugs. If you like larger mugs, the 14 Oz White mug runs $225, same as the metallic 10 Oz variant.
There are other issues here, though. The nature of the Ember Smart Mug 2’s construction means that it’s not dishwasher safe at all, so you’ve got to hand-wash it instead, and fairly carefully at that.
Ember also notes that metal items can scratch its interior surfaces and cause damage to sensors, which means stirring in my single sugar with my standard metal spoon was out.
Thankfully I did have a bamboo spoon to hand, but again that means I’ve got to be careful to remember this and not idly stir in coffee the way I would with a regular spoon. That does also give me pause for thought as to the general durability of the Ember Smart Mug 2, and what happens if I do scratch it. So far, so good, but I’d rather it were just a touch more robust than this at its asking price.
Should You Buy The Ember Smart Mug 2?
Personally, I can’t quite get past that asking price. I love me a good cup of coffee, and I cannot deny that the Ember Smart Mug 2 does fulfil its mission of keeping my coffee nicely warm over an extended period of time.
It does, as they say, what it says on the tin… but not the tin of International Roast, even if I do have relatives who are quite keen on instant coffees.
I’d struggle to spend that much on myself without feeling very guilty about doing so, even though it is a really nice gadget in its own right.
However, maybe that’s not the point, because it does strike me that while it’s hard for me to justify it for myself, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for some folks as a very indulgent luxury gift for the coffee lover in your life.
Or the relative you’re looking to help poison themselves through toxic levels of caffeine, not that (if any judges are listening) I gave you that idea.
Now if you’ll excuse me… dammit, I just realised that with the Ember Smart Mug 2, I actually can’t use the excuse of my coffee getting cold, because it very much isn’t.
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