HJ Reviews: The mug that keeps your coffee at optimum temperature

In the age of smart devices, it’s only a matter of time before our morning cups of coffee – or tea – received the tech treatment, too. That day has arrived in Hong Kong, with the world’s first temperature control mug, Ember, hitting the local market recently.

Ember lets you select your preferred beverage temperature and keeps it there, preventing liquids in your mug from going cold. Made with stainless steel and reinforced ceramic coating, it looks quite like the Apple of mugs, and comes in sleek, minimalist packaging for an unboxing experience that’s not far off. A ceramic coaster and wired charger in the same style completes the set.

Ember pairs with your smartphone via Bluetooth. It also functions with the Apple Watch.

Now how does the temperature control mug fare in the course of a day’s work? Does it alter one’s caffeine intake experience significantly, directing a more positive mood trajectory for the rest of the day, or are its effects minimally felt? We replace our humble, digitally disabled mugs with Ember and find out.

Pros
  • Effectively maintains preferred beverage temperature
  • Sleek form factor

Cons
  • Short battery life
  • Slower syncing and warming at low battery

 

Using the mug requires a download of the Ember app; setting it up is easy and straightforward. Owners designate a colour for their mug, which appears as a slim LED light just beneath the mug’s logo. The light also serves as an indicator of the mug’s status. For a first-time user, this takes some getting used to, and it would’ve been nice for the app to contain a cheat sheet for the multi-hued indicator and what they signify.

The LED light indicates the mug’s status: blinking blue while syncing with the app, blinking white as it warms toward your target temperature, blinking red while it’s charging, and solid green once fully charged, for example.

Underneath the mug is a switch button, coated in rubber at the bottom. Another behaviour a first-time user might have to get used to: washing the mug and consciously avoiding the button. While doing so is safe – Ember mugs are to be hand washed, not placed in a dish washer – it feels odd at first to hold a device under a running faucet.

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When we first test-run Ember, the app came with presets for a variety of coffee preparations, suggesting optimum temperatures for Americanos to lattes. After several firmware updates, these presets no longer appear; nonetheless, users have the option to create and save their own. With a preference for milk with my coffee, I would go for the latte preset, but found the recommended 54°C a bit too hot. Eventually I opted for a dialled down temperature of 50°C.

The mug comes in sleek matte white and black versions.

As promised, Ember delivers. The app sends out a notification once your target temperature is reached; here, you can choose to maintain the temperature, or switch off the heater. The app also comes with a tea timer, and the mug’s intuitive functions mean it identifies not only the current temperature of the beverage, but also when the mug is empty, not in use (and asleep), and when it’s picked up (and automatically shifts back on).

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The battery life isn’t stellar however, an experience punctuated by notifications from the app to charge your mug after only an hour. Unless the coaster charger is switched on, the notifications come quite frequently – as do reminders of its limited battery life.

The Ember mug has a volume of 295mL, just between Starbucks’ Short and Tall cups.

While penning articles and replying to emails, my coffee stayed at a good 50°C, which was nice. On days I might opt for a regular mug, though, I wouldn’t say the warming function would be terribly missed. The Ember mug and temperature control are not absolute necessities, but they’re great luxuries, and make a thoughtful gift for tech heads with an appreciation for form – and of course, coffee and tea drinkers that are more particular than most.

Launched in the US last year, the Ember mug is now available in Hong Kong at Ember.hk for HKD648. For more honest opinions on the latest home tech, check out our new Reviews section.