Kit Review #2 – The Sttoke Cup

Following the disappointment of the F-Cup, I’d given up looking for ceramic thermal cups for a while. Then a couple of months ago on Twitter I saw a post from Coffee Box for something called the Sttoke Reusable Cup. An insulated metal cup, with a ceramic coating, so you get the heat retention of a travel mug but without the change in taste that you normally get from steel or plastic mugs.

The cups are available in two sizes, 8oz (about 230ml) and 12oz (about 340ml), currently priced at £29.99 and £34.99 respectively on Coffee Box (other retailers are available!). The one I went for is the 8oz blue version and here it is –

It’s a very elegant, almost pretty thing. The ceramic is lovely and smooth on the outside and it feels really nice in your hand. The outside remains cool, regardless of the temp of the liquid inside and I’m pleased to be able to say that it retains heat really well. Cups like these are never going to keep heat in the same way as a dedicated thermos or the like, but you can have a drink in there for a good couple of hours and still find it pleasantly warm.

So there’s the pros. It looks nice, it feels nice, and it does exactly what you want a thermal cup to do – It keeps your drinks warm. However, there are a couple of caveats.

The first is that to call the lid “spill proof” is perhaps stretching the meaning of those words just a smidge. While, yes, it will keep your drink from pouring out all over your desk if you knock it over thanks to the rubber seal holding it quite snugly in place, it’s far from sealed. If you tip this over, it WILL dribble coffee everywhere so don’t think you can just close the lid and stick it into your bag, you’ll end up with coffee everywhere.

The second issue I have with it is the ceramic coating inside. It’s being slowly but steadily chipped away as I stir my coffee inside it. I’ve had this cup four months, and you can see the damage steel teaspons have already done to it in the pictures below. This is from using it once or twice a day, almost every day over the last four months so I am a little concerned about the longevity of this coating.

The last concern I have is with the lid. The little slider that covers the opening is prone to getting coffee underneath it as you drink. It is removable for cleaning, but it requires so much effort to get it to pop free that I’m genuinely concerned that something is going to snap each time I remove it and if you are someone who struggles with gripping things or has problems with the strength in your hands you might find this a problem. That said, you certainly can’t say that it’s not on there securely.

All in all, though, do I like this cup? I really do. Initially I was disappointed with how small it is, but actually now I rather like it as it leads to making stronger, more intense drinks. I have a double shot of espresso each time, topped up with either hot water or steamed milk and it’s just lovely every time. While there are some niggles about the lid, and some nitpicks, I definitely don’t regret spending the money on it.

Oh! I almost forgot! It has one odd little habit if you have the drinking hole closed. It TICKS. It burbles away to itself with these funny little ticking, popping noises, like sitting next to a bowl of rice crispies. Even if you’ve only got the dregs of your drink left, you can hear it chattering away to itself. The documentation does also note that you need to leave the hole slightly open to make sure the steam doesn’t build up pressure inside the cup. Last thing you want is the lid popping off all by itself.

If you want a cup for home, something a bit different from your usual coffee mug, something to sit on your desk while you work, something that’s going to let you sip at the same cup of coffee for an hour without getting cold, this is definitely worth your hard-earned money.

TTFN.

Kit Review #1 – The F-Cup

Disappointment, folks. Disappointment. I guess this is sort of spoiler territory for the rest of the review, but today we need to talk about disappointment. I wanted to love this cup. I really did. I love the ethos behind it, I love the design, I love the look, the weight, I love everything about it and I wish, I wish that I could tell you all to run out and buy one, tell you this is the greatest insulated mug I’ve ever used…

But I can’t. Because it’s not, at least not for me.

Before we get too into things, let’s back up and set some context. So I’ve started working from home on a mostly permanent basis and I have a horrid habit of letting my coffee/tea go cold. I make a cup, and then get distracted by work and 20 minutes later my drink is room-temp as my office is somewhat cold. So began my search for an insulated mug for home. I won’t touch plastic ones, as they make drinks taste funny. Metal ones are better, but they do still flavour what you put in them. I’ve had glass ones, but they tend to be horribly brittle and I smashed the last two I had just by knocking them against the sink while I was cleaning them so ideally I wanted ceramic.

Hunting around on eBay and Amazon, I eventually found the F-Cup and instantly fell in love with the looks. I mean LOOK at it. It’s f’king gorgeous! Okay, so it’s too big to fit under my coffee machine properly but I didn’t care, it was that good looking.

I mean yum! I instantly fell in love with that two-tone metal/ceramic look. I also loved the ethos behind it. This cup is made as kind of an offshoot of another business. A water-sports business called FC Watersports! You can look them up, they sell like kite-surfing kit and paddleboards and all sorts. Being involved in water-sports and the ocean, they decided to try and do their little part to cut down on the amount of plastic waste we all create and set out to make a reusable mug. Using the name of “FC Watersports” and their other website “SUP Inflatables” they came up with the F-Cup brand.

It came to me well packaged, wrapped in plenty of bubblewrap inside and out to protect it, not a ding to be found when I unboxed it. As you might be able to see from the pictures above, there’s a lip in the ceramic inner and that’s where the lid rests, secured in place with a rubber flange. This holds in place nice and solidly when you open/close the lid to drink but the moment you tip the cup onto its side the lid does stay in place, I’m pleased to be able to say, but it starts dumping the contents all over the place as you can see in the image below (demonstration hand provided by my long-suffering wife).

We repeated this test on multiple occasions, always making sure to ensure the lid was properly seated and closed. The issue here is down to the design of the lid, highlighted in the images below.

The rubber flange that holds it in place does not actually secure the opening that allows you to drink and liquid is able to escape through those gaps on either side of the opening. Now this isn’t a deal-breaker as plenty of other travel cups leak, and many of them can’t even be closed over like this one can, this is just something to bear in mind. You can’t just toss this into your bag, not unless you want everything in there to be soggy!

The biggest issue I have with the F-Cup is the thermal retention, or the lack thereof. This became apparent almost instantly on first use. The metal walls of the mug got hot when I made coffee, and when I put in boiling water to make tea the metal got so hot I couldn’t physically handle the cup without risking burning my hands. I had to wrap the cup in a towel and then wait for it to cool before I could drink from it. This amount of heat leaking out suggests very poor thermal retention abilities and this was borne out by the drinks, even with the lid on, going cold in only a little longer time than I could achieve with a normal stoneware or ceramic mug.

Concerned that I had, perhaps, received a defective mug and wanting to give it every chance to shine, I reached out to the support email address to ask if this was normal, or if I’d somehow been sent a mug that wasn’t working properly. Unfortunately the response I got back indicated that this was, indeed, simply how the cup works as the gentleman at the F-Cup informed me that his cup was the same, that it got very hot when being used to make tea and slightly less hot for coffee, which is no surprise as the water for coffee is usually at a lower temp than tea.

I was also informed that the inner of the cup between the ceramic inner and metal outer was sealed with foam, which strikes me as a little odd. I am used to these mugs using a vacuum to ensure that heat isn’t transferred between the inner and outer, I don’t know if many other types use foam.

So here we arrive at the end, the summary, the final judgement. As a cup, the F-Cup is a beautiful thing to look at. It’s a really nice, heavy cup which won’t suit everyone but I rather like it. Now it is possible that my expectations here weren’t realistic, perhaps I’m simply expecting too much for a ceramic insulated mug to work as well as well as a metal one like the Starbucks travel mug I also own, I honestly don’t know. From what I can tell, ceramic thermal mugs don’t perform as well as metal ones, but I’d still hope for it to be noticeably better than a regular stoneware mug!

What I really need is a cup that I can leave my coffee in for forty minutes and come back to it and it’s still drinkable and unfortunately the F-Cup simply doesn’t meet my needs.

It’s a lovely made thing, and I appreciate the thought behind it, but could I recommend it for purchase if you’re looking for an insulated travel mug? Sadly the answer is a definite no.

TTFN.