Having launched in the US some time ago, Ember brought its Ceramic smart mug to the UK. At £79.95, it's certainly not cheap, but once you've used a mug that keeps your drinks warm, you may never want to go back to using an ordinary mug again.
It seem, on the surface, like over complicated "so 2018" response to an old problem, but actually, we've become quite accustomed to life with the Ember Ceramic. So much so, it's almost a shock to the system when we use a regular cup again.
How does it work?
First, you have to set it up, and that's not something you'll likely have experienced when buying a regular mug. You don't need to grab your phone and download an app when the Le Creuset order arrives at your house. You just (hopefully) wash it, and then use it straight away. Ember, of course, is different.
If you have an Android or iPhone, you need to download the Ember app and then switch on the cup by pressing the power button on the base. This sits inside two golden charging contact rings.
Once the app is downloaded, it takes you through a fairly simple set up where you get choose your LED colour preference (there's a light in it at the base) and you can choose your ideal hot beverage temperature in either Celsius or Fahrenheit.
Once that's all done, you just make your drink and let the cup take care of the rest. It has sensors that can detect motion, so it knows when you've picked it up. It can also tell when it's empty, and it can tell what temperature the drink is inside, and heats it if it needs to, to meet your specified temperature.
As well as being able to choose a custom temperature with the app, you can choose from a number of presets for different types of hot drink, like green tea, latte or black tea, for example.
Do I need a smartphone to use it?
Technically, you don't. As standard, the Ember Ceramic mug is preset out of the box to keep your drink at a steady 54.4-degrees Celsius (130 degrees Fahrenheit).
With that said, if you don't have a smartphone with the app installed, there's no way to customise the mug to your own preferences. You can't change your temperature or set the LED light colour.
How long can it keep my drink warm?
This is the key thing to know in all of this experience. Now, the Ember ships with a charging plate, or "coaster" as Ember calls it. It looks very much like a saucer you'd use at a proper tea party, and connects to a power outlet. Inside, there are two gold contact pins that match up perfectly with the rings on the underside of the mug.
This base charges the battery, so while the Ember Ceramic is sitting on the plate, it can keep your drink warm indefinitely. So if you like a really slow coffee on a Saturday morning in bed, just stick the charging coaster on your bedside. Or if you like taking sips at your desk as you type up your next Pulitzer prize-winning expose, stick it on your desk next to your Mac Mini and artificial succulent.
Away from its charging base, the battery inside the mug is good to last roughly an hour before the LED starts pulsing red, indicating that it needs to be recharged. This battery life obviously depends on many factors, including the room temperature, drink temperature to begin with and how quickly you drink it.
Specs, availability and price?
Ember Ceramic is available in the UK now, in black and white, and costs £79.95 direct from Ember.com. Specs, for those who needs to know.
- Capacity - 295ml
- Weight - 340g
- Size - 106 x 82 x 109mm
- Temperature range - 50-62.5-degres Celsius (122-144.5 degrees Fahrenheit)
- IPX7 water resistant (submersible under water)
Can I put it in the dishwasher?
Given the nature of how it works, and requirement for small electronic parts to make it work, the Ember Ceramic mug should never be placed in the dishwasher. It's hand-wash only. Ember recommends using a soft sponge to keep it clean, and wiping it clean after every use.
In our use, this actually hasn't been a problem. The cup has a finish that reminds us of non-stick linings in frying pans, so any liquid or temporary stain is easily wiped off.
What's it like in real life?
We've had this mug for a few weeks now, and initially, there is a short adjustment period. When you've become accustomed to your coffee 10-15 minutes after making it, and getting a slightly cooler liquid in your mouth, having a still-hot mouthful of coffee is strange to begin with.
Once we'd used it for about a week, that completely switched around, to being disappointed when using regular mugs when the coffee wasn't as hot as it was when we made it.
It worked reliably, in terms of keeping drinks warm at a specific temperature, consistently. The only element that wasn't perfectly reliable was the Bluetooth connection when used with an Android phone. Once or twice over a week we had to restart the app and Bluetooth connection to get it connected. With iPhone, it was never an issue. Every time we opened the app, the Ember mug was ready to go and connected.
Now, obviously we're not suggesting this is a product for everyone. Even here at Pocket-lint, there's very divided opinion on the usefulness of the product. But, if you're someone who regularly gets distracted after making drinks, forget it for a while, and get back to a lukewarm or cold cup of joe, this mug might be the best thing ever. Or, you can just get yourself a travel mug instead. Although, travel mugs can't be set to specific temperatures, so there is that.
This time of year, it's definitely one of those gadgets that sits in the bracket of cool, nerdy Christmas gifts for someone you love, but don't know what to buy them. It'll seem fun and quirky in the box, but once you get it out and use it, there's a chance it'll ruin every other mug in your cupboard for you.