Hypothetical: The house is on fire. You've got time to grab three things; name them. For me it's no contest: First I rescue the family, then the dog, then my Ember Mug. Because how else will I keep my coffee at a consistent temperature? Priorities, people.
For a long time, Ember was the only game in the self-heating mug town. But now there's a rival to this prized possession: The Nextboom Nextmug. Available in black, white or red, it's a rechargeable temperature-controlled mug that, like the Ember, promises to keep your drink hot from first sip to last. Has Nextboom built the better coffee cup?
Not quite. What the company has built is a less-expensive version with fewer features. While the Nextmug works as advertised and could indeed become one of your top three fire-rescue items, it's not quite as good as the Ember.
Speaking of which, I'll admit the latter is one of the most ridiculously overpriced products I own. If Apple made a coffee mug, it would be that. Until about a year ago, the 14-ounce Ember cost $130 — already ludicrous. But now it's $150! What word surpasses "ludicrous"? Whatever it is, it applies.
And, yet: prized possession. See, I'm someone who nurses his morning coffee for a good 30-40 minutes. Sometimes a bit longer, like if nature calls. (Hey, we all know coffee's impact on the digestive system.) In a typical mug, I might get 10 minutes before it turns cold. Then it's off to the microwave, where it's all but impossible return it to "just right" temperature.
With the Ember, I set the temp to 141 degrees — exactly where I like it — and that's where it stays until there's no liquid left. I know this sounds trivial, a "problem" not worth $150 to fix, but I'm here to tell you: I can't live without this anymore. I mean, I can, but there will be loud and repeated grousing. I experience Marie Kondo-level joy at having a consistent coffee (and sometimes tea) temp to the last drop.
The Ember is also "smart," pairing with your phone and an app that lets you set timers, adjust temperature (in 1-degree increments), change the mug's status-LED color and even apply occasional firmware updates. It also notifies you when the mug's battery is running low.
The Nextmug stands alone: no Bluetooth, no app. To turn it on, you press a button. To cycle between the three available temperatures — warm (135 degrees), hot (140) and piping (145) — you press that button again. LEDs near the bottom show battery and temp status. When you're done drinking, you return it to the "coaster" that serves as its charging dock. In a way I actually prefer this simplicity, though I do find the power button a bit awkwardly placed (it's hard to see without lifting the mug a bit) and wish there were a few more temperature choices.
Curiously, although the Nextmug has a sensor that will shut down the heater if there's no liquid detected for 60 seconds, there's no auto-on sensor. The Ember has one: It starts heating the moment coffee or anything else hits the cup.
Finally, let's talk battery life. Nextmug promises up to 40 minutes of heating on the "piping" setting, 1.2 hours on "hot" and 1.4 hours on "warm." Ember will commit only to "up to 80 minutes." (Remember, these aren't travel mugs intended to last you all day.) For anyone who likes multiple cups of coffee back-to-back, these numbers may prove disappointing.
However, Nextmug supplies a very welcome accessory: a plastic lid (with sip hole) that not only helps prevent spills, but also nearly doubles the battery life at each setting. Personally, I don't like using a lid with coffee, as it robs you of the all-important aroma. But the option is there if you want it.
After several days using the Nextmug in place of my Ember, I find I'm mostly satisfied with it. As noted, the power button is a little awkward to use because of where it's placed, but that's a minor nitpick. The key takeaway is that it keeps my coffee hot while I'm drinking it, and it's $100 instead of $150. I still find that a ludicrous price, and still prefer my Ember on the whole. But if you like the idea of a self-heating mug (or need a great gift for a coffee lover), the Nextmug is definitely worth a look.