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Ember's new smart coffee mug dials up the heat

The Temperature Control Ceramic Mug keeps hot liquids hot with a companion app that lets you set the precise temperature.

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David Carnoy
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David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.

Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
3 min read

Ember's new Temperature Control Ceramic Mug may look like an ordinary coffee mug but it's got special superheating powers that allow you to warm whatever liquid you put inside it to a precise temperature. 

Made of stainless steel with a reinforced ceramic coating, the mug comes with a saucer charging dock and has a built-in rechargeable battery as well a Bluetooth connectivity.

If you're wondering whether this thing has an on/off switch, the answer is not exactly. There's a power button on the bottom of the mug that doubles as a Bluetooth pairing button, but once you power the mug on, it stays on and remains in sleep mode until you put liquid in it (it automatically senses that you've poured something into it). It works best when you start with the liquid already very hot.

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The mug looks pretty ordinary on the surface.

Sarah Tew/CNET

With the Ember app for iOS and Android you create a personal default temperature you want the contents of the mug to maintain. You can set that temperature once and never look at the app again, or you can adjust the temperature via the app as you're drinking.

The app remembers your preferred drinking temperature (you can choose between Fahrenheit and Celsius) and has several preset options for such drinks as tea, coffee and hot chocolate. The app also notifies you when your desired drinking temperature has been reached.

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The bottom of the mug with the Bluetooth pairing button.

Sarah Tew/CNET

I can say that it's a little surprising at first when you get toward the bottom of your cup of coffee and take a sip to discover the coffee's still hot. People like drinking their coffee at different temperatures, but the sweet spot seems to between 130-138 degrees. The company says the relatively low heating doesn't change the consistency of your beverage and I thought my coffee and tea maintained the same taste from first sip to last -- it was persistently good (it helps to be drinking decent coffee or tea, of course).   

Should there happen to be multiple Ember Ceramic Mugs in your office (or at home), there is a way to tell the mugs apart: you can customize the color of the small LED near the base of the mug using the app.

Keeping coffee or tea hot does require a good amount of energy and I found that if I drank a cup over the course of about 45 minutes, the battery ended up draining 40-50 percent. So you can only drink a couple of cups of coffee before you'll need to return the mug to its charging saucer.

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You can customize the color of the LED near the base of the mug.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As far as cleaning goes, the mug may survive a cycle in the dishwasher but Ember warns you to hand wash it. And you don't want to put this mug in the microwave. That's a big no-no.

Needless to say, there are other cheaper and lower-tech solutions to keep your coffee hot. A good insulated mug will run you around $20 while this guy costs $80, which is pretty steep. I personally don't think I'd shell out that kind of dough for a high-tech coffee mug, but another editor in CNET's offices in New York who tried the mug found that it changed the way she thought about drinking coffee. She's become attached to it.

This Ceramic Mug is less expensive than Ember's $150 Travel Mug, but the latter mug holds more coffee and is designed to be truly mobile. 

Ember is looking into expanding internationally, but currently its mugs are only available in the US and Canada.

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