The Life-Changing Magic of the Short-Stack Coffee Mug

This could be the key to getting people to carry reusable mugs each day.

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©. K Martinko

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I bought it on a whim—an adorable reusable coffee mug that was sitting on the shelf at MEC, Canada's outdoor gear retailer. The mug caught my eye because it was so small; it looked tiny next to the mugs and thermoses that stood on either side.

My initial reaction was that it was too small, too different from what I'd come to recognize as a standard reusable coffee mug, but then I grew curious. Perhaps its size would be a good thing.

The fact is, I've had a love-hate relationship with reusable coffee cups for years. I find them big and bulky, difficult to pack. They're heavy, especially when filled with liquid, and add unwanted weight to an already-full purse, backpack, or laptop bag.

They leak because flip-top lids are never secure enough. They're too big to fit under espresso machines and hotel coffee makers. And because most of us are already carrying refillable water bottles, adding a coffee cup can feel like a real inconvenience. When something has to go, the coffee cup is first in line.

I have experimented with mason jars (they break sometimes) and collapsible coffee mugs (I don't love drinking hot liquid out of plastic, even if it's 'food-safe'). I purchased a fancy Klean Kanteen mug for my husband, but it feels like drinking out of a bucket and I've burned my lips on many occasions.

comparing coffee mugs

© K Martinko

So, I bought the tiny 8-ounce mug, washed it in MEC's bathroom, and headed to the nearest coffee shop. When I handed it to the barista, he stopped. "Where did you get this? It's fantastic!" I boarded a plane shortly after and every flight attendant said the same thing: "I love this. It's the perfect size. How can I get one?" Hotel staff, coffee shop owners, and fellow travellers quizzed me throughout my trip. Clearly the mug made an impression.

That's when it dawned me. Size is what's wrong with our coffee cup culture right now. If we want people to carry reusable coffee mugs, they need to give up the hefty half-litre sized thermoses that are currently passing as coffee mugs and switch to something that's more like what we actually use at home. Then it becomes something we'll realistically carry in our overloaded bags.

We know 25-cent surcharges don't work because it's still a minuscule price to pay for the convenience of drinking on the go. People's lives aren't about to slow down and allow them the time to sip a latte in a window seat on their way to work. And we know the development of biodegradable or compostable cups is a pipe dream at this point. What we need is better and smaller reusable cup design.

Maybe if everyone had a 'short-stack' mug like mine, a one-cup stainless steel mug that's light and portable and fully sealed with a screw-top lid and handle, they wouldn't leave it at home. It seems like such a minor change, but based on people's reactions to my mug – and my newfound dedication to taking it everywhere because it fits in my smallest bag without any problem – I think this could make a real difference.

Give it an (espresso) shot and see what you think.

Check out the mug the 236-mL Adventure Vacuum Mug by Stanley here.