What Material Keeps Coffee Hot the Longest?

Keeping coffee hot for as long as possible is a priority for coffee drinkers. Lukewarm or cold coffee is not pleasant, as you would have probably learned from experience. So, what material keeps coffee hot the longest?

What Material Keeps Coffee Hot the Longest?

Styrofoam keeps coffee hot the longest. This is because polystyrene foam, or Styrofoam, traps air bubbles (air does not allow much heat to flow through it), which helps prevent the heat from escaping the coffee. The same goes for styrofoam-packaged food.

This is why most cafes use styrofoam, and it is also very portable. You are guaranteed that your coffee remains hot for an extended time period when you use styrofoam.

A ceramic mug with a foamy cappuccino beside a silver spoon was placed on a brown wooden table

How Does Styrofoam Keep Coffee Hot?

Styrofoam is an excellent insulator, keeping things warm or cold due to the trapped air. Since the molecules in trapped air are far apart, it becomes hard for other molecules to collide with them, so heat conduction is reduced.

Polystyrene is also a good insulator because its molecules are so large that they cannot move around much, hence reducing the transfer of heat. In other words, for styrofoam to keep coffee hot implies that heat transfer from the liquid to the cup has to halt.

Why Drink Coffee From a Styrofoam Cup?

Drinking coffee from a styrofoam cup has some other benefits for coffee lovers beyond keeping your coffee hot for an extended period. The major perks are found in the areas of:

  • Hygiene: Unlike mugs that may have germ-infested cracks, styrofoam cups do not crack, and they are easily disposable once you have finished using them.
  • Lightweight: Styrofoam is about 95% air. Styrofoam cups are so light that they can be carried anywhere—to work, back home from a run, or that quick coffee break in between studying or hangouts with friends.

Does Styrofoam Have Any Drawbacks?

Styrofoam cups are an excellent option for keeping your coffee hot and guaranteeing hygiene. However, there are some downsides to using these cups. These are mainly the fact that they cannot be reused and their heat resistance is not absolute.

They Cannot Be Reused

Styrofoam cups cannot be reused, making them less eco-friendly. It also neither decomposes nor can be degraded. It can only be incinerated, leaving carbon and water as by-products.

They Are Not Totally Heat-Resistant

Styrofoam containers can be used for hot beverages and hot food, among other heat-related applications. However, they do not withstand a level of heat. For instance, they cannot be used in a microwave as they would begin to melt.

Other Uses for Styrofoam

The word “styrofoam” refers to a form of expanded polystyrene. Polystyrene is a type of plastic that is used to make a variety of everyday items such as take-out coffee cups and packaging materials. Styrofoam sees its application in a number of other areas:

Food and Beverages

You probably have leftover food in styrofoam plates in your refrigerator if you go out to eat. Take-out containers, beverage containers, coolers, and trays are all made of extruded polystyrene in the food industry.

Despite the fact that the industry is still looking into alternatives to styrofoam, it is still widely used because of its low cost, ability to keep its shape and a great insulator that provides its ability to retain hot and cold temperatures.


You have probably received packages with loads of styrofoam balls. This is due to the fact that styrofoam offers a high level of padding and protection for the shipped products. For heavy and/or delicate shipped goods, such as TVs or refrigerators, large pieces of styrofoam are custom shaped to fit.

What Other Materials Can Keep Coffee Hot?

The popularity of styrofoam stems from the fact that it is easy to access, very lightweight, compact, and can be used for a range of hot foods and beverages. However, there are other materials ofthat do relatively well keeping coffee hot.

Ceramic Mugs

Although some may consider ceramic to be an ideal material for keeping coffee hot for longer periods, it does not function as well as styrofoam. This is due to the typical shape of ceramic mugs, which have a small base and a wide brim. The wide brim makes it difficult to retain heat.

A white paper cup with printed materials was placed on a brown wooden table


Glass is an insulator and retains heat. However, it is only able to do this for a very short period of time, making it less ideal for use with hot beverages. Also, the glass container would get very hot.


The paper might seem like an ideal material thanks to perks such as being lightweight, portable, and recyclable. However, it is a poor insulator, it does not retain heat, and there is a high chance that you may end up scalding your hands.

Related Questions

What Material Is Best for Coffee Cups?

Ceramics is the best material for coffee cups. This is because it has a neutral nature and would neither absorb nor release flavors into your coffee. This allows you to enjoy the original flavor of your coffee.


Enjoying your coffee while it is hot gives you the best taste and having a styrofoam cup comes in handy, especially if you are not taking your coffee immediately. If you are drinking at home, you could consider ceramic because of its neutrality.