After changing employers late last year and moving from Brisbane’s CBD, perhaps the only thing I’ve really missed (apart from long standing colleagues) is the abundance of cafes I no longer have daily access to. Although there is a cafe on site in the campus style suburban workplace I now find myself in, let’s just say it is likely not one I’d choose if my previous options were laid at my feet again. That said, I am appreciative of my mid-morning flat white (notwithstanding the inconsistency day to day), however truth be told the lactose free milk which sweetens the bitterness is probably what gets it over the line.
Being someone who typically prefers their brew unadorned with milk come the afternoon, the lack of available options leads me to roll my own. Enter the Fellow Carter Everywhere mug.
Why the Carter?
I must admit to being quite fond of many items in the Fellow range of coffee goods, which combine impressive aesthetics with sound, practical, and well researched functionality. My first purchase from Fellow was a Stagg stovetop kettle, which I enjoy using and gawking at each day, so when it came time for a travel mug, the Carter was always going to be a strong contender. After purchasing the Carter you see here about 18 months ago, I’ve been using it ever since.
When carrying a travel mug in my bag, I’m always a little paranoid about the potential for leaking disasters. To that end, one option of course is a full thermos, and one of the better ones I’ve kindly received as a Christmas gift in recent years is a model from the Zojirushi range. For reasons we’ll get to below, this does however create an additional step between carry and consumption, with my preference being to simply grab from my bag and get sipping.
Priority One: Heat retention
I’m sure I’m not alone in rating this aspect pretty highly when it comes to travel mugs. If I’m going to bother brewing a V60 during the pre-work rush hour at home, it needs to be hot enough to enjoy come the time for drinking. These days, this is anywhere between about 2:30 and 4:00pm depending on meetings. With brewing occurring around 7:00am, the heat retention requirement needs to span a good 6–9 hours or so. After that length of time I’ll say the Carter is hot enough without a doubt, and I’ve definitely been served batch brew at specialty coffee establishments which is cooler than what I am talking about here. If I was a legit coffee blogger, perhaps I’d measure the temperature and include it in this post, however I can say it is amply hot enough for me, though we’ll all have our own preferences here.
The Zoshirushi thermos I mentioned? Perhaps one of the only pieces of coffee consuming equipment I’ve ever burnt my mouth on a good 5–6 hours post brew. It is absolutely amazing, and if the sole criteria was heat retention — a winner hands down. The same goes for picnic trips in the car and the like. Though when we are talking priorities not absolutes, things become a little more competitive, bringing us to the next point.
Priority Two: Seamless utility
Right up front I need to include leakproof(…ness?!) here. As I’ve alluded to earlier the paranoia is real when carrying these sorts of things along with various IT Related equipment and a bag you are quite fond of. Secure seal over heat retention? Perhaps, however a nuclear seal with a lukewarm brew upon opening ain’t much good either. Here I get both anyway.
That “extra step” I referred to above? Well in the difference between pulling a travel mug (say the Carter) from my bag and getting down to it, versus a thermos which requires me to go to the kitchen to preheat a mug (yeah… I can’t not do it) adds enough of an extra layer to err on the side of the travel mug. Again, assuming priority one is met — it’s all good.
Sure, there are many questions as to why I won’t go the extra yard with a thermos arrangement.
How hard can it be? (Not hard, I prefer not to is all). Just use a small pour from the thermos to swirl and preheat the mug for the rest of the coffee! (Granted, a rational approach. However we hot desk and taking a mug is another item to carry each day – easy but doesn’t make the brutal necessity threshold when I have other options). Isn’t getting up from your desk and walking to the kitchen a healthier option? (Sure is, however I get up and walk at anytime, so refer to the answers to the previous two questions). Just drink from that well crafted mouth on the Zojirushi thermos! (Yes I could — but swigging from the thermos? I’m not an animal).
I have a million more of these which rolled through my mind prior to arriving at my current arrangement, and you’ll have a million more of your own. As you work through them I’m sure your final outcome will very likely differ to mine.
So to wrap up utility: I grab it, it hasn’t leaked, I open it, steam rises, I take a sip, and ahhhh… there it is, absolute bliss in a (travel, Carter Everywhere by Fellow) cup. Afternoon won.
Priority Three: Ease of brewing
Good old mornings before work. In the new way of working part of my week where my commute involves a stroll from the kitchen to my desk at home — no real challenges. Of course, those days don’t require the Carter at all, merely a few choices throughout the day between freshly made on demand (by yours truly) espresso or filter. On the other three days per week I do attend the office, an efficient brewing process leads to shall we say, a calmer mindset in the lead up to my morning departure. Although the V60 perhaps isn’t the ideal set and forget brewer (I’m in the process of investigating other options), for now it is the one tasked with the job.
The key point here being the ease of brewing directly into the Carter with the V60 sitting on top. Even more important? Pre-heating the Carter to within an inch of its life to minimise any heat loss and maintain that smile on my face many hours later. The process? Adding boiling water and closing the Carter lid for several minutes before brewing; proceeding efficiently with the brewing once that water is removed; brewing with hot water immediately off the boil; and heating the lid of the Carter on the open kettle during the final draw down of brew water.
Very hot now equals well and truly hot enough later.
Priority Four: Style
Who are we kidding? This is really number one, however I’ve put it down here so you wouldn’t judge me… Well sort of but not really. I’m not going to lie, it certainly is an important consideration, however in all seriousness doesn’t rate above those I’ve already listed. Regardless of how something looks, if it’s not a seamless fit, loses heat, and might leak — its a non-starter here.
That said, I do like the minimal aesthetic of the Carter, and chose the matte grey over black or white for a softer, “blend in” kind of vibe. Upon checking the Fellow website, there are certainly a few more colours to choose from these days. Hmmm… don’t mind that green.
In my ideal world, the overall profile would be a bit slimmer, however did I mention heat retention being important? I assume the thickness of the walls has something to do with that.
Priority None: Miscellaneous
Just a couple of other points here.
The Carter has a removable lid and you drink from a mug-style lip. I prefer that. Although we’re all adept at drinking from spout or hole-style reusable or single use takeaway cups, it has never been my preference. Each to their own, however it was a consideration which placed the Carter in good standing when looking at my options. Of course, any travel cup option has a lid which can be removed, however the Carter is designed to be used that way and in my opinion is a better option if that is your preference. Less exit points also equals reduced bag-spill paranoia because I know that lid is sealed tight.
A word on size. The Carter is available in 12oz and 16oz versions — I have the 12oz. I have a preference for the more compact versions of these types of things, and would buy an 8oz in a heartbeat if it were available. That said, as I have mentioned above, there is a certain thickness to this mug, which I assume relates to the insulated wall, and an 8oz version is likely to have a similar footprint anyway. Sure, it isn’t the 5oz Not Neutral ceramics I have at home and nor should it be. Don’t make an 8oz version Fellow — there is no need.
If anyone is interested, I brew straight into the Carter with the V60 using 15–16grams of coffee to about 260ml (just under 9oz) water. The bloom is 45 seconds, I use two subsequent pours with a total brew time of approximately 2:45 to 3:00 minutes.
Amongst other options are some contenders depending your preference, and in certain situations I use the Zojirushi thermos every time. If you have a strange desire to surprisingly burn your mouth 6 hours after brewing, pop the lockable lid and go to town on the Zojirushi’s sipping-designed wide mouth opening. A nice touch rather than the usual thermos opening, though please be careful — the heat retention here is somewhat remarkable.
Others I have used and can recommend giving a shot are options from Sttoke and Frank Green. With so many options around these days I’m sure you’ll find something that suits, but for now I think I’ll sit pretty with my current arrangement.
Wrapping it up
So much for a brief post on what I use as a coffee travel/work option, though these posts tend to take on a life of their own sometimes. I am glad there are some great products these days to take care of things when your coffee DIY option is more enjoyable (and generally cheaper) than a cafe counterpart. When it comes time to get sipping, at least you know what you are going to get.
Carter Everywhere? Why yes — I think I will.