Most people pay a lot of attention to the coffee brewing process from acquiring the best coffee-making tools and equipment, the best coffee beans, filtered water, to applying the right tips to make the best coffee. But little attention is paid to the type of mug that we use for coffee.
Whereas some coffee lovers have a favorite mug for their coffee, most people are happy drinking from any mug that is within reach.
We usually stock our homes with different types of drinkware: glasses, ceramics, metallic and plastic travel mugs, and even Moscow Mule mugs for some folks. Over the years, there have been concerns about drinking coffee from copper mugs.
Can you use copper mugs for coffee?
Yes, you can use copper mugs for your coffee as long as the mug’s interior is lined with a non-reactive metal such as stainless steel, tin, or nickel. Coffee is acidic and can dissolve some of the copper ions and cause the coffee to taste like metal. Ingesting large amounts of copper can cause severe symptoms and poisoning.
Effects of Coffee on Copper Mugs
The State of Iowa has advised against bringing copper and copper alloys into contact with food items that have a pH of less than six due to the increased risk of ingesting copper when it dissolves in acidic foods and drinks.
The advisory recommends using copper mugs whose interior is lined with nickel or stainless steel to overcome the challenge of copper leaching into the drink.
Copper is known to react with oxygen to form copper (II) oxide. Most importantly, copper reacts and dissolves in acids. Coffee is naturally acidic with a pH of about 4.85-5.13 which poses the risk of copper leaching into the coffee.
Some experts have opined that it is unlikely for the reactions between acidic drinks and unlined copper mugs to leach poisonous levels of copper. The experts are of the view that it would take very high acidity and extended contact time to substantially corrode copper mugs to levels that are harmful to human health.
Nevertheless, you may want to go for the lined copper mugs to safeguard your health and the flavor of your coffee as the reaction between copper and coffee also leads to a metallic flavor in coffee.
Although coffee has an intense aroma, most of its sought-after flavors are usually subtle and are easily overshadowed by foreign flavors. The flavor is a key aspect of coffee.
Why Do People Use Copper Mugs?
Copper mugs became popular alongside Moscow Mule; a Vodka cocktail that originated in the United States in the 1940s.
The story goes that three entrepreneurs who were having a hard time selling their individual products – Vodka, ginger beer, and copper mugs – came up with a cocktail of Vodka and ginger beer that they served in the copper mugs.
Copper mugs were ideal as they maintained the temperature of the cocktail and enhanced its flavors. The combination was such a hit that copper mugs came to be known as Moscow Mule mugs.
Recently, unlined copper mugs have been linked to antibacterial benefits with some people suggesting that storing water in copper mugs sterilizes the water.
However, although research supports the use of copper and copper alloys in hospital environments to keep bacteria at bay, there is limited research on the ability of copper to kill bacteria in water.
Nevertheless, storing cold water in copper mugs keeps the water cold.
Should I Use Copper Mugs?
You can use unlined copper mugs with non-acidic drinks as there is very little risk of the metal reacting with the drink. In the case of acidic drinks such as coffee, tea, vinegar, and fruit juices, you are better off using lined copper mugs or mugs that are made from other materials such as ceramics and glass.
As a matter of fact, there are other better materials for coffee mugs than copper.
Most copper travel mugs and tumblers have a stainless steel or nickel lining for your safety and also to retain the flavor of the drink. Examples of copper containers for coffee are Turkish ibriks that are usually lined with lead-free tin. Ibrik is a pot for brewing Turkish coffee.
Copper ibriks are perfect for making Turkish coffee as they heat up fast and transmit the heat quickly through the coffee. The tin lining prevents copper from corroding and leaching into the coffee and improves the lifespan of the ibrik.
Are Copper Mugs Safe for Hot Drinks?
Pure copper mugs are not ideal for hot drinks as copper is an excellent conductor of heat – it transfers heat fast from one end to the other. Consequently, serving very hot drinks in pure copper mugs can burn your hands and lips as the handle and the mouth of the mugs heat up quickly.
Instead, use lined copper mugs for hot drinks to keep the drinks warmer longer. Stainless steel has a lower thermal conductor hence it’s used to line the interior of copper mugs.
Health Issues Associated with Copper
Ingesting large amounts of copper can cause health problems such as diarrhea, jaundice, stomach pain, and vomiting. Prolonged exposure to large amounts of copper can cause inflammation of the lungs with numerous symptoms such as anemia, shaking, blood-stained diarrhea, and convulsions.
How to Remove Stains from Copper Mugs
Copper mugs are easy to handwash with soapy water and a soft cloth. They are also dishwasher safe. However, copper reacts with air over time and develops a greenish layer called patina.
The patina makes the mug ugly and can also alter the taste of your drink. Fortunately, it is fairly easy to clean the stains and leave your copper mugs shining.
1. How to Clean Copper Mugs Using Lemon juice and Salt
Materials: table salt, lemon wedges, water
- Sprinkle some salt on the lemon wedges
- Rub the salted wedges against the tarnished mugs to remove the patina. Sprinkle more salt when necessary
- Rinse the mugs in freshwater to remove all the lemon juice and salt
- Dry and store the mugs in a dry area
2. Cleaning Copper Mugs with Vinegar and Baking Soda
Materials: one cup baking soda, white vinegar, water, soft towel, a medium-size bowl
- Mix 2 cups of water with 2 cups of vinegar in a large bowl
- Soak the copper mugs in the vinegar solution for 10-20 minutes
- Sprinkle some baking soda on a towel and gently rub on the stubborn blemishes
- Rinse the mugs in freshwater to remove all vinegar residues
- Dry and store the mugs in a dry place