• Wed, Jan 12 2011

Off The Market: Are USB Coffee Warmers The Worst Idea Ever?


I’m all about computers doing most of my cooking for me, because this was the dream of the future I was promised as a child. While young adults my age feel like they were conned out of hoverboards, flying cars, or those self-lacing sneakers from Back To The Future (actually, Nike just bought the patent to that design, so fingers crossed!), you’re more likely to hear me grumbling about how my Macbook can’t inform my kitchen appliances that I’ve been Googling “fish casserole” all day. Why would I Google fish casserole? STOP ASKING QUESTIONS, MACHINE!

But there’s at least one gadget that’s trying to bring us closer to a food-technological singularity, and that’s the USB coffee mug warmer. Too bad the concept is straight out of Idiocracy. We were so close!

So this machine has a little cord on it that you can use to plug into your computer, which harvests the electricity (or whatever) of your laptop to keep the surface at a burning temperature. Simply place your coffee mug on top of the inch-tall circular stand, and pray to god that your elbow doesn’t knock into it, causing you to spill coffee all over your keyboard and short-circuiting your entire system. I mean, usually my goal is to keep liquids as far away from my hard drive as humanely possible, but the cord provided by most of the companies spans only several inches. Meaning that you couldn’t even plug it into your desktop, unless you wanted it on the floor, where it would be easy to forget about until you kick it over.

There are two other major flaws with this design: despite reaching temperatures of 122-144 degrees (an easy way to get a third degree burn on your elbow!), the coffee warmers can’t really warm coffee. It can warm the bottom of your mug, sure, but even if you leave it there half the day, a full cup will be get more than lukewarm. This probably has something to do with liquids and misplaced heat and surface area and physics. Who knows.

Another major problem is that most coffee mugs are too big for these coffee warmers, which you would think had to have crossed somebody’s mind on the design team before they sent these suckers out to be shipped.

So basically, this machine is very good at keeping cold coffee perched precariously and unstably close to your computer, and nothing else. If this is the future we were promised, I want a refund.

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  • greg

    You completely whiffed on the biggest problem with USB coffee warmers. They are coffee’s equivalent to the fast-food heat lamp.

    Making coffee is a form of cooking. So you know a good way to make coffee bitter and wretched? Keep heating it long past its brewing point, causing dehydration and all the remaining flavorful elements to singe and burn.

    Deee-lish!

    USB coffee warmers provide the fast lane to wretched coffee.

    • Drew Grant

      ha, mine never got warm enough to even bother drinking!