The craft beer scene has brought a renaissance to the wooden drinking vessel. There are even wooden mugs that promise to enhance the taste of your brew like an aged barrel does to wine. Nordic-inspired wooden cups are also popping up across Pinterest boards and Etsy. But most are aimed at cold drinks only. Are there wooden mugs that are safe for coffee?
You can’t drink coffee out of most wooden mugs. The heat causes cracking and can cause the finish to leach into your drink. There are some wooden mugs that have a resin coat. The resin protects the wood from what you are drinking. But some FDA food-safe resins have a temperature limit of 120F.
Wood is a beautiful natural material known for its strength and flexibility. It has long been used for popular kitchen items, including spatulas, spoons, cutting boards, and salad bowls. With people wanting to get away from plastic, these wooden kitchen items are making a comeback. But when it comes to wood holding hot liquids, things get tricky.
Why It Is Hard To Find A Wooden Coffee Mug?
It is hard to find a wooden coffee mug for the same reasons that it is such a fantastic material to age whiskey. Wood breathes, absorbing and pushing out the whiskey, helping give it that extra special flavor. This is because wood is porous and not waterproof.
When untreated timber is left to the elements, it will expand and shrink depending on the weather, and this eventually causes warp and cracking. To stop this from happening and homes around the world from buckling and falling apart, wooden has to be cured and treated.
There are many methods of treating wood to limit warping and make it water-resistant or waterproof. Most treatment methods, however, leave the wood unsuitable for food handling purposes. Food-safe varnishes, stains, and other treatments have to be approved by the FDA and be shown not to leach harmful additives into the food that comes into contact with it.
Why Can Wooden Mugs Hold Cold Drinks?
It is easier to treat wood to withstand cold liquids than to treat it to withstand hot liquids. Even the classic kitchen item, the wooden spoon, will crack and be ruined if it is repeatedly left to sit inside hot water. Running your salad bowls and other wooden kitchen items through the dishwasher is another excellent way to shorten their lives.
Also, when wood comes into prolonged contact with liquid, there tends to be a flavor exchange, even when treated. Again, this is a selling point in industries such as whiskey. Even certain wines will bring up if they are oaked or not.
Thus, old-fashioned wooden goblets used for wine will carry that flavor and probably make plain water taste weird. But add the acid of coffee with the heat, and you’re going to get a bizarre drink, indeed. Not to mention that some of the varnishes and treatments used in these “cold beverage only” wooden mugs will start leaching into hotter drinks. Yuck.
Resin Wooden Coffee Mugs
Some wooden mugs are being sold that can hold hot drinks such as coffee. This is due to them being coated in resin. However, it is wise to ask some questions before pouring a cup of coffee into one of these resin-coated mugs. A food-safe resin might be able to handle warmer temperatures than your average beer, but that doesn’t mean it can handle high heat.
The Complicated World Of Food Safe Resin
There are natural resins, and there are synthetic ones. Of the latter, some are closer to plastic once they’ve been cured. But altogether, there is a very long list of resins out there. However, the FDA-approved “food-safe” resin list is short. They are epoxy resins, but not all that fall under that category are classified as food-safe.
Of the food-safe epoxy resins, they each have their pros and cons. For example, some are only good if you are covering a flat surface, which is useful for a countertop but terrible for a mug.
Another challenge in the food-safe resins is temperature. Some resins can withstand very high heat. But some food-safe ones have a limit as low as 120 F (50 C). This is true of a popular food-safe resin ArtResin. ArtResin is a pleasure to work with and is excellent for cutting boards and coasters. But they don’t recommend the product for hot foods.
How Hot Is Coffee?
When you pour a cup of coffee into a mug, chances are it exceeds 120 F. As a study showed, coffee, and other hot beverages such as hot chocolate and tea, are often served at 160 F (71.1 C), and it is not unheard of these drinks being as hot as 185 F (85 C). The analysis stated that the optimal drinking temperature is around 136 F (57.8 C).
Thus, most people don’t enjoy drinking their coffee at a temperature ArtResin can safely handle. So while a wooden coffee mug may be safe for warm drinks, it may not be safe for the heat of your coffee.
Which doesn’t mean there are no food-safe resins out there that can withstand higher heat. There are high heat food-safe resins, although some are only for “incidental contact.” All of which means, when buying a wooden mug for coffee, you need to check that the resin is not only food-safe but able to withstand higher heats while having prolonged contact.
All of which sounds fair enough. After all, not all stainless steel or plastic is food grade. But resin also has the matter of BPA to consider.
Food-Safe Resin & BPA
Not all resin has BPA, but food-safe resin often does. The FDA still doesn’t deem BPA as a problem in small quantities, so it isn’t necessarily a danger.
However, some people longing to drink out of a wooden coffee mug are doing so because they want less plastic and to be “more natural.” Thus, a BPA containing mug might not be what they had in mind. If this is your concern, ask the seller more about the resin they used to seal their wood coffee mug.
It isn’t easy to find a wooden mug that you can drink coffee out of without damaging the mug or making your coffee taste awful. A resin-coated coffee mug is the most likely method of making a wooden mug suitable for warm drinks. However, there may be temperature limits and the issue of BPA to consider. Thus, research before buying if these issues concern you.