Saturday, January 19, 2013

In Writer-Speak, It's Called "Deus Ex Machina"

So I write this navel-gazing snooze-fest about the "integrity of the non-professional reviewer", blathering on about how I buy my own stuff to review, and what happens next? Free product falls from the sky:

Full disclosure: It didn't fall from the sky. One of the nice people at Polar Bottle happened to notice my insulated bottle shootout (and the fact that their bottle took one of the coveted spots on my 2012 Things That Did Not Peeve Me list) and sent me one of their Ergo Bottles (shown above) to try. Ergo, I will review it. (Yeah, I had to go there.)

First, let's start with the obvious downside for my bike-crazed audience. This is not really a bike bottle. Even the website describes it as a "lifestyle" bottle -- which may make me the world's least qualified reviewer, as I barely have a life, much less a lifestyle. The shape is too lumpy to be an oval and too rounded to be a square, and pretty much the same diameter from stem to stern. Comfortable enough in the hand, yes, but not great in a bottle cage -- I tried, and it fit, but it seemed to be saying, "oh, we're doing this? really?"

So what's a non-bike bottle doing on a bike blog? Well, my other crippling addiction happens to be coffee... and the Ergo bottle happens to bill itself as suitable for both cold and hot beverages. So, seeing as how my cold-beverage needs are already more-than-adequately met by other Polar products more suited to my cycling life(less)style, I put the Ergo through its paces as a hot caffeine portage and delivery system.

The test: I filled the bottle with lip-scaldingly, McDonald's-lawsuit-worthy coffee at 6:30 in the morning and sealed 'er up (the Half Twist lid is kinda slick... screw it closed and it's closed, unscrew it enough to line up the drop on the lid with the drop on the bottle and you can drink from either opening while the other acts as a vent). About an hour later, the bottle went into my commuting bag and spent about 15 minutes in 20-degree (F) weather, before going into my room-temperature office. I'm pleased to report that the cap did not leak AT ALL, despite laying on its side in my bag and getting a lot of jostling on rough roads. And -- as promised by the packaging -- my coffee was still at a just-drinkable temperature two hours later.

Is this the bottle for you if -- like me -- you bring coffee in the morning that you want to drink in the afternoon? Well, no. You'll probably need double-wall stainless with a vacuum seal to pull off that trick (Polar makes one of those too, but I couldn't beg one to test). This is really more of a commuter cup -- fill it when you're leaving the house and drink on your way to work.

What I really like, though, is the cleanup. In the past, my go-to commuter mug has been the Good Grips LiquiSeal. It keeps coffee hotter longer than the Polar Ergo and even fits better in a bottle cage, but that big, thick pushbutton lid is one of those "no user-serviceable parts inside, and don't even think of putting it in the dishwasher" items. Any attempt to wash the lid leaves liquid sloshing around in there that refuses to leave, and inadequate rinsing leaves the delightful aftertaste of dish soap in your joe. Pretty epic fail.

The Polar, on the other hand, has just three easy-to-disassemble parts: the bottle (which seems to share the same basic "two plastic layers with shiny space blanket stuff in the middle" construction of the other Polar bottles), a very simple hard plastic lid (with no nooks and crannies to hold gunk or soap) and a silicone seal:

All three parts can go in the dishwasher -- you're seeing mine after the coffee test above and a top shelf, normal cycle trip through ours. No place for gunk to hide, no soapy aftertaste, no taste at all, really. Like new. It's a simple, effective (dare I say elegant?) design that my OCD tendencies like a lot.

So, the bottom line for coffee nerds: No, the Ergo isn't going to keep your brew at face-melting temperature for half the day. But if you want hot joe to go for a couple hours in the morning, are too lazy to hand-wash (guilty), and want something different than the typical cheap, quasi-disposable, imported sippy cup, the (U.S.-made, if you care) Polar Ergo is a good choice. Heck, Polar's free cap replacement policy (which applies to all their products) would make this worth the price of admission for me, as I've killed more sippy-cup caps than I can count over the years.

1 comment:

Julie said...

Thanks for your review, especially the pictures! I was interested in this bottle but wanted to know if it fit in a bottle cage. Not a great fit, but it looks good enough for riding across campus. I also use a LiquiSeal thermos that I have really liked, it's nice to know how the two compare.