My choices for the best Thermos bottles, ranging in size from 16 ounces (2 cups) to 61 ounces (almost a half gallon). I'm amazed at how well they keep food and drinks hot!

Best Thermos Bottles

Over the years, I’ve learned that there is a LOT of difference between various “vacuum bottles” — that’s the correct name for what most of us refer to as a Thermos.

And, while spending a lot of money on one isn’t a guarantee that it’ll do a good job of keeping its contents hot, buying a cheap one is pretty much a guarantee that it won’t.

Off the top of my head, I can think of at least 10 vacuum bottles I’ve owned (actually, some were just “insulated” with no vacuum).  At first, I bought cheap ones, figuring that “they are all the same.”  Well, I’ve learned my lesson — they aren’t.  And getting a good one from the start is cheaper, particularly when it doesn’t cost any more than many that are mediocre — although it will cost more than the cheapest ones.

If I was just trying to keep coffee warm for an hour while we had breakfast, a very cheap little plastic “insulated jug” — with nothing but air between two pieces of plastic — worked.  But if I wanted to make coffee and drink it three hours later in the middle of an overnight watch, I was sadly disappointed when I opened it up to find barely-lukewarm coffee.

In the tropical summer, where it was 90+ degrees all day, a not-too-well insulated bottle held heat well enough to make yogurt — but as winter approached, it didn’t.

And so I ended up “upgrading.”  More than once as I discovered that there are differences even between what I thought were all good brands.  And so I’ve had to replace so-called “good” bottles.  Here’s what I’ve concluded.

By far, the best “Thermos” bottles are sold under the name Thermos Nissan (not just “Thermos”).  They are about the same price as the Stanley bottles (for the same size), but insulate much, much better.  Not only is the bottle insulation better, but the Thermos Nissan bottles have an insulated stopper, which other brands don’t seem to.

My choices for the best Thermos bottles, ranging in size from 16 ounces (2 cups) to 61 ounces (almost a half gallon).For example, the photo at right is of a glass-lined plastic Thermos-brand bottle — not a Thermos Nissan (they are two separate lines, both made by the same parent company).  The stopper cap is touted as a “Stash Top” for packets of sugar and creamer — and my experience is that it does absolutely nothing for keeping the contents hot.  It is thin plastic and air filled.  We all know heat rises, so as the bottle sits, all the warmth in the coffee or other food just goes right out the top.

The Thermos Nissan bottles are all stainless (inside and out), so there shouldn’t be any issues with breakage.  Buy these, and you won’t be looking for a new bottle in a year . . . unless it’s that you want another in a different size or to give as a gift!

[UPDATE:  About 6 months after I wrote this, I did some comparative testing on three bottles that I own — a Thermos Nissan, the glass-lined Thermos pictured above, and a Stanley.  See the results of my Thermos testing.]

Even with a great bottle, it’s important to pre-heat (or pre-chill) the bottle, and it will work best when full.  If you don’t pre-heat or pre-chill the bottle, it simply won’t keep the contents hot/cold as it takes a lot of the heat or cold in the food to initially heat or chill the inside of the bottle.  To heat the bottle, pour boiling water into it, put the lid on and let it sit at least 3 minutes.  Then pour the hot water out (save it for another use) and pour the hot drink or food in.  To pre-chill, do the same with cold water.

To clean any of the bottles, be sure to get a bottle brush so you can get down inside the bottle.

Here are my favorite sizes for various purposes:My choices for the best Thermos bottles, ranging in size from 16 ounces (2 cups) to 61 ounces (almost a half gallon).

Thermos Nissan 61 Ounce Stainless Steel Bottle w/ Folding Handle

Best for:  coffee, hot water, broth-based soups

This bottle is just under a half gallon, and will hold the contents of a 10-cup coffee maker (1 “cup” = 6 ounces).  It is designed for coffee and “liquid” soups or hot water, as it is not wide-mouthed.  This is further reflected in the fact that the bottle has a twist-and-pour stopper designed for pouring cups of coffee — and as long as you remember to twist it shut, it doesn’t leak.

This size bottle is also great for storing hot water for use later in the day, as described more in my article on Conserving Propane.

My choices for the best Thermos bottles, ranging in size from 16 ounces (2 cups) to 61 ounces (almost a half gallon).Thermos Nissan 48-Ounce Wide Mouth Stainless-Steel Bottle

Best for: Thermos cooking, chunky foods

This 1-1/2 quart bottle is great for Thermos cooking.  The wide mouth is easy to put foods in (a canning funnel will help) and get them out once cooked — not to mention making it easy to clean the inside.

And the size is perfect for things like soup, chili and spaghetti sauce for two people.  I also like it for cooking things like rice and beans to make enough for 2 meals (or a larger family).

This works well with a drip cone for making coffee, too — it’s what I use every day!

NOTE: This has been discontinued by Thermos. The replacement is 40 ounces but still wide-mouth. See it here.

Thermos Nissan 32-Ounce Stainless-Steel Briefcase Bottle

Best for:  coffee, hot chocolate, other hot or cold drinks

This holds just over 1 quart — or about 3 mugs of coffee, depending on the exact size of your mug.  While it’s great for drinks and is perfect to stick inside a backpack for a trip off the boat, there are a couple of important things to note about this bottle.

First, it does NOT have a carry strap or handle — so there’s no way to tie it to the binnacle (or anything else) so that it won’t get flung overboard in rough seas.  And it’s just a tad too big around to stuff into a drink holder — although I’m suspicious that it would be too top-heavy to stay there if it did fit.  Second, it does not have a wide mouth — again, perfect for coffee and drinks, but not good if you want to use it for Thermos cooking or making yogurt.

I had one of these when living ashore and was astounded at how long it kept coffee hot!

My choices for the best Thermos bottles, ranging in size from 16 ounces (2 cups) to 61 ounces (almost a half gallon).Thermos Nissan 16-Ounce Stainless-Steel Food Jar

Best for:  making yogurt, Thermos cooking of rice or dried beans, or keeping a single serving of food hot

There are two Thermos Nissan 16-ounce bottles — the one pictured and another that’s a little shorter and fatter and which also has a loop and carabiner.  Both work equally well — this is the one I have for making yogurt and cooking rice or beans.

These hold two cups and I find the size perfect for making yogurt or Thermos cooking dried beans equal to a can.  On overnight passages, Dave would always get hungry in the middle of his watch, so I’d heat something up for him when I went off watch and put it in the Thermos so he could have it 3 or 4 hours later (we did 6 hour watches instead of the more typical 3 or 4 — it was a better sleeping pattern for both of us).

Don’t be surprised if you don’t end up with more than one size Thermos on board.  They are great for so many things, but one size doesn’t work for everything — and I found that I often had more than one thing in a Thermos at the same time.  I ended up with three — a large one for coffee, a large wide-mouth for Thermos cooking, and a small one primarily used for making yogurt.  And most days I used at least two of them!

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  • Mary Bigelow
    Posted at 10 September 2011 Reply

    Very much enjoy your site. Am trying to organize some thermos cooking. I discovered that the Thermos Nissan wide mouth bottle I bought has a lid which is not insulated. In fact, when it is in use you can feel the heat pouring out through the cap. Do your Thermos Nissan bottles have insulated caps?
    Many thanks

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 10 September 2011 Reply

      Hi Mary!

      The Thermos Nissans I have do not have an insulated cap, or maybe I should say it doesn’t appar to be insulated — just the plastic cap and then the stainless “over-cap.” But then, the entire bottle doesn’t seem to be insulated — it’s very lightweight compared to other brands of bottles I have (but works so much better). I wouldn’t say I can feel heat pouring out the cap of the Thermos Nissan, though — they’re MUCH cooler to the touch than my Stanley or even the Thermos glass-lined cap. See my article on Thermos Testing for details on their relative heat retention. I’ve had great luck using the Thermos Nissan for Thermos cooking.


  • Eniko
    Posted at 06 November 2011 Reply

    Carolyn, I come across your posts often in my various feeds and as a weekend cruiser and avid adventure who loves to eat well whether on my commute to office or a night at anchor, your tips and tricks are spot on. Thanks for making good food on the go that much easier by doing the experimenting for us!

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 06 November 2011 Reply

      Thanks! Glad you find it helpful!


  • mithun
    Posted at 26 January 2012 Reply

    i wanted to know what method do you opt to test a vaccum insulated bottle. i wanted to buy 200 pcs for patients. there is one company by the name zogirushi for thermos bottles, they also claim to be the best. i am confused so please help me

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 26 January 2012 Reply

      I don’t have a laboratory — see my methods in my Thermos testing article.


  • Shin
    Posted at 11 April 2012 Reply

    Hello. I was thinking of buying the Thermos Nissan 48-Ounce Wide Mouth Stainless-Steel Bottle to make a large batch of yogurt (& for other things like soup).

    You mentioned you use the Thermos Nissan 16-Ounce Stainless-Steel Food Jar to make yogurt.

    Do you have a recipe please to make your yogurt?

    Could I use this recipe for the 48-ounce wide mouth?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 11 April 2012 Reply

      If you want to make a large batch — 6 cups or 1-1/2 liters, the 48-ounce Nissan Thermos would be perfect.

      Here’s the recipe: Yogurt Recipe

      You’ll have to adjust it for the larger size of the Thermos — if you don’t have the Thermos pretty full, it won’t stay warm and the milk won’t culture.

      Thanks for reading The Boat Galley!

  • Norma
    Posted at 22 November 2012 Reply

    Hi, I just discovered your site, which looks very informative! I’m hoping you might be able to help me. I have two Stanley wide-mouth thermoses, made in the USA. Stanley is not making them like these anymore, sad to say. The rubber gaskets/seal that go on the caps are starting to decay a little, and we are hunting high and low for replacements. We even contacted Stanley and the best they could do for us was send us a new (inferior) thermos for free! We don’t want that, we want parts for our old jugs. If there are no replacement parts to be had (made something from a plumbing supply?), is it possible to repair the gaskets? Thanks in advance for any help you can give.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 22 November 2012 Reply

      I haven’t tried it on a Thermos, but you might get some food grade silicone sealant (such as this on Amazon). Scrape the old gasket off, put down an even bead of the silicone and let it cure. We’ve done the same on a number of other items to make a gasket.

      The big trick is to get the silicone down evenly so it won’t leak. Good luck!

      • Norma
        Posted at 14 March 2013 Reply

        Belated thanks for your advice!

  • Virginia Rinkel
    Posted at 11 January 2014 Reply

    Are there any Thermos Nissan’s ~1/2 gal out there with a pump action for serving hot/cold liquids with a ‘push button’ area on top, and handle on top reaching across both sides, so you can grab and carry it with you?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 11 January 2014 Reply

      Hi Virginia — Those are called “airpots” and while Thermos Nissan doesn’t make one, this half-gallon one from Update International keeps liquids hot just as long as the Thermos Nissan bottles: Update Internation 1.9 Liter Airpot

      You see the complete article I wrote about airpots here.

  • michael perez
    Posted at 05 March 2014 Reply

    I have an old Thermos Nissan that is probably a 17oz or 18oz vacuum bottle. My wife accidentally put the stopper in the garbage disposal. Rats! I love that Thermos . . . and I can’t use it without a stopper. Any thoughts? The opening to the pour spout is 1.5 in. Everything I find seems to be for a 2 inch diameter pour spout. And just so you know, in the photo you have posted above, it appears my thermos is the one you have in the center of your photo! yeah!

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 05 March 2014 Reply

      So sorry to hear that! Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer other than checking out Goodwill, Salvation Army and other second-hand shops. Otherwise, I think I know what’s going on your birthday wish list! (And all of them in that photo are around a quart, so yours was probably actually smaller.)

      • michael perez
        Posted at 05 March 2014 Reply


    • Barbara Lowell
      Posted at 26 June 2014 Reply

      Maybe this will help … I use corks to plug up and recycle bottles, jars, everyhing … go to hardware section drawers and find a cork that fits; you might have to hunt around for the correct size.

  • James
    Posted at 07 May 2014 Reply

    I guess nobody has ever heard of Tiger or Zojirushi? Check them out guys!

    • Mike
      Posted at 08 May 2014 Reply

      I am also funny about which Thermos I use. Am one who has never heard of the Tiger or Zoj. If that good I would like to try them out. Where do I look for them them ? Thanks

      • Carolyn Shearlock
        Posted at 08 May 2014 Reply

        You can get many Zojirushi products on Amazon: click here for all. I know that their larger carafes are really good (almost identical in heat retention to the Thermos Nissan) but haven’t used any of the smaller ones.

  • Doug
    Posted at 24 May 2014 Reply

    Thanks, I enjoyed your article on Vacuum Flasks. I can’t even recall the names but I have had many over the years. I had an indestructible stainless vacuum bottle with an insulated stopper. It kept coffee hot all day long. My problem with stainless is that it “tastes”. I have the same problem with certain ceramic glazes on coffee mugs. No one else I know seems to notice a difference, but I’ll stick to glass and my favorite mugs.

  • Everett De Morier
    Posted at 22 September 2014 Reply

    I think the tall Stanley thermos is one of the best ones out there, but the cup is so small it’s easy to loose — in the seven years that I’ve had the one I use, I’ve had to replace three cups.

    Great thermos though.

    Everett De Morier

  • Justin banks
    Posted at 12 November 2014 Reply

    I have that same tall Stanley that you sport. And I have learned to love it. I even call it having a shot of coffee because of the cup. But I can have a Hot shot of coffee 24 hours later and a warm shot past 30. It does fizzle off when there is not much left. These things are to be expected I suppose. Bottom line it had stay a peice of my kit because it works.

    However I will be looking in these thermos Nissan my wife would love a thermos but won’t carry one as large as that Stanley.

  • jon archer
    Posted at 05 January 2015 Reply

    I stumbled upon your article whilst looking for a solution to my problem and i wonder.. might you be able to help me??

    I too have bought several heat flasks the newest came as a present for christmas its a stanley one.
    Now here comes the issue.. i am a carpenter and work on site and like to have a tea or coffee on my breaks i have found that with the stanley at lunchtime the water is luke warm.. and makes for a really dissapointing drink.. i put boiling water in the flask leave it 5 mins boil kettle then tip out the flask and put in the new water.
    first thing is a nice cuppa but at linch is warm at best… am i doing something wrong or do they not keep stuff hot if you keep opening them.. i am baffled as my new stanley flask boasts itll keep stuff in it hot or cold for 24 hrs well i made my flask at 6.30am and now at 1.15 i luke warm tea.
    Appreciate any help.


  • Gail Buck
    Posted at 28 May 2015 Reply

    Hi Carolyn, we are going cruising and need the name of a product advertised on your site. It was a product that goes on top of a cooler. This product kept ice for several days. I don’t know the name and would like to contact the fellow selling this item. Thank you for your awesome site! Regards, Gail

  • Ann
    Posted at 22 October 2015 Reply

    I was really excited about receiving this flask cause it is totally different from your ordinary ones. I like that this one is shaped like a soda can so it makes it easy to take in the car and fit in cup holder. I have used mine for wine and juices, no carbonated drinks. I am really impressed with the quality and design, the outer is a decorative print silicone material wrapped around a high grade vacuum insulated stainless steel. The top seals tight preventing your drink from leaking or spilling and has a clear acrylic sipping spout with a straw attached through the inside and comes with an extra straw in case you lose one. Since I am one that throws everything in the dishwasher, this being dishwasher safe is a plus for me.

  • Lyndell
    Posted at 10 July 2016 Reply

    We have tried to find thermos Nissan bottles and can’t find them in the stores, the amazon site you have links to say that it has been discontinued, do you know if the whole line has been discontinued or just those models? Do you know of a retailer in Canada that handles them if the whole line hasn’t been discontinued?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 11 July 2016 Reply

      Hmm, yes I can only find a few for sale in Canada and they are all extremely expensive. It might be better to buy one from a US company and pay the international shipping and customs. Otherwise, look for a bottle that is called a “vacuum bottle” not just insulated — it’s the vacuum that makes the difference. And of course stainless so it’s not breakable!

      • Lyndell
        Posted at 11 July 2016 Reply

        Thanks so much?

  • John Norman
    Posted at 13 September 2016 Reply

    Denture tablets are fantastic for cleaning drop two in the thermos with hot water leave overnight for a perfectly cleaned thermos

  • Eve
    Posted at 02 November 2016 Reply

    I have the smaller version of the Thermos Nissan Stainless Steel Briefcase Bottle … it’s maybe 16 oz. Will keep hot tea piping hot almost all day. Hours later it will burn your tongue! The smaller size fits in most cupholders (it’s a little over 2.5″ diameter at the base). I always pre-heat it with hot water for a few minutes, before pouring in the tea. Easy to clean with a wide-ish mouth that easily fits a dish brush.

  • Ron
    Posted at 28 November 2016 Reply

    I have 2 Stanley thermos I got for hunting..I’m really disappointed on hot chocolate doesn’t stay hot…
    I had a glass lined thermos, which was excellent!! Until it fell out of my tree stand..trying to find a large glass lined thermos.. Can you help me??? Greatly appreciated…

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 29 November 2016 Reply

      Glass lined are getting hard to find. The Thermos Nissan vacuum-insulated stainless ones do really, really well — you might want to look at them as they come in some fairly large sizes. Here’s one that’s 61 ounces — almost a half gallon: I have the same one in the 48 ounce size and love it.

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