You can tell that The Thermos Company is proud of their Nissan line of products. The packaging should be your first indication - it's slick as all heck, and right on the box are indicators of how well built and how well performing the products are - the photograph of a thermos bottle encased in a block of ice, while pouring a steaming hot beverage is one indicator. You also get, right on the box, the details of how they back their guarantee - the numbers on the box for heat (or cold) retention of the product you just bought aren't just marketing drivel - it's part of the guarantee - if, over the next five years, your purchased product doesn't live up to those rated temperatures, you can send it back to them for replacement or another solution.
The Thermos Company also promotes the Nissan lineup in a very slick and well-informed manner - they provide ample promotional materials to vendors, and these aren't just your run of the mill "it's cool, buy it" promo materials. I've seen easel cards that show products in complete detail with cutouts, listing all the unique features, patents, and in many cases all the genuine standout features that make the Nissan line the legitimate king of the hill in the insulated container business.
In the course of this Detailed Review, I've come to learn a lot more about the Nissan product lineup, and Thermos the company, and almost everything I've learned has been impressive. My job now is to try and impart some of that information to you in this Detailed Review, but also to separate marketing stuff from fact. This isn't going to be too difficult though: one thing I've noticed about Thermos Nissan is that they very much are a company that likes to let their numbers and performance speak for themselves. For instance, the company tends to downplay any true trashing of the competition - any real comments about competitor products is usually in the vein of "just try ours and theirs side by side, under your own testing parameters". They're confident that their products will stand up, and you know what? For the most part, they do, and then some.
Let's find out a bit more about Thermos, Nissan, and how the two companys became one, with a look down memory lane.
Most Americans may think that first came Thermos, then came Nissan. That is true, but what most people may not know is this - The company that owned the Nissan line of insulated beverages actually bought Thermos in 1989. They recognized the power of the brand name, and kept it, as a merged name brand.
Thermos as a company began in 1904 in Germany, under the operating name of Thermos GmbH. In 1892, the world's first vacuum flask was invented by a scientist at Oxford University (James Dewar), but it wasn't until 1904 that Thermos GmbH marketed the first commercial use of the thermal retaining products. They grew fast - in 1907, they licensed the name Thermos to three companies around the world: The American Thermos Bottle Company of Brooklyn, NY; Thermos Limited of Tottenham, England; Canadian Thermos Bottle Co. Ltd. of Montreal, Canada. All of these companies operated independently, but shared technologies and consulted to improve the lineup of products.
The companies completely took off, with the American company leading the way. Helped early on by very famous uses of the products (like explorers to the two poles), Thermos products were very much in demand, and the brand name became in many ways synonymous with hot beverages. By the 1920s, Thermos in the US was buying other thermal product companies, and always on the forefront of newly developed technologies, a trend that would continue throughout their history. Thermos was an early user of Pyrex glass, and in the early 1950s, they acquired an injection molded plastics company ("I got one word for you, son: plastics" was a quote from The Graduate some 15+ years after Thermos got into the plastics biz).
The company was also diversifying its interests, and gobbling up companies with similar products or complimentary lines, including BBQ makers, insulated chests, and more. In 1956, to reflect this diversification, they changed the names of the American and Canadian operations. The American Thermos Bottle Company became The American Thermos Products Company, and the Canadian Thermos Bottle Co. Ltd. changed its name to Canadian Thermos Products Limited. And in 1960, both companies were acquired by the King Seeley company, and by the the late 1960s, King-Seeley was acquired by Household Finance Company.
Right though the 1980s, Thermos was an innovative company that around the world became synonymous with camping, cold winter mornings, hot soups and coffee, hot tea, and well kept food. But they were still in the glass insulated business with regards to beverage containers. Stainless steel insulated beverage containers existed, and it was the Nippon Sanso K.K. Company of Japan that was at the forefront of developing this new technology, and developing a brand name: Nissan.
In 1989, Household International (the company that HFC had evolved into) sold off many of its manufacturing operations, and Thermos in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia were sold to Nippon Sanso. The Thermos Nissan brand name was born, and the development and range of products from the company grew steadily.
In 1997, one more major change was to come - Thermos had been in diversified fields for a long time, but a restructuring of the Thermos Nissan companies in 97 dropped things like BBQ grills, and completely focus on the product line that they started with: insulated food and beverage containers. That focus remains today.
Out of the Box, as it were
Remembering that this Detailed Review is different from most of the others on this website, I'll focus my comments in this overview section about my very early thoughts after some initial uses. In the following pages, you'll get a more in depth analysis, product by product.
We took delivery of three "shipments" of products from Thermos Nissan. Our first shipment arrived in a huge box that contained all the "store" packaging boxes inside for 12 different items. Given the nature of these products, packaging of them for safe delivery is less of a concern than some other coffee and espresso related items, so we'll forgo any comment about shipment worries. If you order a Thermos Nissan product from any vendor for mail delivery, suffice to say you shouldn't have any worries about it being broken in transit, with the possible exception of glass lined products. We had a glass-lined beautiful executive style carafe (model number TH1000-B) that arrived in perfect condition. Almost the entire line of Thermos Nissan products are steel inside and out.
The second "shipment" was actually one product - I was given the Ti Bottle at the SCAA show in May this year.
The third shipment was seven products, some of which were not ready for market when my first shipment was sent. In fact, a couple of the products I'm evaluating are still not on the market yet (they should be either by the time this is published, or soon after).
I've broken the product line down into five categories: mugs, bottles, carafes and large capacity, tumblers, and unique products. Let's have a first look at all of these products, one by one:
Well, let's start with the best first, why not.
The most unique product in our test group has to be the titanium briefcase bottle, or TiBottle (product number FBA500T). It retails for $130, and while many might question spending that kind of dough on an insulated coffee bottle, most serious mountain bikers won't. :) This bottle belongs in another century - maybe one or two in the future.
The second product in our unique category is the stainless steel coffee press (product number NCI1000). It retails for under $40 at most places, and it's big - it does just a shade under 1 litre of coffee. Keeps it hot forever… but is this a good thing with press pots? I'll let you know.
The third product in this lineup is not to bad, price wise - it's $18.50. But it has also become one of the stars of this review - it's the multi-functional can insulator (product number JCA350). We were also sent its cousin, the JCE350, which is similar, but has a glass insert instead of a lid.
The fourth product is the Italian Cappuccino Creamer (FBS800), not an insulated product, but a matching product to the coffee press. (you can get it and the press for around $72, gift packaged).
Mugs and Such
We had four mugs to have a look at, including big-ass handle leak-proof travel mug (product number JMQ400C), which retails for around $33, and includes a carabiner for hanging, all hip-like off your backpack or travel bag. We also looked at the dual purpose mug (product number JMF502, price avg $25) which comes with two lids - one for drinking, and one for sealing hot soups or pasta salads. There is the boastful sounding "ultimate desktop mug" (product number JMM400, price around $25) that is designed for actual desk use as opposed to "carry anywhere" use (though it can pull double duty no sweat).
And lastly, there's the cup with the misnomer: the "double expresso mug" (as it is called by Thermos in Canada), a little 200ml (6oz, rated to 8oz to the lip) cup that has become one of my favourite mugs each morning as I enjoy my ritual Americano and don't have to worry anymore about it getting cold. I've seen it for as little as $10 online, or six for under $55.
Bottles are Nissan's line up of handle-less insulated beverage holders. While the bullet design is still new to many people, it's becoming common these days; however, Nissan has a few nifty tricks up their sleeves in this category.
We evaluated what can now be called the "classic" bullet design bottle - a 750ml briefcase bottle (product number FB750), which retails for below $30. It is a brushed all steel look with a cap that doubles as a cup.
We also looked at the leakproof backpack bottle (product number JMW350) with a very unique lid and spout design, and a product that is meant equally for cold or hot liquids. It retails for under $30.
And lastly in this category, we looked at a representative of a new sub category of Nissan products - an ergonomic shaped pint bottle (product number FDB500) which retails for less than $32.
Carafes and Large Capacity Products
Some of these are technically "bottles" in Nissan's vernacular, but we like to throw things for a loop around here once in a while. Anything 1 litre capacity or greater got lumped in here when it comes to bottles, and we placed our three carafes in here as well.
We looked at both the stainless steel bottle and compact quart bottle (product number NCD106 and FDI1000) - the NDC model is one that you'd be familiar with if you were on a job site - it's almost ubiquitous with construction workers and their lunches. The FDI model is an update on that capacity, utilizing Thermos Nissan's newest insulation technology as part of a new lineup of "light and compact" products. It holds the same volume as the NCD product, but keeps it as hot for almost as long, and does it with a bottle that is 25% smaller. It also includes the same pouring spout as the leakproof backpack bottle, covered in the previous section (albeit in a larger version). The NDC model sells for under $30, and the new bottle should sell for less when it becomes available
We had a very elegant polished steel carafe to evaluate - and it also happens to be the only glass lined product in our evaluation - the glass vacuum insulated carafe (product number TH1000B), which retails for under $60.
A very familiar Nissan product, the stainless steel carafe (product number TBS1000S6) was added late to the review, and is very similar to the product I won in a contest a few years ago. This is NSF certified (which is a big deal), and well, you probably see this in many cafes. The problem is, there's a lot of knockoffs on the market in this design. This is the original. It retails for around $50, and usually meant for commercial use.
We also looked at what was to become another star in our evaluation - the amazing stainless steel carafe with the special fingerprint-proof coating (product number TGS1000). It is NSF certified (like TGB1000S6 above). This has become the defacto "go to" carafe in our house for any brewed coffee, even supplanting the old carafe I won back in 2000. It retails for around $45 or less.
Lastly, but certainly not least in this category, the massive 3.4 litre stainless steel (inside and out) insulated pump pot (product number TAC3400), which can dish out a helluva lot of coffee, or in our evaluation, heaps of steaming water all day long. You can even brew directly into this product. It's big, both in size and price - it retails for $120 or less.
Tumblers are what Thermos Nissan calls cup sized beverage containers that have no handles. That's cool. Also, they are usually not leakproof by design. We had three to look at.
There's the old standby (this was one of my first Thermos Nissan products, from many years ago), the travel tumbler (JMH400) that has been a very long lived product for Thermos Nissan (retails for around $22 most places).
We also looked at a new product, the easy sip travel tumbler (product number JMT401) with its 360 degree drinking access. It's new to market and is around $24.
Every category has product that seems to stand out a bit - the one that did in this category is the brand new low cost travel tumbler (product number JMI400 - not yet available). This is in some ways a "lo frills" cup, but I liked it for a lot of reasons, including the projected cost - as low as $15.
I've given a bit of a taste of all the products on this page. On the following pages in this review, I'll post detailed comments about each product, and how we evaluated each one in slightly different ways. For example, my old man (love ya Dad!) got the NCD106 big guy bottle, the one that 8.4 out of 10 construction guys with butt cracks showing prefer over the next brand. If anyone fits that (frankly scary) image, it's my Pops (love ya Dad!).
A music teacher acquaintance of mine, who conducts classes and individual lessons was another gift recipient. . Most of her clientele are Asian and most love a good cuppa tea (if that even exists - scoff). Because of this, the music teacher got the primary job of evaluating the gigantic pump pot, as well as some of the tumblers and cups. She solicited the opinions of many of her students and parents of students. I can even summate the evaluation here: "it's too damned hot!" Seriously - that was the main complaint about the mugs, tumblers and pump pot - it wouldn't let their 90C+ hot water and tea cool down sufficiently enough for drinking comfortably! Yikes. Can a product be too good? Or better yet, you can please some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people, all of the time :)
And I got to do all sorts of fun things with a couple of select products. I got to swing a bat, throw products at brick walls, and even throw one from the window of a speeding car (well, it was a simulation for leaving the mug on your roof… slightly glued down… so that it would stay still… until you hit about 40mph). And I did some major injury to myself as well. It's all fun and games :)
You'll find out about these evaluations and more on the following pages.