I saved the best till last. This page details some of the more unique and innovative products in the Nissan lineup. Some impressed me beyond relief; a few were what I would consider very good products. And one or two… ?
One thing about this category I'd like to make clear to you. The fact that this category exists for a thermal products company says something. I get Fresh Cup magazine every month. In addition, I've been to a few trade shows now and I've seen a wide offering of thermal products from a very wide range of companies. But Thermos Nissan seems to stand above the others in the range of products they carry, and the innovations they have. Other companies may come close (Zojirushi is one), but to me at least, it seems like they are almost always playing catch up.
Most of the products in this section carry Nissan's 5 year guarantee. However, some of the products are not yet for sale (or will be available for sale shortly).
Again, on temperatures. I have to redo my cold tests, and will post the results shortly. And remember, almost all images are clickable for a larger version.
Coffee Cup Insulator (JFC600, JCF20, avg price: TBA)
The concept behind this product is neat, and when I was first shown some rough product sheets about it in May (when this existed mainly on paper only), it looked very intriguing. Most folks go through their day buying a paper cup of coffee that can burn their hands (hence the large market for sleeves of various sorts, or double cupping), and they tend to cool down too quick (hence the market for thermal cups and mugs).
Nissan saw this and decided, why not use our technology to make a thermal sleeve? Two sleeves are planned - one that will hold a 12 to 14 ounce cup, and the one I was sent - one product designed for 16oz or 20oz paper cups. It features the thinnest version of their Thermax technology, it has a very grippy bottom rubber portion to keep it completely slide proof on a table, and has a rubber grip up top.
To me, this product is very innovative, and something unique, and when I showed it off at a Starbucks, a Bread Garden, Tim Hortons' and a couple of smaller cafes, it drew ooohs and ahhhs, and requests of "where do I get one!!". Once I used the product, then the reaction became more mixed.
| Holder with infamous Bread Garden cup. Don't use this combo! |
| The most non-slip bottom on any Nissan product I tried. |
At Bread Garden, it was a bit of a disaster. They first put their 20oz (fl US ounces) paper cup in my cup holder, then filled it with coffee. The problem came when I went to seat the cap on it. The stock cap's outer rim would not completely clear the rubber sleeve on the top of the cup holder. I took the cup out of the holder (a difficult proposition too - you have to pinch the inside and outside wall of the paper cup to remove it) and placed the white plastic cap on it. Then I put the cup back in the thermal product, but now, much of the cup's weight was resting on the plastic cap, and some on the paper rim (not what this product is designed to do). Bad news - the cap quickly slipped off. I'm worried about potential lawsuits here. The Bread Garden cup, made by, was a bomb… the bad kind.
So I tried drinking without the cap on, but the rubber grip on the cup holder made that difficult, and a bit uncomfortable.
Next up, I tried Starbucks. They use Solo brand cups and lids, and the Nissan product was designed with those in mind.
The Starbucks cup faired much better in my informal testing. The Starbucks crew at the shop I went to (Steveston and 5 Road, Richmond) barely took notice of it at first, after I got over the confusion of sizing… "you want grande, venti, what size sir?". I want a 20oz cup. "We don't have that size, sir. Grande? Venti?..." Uh, a 20 ounce cup, please.
You get the picture.
When we figured out the cup size, the barista (small b) noticed the thermal cup I had, she was "oh, do you want us to fill that, sir?". I was like "no, just a cup, please". She started double cupping it... I said, no, single cup. Then I asked for the lids, got one, put it on the cup of coffee, and slid it into the insulator. Then people too notice. The Starbies employees were impressed, even more so with the Nissan brand. The woman behind me asked for a second look, and once the cup slid in, she was suitably impressed as well. Even more impressed that I could take the cup out and slide it back in, complete with the woosh of air escaping, showing a nice, tight fit.
Then I was asked a few questions, and I got the question I heard at other places: where can I buy one? The woman behind me thought Starbucks sold it, and was disappointed when told, no. Even one of the Starbies' crew wanted to buy one. The fact that it worked much better with the Solo cup from Starbucks made a large difference as well.
And it does work well with their twenty ounce cup: the brim on the Solo cup lid is marginally wider than the Bread Garden cup, and the "snap" of lid to cup much more secure. When I slid the cup into the insulator, it slid down nice and neat with a secure fit and a woosh of air as the last big pushed outmost of the air from the inside. I had no problems with the cap coming loose with the Starbies-supplied cup.
(note to Thermos Nissan - maybe Starbucks can exclusively brand these insulators, since they seem to fit the Starbies Solo cup so well, and there are fit problems with other brands)
I tried a few other places - the fit wasn't as good with the Tim Horton's cup, but not bad. I wanted to see how a 16oz cup would fare, and JJ Bean in Vancouver uses 16oz Solo cups, so I gave it a shot - the cup works equally well, with all the weight of the liquid resting on the roll brim of the cup, which in turn rests on the rubber grip at the top of the thermal product. It feels a little less secure than the 20oz cup.
Here's my main beefs with this product:
- doesn't work equally well with all cup types - could potentially cause legal issues for Nissan - after all, there's many consumers out there who will constantly blame others for their own stupidity. In my case, I had lids that popped off while drinking, which could result in coffee sploooshing all over.
- Too many fingerprints. Since Nissan is using the 'doesn't have to be cleaned' aspect of this product as a selling point, it seems to me this is a prime candidate for the no-fingerprint coating they put on the TBS carafe.
*Twenty Ounces?!!!?? This is the big gulp of the coffee world. Give me this product in a format that will work perfectly with a 12oz cup, and I'm sold. I feel like a "quantity is always more important than quality" amateur while carrying this monster into cafes. To me, 12 ounces is a "mucho grande". I usually drink 5 and 6 oz coffee and espresso beverages.
Here's the stuff I liked.
- When it works, it works well. The 20 oz Solo cup fits exceedingly well in this product - it's so secure, when you lift the cup out, you feel a bit of a vacuum pull from the trapped air inside the container.
- When it works, it works well, part two: it's a Thermax Nissan product - if you're read the rest of this review, you'll know what I mean - your coffee stays hot, your hand stays cool.
- You look cool. At least I did, for once, while hanging out in cafes. Even Starbucks. :)
Overall, this product shows a lot of promise, but I think either some kinks need to be worked out like different rubber grips to accommodate different brim sizes on caps for major brands of cups?) or perhaps Nissan can market this direct to major coffee chains for their exclusive use. Either way, it's innovative and has a lot of potential, especially in colder climes.
Stainless Steel Coffee Press (NCI1000, avg price $38)
Here's a product that I wanted to be impressed by, but it let me down. Maybe my expectations were too high.
First, it definitely insulates your coffee. One big problem with lovers of press pots is that the pots cool down very quickly. This one doesn't. It keeps your coffee steaming hot for hours. This is good if you want your press pot coffee hot for beyond the first cup, but also bad - it makes people think it can last hours… but in the meantime, your grounds are still leaching into the general "coffee" in the pot, introducing more and more off flavours and bitters. That's not good. In a press pot, you should drink all the coffee within 30 to 45 minutes.
My real issue with this pot is it is very difficult to use. Pressing down on the plunger takes real effort, and on three of my attempts, I actually managed to splash near boiling water and coffee grounds all over myself, trying to use heaps of force to push the plunger down.
Part of the problem is the volume of grounds. I've noticed with my larger glass press pots, it is harder to push down than with my smaller models. The larger amount of coffee grounds creates more resistance.
Another part of the problem is you cannot see the plunger pushing the coffee down. Visuals are important in press pots.
Another part of the problem is that the lid doesn't sit securely. Sure, it slots down nicely, but when you have to push hard, it can move… and if it moves too much, your angle on the plunger rod can change greatly, thus skewing the plunger, letting grounds escape above an angled plunger, and vwooooosh, push down too quick, thus sloshing hot, wet grounds out of the top spout (at least that's what I did).
I don't know how Nissan could solve these issues. One is to develop a clear glass thermal product for this use (or polycarbonate plastic, like Bodum has done for press pots). Another is to make a more secure seat for the lid so you don't accidentally angle the plunger. The third is to make a smaller pot - smaller means less ground coffee which means easier to push.
When it does work, it produces a standard cup of press pot coffee - in other words, good. Maybe even great - the heat retention does wonders for extracting goodies from the grounds. My problem is, I gave it six tries - three of the six attempts resulted in ouches. It's a good thing I'm your test bunny!
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| Lid looks good, fits well, but doesn't sit securely while pressing with force. |
| This is one huge press pot. Does over a litre of coffee! |
| Filter is standard fare, comparable to any press pot steel filter. |
| Look at that tiny little cup next to the massive press pot! :) |
Should you buy one? If you go in knowing that this is a difficult item to use, and are much more patient than I am at pressing down the bed of ground coffee, sure, why not. It's a good price, it brews over a litre of coffee, and when it works, it makes a great cup. But I think I'll wait to see if they make one half the size. 500ml of coffee is enough for 2 good sized mugs.
Cappuccino Creamer (FBS800, lowest price: $28)
First a note on pricing. I've seen this one all over the board - from $28 to $45 online, so it pays to shop around.
This is not an insulated product, so I'll be brief on this one, mainly describing it in more detail, and my two experiences with it.
It's a faux frother. I don't have a lot of personal respect for these, but not everyone has a cool grand to drop on a Pasquini Livia to get instant steam ability in the home. The cool thing about the Nissan one is it is designed to place right on the stove, to quickly heat up your maximum 8 ounces of milk (side note - never boil milk. 155F is your hottest temperatures, but in this device, it will froth better if you stay below 120F, froth, then heat up the remaining liquid portion - but that's just my personal experience - your mileage may vary).
Why should you drop $30 on a milk frother? I thought about this - there's a few reasons. First of all, it matches their press pot well. Second, it's a gorgeous piece of polished, mirror finish stainless steel. Third, it works well, better than the Bodum frother I have (which only does 2 or 3 oz of milk). Fourth, it's built well. Fifth, it can be put directly on the stove (the Bodum glass one I have cannot). Sixth… uh, that’s it.
I have to admit it does do a good job of what I call "presentation" foam. You know, the kind you can build into a mountain? Nice addition for a cup of coffee, and definitely a way to give your social coffee that extra touch. True espresso aficionados know the only true foam is microfoam, which is pourable, not shapable. This product doesn't give you that, but then again, you're not using it for espresso. You're using it to make a fancy coffee-based drink.
Overall, it's a nice product, but a bit of a luxury.
Soda Can Holder (and Cold Beverage Holder), (JCA350, JCE350, avg price $20+)
Here's another star of this review. I love this product. As much as a human being can love an inanimate object, that is. I assure you, it's entirely platonic.
I like this product so much because it's versatile, small, and intelligent. Here's why.
- It's convertible. You can use this as a drinking cup for hot or cold beverages with the supplied cap (JCA model), or slip a super-perfect fitting can of pop or beer in it.
- It's small. It holds about 10 oz of coffee (the sipper lid dips into it a bit, reducing the volume), and with the 360 degree little sipper cap, works great as an insulated drink beverage container. It has very thin walls but the Thermax is present, doing its job.
- It works well… very well. It may be my imagination, but it almost seems like cans of pop get colder in this product as I drink them! Last night (as I type this), I had a diet coke in it. It started off cold, but not that ice ice baby cold I like. But by mid drink it seemed colder, and the last few sips were icy. Maybe it's my mind playing tricks on me - I expect the last dregs to be warm, but they aren't.
- It works well… very well, part two. Equally impressive is the hot beverage ability of the cup. As a small coffee mug, it rocks. No heat is transferred to your gripping hand, and your coffee stays toasty for a long time.
- It fits most cup holders in cars.
- It fits cans perfectly. Cans of pop or beer slide into this product with a satisfying whoosh of air escaping, showing a perfect fit. Pulling an empty can out is a mite difficult, but only because of the suction created by the perfect fit.
I like this product so much, I'm considering buying it in bulk, getting it branded with the CoffeeGeek logo, and selling it through this site.
Late in my review process, Lynda Yost sent me the "sister" product to this cup - the JCE350, which is the same thermal container, but with a glass insert instead of a sipper lid. It works well with cans as well, but is more designed for icy drinks. It does indeed keep drinks very cold, even with an open top. It comes in a powder coated dark blue motif (with matching blue rubber grip), as well as the brushed steel version.
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| Here it is - Nissan product, lid, and a can of lemon Diet Coke! |
| Cans of pop and beer fit exceedingly well in this product. |
| Here's the JCE version, in blue with the glass insert and it's new shippig box. |
| Nice look, innovation and ability. Needs a lid though! :) |
Here's something cool. I suggested to Lynda that they market this product with the glass insert AND the sipper cap (which fits the glass insert, by the way), and she said that they would seriously consider adding a third version to their line, featuring my recommendations.
I haven't done any temp tests on this product, but suffice to say, it works well, and is very, very unique.
Nissan TiBottle (FBA500T, avg price $130)
The coolest product in this linup. Do I have to type more?
Sigh, okay. First why Ti is cool to me personally. See, back in the day when I had much less of a gut, I used to be a pretty insane mountain biker. I broke many a bone (lessee, 3 fingers, collarbone twice, wrist...) because I was a bit gonzo on the bike. And if you were a serious mountain biker in 1993, names like Ringle and parts made of Titanium (Ti) were the holy grail. I was a student then, but Ti had an unmistakable, impressionable appeal for me, and I had as many Ti products on my bike(s) as I could afford. And I ate KD just so I could afford them.
I don't bike much anymore, as I said, my gut gets too much in the way (I know, I know, no lectures) but I still like Ti. A way cool thing that happened a couple of years ago to me was an old client, happy with my company's work, made me a Ti espresso cup. Made it for me! (they were a metallurgy foundry). So when I found out that Thermos Nissan had a Ti briefcase bottle, I knew I had to get one, not only to test it, but to see if my fascination with Ti was founded.
| Compared in size with the Briefcase Bottle, it seems puny, but holds only 250ml less! |
| Here's the parts that make up the TiBottle. Note the separating screw cap. |
| Zorjirushi (left) and Nissan (right) caps compared. This is the closed position. |
| This is the open. Note the design of the Zorj cap is such that it closes automatically if you put the top cap on its bottle. |
This bottle is the lightest product they supplied to me - even lighter (marginally) than the JCA.JCE cups, and lighter than the espresso cup. I should point out it is Ti inside and out, as well as the outer portion of the top cup/cap.
It's also extremely durable. I actually dropped it (completely by accident) about 8 feet to pavement when I was not paying attention one day, and other than a minor scuff, it was sound.
I was equally impressed with its thermal ability. It tracked virtually identical to the 750ml Briefcase Bottle, while holding 250ml less. In my experience in this testing, the larger the water volume, the better the heat retention with Thermos Nissan products (and you can see it in Nissan's own test numbers for their products with different sizes - the larger capacity versions have better heat retention. This speaks volumes for the TiBottle's heat retaining ability - if it was a 750ml bottle, I'm sure it would blow away the Briefcase bottle. What's more amazing is it does it with a barely insulated stopper.
Speaking of which, the TiBottle isn't absolutely perfect, and the (extremely minor) knocks I have against it are the stopper, and the outer top cup. First to the stopper. It is a unique piece of work in Nissan's linup, but I've been spoiled by the amazing stopper found on Zojirushi's TuffSlim bullet bottle. The Zorj's stopper is, in my opinion, the best single touch pour spout devised today in a thermal product.
The TiBottle's stopper is also one handed operation, but the build, fit and finish of it all isn't quite as good as it maybe should be on a show stopping piece of thermal technology. Part of the reason the fit isn't perfect has to do with Nissan's design idea for this cap - make it so that the user can disassemble it to thoroughly clean it. And you can, you can unscrew the top portion, and clean the guts. That's good, but when you screw it back together again, there are little gaps here and there in the space between the top portion, and the bottom.
This is, however, a very minor complaint. If I had never seen the Zorj cap, I probably wouldn't even be writing this.
The other minor issue I have is that the top cap/cup gets very warm to the touch when you have a hot beverage in it. There's no insulation (or non-effective insulation) in the cap, and the Ti transmits heat very fast. You won't burn your hands, but the little cup does get hot. I measured it's full volume to be 175ml to the rim.
Okay, I got those two beefs out of the way. Here's one last good point before I wrap up. It's Ti. There are, as far as I know, no other Ti thermal products out there on the mass market today. Too... freaking... cool.
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