Sunday, December 8, 2013

5 Reasons You Need a Thermos

Old School Thermos - 1950's
This morning is again chilly and I put the kettle on to make myself a nice hot cup of tea. I thought about all the energy a stove uses to heat up the kettle and how so much of that energy is wasted when all I pour is one cup. I know I will be back later for another, but for now I only will pour one cup which will require me to heat the water again. Then it occurred to me that I have an old-school Thermos. In fact, I have two. I fetched one out, dropped a tea bag in, and filled the container with the remaining hot water. In two hours I will still have a cup of hot tea. In four hours I will have another cup of hot tea. This one time heating water will keep me enjoying my drink all day long.

Thermos is actually a trademarked name for a style of insulated bottle meant to keep liquids hot. The word Thermos was derived from the Greek word therme, meaning warm. Thermoses  (Yes, that is the plural form of Thermos. I looked it up.) were invented in 1892 the brainchild of an Oxford University Scientist named Sir James Dewar. He initially named his invention a "Vacuum Flask." In 1907 the rights to the thermos were sold to several companies, but The Canadian Thermos Bottle Company really were the ones to put the glass lined bottles on the map by outfitting several explorers with the bottles (yes, the pun was intended). The Shackleton Expedition famously carried Thermoses as well as the Wright brothers taking one with them for a nice warm drink in flight (minus the stewardess reminding them to put their seat back in the upright position and making sure their tray table was secured).

Modern Thermos w/12 v. Heat Element
By 1911 Thermoses were in high demand and the technology was developed to allow machines to make the glass liners. Production could be greatly increased. By 1923 new models were being introduced to the marketplace that were larger and able to store more of the fabulous hot stuff we so love on a cold day. But wait, they were not just for hot liquids, but stored cold liquids like no other as well. Since this was prior to the invention of electric refrigeration, they were highly prized for storing things like ice cream and even frozen fish! Thermos bottles were used for all types of things including transporting scientific instruments, medications like Insulin, and even blood products such as plasma.

The next significant technology advance made using stainless steel in the creation of the bottles. Later they would introduce plastic versions that many of us had in lunch boxes in the 1970's and 1980's.  In 1986 The Coffee Butler was introduced to keep coffee warm and sales greatly increased yet again. Ever been to a restaurant where they bring you a pot of coffee they leave at your table? You can thank Thermos for that too!

Yup, hot tea in the morning!
Sales of this old standby have never significantly decreased. So why is it that I never thought to use this in my house on a daily basis and not just when on a long car trip or in my lunch box? Think of the energy wasted reheating a kettle for just a cup of tea here or a cup of instant coffee there. I think I will get in the habit of pouring my pot of coffee each morning into my Thermos. Hot coffee all day? Cold ice tea all summer? Soups and stews steaming hot when I am ready to eat? Oh yes! I would even go so far as to say that when winter storm warnings are in affect, a nice thermos full of hot water might be a good thing just in case the power goes out. Hot water could save your life if you were stranded in your car due to snowfall.

So the 5 reasons every household and homestead should have a Thermos or two:
1. Saves energy and fuel. No keeping the coffee pot heating all day. No reheating the kettle for just one cup.
2. Hot liquids could save your life if that power goes out during a snow or ice storm.
3. Hot stew, soup, coffe, tea, cocoa, etc. are all much better hot, not lukewarm. Left-over's don't seem so left-over-ish.
4. Cold foods stay cold in a Thermos. Foods don't spoil in the hot sun on a picnic. Ice tea is still ice cold. Soda will keep its fizz.
5. Thermoses make it easy to sit in bed on a lazy Sunday morning enjoying hot tea and writing blog posts without having to run to the kitchen for a refill.

Do you have a Thermos? Do you remember having one as a child in a lunch box? Share your Thermos experience with us!