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Can You Microwave Starbucks Cups? (Microwave Safety Tips)

starbucks cups

With 7 billion of them ending up in landfills every year, finding ways to reuse Starbucks coffee cups is more than a matter of convenience—it’s a better way to treat the planet. Unfortunately, most Starbucks cups, whether it is the paper cup you get at the drive-thru or the fancy plastic tumbler you buy as a stocking stuffer, are not microwave-safe, giving you few options for further use.

Still, “many” doesn’t mean “all.” Starbucks offers a growing array of branded cups as diverse as their coffee menu, with some being more tolerant of the microwave than others. We’ll dive into the details with this look at whether you can microwave Starbucks cups and offer tips for staying safe.

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Can You Microwave Starbucks Paper Cups?

Most Starbucks cups are not microwavable, whether they’re disposable to-go cups or expensive branded mugs. You can tell if your Starbucks drink container is microwave-safe by checking the bottom. Look for the microwave symbol or instructions for safe use. Most cups will have a clear warning of “Do Not Microwave” alongside the dishwashing directions.

Starbucks uses a paper cup featuring about 95% cellulose paper and 5% low-density polyethylene for its hot to-go drinks. It’s safest to keep them out of the microwave for a few reasons. One immediate issue many experience is having the glued seam melt and open a leak in the side of the cup. That’s one cleanup you won’t want to handle. But the more significant concern with poly-coated cups like Starbucks to-go containers is toxins leaching into drinks.

There’s some debate surrounding how much the microwave affects the breakdown of LDPE. Yet studies have shown that single-use paper cups release trillions of nanoparticles when filled with hot liquid. Not only does the plastic content hurt the cups’ recyclability, but the health implications may also make you reconsider whether you should use them at all. To its credit, Starbucks is planning to phase out its paper cups as a critical green initiative.

starbucks paper cup
Image By: nnguyen21, Pixabay

Can You Microwave Starbucks Tumblers and Mugs?

Between the risk of a blown seam and microplastics getting into your drink, there are enough reasons not to use Starbucks paper cups, whether in the microwave or otherwise. But what about those expensive reusable cups?

A glance at the bottom of most Starbucks reusable containers indicates that they are not microwave-safe. Although they use durable polypropylene plastic, extra materials like metals and non-microwavable labels can harm the cup or your microwave.

Other reusable items include metal tumblers, cold cups, water bottles, and hot mugs. You must never put metal items in the microwave for obvious safety purposes. But even ceramic and glass mugs can injure you if you’re not careful. No matter the material, follow the directions on the cup to prevent damage to yourself, the container, and your equipment.

Starbucks Reusable Hot Cup

Although most Starbucks cups should stay out of the microwave, one notable exception is the 16-ounce reusable hot cup. Made of #5 PP plastic, the hot cup (resembling the disposable paper variety) is generally safe to microwave without the lid.

The cheap reusable plastic cup is a practical investment for regular Starbucks drinkers. Alongside its ability to survive the microwave, it is more eco-friendly than paper cups and supplies savings whenever you fill up. Use the reusable 16-ounce cup, and you could get a 10-cent discount and extra reward points. If you visit your local Starbucks daily, the cup will pay for itself in only a few weeks.

starbucks cup
Image By: Engin_Akyurt, Pixabay

Tips for Microwaving Starbucks Coffee

Regardless of the type of cup you use, reheating Starbucks coffee (or any coffee, for that matter) isn’t ideal primarily because of the taste. The ongoing release of organic compounds from reheating will create a bitter, bland flavor far removed from those first few sips. Invest in a quality thermal mug if you’re often in a position where you need to reheat your Starbucks. Have your barista fill it whenever you stop by the coffee shop or transfer the drink immediately after getting it.

In those instances where you can’t avoid nuking your Starbucks coffee, find a microwave-safe mug to hold it. Adjust the microwave setting to half power, and heat the coffee in 30-second intervals. Test and stir between each one until it reaches the desired temperature.

You can use the same technique for a Starbucks paper cup when you’re in a bind. Keeping a close eye on the seam and the lower edge is crucial to ensure it doesn’t burn or open a hole. Starbucks does not recommend microwaving their cups, so take extreme caution and only use this as a last resort.

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Final Thoughts

Given the cost of a Starbucks coffee, you can’t get your money’s worth if you don’t finish your drink. But if you’re forced to reheat your latte for a couple of seconds in the microwave, take a few more seconds to find a microwave-safe mug. No matter how you take your coffee, the flavor of a plastic Starbucks cup is hardly one to add to your daily pick-me-up.

Featured Image Credit: ana2600, Pixabay


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