If you are like me, having access to good hot coffee is a must – even when I'm on the trail or at the crag climbing.
When I first purchased my Nalgene bottle, I was strict with it – only using it for water. However, on long hikes and long days, I generally want something with some flavor – and caffeine.
My concern was if the coffee and milk would damage my Nalgene water bottle or that it would leach chemicals or a plastic taste into my coffee, or that my coffee would go bad and my bottle would be hard to clean.
So, can you put coffee with milk in a Nalgene?
Yes, you can put coffee with milk in a Nalgene. The bottle is made of Tritan, a BPA-free material that will not distort, shrink, or be damaged when hot liquid is added. However, Nalgene bottles aren't insulated so the coffee will get cold quickly and there is a small chance of chemicals leaching into your drink – especially if you use boiling hot coffee.
Also, if you plan to use the bottle for water or other liquids after, you must clean it well to eliminate the coffee aftertaste.
An important note is to ensure you only use the newer Nalgene water bottles (those manufactured after 2008) or the translucent Ultralite versions (from all years) to ensure they are BPA-free.
While the older bottles can withstand the coffee milk mixture – chemicals can leach into the liquid due to the heat (more about this below).
For me, I rarely put coffee with milk in my Nalgene. The high temperatures make me fearful of leaching (even though Nalgene bottles are safe to drink from) and I’m not going to lie…the bottle doesn’t keep the coffee warm for long (especially after adding milk)
I personally use my Nalgene for water only and cold smoothies that I plan on drinking rather quickly.
Will Coffee with Milk Warp or Damage Your Nalgene Bottle?
Even after adding milk, coffee is hot. With most water bottles, this is a no-go because it will distort their shape or cause the bottle to deteriorate. This is not the case with the Nalgene bottles, which are specially designed to withstand high temperatures. In fact, Nalgene bottles can handle boiling water and I occasionally use mine for a hot water bottle when I'm camping.
Also, the bottles are designed with sturdy, leak-proof lids, which ensure your liquid stays where you put it, even with hot liquids and on difficult paths.
So no, coffee (even boiling hot coffee) will not warp or damage your Nalgene bottle. It will be able to handle the coffee just fine.
Coffee With Milk Can Go Bad In Your Nalgene
One of the things to be aware of when having milk in your coffee is that milk can go bad pretty quickly in a Nalgene.
Ideally, you want to keep your coffee with milk above 140ºF/60ºC. Once it drops below this temperature you should drink your coffee within 2 hours otherwise bacteria can grow to harmful levels.
Between 40-140ºF (4.4-60ºC) is considered the “danger zone” for food and drink and especially milk. In this temperature range bacteria like lactobacilli can grow and multiply, spoiling your milk and potentially making you sick.
Because Nalgene bottles aren't insulated your coffee will cool below the 140ºF/60ºC threshold rather quickly. So ideally if you're putting coffee in your Nalgene bottle you should drink it within a couple of hours otherwise you should discard it.
Using UHT or long life milk can extend the lifespan of your coffee as the milk gets heated so hot that most bacteria is killed off. However, leaving it in the danger zone for too long will still cause this milk to go off.
Don't Put Coffee with Milk In Old Nalgene Bottles
If you plan on having coffee in your Nalgene bottle you need to choose a new version of the bottle that was made after 2008.
I always check the plastic containers I purchase to ensure they are BPA-free. Several years ago, you may remember the big news about BPA and how it would leak into the liquid in your water bottles.
After looking into this concern, researchers discovered that UV rays and hot water sped up this process, leading to more chemicals getting into whatever you had inside. Over time, the chemicals can cause hormone imbalances and cancer, making it a serious problem.
In April 2008, the company recalled their bottles and went BPA-free. However, some older bottles are “out there,” so check when the bottle was manufactured and ensure it is a new, BPA-free design.
I Prefer The Stainless Steel Nalgene Bottles For Coffee
Even though the new Nalgene plastic bottles and BPA and BPS free there is no guarantee that scientists in the future won't discover that this plastic leaches some other type of chemicals into our drinks.
After all, bottles containing BPA were thought to be safe to drink out of until 2008 and they are still technically considered safe by the FDA.
For that reason I tend not to trust any plastic bottles with hot drinks and for coffee in particular I prefer to drink from stainless steel bottles.
The stainless steel Nalgene bottle is a great option and a lot of hikers and campers love this as an emergency bottle as it's super durable and easy to boil water in.
Made from single wall surgical grade 316 (18/10) stainless steel and featuring the same size threads as the regular Nalgene widemouth this is the perfect bottle for those wanting the lifetime warranty and durability of a Nalgene without the plastic.
Comes with a rope pack loop lid attachment.
However, its not insulated so your coffee will cool down quickly in this bottle. That is why when I'm going on a hike and I want to take coffee with my I usually put coffee in my Hydro Flask bottle or my Yeti bottle instead.
Removing the Aftertaste
One of my biggest concerns was the aftertaste of the coffee and milk. However, cleaning tablets is an easy and effective way to eliminate this. Check out the best Nalgene cleaning tablets.
Another great option is the dishwasher. Nalgene bottles are dishwasher safe and I regularly use my dishwasher to clean caked on smoothie remnants out of my Nalgene bottle. It also does a great job at removing any aftertaste or smell from your Nalgene bottle so I highly recommend this technique.
You can also use old-fashioned soap and water. This takes some scrubbing, and I love the convenience of the tablets.