A Guide to Understanding Stainless Steel Grades for Tumblers and Water Bottles

Custom Stainless Steel Tumblers and Water BottlesVacuum insulated stainless steel drinkware has become insanely popular in both the retail sector and in the promotional products industry. Once you actually use one of these high quality drinking vessels, you quickly understand why. They work and they work well.

Most of the vacuum insulated stainless steel tumblers will keep ice in your drink for at least 24 hours. They typically keep your coffee hot for 4-6 hours. The vacuum insulated stainless steel water bottles work even better! Some of these water bottles boast 48 hours of cold retention and heat retention for up to 12 hours.

When shopping for stainless steel tumblers and bottles, you’ll notice huge differences in pricing. Here’s why. Some brand names such as Yeti and RTIC charge much higher prices over “generic” versions. But are these brand names actually better quality? The quick answer is, “No they are not.”

The biggest differentiating factor in the quality of stainless steel drinkware is the steel grade used in manufacturing. You’ll see descriptions tossed around such as “food grade”, “18/8 gauge”, “300 grade’, and other industry jargon describing the quality of the stainless steel.

But what does that really mean?

Are these designations actually different or the same? Are they simply advertising tactics to make you think a product is better than others?

See the chart below to quickly see the differences in stainless steel grades along with more detailed descriptions below that.

Stainless Steel Grade Chart

GRADE STRENGTH CORROSION
RESISTANCE
NOTES
200 Series GOOD POOR Not as resistant to corrosion and seen in lower quality (and lower cost) stainless steel drinkware.
304 BEST GOOD Higher quality stainless steel drinkware. Also known as 18/8 (18% chromium and 8% nickel). Good corrosion resistance due to the nickel. Most common.
316 GOOD BEST Best for extreme environments such as marine use. Rarely seen for drinkware.

Basically, cheap stainless steel tumblers and water bottles are most likely made out of a 200 grade stainless steel, while most higher quality stainless steel drinkware will be made out of a 304 grade stainless steel.

18/8 gauge is used interchangeably with “304 grade” or “300 grade” or “food grade.” It’s all the same and very high quality. This is the most popular grade of stainless steel used with vacuum insulated tumblers and water bottles. The big brand name tumblers and bottles use the exact same stainless steel grade as the off-brand and promotional options.

You get what you pay for, so if you want it to last, get the 304 grade (18/8) stainless steel and skip any drinkware made out of 200 series stainless steel. Chances are, if the type of stainless steel used to manufacture the tumbler of bottle isn’t listed in the description, it’s probably NOT the good kind (300 series).

While the quality of the stainless steel is one factor determining the effectiveness of heat and cold retention, another major factor is the type of insulation used. Vacuum insulation and copper vacuum insulation are hands down the best two options. You can read about what vacuum insulation means here.

Therefore, when thinking about buying branded tumblers and bottles for your company, don’t spend the extra amount buying a brand name because they are NOT any better. In fact, the brand names take away from your opportunity to brand your own company on the drinkware. If you have questions about the best stainless steel tumbler and water bottle options for your budget, we can certainly point you in the right direction.

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Patrick Black
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Patrick Black, MAS, is the founder of Perfectimprints.com and has been in the promotional products industry helping businesses and organizations since 1999. When not geeking out over the newest and greatest promotional items, you can find him paddleboarding at the beach or hanging out by the pool with his wife, three kids, and his basset hound in Fort Walton Beach, FL.