Hot chocolate is one of the best parts of winter and no one will ever convince me otherwise!
In fact, this beverage is so good that it has stood the test of time, being enjoyed since roughly 500 BC.
The Mayan people of what is now called Mexico created the recipe that became the basis for the hot chocolate that we love today. The original recipe was a fortifying mixture of cocoa beans, cornmeal, chili peppers, and hot water.
While spicy hot chocolate is still popular, not many of us are adding cornmeal to our drink anymore.
However, it has evolved through contact with other cultures like Spanish and Dutch to become the creamy, sweetened beverage that tastes so good on a cold winter day.
It’s pretty easy to enjoy a warm cup of hot chocolate when you’re tucked away inside snug as a bug, but what if you decide to take your hot chocolate on the move?
It’s such a great addition to an afternoon of sledding, skating, cross-country skiing, or even sitting around an outdoor bonfire.
But can you keep hot chocolate warm outside? Absolutely you can! Just invest in an insulated container like a thermal coffee dispenser, an insulated travel mug, or a slow cooker. You can also warm up your thermos before adding the hot chocolate as a pro tip.
Keep reading to discover what containers work best to keep hot chocolate warm outside, how hot to heat your drink before you put it in the container, and how to preheat your containers so your drinks will stay warmer for longer!
Best Large Containers To Keep Hot Chocolate Warm Outside
Some of my fondest memories of winter as a kid are hitting up the outdoor skating rink, going sledding with friends and family, or enjoying a fun sleigh ride.
It was always a blast, but having a warm cup of hot chocolate to enjoy afterward was a real highlight.
If you’re going skating or planning an outdoor activity and want to enjoy some hot chocolate without having to head inside, there are some larger options that will keep your drink toasty warm.
I’m going to include some options for folks who have access to an extension cord and outlet and other choices that are great if you’re out in nature without access to power.
Depending on how much hot chocolate you need to serve, a slow cooker can be a great choice if you have an electrical outlet and extension cord handy.
Slow cookers are the only option on this list that continually heat the hot chocolate, so you can have it outside for hours and still have a piping hot drink.
You’ll want to keep your slow cooker on the low setting so that the hot chocolate doesn’t evaporate or get too hot to safely drink.
You can even make your hot chocolate right in the slow cooker by combining all your hot chocolate mix, water, and milk and heating it up.
You will need to have a ladle on hand in order to serve the hot chocolate since it doesn’t have a pump or an easy way to pour the hot chocolate out.
But this is a pretty simple fix. I just bring a small plate to rest the ladle on between serving to keep the table from getting too messy.
All you have to do is figure out how many people will be drinking hot chocolate and roughly how many cups they’ll have (at least 2 is a safe bet!) and find a slow cooker that is big enough to store all your delicious hot chocolate.
An Insulated Coffee Dispenser
These containers are another great option since they don’t need an electrical outlet in order to keep your hot chocolate warm.
They are insulated, which helps trap the heat and can keep your drinks warm for about 8-12 hours depending on the quality and how cold it is outside.
These dispensers also have a pump to make serving your hot chocolate easy breezy and mess-free. However, they aren’t huge and hold only about 8 servings per dispenser.
That makes them perfect for smaller family or friend outings, but if you have a larger group you may need a few.
They’re a good investment though if you are someone who does a lot of outdoor activities since you can serve any hot drink you like from them. They’re also pretty easy to clean and small to transport.
Best Small Containers To Keep Hot Chocolate Warm Outside
If you’re planning on enjoying a solo cup of hot chocolate outside or sharing with another person, then you probably don’t need a carafe that holds 8 cups of hot chocolate.
The best method for keeping hot chocolate warm outside is really the simplest.
Double Walled Insulated Stainless Steel Travel Mug/Thermos
You can find some really high-quality travel mugs on the market today. I don’t suggest using a plastic travel mug since they don’t retain heat very effectively.
They might do if you’re going on a quick outdoor adventure, but if you plan to be out for several hours then they’re not the best choice.
What you’ll want to invest in is a travel thermos (if you want a few servings) or a travel mug (if you only need 1-2 servings).
These double-walled stainless steel containers can keep your hot chocolate warm for 3+ hours.
The key to these types of travel mugs is that they prevent the transference of heat, which is what causes your drink to cool down quickly.
Since the interior of the mug or thermos is sealed off, it prevents the heat from your hot chocolate from escaping.
By trapping in that heat, you’ll be able to pack a thermos or mug of hot chocolate and enjoy it for several hours on your outdoor adventures.
How Hot Should You Heat Your Hot Chocolate Before Storing It?
Since the average temperature to serve hot chocolate is around 160-185°F, you’ll want to warm it thoroughly before storing it in case your container has some heat loss.
That said, a lot of the double-walled stainless steel thermoses can retain heat for upwards of 12 hours.
I have brought travel mugs of hot chocolate and tea with me that I poured in right from boiling temperature, and they were undrinkable for hours, so the quality of your mug should be taken into consideration here.
The higher quality, the lower the temperature you can get away with.
Typically, I will add my hot chocolate to my travel mug or travel thermos as soon as it is boiled, which will help trap the heat.
A good rule of thumb to follow is that the longer you are going to need your hot chocolate to stay warm, the hotter it should be when you add it to your container.
The only exception to this rule is if you are using the slow cooker method that I mentioned above.
Since this container continually warms the hot chocolate, it doesn’t matter how hot it is when you put it in. It will warm up based on the setting- remember to choose low!
How To Pre-Warm Your Container
If you’re using an insulated thermos or coffee carafe, then you may want to preheat the container.
This step will help retain the heat in the hot chocolate since the container will already be warm. If it’s not the hot chocolate will have to warm it up, which can cause it to cool faster.
All you have to do to preheat your container is pour boiled water into it and let it sit for a couple of minutes.
Then pour the hot water out and immediately add your hot chocolate. This step prevents heat loss and will keep your hot chocolate warmer, for longer!