Which cup will keep water cold the longest? (YETI, Tervis or Dixie?) | First Place Science Fair Project


Last week, our oldest daughter won first place for her grade for her science fair project: Which cup will keep water cold the longest? She tested a YETI tumbler, a Tervis tumbler and a Dixie disposable paper cup.

which cup will keep water cold the longest : yeti, tervis, dixie paper cup

Which cup will keep water cold the longest?

We had received some Tervis tumblers as previous Christmas presents and this year, we received two YETI cups. It seemed like they kept ice water in them longer than any cup we had used.

She noticed that they were keeping ice overnight, so we started talking about different cups. Conveniently, a voluntary science fair flyer came home and she was really wanting to participate.

We talked through some ideas and helped guide her to something that could be tested (i.e. an experiment could be done) and something that we could do at home in a reasonable time.

The Materials

She decided to test which of these cups would keep water cold the longest.

She gathered the YETI tumbler, a Tervis tumbler and a Dixie disposable paper cup all with their respective lids, a thermometer (that I borrowed from our local high school science department), a timer (we used a phone), a pitcher (to start with the same water), some ice, a measuring cup and funnel.

I finally found some great thermometers you can buy to do this experiment for your science fair. I like analog thermometers for kids learning how to read temperature and do these experiments.

The Hypothesis

She wrote her hypothesis: The YETI will keep water cold the longest.

The Procedure

We created the ice water in the pitcher and tired it around and allowed the ice to melt (so we started with ice cold water all at the same temperature). Then, measured out the same amount of water into each of the cups.

Cold Water | Does yeti keep water colder longer

She took the temperature in each cup (just in case it varied right away) right at the start, and then collected the temperature at various time intervals.

Will a yeti keep water cold the longest

We also got to have a fun lesson in reading an analog thermometer and estimating to one decimal place.

She decided on the intervals in which she would take the temperature of each water and was in charge of setting the timer, being at the water when the timer went off as well as taking and recording the temperature on her data chart (see the picture above).

The Results

I know you are here to see the data. Well, here you go. (I should start by adding that room temperature in our house during most of this was around 20 degrees Celsius).

After 6 hours, the YETI was still significantly colder than room temperature or the other cups. Remember, this started off as water. There wasn’t any ice in the cup.

If there were, I think the water would have stayed cold longer, but it would have been much harder to measure and harder to control all of the variables and temperature readings.

After 20 hours (we had to do a long gap overnight because she was sleeping), the YETI was still slightly cooler than the DIXIE and Tervis tumblers were at about 2-3 hours.

I think the results at 20 hours are a little off because our house cooled down overnight (why they didn’t stay at the higher temperature).

which cup will keep water cold the longest | data chart.png

Looking at the initial slope of each of the lines for each of the cups, you can see that the Tervis Tumbler and the Dixie cups both allowed the water to warm up much faster than the YETI tumbler.

which cup will keep water cold the longest | data graph

The YETI tumbler keeps water cold the longest. Now, take that as you will. Some people might drink their ice cold water and not care that it will still be cold 6 hours later.

Others might drink their ice water fast and not care. For me, if I’m exercising, it will be gone quickly. If I’m just hanging out, I end up sipping on it. Now, if you are talking about maybe a mixed adult beverage, that’s something you might want to stay cold a little longer.

While we haven’t tested the cups with hot water, I’m going to predict that the cups would cool off at the same rate and that the YETI would keep water (or a hot beverage) hot the longest.

Also, don’t forget to purchase a great display board for showing off all of the data that’s been collected.

Will a yeti keep a cup of water cold the longest

The Take Home Message

The YETI tumbler will keep your water or cold beverage cold the longest compared to a Tervis tumbler or a Dixie disposable paper cup. While they are pricier, it seems that they are better at insulating beverages, so you get what you pay for.

On More Experiments

I fully acknowledge that there are many other types of insulated cups out there on the market. We used cups that we had and tried to keep it to a reasonable experiment for a third grader. I do think it would be fun to compare other cups at a later date.

And, doing that, I would probably head back to the local high school science teacher friend and ask them for a probe that collects the temperature at set intervals and records them. Of course, that would be for my own curiosity and not for helping the third grader with her science experiment.

On the Science Fair

I intentionally didn’t present all of the information from our daughter’s project so that it will have to be done again if somebody wants to present it as their own. I think it’s important to make sure you follow the guidelines for your science fair and include all of the necessary parts requested (research, materials, procedure, etc).

It’s also important that the person doing the experiment and being judged / graded for it is the one that puts their project and presentation together. If you do have a question, feel free to reach out emailing me or using the contact form and I will try to help.

But, being a “retired” science teacher, I’m definitely not one to give out all of the answers!

Are you surprised by these results? Or is it pretty much what you expected?

(This isn’t sponsored by anybody. Everything that we used was borrowed, gifted for Christmas from family or something we bought.

There are affiliate links. If you buy something using them, it won’t cost you anything. And, if enough people buy a YETI tumbler, in about a year, we’ll have enough to grow our collection!)

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    1. I suspect it will be. She wanted to test cold…but maybe I’ll borrow those thermometers again and test out the hot.


        1. I think this experiment would work with any grade, you would just need to make sure you present the data required as well as the presentation board. You might likely have to go into more detail with your report as well. This was done in elementary school.

    2. Wonderful job, congratulations! It’s nice to see a parent taking time with their child like this. The project and results because of the time taken with her she will always remember. One day she will repeat this kind of parenting with her own children. You are ALL to be commended.

      1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment!

        We actually need to start planning for next year and the science fair…so it doesn’t sneak up on us.

  1. pat chance says:

    yeah for first place – great job

    1. We’re doing this project, but using a Yeti HydroFlask and Rtic, but we’re having difficulty writing a bibliography for this project considering there is no research to be done. Any ideas???

      1. Hi Lauren- You are welcome to use this website as a source. Additionally, when we did this, we did research into insulators and what the insulation was in the cups. Try to look into those things as well as maybe some of the properties of ice and water and keeping it cold.

  2. Wow congrats! I remember doing science fair projects with my daughters when they were in school. I have a few more years until my grandsons reach that age level. What a great topic!

  3. Very cool experiment! I love my Yeti tumbler. Its the only one that keeps my ice frozen when we are ouside in the hot summer day

    1. It is a rockstar with the ice….I was just worried if she did ice in it that we would have a harder time being consistent. But, I definitely have ice in mine overnight on my bedside table. It’s pretty amazing.

      And, the coolers are insane. I saw one in the back of a car in Florida with ice in it for three days!

  4. shelly peterson says:

    What a great experiment. looks like she had fun. Congrats on 2st place! I might have to get a Yeti. 🙂

    1. shelly peterson says:

      oops that was meant to say 1st place. 🙂

  5. Betsy Barnes says:

    What a great science fair project! Congrats! My son participated in a few when he was in school, they were always so much fun. He also won a first place ribbon for a solar oven he made out of a pizza box and actually made cookies. It is really cool when kids participate in science! 🙂

  6. Congratulations on a great Science Fair Project and and on winning First Prize! I remember my daughter doing this and it was a project we both were interested in. Can the life of cut flowers be prolonged? I know what hard work this entails! You daughter’s board looks awesome as well!!

    1. you did a good job I am doing the same project

  7. That’s a great experiment and good record keeping and a good-looking set up.

  8. Go I!!! So happy to see that blue ribbon for her work and thought! Yes, the cold might not matter too much in a cup, but I’ll tell you it matters in their coolers! 🙂

  9. Leigh Anne says:

    I am impressed and happy for this review–or scientific data! I was wondering about these cups and if they really work!

  10. When was this article written?

  11. Hi Stacey. It was written on February 9, 2016. I have the dates on my posts write under the title.

  12. Hi Krystyn – we are doing a similar science fair project with different types of water bottles. For the research portion, did your daughter research Insulators? Interested to hear if you think we should go another route for the research portion of the project. Thanks!!

    1. Yes, she did research on what insulated each cup/bottle.

  13. Yeah hi Krystyn me NIna Baker. I just want to say lovely website… good job you………. I MEAN TO YOUR KIDDO!!!!!

  14. Kathy Foley says:

    Hi! My son is in 8th grade and is doing a similar science fair project, except he is using maybe 10 water bottles of different materials. Might I ask, what category did your daughter’s project fall under, and what did you use for making the graph? Congratulations on her 1st place win! Thank you, Kathy Foley

    1. Hi Kathy-
      In 3rd grade they didn’t have categories, so she didn’t put one. Without knowing the category options, I wouldn’t have an idea for your son’s.

      For the graph, I used excel. But, that graph was really for my own data and information. I think including that in a middle school science project might be much. I didn’t start doing graphs like that with regression lines until college…or maybe senior year of high school in an AP class.

      1. Are you over answering questions about tumblers yet?? 🙂

  15. Hi Krystyn I have a big question…I did the same things you did in my little girls science fair and she got an 45%. Please explain.

    1. Hi Riley. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what was required of the assignment. Was there a rubric or a grading sheet given with an explanation of the grade? I’m guessing the teacher was requiring something that was left off. Without having all of the information (grading sheet + the project), I think checking with the teacher is the best bet.

      This project here was done by a third grader, so a higher grade would definitely require more.

  16. My 5th grade daughter did her own variation of this idea using hot water and several different kinds of cups. She got the coveted green ‘award of excellence’ ribbon and received an award for the top project in the whole science fair!!! I appreciate you sharing your ideas!

    1. I’m so happy to hear that she did so well with it! Please pass along my congratulations!

  17. Thank you for this info, my son is going to do this for his science fair project for Honors science this year. We are doing it two ways, once with ice to see the ice melt time and then we ordered digital probe thermometers to do it again with a hot soup of some sort. Very interesting and a great jumping off point from your daughter, Thank you for sharing.

  18. Uyen Doan says:

    I am looking for a project for my daughter. She is currently in 3rd grade. We have a question: are the lids on the cup between the measurement intervals or do they remain off the whole time? also how long were the thermometer in the liquid for measurement?

    1. You can decide on the lids, just make sure you are consistent throughout. We left lids on.

      For the thermometer, leave it until it stops moving and it’s equilibrated.

  19. What was the independent and dependent variable on this experiment? Thank you

    1. Hi Jennifer.

      Independent is what you are changing in the experiment. Dependent is what you are measuring. (I can’t give out all the answers here…it the science teacher in me.)

  20. I am doing this experiment.

    1. Good luck! Focus on a good report and making sure you get everything on your display you are asked for! And come back and tell us how you did!

  21. Can you please share the close picture of her display board?

    And one more question how did she made the graph?

    1. Hi Sony. I made the graph with excel. This is beyond the scope of an elementary science fair project and I just did it for fun.

      For the display board, I’m intentionally not showing close up so that you use your own data.

      Good luck!

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