So, you are in the process of picking out a new coffeemaker and are still deciding on which sets of criteria you need to consider for your new machine.
Maybe you are adding another type of brewing system such as a Chemex to your normal, everyday drip pot and you need a way to keep it hot for a longer period of time.
Or perhaps you need a secondary container to assist in serving guests.
And you keep reading about thermal carafes and thumbing through Amazon and Jet.com listings and wondering what they heck you should buy.
In the next few paragraphs (err, pages… I tend to be a bit verbose), we’ll examine your options and help you to find the product that best suits your needs.
What is a Thermal Carafe?
A thermal carafe is a double walled container, usually made of double wall of stainless steel. But this can also be made of plastic, or one inner layer of stainless with an outside layer of another material like powder coated aluminum, rolled steel, plastic, or other substances.
These containers usually (but not always) have a vacuum between the two walls in order to minimize the heat transfer via convection (i.e. air movement). Since the two layers touch only in a few specific spots to ensure structural integrity, heat transfer through conduction is also minimized.
Since heat loss is so thoroughly minimized, these containers have the ability to keep their contents piping hot for hours.
Most thermoses and many of the better travel mugs operate on the same principle, and even a few French presses.
Some drip coffee makers come with thermal carafes in lieu of the glass pot/hot plate combination, and they are also available as standalone purchases in a variety of sizes – from home 8 to 12-cup sizes all the way up to large containers designed to serve gatherings.
Thermal Carafe Pros & Cons
Besides the ability to keep contents warm for hours on end, these vessels also have other benefits when applied towards coffee, tea, and other liquids that have many volatile acids that make up a large portion of the flavor profile.
Unlike many of their glass brethren that depend on hot plates to keep the liquids warm, these double walled containers form a super insulated shell, which requires a sealed lid to maintain the heated environment.
Tiger Thermal Insulated Carafe, available in various sizes on Amazon
This sealed enclosure assists in keeping the flavor compounds locked in the liquid rather than escaping into the outside atmosphere – keeping your cup of joe fresher longer and delaying the onset of staleness.
A cup of joe left in the open only has about 15 to 20 minutes before volatile acids start to escape and oxygen starts to combine with the oils in the coffee, causing rancidity and sourness.
- Keeps freshness intact.
- Heat stays put for a long period of time.
- Eliminates the “burnt” taste associated with glass containers and hotplates found in most drip coffee brewers.
- Delays oxidization of the contents.
- Most are shatter resistant, making them kid friendly and ideally suited to a busy home kitchen, commercial kitchen, picnicking, camping, and other rough and tumble activities.
- Thermal carafes are often heavy and contents are not usually not visible, making it hard to determine how much is left in the pot.
- Presentation may not be the best for elegant or formal serving situations.
What is a Glass Carafe?
A glass container is just that – a glass pot. When included with a coffeemaker, these are usually designed to set on a hotplate to keep the liquids warm.
However, they also may be purchased (though less common) as serving device for formal occasions, as most of the standalone devices are more elegantly designed than their stainless counterparts.
Glass Carafe Pros & Cons
There really aren’t too many reasons to get a glass version over a double-walled and vacuum insulated serving vessel.
Chemex Hand Blown Glass Water Kettle, available on Amazon
Unless you want to save a few dollars on a coffeemaker purchase (as the glass versions are usually cheaper) or want an extra special presentation container, we would recommend sticking with thermal units – either in a coffee brewing device or a standalone unit.
- Usually cheaper than a thermal option when bought as part of a coffeemaker.
- Can be made fancier and suitable for formal presentation.
- Allows coffee to become stale and rancid.
- Requires hot plate to keep warm, often leading to a “burnt” taste.
- Can be easily broken.
- Can be costly to replace on some higher end coffeemakers.
Thermal Carafe Based Coffeemaker Recommendations
We strongly recommend two different brewers that both come equipped with thermal carafes.
One that we feel is a decent fit for the ordinary household is the the Cuisinart DCC-3400.
This machine comes equipped with all of the required basics, including 200°F water temperature in the brewing chamber. It’s also simple to operate and relatively easy on the pocketbook.
Behmor Brazen Plus
This drip coffeemaker was designed from the ground up by and for coffee aficionados.
It includes an adjustable pre-soak option to bloom your coffee grounds as well as a fully adjustable thermostat to dial in the exact temperature that best suits a particular origin and roast of coffee. It even has altitude adjustments so that everything stays calibrated no matter your elevation.
It can brew into the included thermal carafe or it has the option to release hot water into your pour over device of choice.
This one is a true coffee lover’s dream.
See our complete review or check prices and read customer comments on Amazon.
Also, Be sure to check out our complete Coffee Maker Buying Guide for more purchasing options.
Some of the other thermal carafe equipped models that we’ve reviewed in the past include the Zojirushi Fresh Brew Plus as well as the OXO On Barista Brain (who comes up with these names?) and very the well thought of Bonavita BV1900TS (which has obtained an almost cult-like following in the coffee fanatic world).
The top rated but pricey Technivorm Moccamaster has both glass and thermal carafe options.
Standalone Thermal Carafe Options
You may already have a glass pot coffeemaker or you may want a bigger sized double walled container to hold more fluids to entertain crowds. Whatever your reasoning, having a standalone unit can increase your options. Listed below are some of our favorites.
This Japanese company is known for its very well thought out and engineered appliances and thermoses. They design their products around their very demanding home country customer base, and that dedication to detail has made them known worldwide for quality.
This pot is the real deal, and it is capable of keeping your liquids hot all day long and even warm up to 24 hours later. It also has a built in and very high quality pump to disperse your brew. We love this brand and product.
If you would rather have a pour over style than a pump device, Tiger has you covered here as well.
Both product lines feature a satin finish.
Sometimes you want more than the utilitarian option. Enter: Alfi.
Alfi is a very well thought of German brand, known for producing quality carafes in a variety of designer styles with superb German engineering and construction.
The one featured above is their “Gusto” model and it is available in six different colors (at the time of this writing) including Apple Green, Aquamarine, Black, Red (shown), Space Gray, and White.
Thermos, the original makers of the now ubiquitous thermos, also have a line of stainless thermal carafes.
These feature double layers of stainless steel and are available in a limited edition brown model as well as polished silver. These pour designs are also available in various sizes.
To keep your coffee as hot as possible for the longest period of time, you want to try to preheat your thermal carafe prior to use. Simply allow your tap water to reach its highest temperature and flush the insides of the container.
This will trap some of the heat from the water, and your coffee or other liquids will not have to surrender as much of their heat energy to heat the side walls and bottom of the vessel.
This is a habit most espresso makers follow as well when brewing espresso shots at home.
Unless noted, most of these containers are not dishwasher safe. Usually, a little dish soap and water goes along way, but some of the lid openings are too small to easily reach into. In this case, you can use a bottle scrubber brush to assist.
For tougher stains (or longer periods between cleaning), you may want to soak in a water/vinegar mixture or use a powdered citric acid cleaner suitable for cleaning coffee equipment.
What’s your favorite way to keep coffee warm and fresh? Let us know in the comments below and feel free to browse all of our guides and how-to articles in Foodal’s Coffee Corner!
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About Mike Quinn
Mike Quinn spent 20 years in the US Army and traveled extensively all over the world. As part of his military service, Mike sampled coffee and tea from all virtually every geographic region, from the beans from the plantation of an El Salvadorian Army Colonel to "Chi" in Iraq to Turkish Coffee in the Turkish Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. He spent nearly a decade in the Republic of Korea where he was exposed to all forms of traditional teas. Mike formerly owned and operated Cup And Brew, an online espresso and coffee equipment retail operation.