A coffee carafe is both an essential and an aesthetic part of the coffee brewing process. It doesn’t quite have the buzz or excitement of brewing but it is just as essential for the enjoyment of the brew. Especially if you brew a larger batch of coffee, you need to store that coffee somewhere either to pour immediately or to pour in successive periods. Enter the coffee carafe!
However, although the concept of the carafe is simple, the range of different models is rather astounding. There are glass carafes, stainless steel carafes, big coffee carafes, stylish coffee carafes, colored carafes. You name it really.
So this article is our run down of what we believe to be the best coffee carafes out there for the home coffee brewer. We will cover the difference between thermal coffee carafes and glass carafes, the top models out there, and other key considerations to finding the right carafe for you.
What is a Coffee Carafe?
A carafe is really a mix of a coffee server and a coffee thermos. They both store the brewed coffee for as short or as long as you need, as well as then doubling as a coffee pourer. These often come as part of drip coffee makers, but are also useful with pour over coffee, french press coffee and really any larger batches of brewed coffee. They can also be known as a coffee decanter, a coffee server, or a coffee dispenser.
Thermal Coffee Carafe vs Glass Coffee Carafe
The biggest decision you have to make up front is whether to go with a thermal or insulated coffee carafe or a glass model. The differences between these come down to both material and purpose.
Coffee Carafe Glass
A glass coffee carafe is in many ways the traditional option. They have been around since the 70’s with drip coffee makers and get the job done. They tend to be less expensive than their thermal counterparts and often do allow a heating option through the use of hotplate. In addition, the glass coffee carafe allows you to see exactly how much coffee is left in your decanter which is both helpful and looks nice.
Similarly, a glass carafe is easy to clean and can often go safely through a dishwasher. Some customers also feel that a glass carafe doesn’t impact the flavour of a coffee the way that stainless steel does. However, most people won’t really notice a difference here.
The downsides of glass carafes, however, are that obviously glass can break easily which is a pain, and also that they simply can’t compete for heat retention. So, for example, if you look on the internet you will find a stack of people looking for a Mr Coffee Replacement Carafe. And the reason of course is that the original has broken.
The two groups of people who will probably opt for a glass carafe are those who are money conscious as they are the cheaper option, as well as the specialty coffee crowd. By the specialty coffee crowd I mean especially those who are into manual brewing whether that be Aeropress, V60, Kalita Wave or another similar brewer. For this latter group they are not looking for a coffee thermos to keep the coffee warm but more of a coffee decanter to pour from and to be honest to just look cool. And it’s true, a good glass coffee carafe can look stunning if you intend to pour your coffee straight away. If this is you then we recommend purchasing the beautiful wooden Hario coffee carafe.
Insulated Coffee Carafe
An insulated or thermal coffee carafe is typically made out of stainless steel and excels at heat retention. They tend to be more expensive than their glass counterparts and range anywhere from affordable to very expensive depending on the brand and quality. One of the most obvious advantages of an insulated carafe is that due to its material it won’t break if you accidentally drop it. They are unusually constructed from a mixture of plastic and high grade stainless steel and are just that bit more hardy.
The way a thermal coffee carafe works is very similar to that of the coffee thermos. Basically, it is double walled with a vacuum seal between the two walls. As such, the internal and external walls only touch each other where structurally necessary, and the removal of air slows the transfer of heat dramatically. Consequently, it is fairly usual for an insulated coffee carafe to be able to keep the container beverage warm for anywhere from 6-18 hours or cold for anywhere from 6-24 hours.
As a general trend it is true to say that the thermal carafe is taking over the market. These are becoming more and more popular for the simple reason that it is remarkably useful to be able to brew a coffee in the morning and still be drinking it steaming hot in the late afternoon. Whether that is a day at the office, on a trip, or working from home, the convenience and benefit is obvious.
Review of the Best Coffee Carafe 2021
Cresimo 68-ounce Stainless Steel Carafe – Best Thermal Coffee Carafe
In many ways the Cresimo 68 oz. carafe sets the standard for insulated coffee carafes. It is constructed of surgical grade 18/8 stainless steel and is double walled and vacuum sealed. This leads to excellent heat retention for both hot and cold beverages. The 2L size is a good median between smaller carafes aimed to be used at a single seating, and large carafes which are designed for commercial settings. This size is really the perfect size for 1-5 coffee drinkers who will be having multiple cups of the good stuff throughout the day. So works a treat for either a domestic or small office setting.
Another convenience factor is ease of pouring. This can easily be poured using a single hand due to the push button technology utilised. Similarly, being double walled, it is cool to the touch which makes it safe to leave, for example, in a kitchen where kids might accidentally touch it. Cumulatively, this is a superb carafe that will meet the needs of the vast majority of potential customers.
The Pykal vacuum insulated carafe is like the slightly more stylish older brother of the Cresimo. The two models are very similar with both sharing a 2L capacity, doubled walled, and excellent heat retention. The main differences occur in terms of aesthetic appeal as well as pouring ability.
The lack of the plastic lid in addition to the shiny stainless steel finish does give the Pykal carafe a certain elegance that the Cresimo lacks. Similarly, the specially designed spout does an excellent job of preventing spillage.
In terms of construction, the Pykal features German precision engineering for optimal heat retention. In fact the claim that it can keep a beverage hot for 24 hours has been lab tested (Although do keep in mind that that presumes pre-heating, a full carafe, and no breaking the vacuum seal for the 24 hours). The carafe itself is made of premium grade 18/10 stainless steel. The narrow neck of the carafe does make cleaning somewhat fiddly, but Pykal even includes a cleaning brush to overcome this hindrance. So overall, the Pykal is an impressive premium carafe for those interested in the combination of form and function.
This carafe represents the affordable yet functional thermal coffee carafe. This stainless steel coffee carafe won’t win you any design prizes but it will get the job done without breaking the bank. In terms of features it is similar to the above models; it is also 2L, double walled, constructed of stainless steel and can be poured with a single hand.
Customers have by and large been satisfied with this product and the biggest recurring complaint is that the lid can be finicky to thread correctly. It doesn’t have the same heat retention as the premium coffee carafes, but to be realistic 6 hours of keeping the coffee hot will meet the majority of coffee lovers’ needs. It is not glamorous but it is a reliable carafe that comes with an affordable price tag.
The Hastings Collective offerings is undoubtedly the most elegant carafe on this list. Part of the advertising around this particular carafe is ‘when luxury meets functionality’ and it certainly fits the brief. It simply is a beautiful coffee carafe with a simplicity that will grace any kitchen.
Like the other models it is double walled and vacuum-sealed for optimal heat retention. However, unlike the other models this carafe wasn’t designed to be used exclusively for coffee. Instead it is advertised as a carafe for hot coffee, cold brew, or surprisingly tea. As part of this the coffee carafe actually comes with both a strainer and a mesh filter so you can actually brew your cold brew or tea in the carafe itself.
It comes in three colours; grey, white, or black. And similarly in three sizes; the Mysa (40 oz), The Lagom (50 oz), and the Venera (68 oz). This is the carafe for the lover of elegance.
The final offering on this list of the best thermal coffee carafes is the mammoth Cresimo Airpot. In design, capacity, and function it really serves a different purpose than the other carafes on this list. This is an insulated carafe specifically designed for functions or larger settings. It has a huge 3L capacity and instead of pouring from it you simply place your mug underneath, push the pump and ergo steaming hot coffee.
Its design is high quality, double walled and vacuum sealed. As befitting its purpose it is very stable and designed to minimize spillage. This is an excellent albeit expensive coffee carafe for the small niche of people looking to cater to larger crowds of people
Other Considerations for finding the right Coffee Dispenser for You
Size of the Insulated Carafe
One of the most important considerations to make early on is what size carafe will best fit your needs. And the answer to this question is entirely subjective and dependent on your specific circumstances. It would be easy to conclude that bigger is always better, but that isn’t always correct. For example, bigger carafes tend to be rather impractical and not very portable. Similarly, not much coffee in a large carafe both affects the heat retention and to be honest is simply overkill.
So you need to think about how much coffee you need your coffee carafe to hold. Probably the most popular size is 68 ounce/2L. This works out at around 6-10 cups of coffee depending on how big the mugs are. And it is quite a convenient size that can easily cater for 1-2 people for a full day or a larger group at a single serving.
However, if you are just looking for a stainless steel coffee carafe to cater to your caffeine intake for the day then a smaller model might be preferable, for example the 40 ounce model from Hastings Collective.
Heat Retention for Different Stainless Steel Coffee Carafes
Another key consideration in finding the right coffee carafe for you is getting your heat around heat retention. Remember from above that this is basically the difference between thermal carafes which both keep your coffee hot/cold and also double as coffee decanters, and glass coffee carafes which generally don’t keep your coffee warm.
And as the above list makes clear, the diversity between different insulated coffee carafes can be pretty significant. There are two main categories included in this list, those which can keep coffee hot for up to 6 hours, and those which can keep the good stuff hot for up to 12 or even 24 hours. And the question really is what are your needs? How long does your desired carafe need to keep your coffee hot for? A few hours while you work or all day as you are away from a kitchen?
Ease of Cleaning for Thermal Carafes
Another less critical consideration that is worth at least noting is ease of cleaning. The simple reality is that not all coffee carafes are created equal in this regard. In general this comes down to the size of the opening at the top of the carafes. Smaller openings do a better job of retaining heat but are fiddly to clean while larger openings don’t retain heat quite as well but make cleaning a breeze.
So for ease of cleaning, larger openings at the top are certainly preferable. That said, some models such as the Pykal carafe do come with their own specialized cleaning brush to overcome this obstacle.
Pouring ability of Coffee Servers
Another category often introduced is pouring ability. This relates to questions such as can you pour with a single hand? It is pleasant and intuitive to use? How much spillage is typical?
But the truth is that this is a little overrated. So for example, in our list, all the models bar the Cresimo Airpot could be used with a single hand and pour easily and intuitively. This again really refers to size, large coffee carafes typically require the use of two hands while normal size (2L and less) are fairly similar among themselves in pouring ability.
Price for Coffee Carafe
The final somewhat obvious but important consideration is of course the impact that it will have on the old bank balance. Even on this list the prices do vary fairly significantly. And it becomes a matter of what are you looking for and how often will you be using the carafe? If you use it daily then we would recommend forking out a bit more cash and buying a premium carafe that will last and will maintain heat retention.
However, if this is a quick fix then a cheaper model such as the Genuine Joe may more than sufficiently meet your needs.