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Glass vs Thermal Carafes

Glass vs. Thermal Carafe: Let’s Compare The Two

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When you’re shopping around for a brand spanking new coffee maker, the last thing on your mind is the type of carafe that comes with the machine. The features, functions, and the fancy led display often take priority over the simple container that holds the brewed coffee.

It’s a bit like buying a new car. You don’t really care about the seat the driver sits in. It’s all about how fast the car goes and the buttons on the dashboard.

I get it, carafes aren’t exciting or flashy, and it might seem like they’re not really all that important in the grand scheme of things.

But don’t underestimate the importance of a good coffee carafe, and choosing either a glass or a thermal carafe could make a significant difference in your coffee experience.

So before you decide on a new coffee maker, take a few minutes to read through this article. I’m going to compare the glass and thermal carafe and highlight the pros and cons of each.

Once you reach the end, you will know everything you need to know.

Armed with this newly found knowledge, you can make an informed decision when picking out that new drip coffee maker you’ve got your eye on.

What Is A Carafe?

If you’ve been mesmerized by the flashy sales talk and the marketing hype, and you’re not even sure what a carafe is or its purpose, it’s probably best not to skip over this section.

pouring coffee from a coffee carafe

A coffee carafe is the glass or metal pot where the coffee ends up when it comes out of a drip coffee machine; effectively, it’s where the brewed coffee is collected for serving.

Even if they’re made of glass or metal, most coffee carafes will have some sort of handle, a pouring spout, and you may find cup serving measurements printed on the side.

I think it’s safe to say that most coffee carafes will have a handle and a spout. But when it comes to the materials used in the manufacture, you will often find those made from glass or metal.

Although the basic carafe performs the same purpose, having either a glass or thermal carafe will affect how long your coffee stays hot.

Let’s take a look at both types, along with the pros and cons of each.

A Closer Look At The Glass Carafe

Glass Carafe

The glass style of coffee carafe is the most common and the one you will encounter the most when shopping for a new machine.

As the name suggests, this type of carafe is made from glass and typically comes with a plastic handle and flip-top lid.

The glass is heat resistant, so it won’t shatter when hot coffee is added. Nevertheless, being glass, it will break if accidentally knocked or dropped.

Most coffee machines that come supplied with a glass carafe also feature a warming plate that sits under the carafe.

Ideally, you shouldn’t leave your freshly brewed coffee sitting in the carafe while on a hot plate for long, as the extended heating will almost guarantee that your brewed coffee will have a bitter taste.

But the hot plate isn’t all bad. It’s is an excellent feature if you want your coffee to keep warm for slightly longer than it ordinarily would, such as in an office environment or late morning risers.

But if you plan on keeping a carafe of brewed coffee sitting on the warming plate for a good amount of time, don’t expect it to taste fresh when you eventually get around to drinking it.

So why is glass so popular? After all, it’s incredibly fragile.

You’ve probably noticed that glass is a common material used around the kitchen, and for a good reason.

One of the main reasons is that glass is non-porous, which simply means that flavors and smell won’t leach into the glass and taint other food or drinks that later get stored in the same glass jar or pot.

One final point to touch on is aesthetics.

Glass carafes can be manufactured in a wide range of ornate designs. On the flip side, thermal stainless steel carafes don’t have this luxury and tend to look very similar.

Also, you often find that cheaper coffee machines will have a glass carafe supplied as standard with the option to upgrade to a thermal carafe.

Pros

  • Cost: Cheaper than thermal coffee carafes.
  • Glass is non-porous so it won’t retain any flavors or smells.
  • It’s easier to manufacture glass in ornate designs.
  • Looks more presentable serving coffee in a glass carafe, especially in a formal setting.

Cons

  • Fragile and can easily be broken during cleaning or if knocked accidentally.
  • Glass doesn’t provide insulation, so your coffee will quickly go cold without a heating plate.
  • The downside of using a hot plate: your coffee will become bitter or even burnt if kept on prolonged heat.

A Closer Look At The Thermal Carafe

glass vs. thermal carafe

As I mentioned, thermal carafes are often supplied with a higher-end thermal carafe coffee maker. They’re often touted as being a premium carafe due to the insulation properties.

This type of carafe is made from stainless steel and features a double-wall design with an air vacuum sandwiched in between.

The vacuum prevents heat from transferring from inside the carafe to the outside. It essentially keeps heat locked inside of the carafe and stops cold or hot air from being able to pass into the carafe.

This double-walled design can keep your coffee hot for hours versus a few minutes with a glass carafe.

The vacuum design is pretty neat and is used in a wide range of applications, from a coffee thermos to cool boxes you take to the beach.

💡 A bit of history. This vacuum design was originally invented by a Scottish chemist, Sir James Dewar, who needed a container that kept cryogenic material cold for prolonged amounts of time (you discover more about Sir James Dewar by heading over here).

Today, you can expect a good quality double-walled thermal carafe to hold the temperature of your coffee for up to seven hours after being brewed.

Because thermal carafe is so efficient, almost all of the machines that supply them won’t feature a hot plate on the coffee machine because they’re not needed.

Office or corporate settings are where the thermal carafe excels, with its ability to keep coffee hot for hours. Whole departments can be kept caffeinated for the entire day with coffee that doesn’t taste burnt or bitter.

So far, a thermal carafe sounds great, right. However, the biggest drawback to thermal carafes is they tend to be significantly more expensive than their glass counterparts.

Also, it’s worth noting that if you need to replace one, the cost can often be a large chunk of the original price of the coffee machine.

Apart from having the ability to keep your coffee hot for hours, thermal carafes are also far more durable than glass, and an accidental drop or knock shouldn’t be an issue.

The chances are that once you purchase a coffee maker with a thermal carafe, you’ll never have to replace it, and it’s not unheard of for a metal thermal carafe to outlive the machine.

The aesthetics of thermal metal carafes isn’t the most appealing, and for some people, how the carafe looks can be a deal-breaker.

Due to the double-wall design and the material used, most thermal carafes all look the same and are very tubular or square in appearance.

If you often serve coffee from your dining table or host a party, a glass carafe typically looks more presentable than a thermal one. It’s just something to keep in mind.

Pros

  • It can keep drip coffee piping hot for hours without a heating element or external heat source.
  • Much more durable than glass and can withstand an accidental knock.
  • Even after many hours, the brewed coffee stays fresh and doesn’t become burnt or bitter.

Cons

  • The initial cost of a thermal coffee carafe will be more than glass.
  • Design choices are limited, and they all tend to look the same.
  • Some people say that a stainless steel thermal carafe can give a metallic taste to coffee.

Thermal vs. Glass Carafes Which Is The Best?

Choosing whether a thermal or glass carafe is the best ultimately comes down to personal preference.

If you have a large household and fresh coffee needs to be kept warm for a few hours in the morning, a thermal carafe is excellent. Even in an office setting, a thermal carafe is a clear winner.

Glass carafes also have advantages, as we have mentioned, such as cost and aesthetic appearance. But they are prone to breaking and require a hot plate to keep coffee hot for extended periods.

If you can’t decide on one or the other, don’t worry, you’re not stuck.

If you purchase a new coffee maker and it comes with a thermal carafe, you can buy an aftermarket glass carafe to use with your machine if you prefer and vice versa.

Then, depending on your requirements, you can pick and choose which type of carafe you want to use. You have the best of both worlds.

Mark Morphew

Mark is the editor and founder of the popular coffee blog Bean Ground. He's been active in the catering and hospitality industry for many years.

When he's not fiddling around with a new coffee gadget, you'll find him busy doing DIY projects around the home and taking his German Shepherd for a walk, who funnily enough is called Kona! Discover more about Mark here.

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