A carafe is an essential component of almost any coffee-making system because it’s the receptacle into which the beverage is actually brewed. In many cases, carafes also serve to keep coffee warm for a longer period of time. There are two main types of coffee carafes: glass and thermal. These products maintain coffee’s temperature in distinct ways.
Read on to learn how to choose between a glass carafe and a thermal carafe based on the advantages and drawbacks of each.
First off, What is a Carafe?
A carafe is a container with a lip spout for serving different types of coffee drinks or maybe some other beverages too. At first, these were just simply containers without handles, but with time developed accordingly to the needs. They now have handle and comes in different materials. We are here for coffee, so will be talking about carafes for coffee. The most widely used are thermal and glass carafes. Each has its pros and cons and this article will tell you in-depth about that so that you can decide which one to go for.
Glass Carafe vs Thermal Carafe – Differences
Glass Carafe Benefits
Despite their limited insulation, glass carafes do offer many advantages for casual coffee drinkers and aficionados.
- First and foremost, these products provide an undeniably pleasing visual aesthetic – Coffee simply looks nice when it’s brewed and held in a glass carafe. Plus, the glass composition allows you to see how much coffee you have left, so you know when to make more. This is one reason why glass carafes are often used for manual pour-overs and French presses. These brewing techniques emphasize the art of coffee making, and glass ensures that the artistry is fully on display. Additionally, glass is a non-reactive material that won’t interact with the coffee at a chemical level.
- Carafes made of glass can also be cleaned easily – Virtually, most of the glass carafes are dishwasher safe. This is a relatively minor advantage, as hand washing is quick and easy; however, it’s still nice to have the option of simply placing it in the dishwasher.
- Another (more significant) benefit of glass carafes is their cost – These products tend to be more affordable than thermal varieties because fewer materials are needed to create them. In automatic brewers that have both a glass carafe and thermal carafe option, for example, the glass one will often be a few dollars less.
- Finally, glass has a traditional look that everyone is familiar with – Glass carafes have become ubiquitous with the proliferation of the drip coffee maker. This means they will look right at home in both residential and corporate settings.
In general, glass carafes are ideal if you appreciate the visual art of brewing and are able to drink your beverage soon after it’s made. They may also be a more affordable option for those on a tighter budget.
Thermal Carafe Benefits
- Thermal carafes don’t use an external heat source to keep coffee warm – Instead, they retain heat by providing a high level of insulation. They are often made from double-walled stainless steel or another design. A well-designed thermal carafe can keep coffee hot for hours simply through its insulating properties. Of course, you’ll still need to prepare the coffee properly to ensure it remains at the right temperature. When the coffee enters the carafe, it should be around 195- to 205-degrees Fahrenheit. A well-insulated carafe can keep the coffee at 140-degrees or higher, which is a widely preferred drinking temperature. To maximize heat retention, rinse the carafe with boiling water and fill it with hot coffee immediately after brewing. The boiling water will heat the carafe, so it doesn’t absorb heat from the coffee itself.
- Another benefit of thermal carafes beyond heat retention is that they don’t distort the coffee’s flavor – This is because there isn’t any external heat being applied. Rather, heat is simply maintained within the carafe. Therefore, the coffee’s refined acids won’t degrade into quinic acid as quickly. Additionally, because thermal carafes are typically closed to keep heat from escaping, they prevent excess air from reaching the coffee. This helps to reduce oxidation and maintain the brew’s flavor.
- Having a carafe that keeps coffee warm for hours without altering its flavor is helpful in a variety of settings. You might want to opt for a thermal carafe if you:
- Drink coffee throughout the day and don’t want to brew additional pots.
- Use an automatic drip coffee maker that brews coffee before you wake up.
- Entertain frequently and like to prepare coffee for dessert or refreshments ahead of time.
- Need to keep coffee warm and use a home coffee brewing technique other than a drip coffee maker.
Disadvantages of Glass Carafes
- Glass carafes are severely limited in their ability to keep coffee hot on their own – This is because glass isn’t as effective at trapping heat as other materials. When making coffee with a glass carafe that doesn’t have an external heat source (such as a hot plate), it’s best to enjoy the beverage shortly after it’s brewed to minimize heat loss. This is important to keep in mind when making coffee with a glass manual pour-over system or French press. Because these types of coffee makers include an unheated glass carafe, they should be brewed immediately before serving. Thankfully, both options offer a streamlined brewing process that can be completed in a pinch. At times, the lack of insulation in a glass carafe can even impact the brewing process. This is especially common with French press because the grounds must be submerged in hot water for 4-5 minutes. Over that period of time, the water in the press will naturally cool, which could lead to a less than desirable brew. One way to counteract this potential issue is to use water that’s at the upper-end of the brewing temperature range. With the exception of cold brew, all coffee should be made with water that’s between 195- and 205-degrees Fahrenheit. By opting for the higher end of this range, your water can cool naturally but remain ideal for brewing coffee. If you don’t have a temperature-setting kettle, there’s a simple coffee hack which helps ensure water is at the perfect temperature. All you have to do is heat the water until it starts to boil. Then, let it cool for 30 seconds. This will result in the water being approximately 205-degrees Fahrenheit (unless you’re at a high elevation where the boiling point changes).
- Of course, heat loss isn’t the only drawback of using a glass coffee carafe – Additionally, the product’s wide opening can allow more air in, which speeds up oxidation and can alter the taste of the brew. This is another reason to drink coffee brewed with glass carafe shortly after making it, as oxidation increases over time. Oxidizing effects aren’t usually noticeable for a little while after brewing.
- Another disadvantage? Glass coffee carafes can break or crack if they’re dropped or hit against something – While the borosilicate glass used to make these products can withstand rapid temperature changes without shattering, it’s still susceptible to damage from bumps or falls. This is a particularly important concern if you’ll be using the carafe in a place where children are frequently present.
Luckily, if your glass carafe breaks, there are a variety of replaceable coffee carafes available for purchase. Many of these replacements are universal coffee carafes. This means they work with any drip coffee maker (as long as it is the appropriate size).
Disadvantages of Thermal Coffee Carafes
While thermal carafes are great for retaining heat, they do have a few downsides.
- Specifically, they are often more expensive than glass carafes – This is due to their more complex design and the materials they are made with.
- Many thermal carafes must also be hand washed – which can be a minor inconvenience for some users.
- More significantly, the aesthetic of a thermal carafe isn’t for everyone – While stainless steel and matte black are excellent for modern décor, they might feel out of place in certain settings with a more traditional or relaxed design.
Avoiding Heat Loss with Heated Glass Carafes
Heat loss is a substantial downside of glass carafes, but there are simple ways to avoid it. For example, many drip coffee makers are equipped with an electric hot plate that the carafe sits on. The plate warms the bottom of the carafe and, in turn, keeps the coffee within it warm.
While these products can keep coffee hot indefinitely, it should still be enjoyed within a few minutes of brewing. This is because the heat from the plate can degrade the refined acids in the coffee over time. These acids are responsible for the more nuanced flavors of the brew. And as they break down, the coffee can begin to taste flat. Quinic acid can also startto form, which creates a clean profile but can be harsh on sensitive stomachs.
There’s no hard and fast rule as to how long coffee can sit in a heated glass carafe. However, as a general guideline, it’s best to drink the beverage within about 15 minutes. Dark roast coffees, which already have fewer refined acids and more quinic acid from the roasting process, might withstand the heat a little longer than lighter roasts.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, neither a glass carafe nor a thermal carafe is better in every situation. Both products have their advantages and drawbacks. The best option for you depends on your coffee-drinking habits and preferences.
Carafes are not expensive units to owe. We therefore suggest to buy both glass and thermal, keeping in mind their pros. Use any of those accordingly to the needs.