Published September 1, 2008. From Cook's Illustrated.
Which carafe really keeps your coffee hot? And for how long?
Whether you’re entertaining guests at home or clients at the office, an insulated thermal carafe is a practical and stylish way to keep coffee hot. There are several almost identical stainless steel models on the market that promise to keep liquids hot for hours. Most are sharp-and modern-looking and offer comparable capacities. So which, we wondered, was the best one out there?
The most important test we put our carafes through addressed heat retention. Here in our kitchen, testers agree that three hours is a reasonable amount of time to keep liquids hot—we probably wouldn’t want to drink coffee that sits around longer than that. When our coffee reached 160 degrees—the temperature our test kitchen feel is ideal for drinking hot liquids—we filled the carafes and then tested the temperature of their contents every hour. After three hours, the coffee in all of the carafes remained above 120 degrees—the temperature we determined as the lowest at which hot liquids are worth drinking.
With all of the carafes passing our heat retention test, we next focused our testing on ease of use, ease of cleaning, and overall attractiveness of design. We also put each carafe through a “tip test” to determine whether it would leak if tipped over on a table or other flat surface.
Testers liked our winning model’s simple, compact design, one-handed pouring ability, and superior durability. They were also impressed with its ability to keep contents inside when tipped over. This carafe was also the only one we tested that was completely dishwasher-safe. Our second highest-rated carafe also drew praise—tasters immediately liked its simple, whimsical design. This model was easy to grip, easy to pour, and kept contents inside the carafe with no leakage. Although not dishwasher safe, both the carafe and its plastic screw-on lid proved easy to clean.