Thermal Carafes

Published September 1, 2008. From Cook's Illustrated.

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Which carafe really keeps your coffee hot? And for how long?

Overview:

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… read more

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.

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  • Product Tested

  • Prices are subject to change.
  • Highly Recommended - Winner

    Thermos Nissan Stainless Steel Carafe

    This carafe demonstrated excellent temperature retention, and testers liked its lever-action stopper, which allowed for one-handed pouring without dripping. The wide base kept the carafe secure on the table, and when intentionally tipped over, it did not leak at all. The lid was easy to screw on and off, and the stainless steel carafe proved dent-resistant. Both the carafe and lid can be put in the dishwasher (most others can't). At $46, it landed in the middle of our price spectrum, and testers judged it an excellent value.

    $46.00

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  • Recommended

    BonJour Julia Thermal Carafe

    Testers really liked this model’s whimsical and decorative design. Its handle was comfortable to grip, and most found the one-touch, push-button pour easy to use. The plastic spout produced a nice, even flow, and when tipped over, its seal kept all the hot contents inside. This model is not dishwasher safe, but the plastic lid and stainless steel body were easy to clean.

    DISCONTINUED

  • Recommended

    West Bend Thermal Carafe

    Stainless steel and sleek, our testers liked this solid, compact model. The plastic lever opened and closed with ease but felt a little cheap—as if it might break easily with extended use. The handle was large and comfortable to grip and the carafe proved dent-proof. Hand-wash only. For just $20, we thought this was a great value.

    DISCONTINUED

  • Not Recommended

    Avantro Ultimate Server Vacuum Insulated Coffee Carafe

    Some testers thought this rounded, stout carafe resembled a kettle. A clear Teflon sight gage inside the clear handle allowed testers to see how much liquid was in the carafe, but some wondered if the clear plastic would stain after extended use. We found the design of the handle awkward—it extended too far from the carafe—which made it difficult to pour the carafe with one hand. Testers liked its wide spout and steady pour, but observed slight leakage when the carafe was tipped over. While unbreakable and leak-proof, the Avantro didn’t perform well enough to merit its steep price.

    $85.00

  • Not Recommended

    Zojirushi Premium Thermal Carafe

    Most testers were put off by the carafe’s tall, industrial appearance. It proved difficult to pour from, and required both hands to serve. While we did like the handy push-button “open” and “closed” valve with indicator on the lid, we wondered about the functionality of the carafe’s swivel base. This model held all its contents inside securely when tipped over, but it proved laborious to hand wash.

    $37.99

  • Not Recommended

    Krups Brushed Stainless Steel Thermal Carafe

    The worst of the bunch, the Krups carafe disappointed testers on a variety of scores—the handle was awkward to grip, and pouring from the carafe proved to be a two-handed operation. The carafe poured in a wide, messy stream, with the contents coming from two places on the lid. This carafe failed our tip test—a bad seal allowed contents to leak.

    $39.99

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