When shopping for an insulated carafe, a consumer should focus on the aesthetics of the carafe, its insulating properties, its capacity and design, and its overall durability and quality of construction. Aesthetics are a very subjective matter, but a carafe should blend well with the setting where it will be used. The capacity and insulating properties needed in a given carafe will also depend on where and how it is to be used. Durability, design, and quality are universally desirable, however, and should generally not be sacrificed when shopping for an insulated carafe.
The point of an insulated carafe is generally to maintain the temperature of hot or cold beverages and to be located conveniently for ease of service. This means that carafes tend to be kept out on tables or sideboards, in full view. Choosing a carafe that blends with the rest of a dinner service or with the aesthetic of a room is, therefore, especially important. A utilitarian metal carafe may be ideal for a conference sideboard but likely would not match an elegant china dinner service.
An insulated carafe should be large enough to do the job, but not larger than needed. A bit of planning can easily determine how many people are apt to make use of a given insulated carafe, enabling the selection of an appropriately sized model. The insulating properties of carafes vary widely. Vacuum-insulated carafes have exceptional heat retention but may not be available in all styles. Other types of carafe, such as those that use foamed insulation, may not hold in heat quite so well, but this is not always a concern. A carafe that will be used to serve coffee over the course of 20 minutes does not need to hold in heat as well as one that will hold beverages for four hours during a conference.
In all cases, the design and quality of a carafe should be determined. A cursory physical examination can detect many flaws in workmanship. A quick test may be helpful to determine how efficiently a particular insulated carafe opens, closes, and pours. Higher quality materials should always be selected in preference to cheaper materials, unless cost is a major factor in purchasing an insulated carafe. Durability is particularly important in the opening, closing, and sealing mechanisms, as a structural failure in these portions of a carafe may well cause hot liquid to be spilled, which might pose a potential injury risk.