What is the Difference Between a Thermal Coffee Carafe and a Glass Coffee Carafe?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

When you buy an automatic drip coffee maker, you’ll have to choose between two main types of coffee carafes. The glass coffee carafe has been one of the most common types associated with coffee makers. On the other hand, you’ll now see many coffee makers that feature thermal carafes, which are not transparent, and are usually made of metal. Is one better than the other? It really depends on your needs.

Ground coffee.
Ground coffee.

Coffee makers with a glass coffee carafe are just fine for many people. They let you know how much coffee is in the pot so you can tell when to make a new pot. They’re frequently marked with cup levels, which you can use if you want to make a specific amount of coffee to begin with. You can use these markings to determine how much water to add to the coffee maker. Another advantage to the glass coffee carafe is that many models are dishwasher safe, allowing you an easy way to clean them.

Coffee that is rewarmed often tastes bitter and strong.
Coffee that is rewarmed often tastes bitter and strong.

The thermal coffee carafe has a top you can close, and because these are usually made of metal like stainless steel, you can’t see how much coffee is in the pot, or use it to accurately measure cups you’d like to make. The big advantage with this type of pot is that when used correctly, it can keep coffee warm for a long time without additional heat. If you like to make one pot in the morning and drink it throughout the day, you’re going to have much better tasting coffee with a thermal coffee carafe.

With glass carafes, you typically have to keep the coffee warm by keeping it on a heated plate. Thermal carafes lack this option. The trouble with warmed coffee is that it tends to get stronger and bitterer in taste. Coffee that remains on heat will usually taste lousy within an hour or two, and if you turn the heat off, the coffee will get very cold quickly.

If you only make coffee for people on an occasional basis, the glass carafe may still be a better choice. Though this can vary, coffee makers with a glass coffee carafe are usually less expensive. On the other hand if you like to have coffee a lot, say for sipping on a long weekend day, the thermal carafe will actually save you money in the long run, because you won’t have to remake coffee every few hours.

A thermal coffee carafe may be a little more difficult to clean. Most are not dishwasher safe, and may need to be cleaned using special cleaning products. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning.

The other disadvantage to the thermal coffee carafe that some people cite is the easy tendency to really mess up making the coffee. If you don’t place the top of the carafe on accurately, you may spill freshly made coffee all over your counter. Since you can’t see the coffee filling the pot, you may not know you’ve put the top on wrong until you’ve got a huge mess to clean.

As long as you carefully put the lid on the carafe, this shouldn’t be a problem. Alternately, you can keep the lid off until the coffee is made, and then put it on the carafe to keep the coffee warm. Usually, coffee in a thermal carafe will stay warm for about six to eight hours without losing its flavor or tasting bitter.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


one problem with thermal carafes is when you use the programming mode for a few cups. coffee dispensed into a cold carafe will cool down the coffee. ideally, you should rinse the carafe with hot water and then get the coffeemaker going.

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