- Updated Mar 26, 2020
- Writen by Robert Smith
Glass vs. Thermal Carafe: Which One Should You Choose?
- Updated Nov 16, 2019
- Writen by Robert Smith
As you are shopping for a coffee maker, there are many things that you need to take into account, and key among them is the kind of carafe that you get as it will have a huge impact on your ability to keep coffee hot and preserve the flavors and aroma.
Also, you might need to buy a carafe separately to replace what you have with something better. But regardless of the reason why you need a carafe, it is important to know which one to buy, and this, in many instances, means picking between the thermal and glass carafes.
The two are almost equally popular since each has something good to offer and hence attracting its fair share of fanatics. Also, both have their pros and cons, and in this piece, we highlight them and also compare the two side by side to help you decide which one will work best for you.
Glass Carafe Overview
Glass carafes are the more common of the two types as they have been around much longer and are usually the standard type that many coffee makers will come with.
As their name suggests, these carafes are made from glass, but will typically have some sort of plastic handles that are built to remain cool to the touch even when the carafe is full of hot coffee.
Many glass carafes will also come in a sleek and more elegant look, but what many users love most about them is that the clear material allows them to easily monitor the coffee level and can easily tell when they are running out of coffee.
Given that there is nothing very fancy about these carafes, they will typically be more affordable when compared to the thermal carafe types.
And while these carafes might not have any insulation, some types will include an insulator lid and a rubber cleft that will help keep the coffee hot by concealing the steam inside. Cleaning these carafes will also be much easier than the thermal types.
But, besides the lack of insulation, many users will also not like the fact that glass is quite fragile, and so any accidental drops or bumps into things is usually the end of the carafe's service life.
Thermal Carafe Overview
Thermal carafes are specially designed for keeping your coffee hot to ensure it maintains the ideal drinking temperature for long. And some types can keep coffee hot for almost 2 hours with typical models being able to keep coffee hot for between 30 and 60 minutes.
Unlike the fragile glass carafes, these are built from a sturdy and highly durable stainless steel material and will usually have double walls and with vacuum insulation in between.
The thick metal walls and vacuum insulation work together to minimize the transfer of heat from the coffee through either conduction or convection. And despite the presence of vacuum between the two walls, there is also a reduced likelihood of radiation and hence ensuring excellent insulation.
The metal walls also ensure maximum durability as they are sturdy enough to allow the carafe to take a beating without denting or cracking. This means with these carafes, you get to save money as they will remain in great working condition for a long time.
Better yet, the design of the thermal carafe which includes a nice, secure and insulating lid is very effective in keeping the flavor and aroma of the coffee, and so besides drinking hot coffee, it will also taste great.
But, the thermal carafes also have their shortcomings such as the design making them a little hectic to clean, their higher price tag, and the fact that they tend to be bulkier and heavier, which makes them harder to move around.
Around the home
Both home and commercial
Ease of Cleaning
More tedious-often not dishwasher safe
$10 to $20
$20 to over $50
Glass Carafe vs. Thermal Carafe
Glass and thermal carafe will differ in much more than their appearance, and so it should be easy to choose between them. But, if you have not used both previously, things are not always that straightforward. However, you should be able to pick the right carafe for you, if you watch out for the following things.
The first and most obvious difference between the glass and thermal carafes is the material used to make them. And this is also the main reason why they will have different properties and hence be suitable for different kinds of users.
To start with, the glass carafes are made from glass which should be obvious given their name. However, different brands will use different kinds of glass, which means that their durability will differ as it will be highly dependent on the particular glass material used.
The most common glass material used to make these carafes and perhaps the toughest and most durable are tempered and borosilicate glass. But, also note that these carafes will have plastic or rubber handles and lids.
Thermal carafes are mainly made from stainless steel, and their structure will include double walls of stainless steel which is what makes them highly durable and ensures excellent insulation.
Like the glass carafe, the lid and handle are also often made from a different material with plastic being the most common option. But, it is important to make sure that you choose something with a heavy-gauge plastic handle to ensure that the handle will not be the weak point on this metal carafe.
Insulation is another key element that sets the two carafes apart because one will have some insulation to keep coffee hot while the other does not.
Thermal carafes have vacuum insulation that is created by having a vacuum between the two stainless steel walls, and the lid is also designed to offer extra insulation capability to keep the coffee hot for long. A good thermal carafe should be able to keep your coffee hot for at least an hour.
Glass carafes, on the other hand, do not have any insulation, and will hence not keep coffee hot. The best you can hope for is to get a glass carafe with a specially designed and tight-fitting lid that will help prevent some of the heat from escaping. Hence, most of these carafes will rely on the coffee maker's hot plate to keep coffee hot.
3. Visual Aspect
While for some users it might not matter, the visual aspect of a carafe makes a significant difference because you need to know when you are running out of coffee and need to make more.
If you need to see the coffee level in your carafe, the glass carafe is your best bet because the clear, transparent design allows you to know the amount of coffee you have left without having to open the carafe. Better yet, many glass carafes will have clear level markings which makes them even more useful for measuring other things like water for making coffee.
On the other hand, the opaque stainless steel material used to make the thermal carafe and the closed lid makes it impossible to monitor the coffee level. Hence, with these carafes, you will need to take them out of the coffee machine and open the lid to tell how much coffee you have left or make a guess based on the amount of coffee you have consumed.
Having to preheat your carafe adds one more step to the coffee brewing process. And while many coffee drinkers have already made it a habit, many others will find it a little hectic.
You can preheat both the thermal and glass carafe before brewing into them to ensure that your coffee maintains the optimal temperature. But, given that the glass material heats up quickly, it is not always necessary to preheat your glass carafe. Also, the warming plate will help maintain the coffee temperature, which further eliminates the need to preheat the glass carafe.
For the thermal carafes, preheating is necessary and often recommended if you want to make sure that you get the perfect coffee temperature. Preheating will ensure that the coffee does not lose some of its temperature to the carafe.
5. Best Use
You can use your carafe how you like it whether it is a glass or thermal type provided it works best for you. However, given the different features, these carafes will work well for different settings.
Glass carafes are perfect for home use where you will not need to make lots of coffee and keep it hot for long as you can easily make more when you want. Also, at home, it is easier to take care of these fragile carafes given that they will only be handled by a few people. But, it is also not uncommon to find glass carafes being used in other places like the office.
Thermal carafes are perfect for commercial use and will be the perfect choice for a smaller restaurant that sells drip coffee. Besides the superior thermal insulation properties, the ability of the thermal carafe to withstand regular abuse is what makes it perfect for commercial use.
6. Ease of Cleaning
As much as you might hate having to clean up your carafe now and then, it is inevitable if you want to maintain the great coffee taste and prevent contamination.
However, the ease of cleaning the carafe will largely depend on the type. The glass carafe, despite being more fragile, will give you a much easier time than the thermal carafe when it comes to cleaning up.
Most glass carafes are dishwasher-safe, which means that to clean them, you will only need to pop them into the dishwasher.
Thermal carafes will not give you this benefit as most have to be cleaned in the sink, which takes more effort. And given the double-wall design, coffee and water can get trapped between the walls if you are using a cheap model, which makes cleaning even more hectic. But, some types are dishwasher safe to make cleaning easier.
If you have to choose between these two carafes, it is also worth knowing how much you are likely to spend to determine which between the two will give you the best value for your money.
Overall, the glass carafes are the cheaper of the two types given their simple design and material, and the fact that they are widely available. You can get one for as little as $10 or even less, and even the top tier types will hardly cost anything more than $20.
For the thermal carafes, you should be ready to spend at least $20 to get a simple one while the top tier ones with sturdier construction and better insulation will cost up to $50 or even more.
Carafes are what will hold your coffee before pouring it into a mug or cup for drinking, and so they play an important role in the coffee-making and drinking ritual. And when you have to buy one, it is important to know how to choose between the two main types, the glass, and thermal carafes.
Their differences will range from the types of material used and insulation to the ease of cleaning and their prices, and understanding these differences, which are highlighted below should help you decide which one to buy.
With that said, the glass carafe is perfect for those looking for an inexpensive carafe and do not want something that can keep coffee hot for long. Thermal carafes, on the other hand, are your best best bet if keeping coffee hot for long is your top priority.