Is a coffee carafe or coffee urn better?

Coffee is the cornerstone of many people’s days. From that first morning cup of joe to one last decaf with dessert, it’s a hot drink that’s second only in popularity across the globe to tea. For brewing and serving coffee to a group, you’ll need the proper tools, but which is better — a coffee carafe or a coffee urn?

Coffee carafes are vessels for service, while a coffee urn both brews and serves hot beverages. Which is best for you really depends on your planned use. 

Coffee carafe

A coffee carafe is an insulated holder for a pot of coffee. Some coffee machines brew directly into a carafe, while others are used as decanters, with coffee added. Either way, they are removed from the brewing apparatus and used as a serving piece for multiple cups of coffee — usually 10 or fewer.

The style can be sleek and simple, but there are also more ornate or colorful options if you choose. New double-walled glass coffee carafes are beautiful and preserve the taste of the coffee.

The price of a coffee carafe varies depending on its capacity and the material from which it is constructed. Expect to spend $15-$50.

Coffee carafe pros

These are great for breakfast in bed, meals outdoors and any other situation in which you want to bring more than a single cup of coffee to the table. They’re also perfect if you’d like to provide coffee service at each table for a large gathering. 

For people who brew coffee using a French press or a pour-over method, the insulated aspect of a coffee carafe makes it most attractive. These two methods extract the complex notes of coffee but don’t have a mechanism for warming.

Smaller and easy to store, these take up little space on the counter or in a cabinet.

Coffee carafe cons

Glass coffee carafes are lovely to look at and dishwasher-safe but have poor heat retention. This means your coffee won’t stay hot as long. They are also more delicate and prone to breaking.

Some people feel that stainless coffee carafe transfers an off taste to coffee over time. 

If you also need a way to brew your coffee, a coffee carafe isn’t the way to go. It is designed for serving only.

Best coffee carafes

Mira Stainless Steel Thermal Coffee Carafe

Mira Stainless Steel Thermal Coffee Carafe

This cherry red thermal carafe dispenses 50 ounces of hot java. It keeps hot beverages at temperature for 12 hours and cold for 24.

Sold by Amazon

Zojirushi Premium Thermal Carafe

Zojirushi Premium Thermal Carafe

It is a 2-quart stainless steel carafe with a food-grade borosilicate glass liner. It features one-touch pouring and an indicator in the lid for when the carafe is open.

Sold by Amazon

Fellow Stagg Double Wall Coffee Carafe

Fellow Stagg Double Wall Coffee Carafe

This hand-blown borosilicate glass carafe is double-walled for heat retention. It only holds 20 ounces of coffee. 

Sold by Amazon

Coffee urn

Coffee urns are the go-to appliance when you need to serve 20 or more people a hot beverage. They keep the coffee warm without continuing to cook it.

The operation is simple: Add the required amount of water for the number of cups you are brewing and press the start button. Most coffee urns brew at a rate of a cup a minute, so you’ll need to plan ahead.

The most common finish is stainless steel, but they are also available in other colors. You’ll spend $55-$175 on a high-quality urn, with the price varying depending on the capacity and durability.

Coffee urn pros

These cannot be beaten for hot beverage service in large gatherings. Most are able to brew coffee, provide hot water and make other hot beverages such as hot cocoa or cider. 

Some coffee urns can be used hands-free by pressing the cup into a lever behind the spout. These make high-volume service at buffet tables easier for guests.

Coffee urn cons

If storage space is an issue, these are large and take up a lot of room on the counter.

In terms of safety, some urns are poorly insulated and can become hot when in use. Be cautious and do not allow young children to use them.

Best coffee urns

Sybo Commercial Grade Stainless Steel Coffee Urn

Sybo Commercial Grade Stainless Steel Coffee Urn

Percolate and serve up to 100 cups of coffee in under an hour. It includes a stainless steel filter basket that can be reused. 

Sold by Amazon

Hamilton Beach 45-cup Coffee Urn

Hamilton Beach 45-cup Coffee Urn

This coffee urn is marked on the interior to make measuring water easy, and it finishes brewing in less than 45 minutes. 

Sold by Amazon

Hamilton Beach Commercial Stainless Steel Coffee Urn

Hamilton Beach Commercial Stainless Steel Coffee Urn

It has a 60-cup capacity and hands-free serving. The included stainless steel filter basket is dishwasher-safe. 

Sold by Amazon

Should you get a coffee carafe or a coffee urn?

The best choice for you depends on your use. For large gatherings and quick brew times, a coffee urn is the best choice.

Just need an elegant way to serve already-brewed coffee? A carafe is perfect.

 

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Suzannah Kolbeck writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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