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There are two carafe options when purchasing a new coffee maker: glass or thermal. While the former is more common (and more affordable), there are several advantages to thermal carafes, the primary one being heat retention. The double-walled stainless steel of a thermal carafe is designed to maintain temperature for hours and, since no heating plate is required, the coffee won’t burn or become bitter. Durability is another advantage—you’d really have to try to chip or break one.
There are downsides too, of course. Thermal is much heavier and doesn’t always allow users to see the amount of coffee that’s left.
But for those who love a truly hot cup of joe, here are the best thermal carafe coffee makers available.
Best Overall: OXO Brew 8-Cup Coffee Maker
Sleek, minimal design
Brews excellent drip coffee
Makes single-serve and large batches
Easy to use
No water filter system
Water reservoir isn't removable
The OXO Brew 8-Cup not only has a thermal carafe designed to keep coffee hot for several hours, it's also one of the few coffee makers certified by the Specialty Coffee Association's Golden Cup Standard. This means the coffee maker brews at the ideal temperature (between 195 and 205 degrees) and can make the whole pot within 4 to 6 minutes.
Other key features include its compact design, separate lids for the filter basket and water reservoir, and single-serve capabilities. It's rare to find a drip coffee maker that can be make one quick cup as delicious as a full pot. Customers generally give the item positive reviews for its flavor, ease of use, and heat retention. One of the main drawbacks, however, is that it is not programmable, which may be a deal-breaker for those who routinely prepare coffee hours ahead of time.
As far as thermal carafe coffee makers go, the OXO Brew 8-Cup comes at an average to slightly above average price. But given the delicious and consistent coffee that it makes, it earns our top spot as the best thermal carafe coffee maker on the market.
"With its minimal, sleek design, single- and large-batch brewing capabilities, and excellent drip coffee, this is one of the best drip coffee makers I’ve tried." — Cheyenne Elwell, Product Tester
Best Budget: BLACK+DECKER Thermal Coffeemaker
Shows time since last brew
Many features for affordable price
Plastic elements break easily
No heating coil
Plastic taste lingers for first several pots
Your basic thermal carafe coffee maker should be able to hold coffee at the optimal temperature for a long time. Black+Decker’s 12-Cup Thermal Coffeemaker takes on the task with its large-capacity, double-walled, vacuum-sealed carafe.
After testing the product, our reviewer said the thermal carafe sufficiently keeps coffee warm for several hours. "We made coffee around 9:30 AM and by 1:30 PM it was still quite hot," she wrote, "so you can say goodbye to microwaving your coffee an hour after it was made." The item does not have a built-in heating element, however, which is somewhat of a downside as that could keep the coffee even hotter.
This model also gives you the option to use preferred brew settings like ‘strong’ for a bolder flavor in every cup. The Evenstream Showerhead ensures water disperses evenly over your coffee grounds for maximum taste.
One thing to keep in mind is the extra care that thermal carafes need. Because it’s made of stainless steel, Black+Decker recommends a proper flush using a vinegar-water solution to remove hard water scale from the heater. The quick-touch programming functions make this coffeemaker effortless to use. Plus, if you get excited for your early morning coffee, there’s a Sneak-A-Cup feature which allows you to pause the flow of coffee so you can get in a quick cup mess-free.
"It isn’t the fanciest model on the market, but it works well, offers some nice features, and comes at a relatively low price point." — Suzie Dundas, Product Tester
Best with Grinder: Capresso Coffee Team 10-Cup Digital Coffeemaker
Adjustable burr grinder
Reasonably priced for machine with grinder
Can program both grinding and brewing
Learning curve to get flavorful coffee
Doesn't grind oily beans well
The Capresso Coffee Team 10-Cup Digital Coffeemaker has a reputation on the market for being a noiseless force to be reckoned with—even with its grinding ability. If you’re a coffee bean connoisseur then you will appreciate the slow grinding of the burr which protects your coffee's aroma while allowing a finer, uniform grind compared to that of a standard blade grinder. Plus, the five grind settings gives users full control of their coffee experience.
The 10-cup thermal carafe keeps your coffee warm throughout the day to cut down on waste. You can brew the maximum amount of coffee in just under 10 minutes. The clock/timer feature lets you set up everything the night before so you can wake up to a fresh pot of coffee. The charcoal water filtration system is also a unique selling point; it can remove up to 82 percent of chlorine and impurities from tap water, which most people use to make their daily batch.
Best Single Serve: Keurig K-Duo Plus Coffee Maker
Single serve and carafe brewing
Carafe doesn't stay hot for long
Requires regular cleaning
Settings aren't the most customizable
Single-serve coffee makers don't have much need for thermal carafes, since they brew directly into your coffee mug. But the Keurig K-Duo Plus is one of the rare coffee makers designed to brew a single cup as well as a full carafe.
When you want a full pot of coffee, you can use ground coffee and select sizes ranging anywhere from 6 to 12 cups. When you're in the mood for one quick cup of joe, simply pop in a K-Cup and select a size from 6, 8, 10, or 12 ounces.
The K-Duo Plus is programmable up to 24 hours, which is standard for most thermal coffee makers but quite unique for a Keurig device. The item is also slimmer than most coffee makers, which saves counter space, and it has a removable water reservoir for easy filling. It may be a little pricier than other thermal options, but if you're looking for a convenient pod-based brewer, this is the coffee maker for you.
"What’s great about the K-Duo Plus is that it is simple to use and requires just a few buttons to get started or none at all if using the auto-brew method." — Cheyenne Elwell, Product Tester
Best Self-Cleaning: Mr. Coffee 10-Cup Coffeemaker
Prone to leaking
Not the strongest coffee
A major convenience for our daily appliances is when they have self-cleaning mechanisms, which makes caring for them simple. With Mr. Coffee’s 10-Cup Coffeemaker you can clean your device with the simple push of a button. It doesn’t get any better than that. And this is not a widespread function on other coffeemakers, especially those featuring stainless steel thermal carafes.
Other functions include a ‘Dim Display’ button, the ability to delay brewing, and the pre-setting of timed coffee. You can also choose your brew strength per session, as well as pause your brewing process to sneak in a fresh cup of coffee. The double-walled thermal carafe lets you enjoy fresh coffee throughout the day from a single batch. There is also a two-hour auto shut off function which safely shuts off the coffee maker in case you forget to turn it off before leaving the house for work.
Best French Press: Frieling Double Wall Stainless Steel French Press
Great heat retention
Superior coffee flavor
Finish is prone to smudging
Heavier than other French presses
From French presses to pour overs and more, many non-electric coffee makers are designed from thermal material to retain heat longer. And the Frieling Stainless Steel French Press will keep your coffee piping hot for hours, which is far longer than what a glass press can accomplish. In fact, our product tester compared the item to two glass French presses and said the Frieling model "is great at insulation and keeping contents warm." One quick tip: rinse the press with hot water beforehand and it will keep its heat even longer.
While the Frieling French press is certainly expensive, it's also extremely durable, so it may save money in the long run as glass presses all too often chip or shatter. That being said, there are more affordable thermal French presses on the market should this model be too pricey.
The Frieling press is available in five sizes, ranging from 8 to 44 ounces, and also comes in two different finishes: an eye-catching mirrored finish and a more subdued brushed finish. As an added bonus, both models are dishwasher safe.
Best Thermal Control: Cuisinart Programmable 12-Cup Thermal Coffee Maker
Attractive stainless steel design
Easy to use
Programmable up to 24 hours
Adjustable brew strength
Narrow mouth makes it difficult to pour
You can finally have full control over your coffee experience in your home. The Cuisinart DCC-3400 Thermal Coffeemaker uses a unique internal heating system to provide you with three different brew temperatures: regular, hot, and extra hot. The Extreme Brew option uses new re-engineered brewing technology to make your coffee 25 percent faster than the standard coffee maker without skimping on taste and flavor.
Our product tester reviewed this machine and complimented its heat retention, saying that the coffee was "consistently piping hot." One aspect to watch out for, however, is that the carafe is "heavy and somewhat cumbersome." Thermal carafes are naturally heavier than glass ones, so keep that in mind before purchasing.
The backlit LCD screen and the ability to set the brew time to 24-hours ahead are two other features that make this coffeemaker a top-rated model. The thermal carafe is dishwasher safe, and the coffee maker has a self-cleaning function as well. It's also available in seven different colors.
"If you’re looking for a thermal carafe coffee maker with lots of customizable features, the Cuisinart Thermal Coffeemaker is an excellent choice." — Sage McHugh, Product Tester
Best Espresso: Mr. Coffee Occasions All-in-One Coffee Maker
Uses both grounds and K-Cups
Compact for two-in-one machine
Not the easiest to use
The vast majority of thermal coffee makers brew straightforward drip coffee. But when you're in the mood for something a little different, it's nice to have other drink options at your disposal. The Mr. Coffee Occasions All-in-One Coffeemaker offers precisely that. Customers can use the 10-cup thermal carafe to make drip coffee for the whole family, or switch to the built-in espresso maker to pull two delicious shots at once. The machine even has an attached frothing wand to craft specialty drinks like lattes and cappuccinos.
Perhaps the most unique feature of all is that it is compatible with K-Cups and can brew a single serving of coffee in seconds. As the name suggests, the Mr. Coffee Occasions All-in-One really can do it all—and it even comes at a reasonable price, though buyers should expect the item to cost more than a standard thermal carafe coffee maker.
Best with Hot Water System: Cuisinart 10-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker with Hot Water System
Attractive stainless steel design
Programmable 24-hour brew start
Makes tasty coffee and keeps it hot
Hot water system is unreliable
“Ready Light” isn’t very accurate
Clock is small and hard to see
This versatile machine lets users make delicious coffee, tea, and hot cocoa. The item has a 10-cup carafe on one side and a hot water dispensing system on the other, both of which can be used simultaneously.
While Cuisinart's Hot Water System can certainly be a nice perk, our product tester described it as "touch and go." The coffee came out "bold, flavorful, and piping hot," but the hot water dispenser was frustratingly inconsistent. During testing, the water would often be "lukewarm." When it does work, however, it can be a convenience for households that enjoy soup, oatmeal, tea, and more.
Like other competitors, this model boasts a self-cleaning function, as well as an auto-on setting, making this machine an everyday necessity for the countless functions alone. You can control your brewing flavor options with the touch of a button, and even use the Brew Pause setting to grab a cup before the brewing process is finished.
"Offers plenty of convenient features when it comes to coffee making, but the hot water system is not so hot." — Sage McHugh, Product Tester
Best Large Capacity: Hamilton Beach Programmable FrontFill Coffee Maker with Thermal Carafe
Multiple brew settings
Easy to fill water reservoir
Not all coffee pours out of pot
Some say not as hot as expected
Your family deserves the best of cup of joe on the market, but sometimes there isn't enough for everryone. Moments like this, you’ll be thankful to have a large coffeemaker with a 12-cup thermal carafe to keep your coffee fresh throughout the day. Hamilton Beach's 12-Cup Thermal Coffeemaker is easy to use and fits well under cupboards because of its shorter lid flap.
You can choose between regular and bold brewing options depending on your preferred tastes, as well as a 1-4 cup setting. The charcoal water filter makes it a great choice for those using tap water to brew. It's also programmable, so you can prepare the coffee maker at night to brew the moment you wake up in the morning. Some customers mention that the coffee doesn't stay hot for as long as they expected, but overall this is a great value-for-money buy.
The OXO Brew 8-Cup Coffee Maker (view at Amazon) can be trusted to brew delicious coffee every morning. It's programmable, easy to fill and clean, plus it's certified by the SCA. Those looking for a more affordable machine should check out our budget choice, the Black+Decker 12-Cup Thermal Coffeemaker.
What to Look for When Buying a Thermal Carafe Coffee Maker
By Derek Rose
Thermal carafe coffee makers are, on average, more expensive than ones with glass carafes. There is still a healthy range of prices to choose from, of course. You can find budget options all the way up to models that cost a few hundred dollars. Since thermal carafes are more durable than glass, spending a little extra at first may save money in the long run. The price difference is not exorbitant, but adjust your budget accordingly.
Thermal carafe coffee makers, like all electric coffee makers, can be equipped with a wide variety of settings, and it’s worth knowing your options before buying. Some of the most popular features include 24-hour programmability (which lets users select a specific brew time in advance), different strength settings, and an option for 1 to 4 cups instead of a full pot. There are even thermal machines with built-in grinders, which is a great way to improve the freshness and flavor of your coffee. Expect machines with more features to come at a higher price and, conversely, a more basic model to be less expensive.
We’ll go over cleaning tips in greater detail later on in this guide, but it should be noted that thermal carafes are often more burdensome to clean than glass. Many have small openings that make it difficult to fit your hand inside to scrub, and since stainless steel can scratch you should avoid cleaning items like steel wool brushes and certain scouring powders. If a harder-to-clean carafe is a major drawback for you, look for dishwasher-safe options or cleaning powders and dissolvable tablets that make the process easier.
How much coffee do you drink in a day? Do you need a brewing device for personal use or are there other coffee drinkers in your household? Thermal carafe coffee makers are especially great for family-sized batches, since they keep coffee at the right temperature and richest flavor longer, but that doesn’t mean larger carafes are automatically better. Plenty of smaller machines whip up more flavorful coffee and have more useful features than some of the larger options out there. If you only drink a cup or two a day, you may even want to consider a non-electric thermal device, like a pour over or French press.
Thermal carafe coffee makers are no different in size than glass-based ones, even if the carafe itself is bulkier. This means there are plenty of compact options available for those with limited counter space. No matter what, it’s worth measuring beforehand. Pay especially close attention to the depth of your counters and the height of your cabinets.
Types of Thermal Carafe Coffee Makers
Coffee makers with thermal carafes are most commonly drip machines. This is no surprise, considering the immense popularity of drip machines to begin with and that thermal carafes are especially useful for the large batches they brew. These machines can be equipped with a variety of features, from 24-hour programmability to built-in grinders. Prices vary widely in this category, so it is a viable option no matter your budget.
Thermal carafe coffee makers aren’t just limited to drip coffee. Those who enjoy espresso or espresso-based drinks, like lattes and cappuccinos, can find dual-purpose machines that provide all kinds of variety. These devices typically have a split design, featuring a carafe on one side and an espresso maker on the other; though, there are some space-saving options that brew both through the same mechanism. Just keep in mind that coffee-and-espresso makers are usually among the more expensive brewing devices.
Many non-electric brewing devices are favored among coffee experts, as they allow more control and often a stronger cup. The downside is that they tend to lose temperature quickly since they are not equipped with a hot plate. This isn’t an issue for thermal coffee makers though. In this category, you are primarily looking at French presses and pour overs, both of which can save money and space compared to electric brewers. One quick tip: pour hot water into these devices beforehand and they will retain coffee temperature even longer.
This century-old American company was initially known for its power tools but, over the years, has transitioned into manufacturing a number of different appliances, including coffee makers. Customers should keep this name in mind especially when looking for an affordable thermal carafe coffee maker, as Black+Decker offers several highly reviewed budget picks. Along with standard-sized machine, its line also includes a single-serve coffee maker with a thermal travel mug.
Cuisinart is the go-to name for thermal carafe coffee makers. The American company manufactures several top-grade options, including machines with built-in grinders and even ones that are K-Cup compatible. It’s an easy brand to find both in-store and online. In fact, Cuisinart makes so many different appliances, not just coffee makers, there’s a good chance you already have one of its products in your home.
Many might be unfamiliar with this Dutch brand, since it solely manufactures high-end coffee products, but Technivorm is a name worth knowing. Its machines are beloved by experts and known for making extremely delicious coffee, and Technivorm just so happens to make an array of thermal carafe options. Its products are quite expensive and take up more space than standard coffee makers but offer unparalleled quality, plus all machines are backed by a five-year warranty.
The brewing process for a thermal coffee maker is the same as one with a glass carafe: simply fill the water reservoir, scoop coffee grounds into the filter basket, and hit start. To make your thermal carafe even more effective, rinse it with hot water before brewing; this will prime the material to offer longer heat retention.
Unfortunately, cleaning a thermal carafe can be a nuisance. They often have smaller openings than glass carafes, making it more difficult to clean by hand, and they are less likely to be dishwasher safe. They are also heavier, so it isn’t as easy to hold them for long periods. There are three ways to clean a thermal carafe by hand. First, you can use good old-fashioned dish soap and a brush that’s safe on stainless steel. Second, a combination of vinegar and baking soda; let the mixture soak inside the carafe for several minutes before rinsing. And, finally, using a cleaning powder or cleaning tablets specifically designed for coffee makers. They will cost a little extra but provide a more thorough (and possibly easier) clean.
If your thermal coffee maker is electric, it will also require regular descaling. This is the process or removing mineral buildup inside of the machine itself. The easiest way to descale is by wiping all parts and pieces with a combination of vinegar and warm soapy water. As an alternative, many brands sell cleaning solutions specifically designed for descaling. Try to descale at least once every three months, though more often won’t hurt. Check the instruction manual included with your coffee maker to see if the manufacturer specifies how often it should be descaled. If you don’t regularly descale, the machine may face a number of issues, like clogging, altered coffee taste, not getting hot enough, or not running altogether.
A reliable coffee grinder is a useful accessory no matter what brewing device you own. The simple process of grinding beans right before brewing, rather than relying on weeks-old grounds, makes a huge difference in the flavor of your coffee. Brands like Baratza, Bodum, and Cuisinart manufacture some of the most popular electric grinders, while Hario is a top choice for manual options. Know that burr grinders are far superior to blade grinders. While they are certainly more expensive, burrs offer a more consistent grind and produce less heat, so the coffee’s flavor remains intact.
Since thermal carafe coffee makers can be somewhat time consuming to clean, it’s also worth looking at products that speed up the process. Brands like Urnex and Brew Rite manufacture cleaning powders and liquid solutions that help whether you’re simply touching up the carafe or entirely descaling the machine.
What is a thermal carafe?
Thermal carafes, also called insulated carafes, are coffee pots constructed from stainless steel (and sometimes aluminum), as opposed to the more common option of glass. The idea behind them is to keep coffee hot for several hours and to do it more naturally than relying on a hot plate, as glass carafes typically do. Thermal carafes usually consist of two layers of stainless steel, which you’ll see referred to as “double-walled,” and are vacuum-sealed so that external air doesn’t cool down the coffee.
How should coffee be stored?
Whether it’s whole bean or ground, coffee lasts longer and tastes better when stored in an airtight container and placed in a cool, dark place. Oxygen, sunlight, moisture, and high heat all negatively affect the quality and shelf life of coffee beans. Under ideal circumstances, whole-bean coffee stays fresh for two weeks. Naturally, it loses freshness more quickly if any one of those four damaging factors are in play. Many coffee lovers turn to the fridge or freezer to store their beans and, while this may seem a logical method of preservation, it is actually quite harmful to coffee due to the high levels of moisture that come from freezer use—not to mention the temperature fluctuation of taking in and out every day. When in a pinch, coffee can be stored fairly well—though not optimally—in the bag it comes in. Most coffee bags have a circular, one-way valve on the front that is used to release carbon dioxide and keep oxygen out.
How much caffeine is in drip coffee?
The caffeine content in drip coffee ranges widely depending on the type of coffee bean and number of scoops used when brewing. In general, an 8-ounce cup of drip coffee contains anywhere from 80 to 200 milligrams of caffeine. This puts drip on the more caffeinated end of the coffee spectrum, especially because customers often drink it in large servings. Espresso has more caffeine by volume—roughly 60 to 75 milligrams per single shot—but it is of course served in smaller portions. It may seem counterintuitive, but light roast coffee is slightly more caffeinated than dark roast, so keep this in mind too if you are especially monitoring your caffeine intake.
What is descaling?
Descaling is the process of removing mineral residue—also known as “scale”—that builds up inside a coffee maker over time. If the task isn’t performed regularly, a device can face issues that range from brewing weak coffee to the machine not working at all. The general rule is to descale at least once every one to three months, but users should default to manufacturer instructions if a different interval is recommended. Descaling can be done with a simple at-home combination of vinegar and warm soapy water, and many brands sell liquids or powders specifically for descaling. The first step in the process is to fill your coffee maker’s reservoir with a mixture of water and descaling solution. Second, run the brew cycle. Third, empty the carafe (now full of descaling solution) into the sink and rinse clean. Finally, run the brew cycle with just water to remove any leftover descaling product.
What is a 1-4 cup setting?
A 1-4 cup setting calibrates a machine’s brew cycle to suit smaller batches of coffee. Since most drip coffee makers are designed to brew 10 cups or more, the normal drip speed is too fast for small portions and leads to a weak pot of joe. By clicking the 1-4 cup setting, your machine will slow down the drip speed to perfectly extract the small amount of coffee you want.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Wendy Vazquez is a Cincinnati-based freelance writer and PR and marketing strategist. She has worked with brands—both on the editorial and public relations side of things—in the fashion, beauty, lifestyle, business, and technology industries. Wendy received a bachelor's degree in marketing from LIM College. She also studied fashion merchandising and marketing at The Art Institute of New York City.
This piece was edited by Derek Rose, the coffee and tea expert for The Spruce Eats. He researches a variety of coffee products, from measuring scoops to commercial espresso machines, and interviews field experts for their insight. He typically uses non-electric coffee makers at home, alternating between the Bialetti Moka Express and the Bodum BRAZIL French Press.