I’ve been asked this question more and more often lately (people know that I’m a coffee addict slash expert slash crazy about anything coffee related) soooo… I decided to write a little article discussing the difference between coffee makers which use thermal carafes, versus coffee makers that use glass carafes. I have been using both of them for a while, weighing out the pros and cons and picking some favorites.
When people ask me what is better between these two types of carafes, I ask them how quickly they drink their coffee, as that is the only true answer to this question. Allow me to explain…
For instance, I drink my coffee relatively quickly compared to some people, but the rest of my family, shall we say, takes their sweet time when they wake up, and so it would be kind of selfish if I pour the coffee in the glass carafe and start guzzling cup after cup, while it gets progressively colder for them.
Why? Because the glass carafes don’t keep the heat in as long, for one thing.
But, there are days, afternoons to be more precise, when we gather together and brew the coffee and pour it in the glass carafe, because I know it will stay warm long enough before it is poured in the cups and served.
In every other case, we use our thermal carafe and not only for use around the house.
My family loves going camping every now and then spending hours roughing it at our campsite with a glass carafe is nothing can be more than a little impractical. That’s when the thermal carafe saves the day.
Bonavita BV-1800 – My Favorite Steel Carafe
If I had to pick a favorite coffee maker from over the years that uses a thermal carafe, I would hands down choose the Bonavita BV-1800.
We’ve had this in our family for what feels like forever, although its only been a few years now. Even though there is a full review of the Bonavita here on this website, I want to give you my take on it as it has served my family well.
The reason we bought this machine is because it is certified by the S.C.A.A., on the recommendation of someone in the family who works at a café (Hi Jim!)
The first thing we noticed about the Bonavita, or at least I noticed this right away, is that the coffee it brewed was nice and strong, and also sufficiently hot. This might sound like stand requirements for a coffee machine, but I think the combination of the right engineering and the thermal carafe are what make the Bonavita such a sure bet if you’re after a no nonsense brewer with a sturdy carafe.
Chemex 8-Cup Classic – Glass Carafe Coffee Maker
Now I will say that the main reason I liked the Chemex 8-Cup Glass Coffee Maker at first is because of its attractive look. Before I learned about how the Chemex works, I couldn’t quite imagine how such a simple looking glass object could actually produce great coffee.
Suffice it to say, when I saw this Chemex, I had to give it a try. On top of that, it was relatively inexpensive and the consensus was / is that people love this thing. Now I can see why.
I’m pleased to say that this coffee maker is a whole different kind of coffee maker than your ordinary electric machine, and it really is as simple as it looks. You can read a detailed Chemex review on this website, if you want a lot more information about it.
What I will say is that our Chemex makes some of the cleanest, purest coffee around, just because it is a coffee maker made of solid glass, and so there’s no worry that the flavor will be changed by any kind of metal.
We mainly use our Chemex when we feel like taking our time, and drinking our coffee immediately with a meal or something like this.
As I said before, the heat retention is not the strong suit of the Chemex, but what it lacks in heat retention it makes up in other ways.
Pros & Cons Of Glass Carafes
So those are my two favorite coffee makers, and they’re both different enough that I use them at different times. Overall, I’d say that I’m a fan of both both glass and thermal carafes, and both have their pros and cons.
For instance, I love that I can see through the glass carafe and know how much coffee I brewed and how much there is left, and this looks especially cool with the Chemex, which is all glass.
I think that glass carafes look more elegant too to be quite honest, and aesthetically are quite impressive when you present them at the table.
Also, I’ve seen some pretty funky and cool glass carafes out there on the market that I’d like to try out some day.
On the downside of glass carafes, they may look pretty, but they don’t keep coffee hot as long, and they also break much easier.
Thermal Carafe Pros & Cons
Thermal carafes, on the other hand, are usually made out of opaque, vacuum insulated stainless steel with a closed lid, and by comparison with glass carafes, thermal models they both look and are more durable. If you drop one of these, its not the end of the world.
Once the coffee is poured inside, the aroma and the heat stays in.
Here the closed lid helps in the process of slow evaporation which helps keeping the coffee at the ideal serving temperature and not only for twenty minutes but for a longer period of time.
I’ve even left my thermal carafe alone for over an hour and when I come back, I’m treated to hot coffee still. In fact, some will last hours on end and their purpose is to keep coffee piping hot. This can be very advantageous. Again, everything depends on your preference and how fast you drink your coffee.
In my opinion, coffee only tastes good while it stays fresh. If you want to keep the maximum freshness the longest amount of time time for hot coffee to be exposed to the open air is not longer than 20 minutes, such as the glass carafe has.
In order to keep coffee at the desired temperature after brewing, I recommend preheating your thermal carafe because this way it will prevent the coffee from losing temperature when it enters the carafe.
Pre-heating is a big thing in the coffee world, and so this makes perfect sense to me. I must remind you right now to prewarm your cups (especially for espresso) because the coldness will suck up the warmth very fast.
As with cups, I think the same goes to the thermal carafe. All you need to do is preheat your carafe with hot water for about half a minute and then empty it before brewing.
With glass carafes you don’t really have to do this, since they don’t suck the heat out of your drink as fast as cold metal will. In fact, a warming plate can also be used as a direct heat source on the carafe that keeps the coffee at the ideal holding temperature.
When comes to cleaning, the glass and the thermal carafes are different from thermal models. While you can clean your glass carafes in the dishwasher (on the top rack of it) if you want to, but thermal carafes are definitely not dishwasher safe and require a manual cleaning process.
Personally, I also hand clean my Chemex, just to give it more TLC. However, both are easily cleaned, whether manually or in the dishwasher.
To summarize – I can’t tell you which one is definitively better, because both glass and thermal carafes work just fine depending on your purposes. It is only up to your preference and the speed you drink your coffee, I would say.
Some people don’t mind having lukewarm or even cold coffee, so I suppose glass would be better for them as they lose heat faster. I hope you enjoyed this article, as I had fun writing it!