The Best Thermal Carafe Coffee Maker – A Buyer’s Guide

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best thermal carafe coffee maker

With so many machines on the market, it can be tricky to find the best thermal carafe coffee maker. But look no further! We set out to find the best models to make life a little easier for you.

Our absolute favorite is the Ratio Six. This is a fairly recent addition, released in 2020. It is a stunning design, available in white, matte black, or stainless steel. But it doesn’t just look pretty. This SCAA-approved coffee maker has the most stable brew temperature available on a domestic machine and provides sublime extractions.

Top Picks At A Glance

Best Overall
  • Pros:
    • Very stable brewing temperature
    • Easy to use
    • High-quality extractions
Most Feature-Rich
  • Pros:
    • High customizability
    • Fast brew time
    • Adjustable bloom settings
Most Iconic
  • Pros:
    • Iconic coffee maker
    • High build quality
    • Great extractions
Best Value
  • Pros:
    • Good extraction
    • Affordable
    • Solid build quality
Most Convenient
  • Pros:
    • Smart coffee maker with WiFi
    • Good temperature stability
    • Aesthetically pleasing
Most Compact
  • Pros:
    • Compact brewer
    • Designed for smaller batches
    • Affordable
Best Commercial
  • Pros:
    • Absolute precision brewing
    • Excellent extraction
    • Completely programmable
Best Overall
Pros:
  • Very stable brewing temperature
  • Easy to use
  • High-quality extractions
Most Feature-Rich
Pros:
  • High customizability
  • Fast brew time
  • Adjustable bloom settings
Most Iconic
Pros:
  • Iconic coffee maker
  • High build quality
  • Great extractions
Best Value
Pros:
  • Good extraction
  • Affordable
  • Solid build quality
Most Convenient
Pros:
  • Smart coffee maker with WiFi
  • Good temperature stability
  • Aesthetically pleasing
Most Compact
Pros:
  • Compact brewer
  • Designed for smaller batches
  • Affordable
Best Commercial
Pros:
  • Absolute precision brewing
  • Excellent extraction
  • Completely programmable
Lasso Brag

A Closer Look At the Best Thermal Carafe Coffee Maker

Below is a more detailed appraisal of our favorite thermal carafe coffee makers. There should be something here to suit a range of budgets.

All of the domestic machines we have featured in this article are SCAA Gold Standard approved, with the exception of the Bonavita. Its exclusion is only because of size and not performance, which is very similar to that of the larger models that are certified.

Best Overall

Ratio Six Coffee Maker

Capacity: 8 cup / 64 oz.
Filter: Flat Bottom Paper
Programmable: No
Water Temp. Control: No
Bloom Control: No
Check on Amazon Check on Seattle Coffee Gear

The Ratio Six is a relatively new entry to the market. It is a very simple-to-use machine, much like the Moccamaster, because it doesn’t have thousands of options for every parameter. It just brews you a very good cup of coffee. You simply fill it with water and coffee and trust it to do its best. It’s very visually appealing, too, with a solid metal finish in a range of colors.

It has a pre-infusion (or bloom) facility, excellent water dispersal, and a consistent brew temperature. These are all preset, so the machine knows what it’s doing to produce the best cup of coffee without being told.

The best feature of this brewer is its brewing temperature stability. Out of all the domestic machines we looked at, this can hold the most consistent temperature throughout. In part, this is thanks to the heat shield sitting between the showerhead and the coffee grounds.

A potential drawback of this machine might be its carafe. It doesn’t pour very well and is fairly difficult to clean as it is made up of lots of parts.

Also, if you enjoy the more experimental aspect of toying with water temperature and bloom times to get the best out of different beans, you would perhaps be better off with something like the Breville Precision.

Pros
  • Very stable brewing temperature
  • Easy to use
  • Great quality extractions
  • Visually appealing
Cons
  • Not the best carafe design
  • Not much room for experimenting

Most Feature-Rich

Breville Precision Brewer

Capacity: 12 cup / 96 oz.
Filter: Flat Bottom Paper or Conical Size #2
Programmable: Yes
Water Temp. Control: Yes
Bloom Control: Yes
Check on Amazon Check on Breville

The Breville Precision Brewer is a very popular machine. It wins a lot of fans in specialty coffee circles for being incredibly customizable. You can alter everything from the water temperature, bloom time, volume, and flow rate. This functionality you just don’t see in other domestic coffee makers.

It typically has a very fast brew time, at just under three and a half minutes. The choice between flat-bottomed and conical filters, too, is further cause for celebration amongst third-wave aficionados.

We prefer brewing with the conical basket for optimal water distribution unless you are brewing a darker roast. In this case, you will benefit from the shorter brew time offered by the flat-bottomed basket.

There are a few small concerns or considerations worth noting with this brewer. Firstly, the resulting brews tend to come out at the slightly less extracted end of the spectrum. This isn’t a problem as such, but it is important to remember to grind a little finer accordingly.

The other annoyance with this machine is that the graduated lines demarcated on the reservoir are inaccurate. Again, this can be overcome by weighing in your water, but just seems like a strange design flaw that may be inconvenient for some users.

Pros
  • Very high control and customizability
  • Fast brew time
  • Use flat-bottomed or conical filters
  • Can adjust bloom settings
Cons
  • Brews come out less extracted
  • Reservoir lines are inaccurate

Most Iconic

Technivorm Moccamaster

Capacity: 8 cup / 64 oz.
Filter: Size #4 Paper
Programmable: No
Water Temp. Control: No
Bloom Control: No
Check on Amazon Check on Seattle Coffee Gear

The Moccamaster by Technivorm has been one of the market leaders in homebrew drip coffee since it first came out in the 1960s. And with good reason. It produces first-rate quality extractions without needing to fuss around with programming and settings — it already knows how to make a great cup of coffee and has been doing it successfully for over half a century.

Similarly to the Ratio Six, this may not be the best choice if you want a few more bells and whistles. If, however, you just need a great cup of coffee and are not so interested in controlling bloom times and brew temperatures, this will be a great machine for you.

They are also simply beautiful pieces of engineering. So much so that they are available to buy in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. They have an iconic late 60s aesthetic and are available in various colors. If you appreciate classic design, this should sit well on your countertop.

From a technical viewpoint, it is worth mentioning that the first few pulses of brewing water tend to come out a little cool. However, this doesn’t seem to present an issue regarding cup quality.

Arguably the best thing about a Moccamaster, and a firm reason to choose it over any other brewer if you are on the fence, is that it is a solid workhorse of a machine. In the unlikely case it does break, parts will be available, and it can be repaired. Strong online communities are available to support you with this machine, as it has a cult following.

Pros
  • Time-tested design
  • Excellent extractions
  • Easy to use
  • High build quality
  • Parts availability for repair
Cons
  • Limited features
  • Carafe design leads to messy pours

Best Value For Money

OXO Brew 9 Cup

Capacity: 108 oz.
Carafe Style: Double Wall Thermal
Filter: Type 4 cone-shaped paper coffee filter
Check on Amazon Check on Seattle Coffee Gear

This coffee maker represents superb value for money. Although it won’t produce quite the same quality as some of the highest-performing machines, there really isn’t much difference in a blind taste test — an impressive claim for a machine that costs over a hundred dollars less than its rivals on average.

In tests, this brewer was reliably able to achieve 20% TDS, which indicates a very good extraction. If anything, the OXO Brew 9 Cup runs towards the more extracted, and care may need to be taken not to grind too fine.

The OXO Brew machines all feature 24-hour advance programmability as well. Although this feature can be found in lower-end machines, it usually comes at the expense of coffee quality. This is not the case here, which is further evidence of the excellent value.

The build quality of this brewer is also very solid. It feels like it should last the distance for at least 10 years if looked after and regularly cleaned and maintained.

One of the downsides is that the brew time is a little at the slower end of the pack with this coffee maker, coming in at around five and a half minutes. The carafe is a bit of a weak point as well. It’s almost impossible to get the last bit of your coffee out, even with a good amount of shaking, twisting, and waving.

Pros
  • Very good quality extraction for the price
  • Fully programmable
  • Solid build quality
  • Easy to use
Cons
  • Slow brew time
  • Carafe retains quite a bit of coffee

Most Convenient

Café Specialty Drip Coffee Maker

Capacity: 10 cup / 80 oz.
Filter: Size #4 Paper
Programmable: Yes
Water Temp. Control: Yes
Bloom Control: No
Check on Amazon Check on Williams Sonoma

The Café Specialty Drip Coffee maker is one of the most convenience-oriented machines on the market today. This machine will connect to your WiFi for remote setup and programming. It even comes with its own app, SmartHQ, which can communicate with your Alexa or Google Home devices for voice-to-brew functionality.

When compared to less tech-heavy brewers, the batches produced by this machine tend to perform just as well. It is a very capable coffee maker, with separate bloom and brew phases and good temperature stability throughout.

Of course, as with all advanced programming, there is a sacrifice in having to grind your beans ahead of time so you can switch the water on remotely. This will result in aroma degradation and oxidation of your coffee grounds and causes staling.

But, if you are prepared to drink slightly less than fresh coffee for the sake of convenience, you may enjoy this.

One area where this coffee maker performs less well than others is heat retention with the thermal carafe. Although it is double-walled and stainless steel, it seems to struggle to keep your brews hot for anything much over an hour. If you prefer piping hot coffee, this may be an issue.

Pros
  • WiFi voice-to-brew convenience
  • Good temperature stability
  • Separate bloom and brew phases
  • Good aesthetics and choice of color
Cons
  • Not the best-performing thermal carafe
  • Quality degradation with advanced grinding

Most Compact

Bonavita 5 Cup Drip Coffee Maker

Capacity: 5 cup / 40 oz.
Filter: Size #4 Paper
Programmable: No
Carafe Style: Thermal
Bloom Control: Yes
Check on Amazon Check on Seattle Coffee Gear

The Bonavita 5 cup is a truly excellent small-capacity thermal carafe coffee maker. Due to its small size, it doesn’t qualify for SCA certification, although its larger model cousins are fully accredited and share most of the same parts. 

There are many advantages to this smaller volume brewer if you don’t need the upper limits provided by larger coffee makers. One of the most significant differences is the price tag. It’s remarkably cheaper than the 8-cup Bonavita and is around one-third the cost of the Ratio Six. 

Further benefits lie in the fact that the Bonavita is specifically designed to be a small-volume brewer. It features a slightly different showerhead to larger models from the same manufacturer, which is optimized for water dispersal over smaller coffee beds.

This will yield better results than most larger brewers run at less than full capacity — an area where some suffer from slightly uneven extractions.

One area where this coffee maker could be improved is its carafe design. The pouring spout is attached to the lid rather than the jug itself, so even if you don’t plan on storing your coffee with the thermal lid, you need to use it when pouring. Even then, this is a messy pourer and leaves quite a bit in the jug.

Pros
  • Compact design
  • High-quality extraction
  • Showerhead specially designed for small batches
  • Very affordable
Cons
  • Poor carafe design
  • Retains coffee and messy to pour

Best Commercial

Fetco XTS Coffee Brewer

Capacity: 1 gallon / 128 oz.
Filter: Flat Bottom Paper 13” x 5”
Programmable: No
Water Temp. Control: No
Bloom Control: Yes
Check on Amazon

This machine is not going to be for everyone. It is a commercial machine, so it may be a little obtrusive unless you have a fairly large kitchen. It is also about six times the price of the more expensive domestic brewers we have featured.

But if money is not an obstacle for you and you are looking for the best quality batch brew possible, you can’t afford to overlook going for a commercial machine like this.

Every aspect of the brew parameters is completely programmable through the touchscreen control panel. You can set one of four recipe slots to control batch volume, brew time, number of pouring pulses, and the pre-wet (or bloom) percentage and duration. This gives you almost the level of control you can achieve with manual pour-overs and a lot less scope for human error.

Bear in mind this is a commercial machine built around quality. It will last a lifetime and produce consistently excellent results with specialty coffee-shop levels of customizability. But it doesn’t have features like the automatic brew settings that you might find on some domestics.

Pros
  • Absolute precision control
  • Best quality extraction
  • Completely programmable
  • High build quality
Cons
  • Quite large and expensive
  • No automatic brew settings

Buying Guide

With so many viable contenders for the best thermal carafe coffee maker, it is important to know what you are looking for. Be aware of your requirements and whether or not different machines provide the solutions. Below we will discuss a few of the more important points to consider.

Insulation

The insulative properties of a thermal carafe are one of the most important features of a coffee maker if you plan on drinking your batch brew over a number of hours. Thermal carafes work in much the same way as a thermos flask.

They are constructed with a double-wall design with a vacuum between them to inhibit heat transfer. As they work on heat retention rather than relying on an external heating element, it’s a great idea to heat the inside of the flask with hot water before filling it with your coffee.

All our recommendations perform fairly well when it comes to heat retention, except the Café Specialty Coffee Maker. We noticed a significant drop in the temperature after an hour or so.

Capacity

It is important to bear in mind that you need to select an appropriate size carafe for your needs. If you’re trying to keep a thirsty office full of workers happy with a 5-cup Bonavita you may find yourself a little hard-pushed.

Equally, if you are the only person in your house who drinks coffee, brewing a full gallon in a Fetco might not be the most sensible.

If you only need a smaller machine, you may be able to get a little more quality for less money. 

Brewing Temperature

All the brewers we have listed here brew in the SCA recommended temperature range of 198 ºF (92 °C) and 205 ºF (96 °C). It is important to check that they can reach temperatures adequate for a decent extraction. This is especially important with cheaper brewers and a common failing of less reputable coffee makers.

Although less likely to be an issue, it is equally important to ensure that your coffee maker isn’t brewing at temperatures of over 205 ºF (96 °C) at any point in its brew cycle.

Durability

The build quality of a coffee machine is an important consideration. It is not uncommon for coffee makers to carry a warranty of up to 5 years, so look out for the length of the guarantee. Not only is this good for peace of mind, but also is usually an indicator of a manufacturer’s faith in their product.

As a rule of thumb, look for as much metal and weight as possible on a machine. The Moccamaster has a reputation for robustness. It is fairly heavy and frequently described as “built like a tank”.

Programming Features

Decide what you need regarding programmability and what you will use regularly. There is no need to filter out machines that won’t auto brew at 9 am every day if you won’t be prepared to pre-grind your beans, for example.

Many of the better brewers on the market don’t necessarily have a particularly broad range of functions. If you want precise control over your brew recipes, you will need to be careful to choose a machine that has that capability (like the Breville Precision).

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Should the Thermal Carafe Stay Warm?

This will vary greatly from carafe to carafe. Anywhere between one hour and three hours would be typical.
A common complaint about thermal carafe machines is that coffee is not hot after over an hour. However, you shouldn’t be drinking your coffee too hot anyway, as you won’t be able to appreciate the flavor nuances. Also, this can easily be solved by not brewing more coffee than you are likely to drink in an hour.

How Long Does Coffee Stay Fresh?

Your coffee will stay fresh for around 2 hours in a well-designed carafe.
The main advantage of a thermal carafe or air pot is that the coffee is protected from air which is responsible for oxidation. It is also away from direct heat sources, another cause of aroma degradation.

Should You Descale Your Coffee Maker?

Descaling is necessary to remove heavy mineral deposits roughly once every three months. If you live in a hard water area and don’t filter your water, once a month would be wise.
Additionally, you should clean your coffee maker after every use to prevent the build-up of coffee oils.

Summary

We scoured the market for the best thermal carafe coffee maker. While we found a number of great brewers, the Ratio Six was our overall favorite.

Out of our picks, it can hold the most consistent temperature, making for first-rate quality extractions. It makes excellent coffee and looks good doing it. Its operation is a one-touch exercise in simplistic elegance, ideal for those bleary-eyed early mornings.

Best Overall
Ratio Six Coffee Maker

The Ratio Six is an easy-to-use coffee maker that brews excellent coffee. With its pre-infusion, good water dispersal, and consistent brew temperature, it has everything one could ask for.

Check on Amazon Check on Seattle Coffee Gear
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Author
Aidan is a former barista and coffee industry professional, turned writer and passionate home brewer. He never travels anywhere without his emergency coffee kit (hand grinder, scales, and v60).

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