If you’re in a hurry and just want to know our top pick for the best thermal carafe coffee maker, then we recommend the Breville BDC450 Precision Brewer Coffee Maker.
There’s nothing better than brewing up a big old batch of coffee and enjoying it over a lazy weekend morning.
There is, of course, nothing worse than dipping back into that batch and discovering the coffee’s gone tepid after an hour.
In this guide to the best thermal carafe coffee makers, I’ll help you avoid this frustrating situation.
I’ve put together some detailed buying advice, then taken a close look at some of the best coffee machines in this category.
In this article, I’m going to review the following thermal carafe coffee makers:
- Breville BDC450 Precision Brewer Coffee Maker
- Zojirushi EC-YTC100XB Coffee Maker
- Cuisinart DCC-1150BK Coffee Maker
- Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System (CP307)
- BUNN BT Velocity Brew
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What to look for
There are quite a lot of things to consider when shopping around for a thermal carafe coffee maker.
Before moving onto some of the best thermal coffee makers on the market though, I want to run through some of the important things to consider.
Almost all thermal carafes are made of stainless steel, and I wouldn’t recommend buying one made of any other material.
Beyond that though, you also need to consider the build of the machine itself.
Less expensive machines tend to be made of plastic, and you might have issues with durability and longevity as a result.
If you’re prepared to pay a little more, you’ll find plenty of coffee makers that are made of sturdier stuff and will save you money in the long run as a result.
Manufacturers have a tendency to overstate the capacity of their machines. Their definition of 10 cups may well not match yours!
To stay on the safe side, I would always go a little over what you think you’re going to need based on the official description.
It’s of course a little bit of a juggling act. The bigger the water reservoir on the machine, the larger it’s likely to be overall. If space is an issue you’ll need to balance this out.
Some of these machines can get a full pot of coffee done and dusted in around three minutes, while others can take ten minutes or more.
You should also consider whether you need a machine you can program to get brewing at a specific time.
Personally I love being able to set tomorrow’s first brew up tonight, and so I tend to favor machines that let you set things up in advance.
Do you want a machine that simply makes high quality drip coffee that stays hot for hours?
Alternatively, consider whether you’ll want to make other specialty drinks from time to time, such as lattes and cappuccinos.
When it comes to these sorts of drinks, you’ll need a thermal carafe coffee maker that also has a milk wand built in.
Even if it’s a very simple on/off affair, this will allow you to dabble in different coffee drinks when the mood takes you!
You’ll also discover machines that have different settings for brew strength.
If you’re the type who likes a big caffeine injection first thing, look for a machine that can produce a slower, stronger brew when you need it.
Ideally you’ll be able to remove the water reservoir for easy refilling and cleaning.
You can’t remove some of them at all though, so make sure you’ll be able to easily access the refill opening once the machine is in its intended location.
Design and Dimensions
The aesthetics of the coffee maker you choose will be a very personal part of the buying process.
A handful of popular machines have an extremely industrial appearance which some people love!
Others though are more modern and pleasing on the eye. Think carefully about how the machine will actually look in your kitchen before making a decision.
Finally, check the dimensions carefully. Allow a little bit of space on all sides, and be particularly mindful of the height.
You won’t want a lot of condensation building up right underneath your cabinets, for example.
A select number of coffee makers have been given the seal of approval from the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA).
A machine that has this backing is guaranteed to brew your coffee at the optimal temperature, and it’s something that’s always worth looking out for.
Many machines will still hit the target temperature, but without the backing of the SCA you can’t really be sure they’ll achieve this consistently.
In a similar vein to the materials issue covered further up the page, check the warranty details carefully before committing to a particular coffee maker.
A longer than usual warranty will suggest that the manufacturer has more confidence in the quality of the materials used.
Thermal Carafe Coffee Maker Reviews
In this section I’m going to take a detailed look at some of my personal favorite coffee makers that come with a thermal carafe.
Breville’s BDC450 is one of a select handful of machines that’s certified by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA). That means the water heats to the optimal temperature for coffee brewing, and for the optimal amount of time too.
The end result is a knockout cup of coffee. Suffice to say it’s always worth looking out for this hallmark when you’re shopping around for a new coffee maker!
You may never want to move away from this SCA mode, which Breville’s terms its Gold Cup preset. If you do want to experiment more, however, there are a number of different presets to explore.
You might, for example, want to increase the strength of the brew, speed it up, or optimize the process for iced coffee. If you don’t mind waiting, you can even experiment with the now-popular cold brew process, where you leave the coffee to slowly steep overnight.
It’s a very flexible machine all things considered, and I always appreciate having one appliance that can do many things well.
If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can play around with those settings to come up with your own presets. That means as your confidence grows you can tweak things precisely to your own tastes. I think that’s a nice touch.
It’s also very easy to use. You select all these options with a simple dial, and the options are clearly displayed on the display screen. You just turn the dial slowly to cycle through the options.
Topping it all off I think it’s a very smart looking kitchen appliance. The 60oz water tank is reasonably generous and located at the top of the machine for easy filling. The stainless steel carafe matches the brewing basket and main body of this coffee maker well too.
- A very elegantly designed machine that’s also simple to use.
- No problems with the carafe spilling as you pour the coffee.
- Certified by the Specialty Coffee Association.
- Lots of presets make for a very versatile and flexible coffee maker.
- You can tweak the settings further to stamp your own mark on the brew.
- You can’t adjust the cup height, so single-cup splashes are inevitable.
- The compatible adapter for pour over coffee is sold separately.
- Water reservoir cannot be detached for easy refilling.
- Some reports of leakage from the filter basket after the brew’s finished.
- Plastic reservoir contrasts with the otherwise high quality materials used elsewhere.
Compared to the Breville machine I’ve looked at, the Zojirushi maker is rather a clunky affair. It has a more industrial design overall, and the control interface is a little less elegant.
Still it hits the spot in terms of brewing. Although it’s not SCA-certified, it still heats the water at a high 200F, which is a good target to hit for a quality brew. You also get a permanent reusable filter which cleans up well.
The water reservoir is just a shade over 50oz and removes easily from the main body of the machine. It’s also dishwasher-proof which is always a big plus in my book.
Talking of cleaning, I like the way the basket has been designed to swing out of the front of the machine. That not only makes it easier to add fresh coffee, but the basket itself is also easy to remove from the device when it needs a wash of its own.
If you’re like me and guzzle down iced coffee during the hotter months, there’s a special feature designed for this very purpose.
An extra marker on the water reservoir gives a good indication of just how much water to add for iced drinks. That way you get a richer brew that doesn’t get watered down by the ice.
As for the vacuum-insulated thermal carafe, it’ll keep your coffee warm for about two hours. I wouldn’t expect any longer than that from a machine like this, but it’s enough to enjoy the papers on a lazy Sunday morning.
And if you really want to get ahead of the mornings, you can make use of a Time Saver mode. This reduces the brewing time (and, inevitably, the strength of the coffee) and gets your first cup inside you quicker.
- A generally quiet coffee maker.
- Really easy to clean and generally care for.
- Includes many improvements from the previous model.
- Very simple features that I don’t think anyone will struggle to make use of.
- Not the prettiest coffee maker in the world. Your tastes may vary though!
- Brewing time is a little long at around nine to ten minutes.
- A relatively tall machine at just under 17 inches, so make sure you’ve enough room beneath your kitchen cabinets.
- Some owners have reported the machine brewing at much lower temperatures than advertised.
There are a few Cuisinart thermal coffee makers on the market, and the DCC-1150BK is quite a simplistic thing. If all you need is a compact machine that gets the job done fast though then I think it’s a good option.
The double-wall insulated thermal carafe does a decent job of keeping the coffee warm for a few hours. You can even program it ahead of time, so if you know you’ll want a brew at a certain time you can set it up in advance.
Having that thermal carafe means, of course, that you know the coffee will still be good even if you over-run (or “somehow” manage to skip the alarm on your phone!)
This machine is actually available in a 10 or 12 cup edition. I’d usually recommend going for the latter, as manufacturer’s typically understate the size of the average cup quite a bit.
If you want less than that you can opt to brew in 1, 2, 3 or 4 cup sizes. Even if you go bigger than that you can pause the brew, grab a quick cup of whatever’s ready, then let the carafe carry on filling.
One of the nice features of this coffee maker is that it comes with a water filter and a gold tone filter out of the box.
The former’s always welcome if you don’t already have a dedicated water filter. Without one, you’ll find that the machine needs to be descaled more often. This is even more problematic if you live in a hard water area.
As for the gold tone filter, this means you won’t have to keep buying paper filters for your machine. It’s also argued that you get a smoother cup of coffee by using a permanent filter such as this.
- Brew Pause function lets you grab a quick cup without waiting for the whole brew to finish.
- Included filters do their job extremely well.
- Some owners report their carafe retaining heat adequately for three hours or more
- Solid and well made. Not as flimsy as many coffee makers feel.
- Very consistent results.
- It’s a little fiddly to add water to the reservoir, due to the small opening.
- Thermal carafe requires through, regular cleaning to prevent residue building up on the lid.
- A rather loud beeping noise when the brewing has finished.
I really like both the design and the versatility of Ninja’s Hot and Cold Brewed System. It’s not quite as elegant as the Breville machine, but I love how the frothing wand swings out from the side of the machine to save space.
It’s nice to know that someone’s thinking of the people like me who don’t have a huge amount of space to play with in the kitchen!
As for brewing options, there are five different presets to work with on this particular machine.
Classic is the standard brew you’re likely to use most often, while Rich allows you to make a much stronger cup. That’s always handy when you want something a little punchier first thing in the morning, for example.
The Over Ice setting lets you brew the coffee…over ice! This means you get a very smooth and sweet drink, as the coffee is prepared at a lower temperature.
The Cold Brew function is for those of us who are patient enough to wait overnight for the coffee to steep slowly through cold water. I do this a lot at the weekends, and if you haven’t tried this process yet you can find out more in my cold brew coffee guide.
If you have tea drinkers in your household then there are dedicated settings for that too. Again, with a small kitchen I’m a big fan of devices that can pack plenty of functionality into one device, and do so without compromising on the results.
There’s a lot of flexibility in terms of brew sizes as well. You can make anything from a single cup to a travel mug or a full carafe. The cup platform moves up and down quite easily, so you can fit them all underneath the dispenser really easily.
- Although not the most advanced milk frother, it’s great to find on a machine like this.
- More settings than you can shake a stick at, with options for tea drinkers as well.
- Recipe book included out of the box, which really helps to start experimenting.
- Everything’s easy to clean and it’s generally easy to maintain.
- Some owners report that the Ninja machine tends to brew quite bitter coffee.
- Results from the Cold Brew setting are a little watery and underwhelming.
- Sealing on the carafe could be better. As a result it gets colder quicker than you suspect it really should.
- Rich Brew option is a nice addition, but rather slow to complete.
BUNN machines are held in high regard by coffee enthusiasts, and they make really good drip coffee, in record time. (I’ve actually got a guide dedicated to these machines, so check it out if you’d like to see a comparison of BUNN’s best coffee makers).
The Velocity is one of the most popular of these machines and it delivers excellent coffee in an extremely small form factor. That’ll be of interest to you if you haven’t got a lot of countertop space to play with.
Although it’s not SCA-certified, the Velocity heats the water to 200 degrees which – as I wrote earlier in this guide – is where you want it to be for a great brew. The showerhead design is really solid as well, coating the grounds evenly and achieving a great extraction.
The stainless steel tank plays a big part in maintaining this optimal brewing temperature, and it matches the vacuum-insulated carafe nicely. Overall I think it’s a very simple, but clean design.
I mentioned the speed of this thing earlier, and it actually creates a full 10-cup carafe of coffee in less than three minutes. I can’t wait very long for my first cup in the morning, and there really aren’t any machines out there that work harder – or faster – than a BUNN!
Suffice to say if you want a drip coffee maker with a thermal carafe that doesn’t hang about, then the BT Velocity is a very good option indeed.
- Very fast brewing, without any compromise of the coffee quality.
- A reputation for durability and long service life.
- Extremely quick and easy to set up out of the box.
- Carafe has a wide opening, making it very easy to clean (you can get your whole hand in there!)
- Coffee stays warm in the carafe for up to three hours.
- A very simple coffee maker, with no real extra functionality.
- Some owners have reported issues with the carafe leaking over time.
- You must remember to turn this machine off if a period of inactivity is coming up!
- Basket can overflow if very fine coffee grounds are used.
All of the coffee makers in this guide offer their own strengths and weaknesses.
As an overall top pick though, my favorite is the Breville BDC450.
It’s simple to use, yet offers plenty of flexibility in terms of brew types and sizes. It’s also got that all-important SCA-approval, so you know the coffee from it is always going to be great.
I think it’s nicely designed as well, with a thermal carafe that keeps the coffee nice and hot for as long as you could reasonably expect. That it pours well and avoids making a mess in the process is always an – unexpected – bonus!
Click here to find out more about the machine, and read plenty of user reviews.