The core of any discerning coffee drinker’s arsenal is of course the coffee maker, of which many varieties have evolved throughout the years. For the longest time, drip-style coffee makers have dominated the market, thanks to their simplicity and versatility. However, due to the glass carafe container and hot plate warmer design of these machines, coffee left to sit in the maker usually turns bitter-tasting after a short while – something most people don’t really appreciate.
The thermal coffee maker beautifully solves this dilemma; it takes the wisdom of drip coffee brewing in coffee shops where coffee is brewed right into a thermal pot for sustainable heating without the effects of “overcooking”. Let’s compare the different models that are consistently topping thermal coffee machine reviews.
Top 4 Thermal Coffee Makers Reviewed
This model is made by the household brand Melitta and features a 10-cup thermal carafe, vacuum-sealed to ensure your drink stays hot and fresh longer. The coffee maker is programmable up to four hours ahead of time and offers different settings to control the strength of your brew: regular, bold and robust. One distinct feature of the Melitta that makes it a unique coffee maker is that it’s also designed to make iced coffee without much complication – in the same fashion you would brew hot coffee.
- The Melitta is designed to maintain a brewing temperature of 195-205oF, which is considered the optimal range for the best-tasting coffee. Any hotter and you risk over-cooking and over-extracting the grounds, which inevitably results to bitter coffee.
- It has a cone-shaped filter basket which lets water remain in contact with the grounds for a longer time, thus brewing a fuller flavor. You won’t find this in your run-of-the-mill thermal coffee maker which uses a flat-bottomed filter basket.
- The carafe design prevents spillage when pouring; it employs a user-friendly thumb-press mechanism to dispense liquid.
- Since this model is tailored to make 10 cups, it is difficult to brew a batch for smaller than six cups. This is due to the placement of the water reservoir window, which does not go all the way down to the bottom, but stops when you reach six cups. This can be an issue if you’re not serving a larger group of people as you simply have to base the amount of water on estimation.
- It has a limited time on its programmable setting, unlike similar models that can offer up to 24-hour programming time.
Overall, for its retail price clocking in at $50-70, the Melitta provides more value for your money compared to other coffee makers of similar functionality.
Cuisinart carries one of the bigger models to hit the consumer coffee maker market with its 12-cup version of the thermal brewer. The carafe is made of stainless steel with double-wall thermal insulation and a brew-through, pour-through lid which tightly seals in heat, keeping your coffee hot and fresh even hours after brewing.
- For a coffee maker this size, waiting for 12 cups to finish brewing can be a rather long time. The brew pause function complements this perfectly as it lets you pour a cup while the machine is still brewing.
- This Cuisinart thermal coffee maker scores high on energy efficiency as it shuts off power once done with brewing. The carafe’s thermal insulation takes care of keeping coffee warm much longer than traditional coffee makers. The carafe, however, stays cool on the outside, which is a plus for portability.
- The sleek design is aesthetically pleasing; the coffee maker even comes in different colors to match the hues of your kitchen.
- The lid is not as foolproof as those in other models – to seal off, pour, or open the lid completely, it has to be twisted to the appropriate markings that are not entirely clear or noticeable.
- The brewing time is slower than others – it takes around 15-20 minutes to make a full pot. The pot also tends to pour slowly.
- The design risks spillage if you are using very finely ground coffee as it passes through the filter and into the lid. Grounds with a near-powdery texture build up inside, blocking off the dripping hole and spilling brewed coffee outside the carafe.
With prices starting at $80, the Cuisinart brewer is one of the more expensive options and you might want to consider other cheaper (and smaller) options if you don’t absolutely need the 12 cups.
The Frigidaire Professional thermal coffee maker aims to set itself apart from other models dominating the market through its PowerPlus Brewing System, which ensures that hot water is evenly distributed over the grounds to ensure maximum flavor. It also pioneered the use of a water filtration system in a coffee maker, helping to create better flavor through charcoal filtering.
- It makes tap water okay to use in brewing coffee, thanks to the excellent filtration system.
- It also boasts of a reusable gold-tone coffee filter that is easy to clean, eliminating the need to buy paper filters.
- The large LED display is user-friendly. It displays the brew strength setting, temperature and programming setting all at one convenient place.
- Unless pre-heated for a period of time before brewing, the carafe tends to lose heat more quickly than expected, leaving coffee lukewarm after an hour or two of sitting.
- Brewing time takes 15 minutes for 10 cups of strong coffee and around eight minutes for regular strength coffee – a little slow by industry standards.
- Construction of the carafe spout makes it hard to clean out, needing multiple rinses before you can get the entire residue out.
The Frigidaire brewer will cost you around $76 and while a decent choice for a 10-cup brewer, there are other alternatives out there that might give you more bang for your buck.
Zojirushi is a Japanese brand which focuses on providing kitchen appliances such as rice cookers, hot water dispensers and tea brewers. This model is their initial foray into thermal coffee makers and Zojirushi did not disappoint. The wide-mouthed, double-walled vacuum-insulated carafe made of stainless steel keeps coffee hot for longer, a brew pause (or as they call it, pause-and-serve) function is available, as well as a sound water reservoir design for ease of filling.
- The Fresh Brew heats water to the optimum brewing temperature of 185 to 190oF. In addition, it insulates the brew basket: compared to other coffee makers with no heating element (e.g. only the water is heated), an insulated brew basket ensures that your coffee is piping hot upon pouring.
- Brewing time is speedy at 9 ½ minutes for a full pot, which serves 10 cups.
- Cleaning is a breeze as all the major parts can be detached and placed in the dishwasher.
- The coffee maker does not have a mechanism to signal end of brewing unlike most models that usually issue a beep once done.
- It might be tricky to find the right kind of filter. While #4 seems to be what most people use, it still does not fit perfectly and the lid might not close evenly if the wrong size is used.
Priced at $80 and up, the Fresh Brew is a worthy candidate if you are in the market for a thermal coffee machine as it does best what it promises: keep your coffee hot and fresh for longer.