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There are several types of coffee carafe, some used just to hold and serve coffee and others designed to brew coffee or to be used as part of a coffee maker. As a serving vessel, choosing the best coffee carafe is a matter of balancing the appearance and style of the carafe against its functionality. Features such as insulated walls, pump dispensers and a large capacity might need to be sacrificed for an elegant glass or sculpted plastic design that fits a certain decor. When choosing a carafe for brewing coffee or for a coffee machine, the considerations are much more basic and include finding a carafe that fits the machine; has a lid, if necessary; and is easy to use. Whatever type of coffee carafe is selected, it ultimately should be small enough to handle when full yet large enough to be suit its use and also be easy to clean.
When used as a serving vessel, a coffee carafe can sometimes look like a regular pitcher. A pitcher-style carafe most often is made from heat-proof glass or plastic and can have a pattern or design worked into the outer walls. A lid is not always included, however. These types of carafes are easy to fill and usually easy to clean, although they also tend not to be insulated, so coffee will cool faster than it would in an insulated carafe.
A coffee carafe also can be made in a more thermal fashion. These carafes can look like a pitcher or can be more cylindrical. The walls usually are layered or otherwise insulated and may be able to keep coffee hot for several hours. The top of the carafe sometimes will have a special lid with a spout so exceptionally large models can dispense coffee without having to be tipped to the side. Some designs have handles that can be adjusted to be positioned vertically so the carafe can be carried around.
If a coffee carafe is being chosen for a coffee machine, then the design of the pot needs to fit inside the brewing chamber or designated area in the coffee maker. Some coffee machines also have a special spring-loaded stopper under the brewing chamber that will not dispense coffee if not depressed, meaning a carafe for this type of machine needs to have a lid that presses against the stopper when in position. It is important to ensure that any coffee carafe chosen for a coffee machine is made from a material that can come into contact with the heating element of the coffee maker to ensure that it does not shatter.