You’re thinking about getting the best coffee urn, which can only mean one thing: you’re trying to serve coffee to a large group of people. This means that you not only want to have the option of brewing a large amount of coffee, but you also want it to keep your coffee hot and make serving your crowd a breeze. A good coffee urn can do both with ease.
Coffee urns are nice because they’re relatively simple to use, making them ideal for personal or professional events. But you’ll need to think about exactly how much coffee people will be consuming as urns come in a variety of capacities. You’ll need to consider whether you want an active or passive heating system. And finally, think about how easily you can clean the urn.
Top Coffee Urns
#1 Hamilton Beach 45 Cup Coffee Maker
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: You won’t have to wait long at all for your cup of joe when you choose this model. It has a fast-brewing design that takes around one minute for each cup. You’ll also enjoy the easy-to-fill water reservoir.
- Has a 2-way dispenser
- Fast brewing design
- Easy-to-fill reservoir
- Carafe body gets extremely hot
If you’re looking for a quick method to get coffee to the masses, this option is perfect. It has a fast brewing system that only takes a minute to brew each cup. This makes it a highly efficient alternative that will work under circumstances when time is tight. Keep in mind that the body of this urn gets extremely hot when brewing. This could be a safety hazard if you aren’t careful when using the handles to move it.
You’ll be able to brew between 15 and 45 cups with this model. All you have to do is use the water-level marks to figure out how much liquid to add, and then follow the directions included by the manufacturer. Both the lid and brew basket are dishwasher safe, making it super easy to clean up after you’re done brewing with it. One of the most significant features is the locking lid. This ensures that you won’t spill anything even when carrying it from one place to another.
#2 Airpot Coffee Maker
Award: HONORABLE MENTION
WHY WE LIKE IT: A pump-action top makes it easy to get yourself a cup of joe from this model. You’ll also receive a cleaning brush to ensure you’re able to reach inside the carafe when washing thoroughly.
- Has a pump-action top
- Extremely easy to clean
- Cleaning brush included
- Insulation wears out
This coffee brewer allows you to keep your beverages hot or cold for up to twenty hours. This is an incredible amount of time perfect for job sites in particular. It’s fully insulated and made out of brushed stainless steel both inside and out. This makes it a wonderfully durable option. However, after extended usage, it has been reported that the insulating components in the carafe lose their effectiveness. Because of this, it won’t keep coffee as hot for as long.
It also has a wide mouth top, so you can add ice cubes or even reach in to clean it out. Since it’s made with stainless steel, it’s an effortless job to wipe this model down after you’re done brewing. The pump-action top allows you to seamlessly fill cup after cup within minutes because of the efficient design. You’ll also receive a cleaning brush with your purchase. This enables you to get all the hard-to-reach places so you can genuinely deep-clean your coffee brewer.
#3 HomeCraft CU30SS Coffee Maker
Award: BEST FOR BREW TIME
WHY WE LIKE IT: You’ll enjoy the keep-warm function that allows your beverage to stay hotter for longer. This is also a high-capacity model that has a speedy brew process. You won’t have to wait very long, even when it’s a full brew.
- Can make thirty beverages
- Speedy brew process
- Has a keep warm function
- Spout is on the narrow side
This is a multi-purpose option that’s perfect for beverages beyond coffee. You can use it for coffee, hot cider, hot chocolate, tea, and so much more. This multi-faceted nature makes it an excellent option for those who need this kind of functionality on a budget. The reservoir is exceptionally high-capacity and can offer 30 cups per fill. However, the spout is a little on the narrow side. Since this is what you use to fill your cups, serving everybody coffee might take a while.
You’ll love that this brewing system only takes around a minute to brew each cup. Even after it’s done brewing, it’ll keep working using a keep-warm function. This will keep your beverages hot for so much longer than in competing models lacking the feature. The 2-way dripless faucet will keep any mess minimal so that you don’t have to worry as much about clean-up. It also has a reusable, dishwasher-safe filtration system for even easier deep cleaning.
#4 Elite Gourmet CCM-035 Coffee Maker
Award: BEST FOR SIMPLE CLEANING
WHY WE LIKE IT: You’ll be able to make up to thirty cups with this brewing model. This should be enough for any situation. There is a washable filtration system, so the cleaning process is far easier than traditional paper options.
- Very portable
- Washable filtration system
- Makes thirty cups
- May start leaking
A stainless steel interior and exterior make this model an easy-to-clean option that you’ll thoroughly enjoy using. This material is also highly hygienic, so you can rest assured it won’t encourage the growth of bacteria. There is a 2-way dispenser included in the design to have a continuous filling of cups. Unfortunately, this model has been known to start leaking after extensive usage. It might not be the best option if you think longevity is at the top of your list.
The included cord to power this unit is 36-inches long. This is more than enough room to reach almost any outlet in a room, so you’re able to travel with it easily. Once you’re done brewing, the clean-up process is simple. You have to remove the filter basket, which lifts out of the unit. This filter basket is dishwasher-safe. Choosing this system means removing the need to use any messy, wasteful paper filters.
#5 Hamilton Beach D50065 Coffee Maker
Award: BEST FOR LARGE CROWDS
WHY WE LIKE IT: The accelerated brewing system allows you to make five cups within five minutes. That means it only takes around a minute to brew each one. There is also a heavy-duty, commercially-rated plug.
- Accelerated brewing system
- Only takes a minute
- Heavy-duty plug
- Must be plugged in
The entire body of this urn is made out of stainless steel. This is a highly durable material that will heighten the longevity of your appliance. You’ll enjoy being able to use it time and time again, knowing that it’ll stay around for a long time to come. Keep in mind that this is not a wireless model. You’ll need to keep it plugged into the wall, which may be a dealbreaker for some consumers.
An accelerated brewing system allows for quicker access to coffee no matter where you are. You can expect around a minute per cup of coffee. This makes it an efficient option that is great for anybody who needs to brew beverages quickly. The one-handed coffee dispenser valve makes it super easy to get cups filled up without any fuss or mess. There is also a heavy-duty plug included that is rated for commercial application.
#6 Nesco Professional Coffee Maker
Award: BEST FOR INSULATION
WHY WE LIKE IT: You won’t have to worry about burning yourself because of the cool-touch handles included in this design. There is also an enclosed water gauge to ensure things are going smoothly and a double-wall insulated tank.
- Double-wall insulated tank
- Enclosed water guage
- Cool-touch handles
- May blow a fuse
The insulation of this model is unmatched by most competitors. It has a double-wall insulated tank that will keep your beverages hot or cold for far longer. You’ll also enjoy how quickly this model cleans up with just water. Wipe down the exterior surfaces with a clean, soft cloth or sponge to eliminate most of the mess. However, it has been reported by some consumers that after some extended usage, this model has a habit of blowing fuses. For some, this may be a dealbreaker.
It has a 6.8-liter capacity and runs on 950 watts of power. An enclosed water gauge is a fantastic feature to ensure everything is moving along smoothly. There is also a locking lid to ensure less mess is made when carrying it from room to room. You won’t have to worry about accidentally burning yourself, either, since it comes equipped with cool-touch handles. This means that the handles are fine to touch even when the urn is hot.
Beginner’s Guide to Coffee Urns
What is a Coffee Urn?
A coffee urn is a large-capacity coffee brewer and dispenser. In many cases, these devices can also double as a warmer to ensure that the coffee doesn’t get cold. This can be ideal when you’re serving coffee to a large group of people but want to have a ready supply of hot coffee on hand as needed. On the other hand, if you need only one or two cups of coffee, you’ll probably be better with a single-serve coffee maker.
While you can use coffee urns for home events, they’re probably most recognizable at catered events, such as conventions, parties, and business functions. For smaller events, you can find urns that brew as few as 12 cups of coffee. Alternatively, a commercial coffee urn can brew, store, and maintain the temperature for as much as 100 cups of coffee for larger gatherings.
Coffee Urns vs. Other Coffee Makers
There are a few key differences between coffee urns and other coffee makers. First, consider that urns usually offer a larger capacity. As we mentioned earlier, a professional coffee urn often offers high-capacity brewing output. It’s pretty common to find urns that can brew 20, 30, 40, 50, or even 100 cups of coffee in one brew session.
In contrast, the standard home coffee maker usually can’t brew more than 12 to 15 cups of coffee at a time. Because of this distinctive feature, coffee urns tend to be significantly larger than standard home brewers. Although, you can compare some of the best coffee machines (like Keurig vs Keurig 2.0) to see which one works best for you.
Additionally, urns are known for brewing and maintaining the coffee’s temperature in the same container. This ensures that no one’s left with a cold cup of coffee. While keep-warm features are standard for many coffee makers, not all can brew and store coffee in a single unit. For example, drip coffee machines brew coffee into a waiting carafe or cup.
Plus, many coffee urns are designed so that you can use them indoors or outdoors for family events, social gatherings, or business meetings. In contrast, for most electric coffee makers, this may not be possible.
How Coffee Urns Work
Coffee urns operate similarly to percolators. To make coffee, you simply fill the internal reservoir with water, add coffee grounds to a filter basket, and turn on the appliance. The internal heating mechanism heats water that boils and sifts through the filter basket, creating large quantities of coffee.
These days, most coffee urns come with built-in filters, meaning that you don’t need to use disposable paper filters. While this is more environmentally friendly, keep in mind that you’ll need a coarser ground to prevent sediment in the coffee.
As mentioned earlier, coffee urns are available in a wide array of sizes. Capacity is measured in cups, with a range as low as 12 cups to as many as 100 cups. However, keep in mind that a cup of coffee is defined as five ounces when rating capacities. So, a 100-cup coffee urn would brew 100 five-ounce cups of coffee. Today, people tend to drink larger quantities per cup, so you’ll want to keep that in mind, especially if you’re shopping for a smaller coffee urn.
In most cases, coffee urns use one of two heating systems — passive and active. An active system simply means that once the coffee is brewed, the urn will keep the coffee warm until you unplug the device. In contrast, an urn with a passive system has insulation. This means that the internal components no longer continue to power the heating system once brewing has completed.
Urns with active heating systems tend to be more expensive but are often preferred in scenarios where you want the coffee to sit out for extended periods. In contrast, if you know that your guests will drink a fresh urn of coffee shortly after it’s brewed or you’re trying to save money, an urn with a passive system may be a wiser choice. But, if you have the cash to splurge, you might want to look into a great French press.
Why You Should Buy a Coffee Urn
Whether you host family gatherings or manage catered events, a good stainless steel coffee urn can make your life easier by brewing a large amount of coffee in a short period. Better still, coffee urns allow for self-serve, meaning you can spend more time focusing on other things like mingling.
Is a Coffee Urn Worth Buying?
- You Host Large Gatherings: Whether you’re the relative that always throws large house parties or you own a catering business, making coffee in large batches is a part of life. A good coffee urn can quench the thirst of a large group of coffee drinkers.
- You Want to Keep Coffee Warm: One of the biggest benefits of a coffee urn is that it can keep the coffee warm after it’s been brewed. This is especially ideal if you have guests who opt to drink coffee at different times.
- You Want an All In One Solution: Coffee urns are great because they brew and store coffee in one container. This helps to reduce clutter and can even make cleanup much easier when you only have to deal with one appliance.
Why a Coffee Urn May Not Be for You
- You Don’t Drink That Much Coffee: If you or your fellow friends and family aren’t big coffee drinkers, even a small 12-cup coffee urn might be a bit much. Instead, you might find that the best coffee percolator is better suited for your needs.
- You Have a Commercial Facility: Unlike a catering hall that hosts events where self-serve coffee stations make sense, if you own a restaurant like a diner, you’ll find that the best commercial coffee maker is a better investment.
- You Prefer Espresso: No matter how tasty a coffee urn brew can be, it’s in no way the same as a cup of espresso. So, if you drink other hot specialty beverages, like espresso, cappuccino, or macchiatos, it might be a better idea to upgrade to a self-serve super-automatic espresso machine.
How Long Will Coffee Urns Last?
Like other coffee makers, coffee urns have a lifespan determined by user behavior and maintenance frequency. In most cases, you can expect to achieve around five years of regular use out of a coffee urn before you need to replace it.
However, if you fail to properly clean your urn to remove hard water deposits that encourage limescale, you may not reach the five-year mark. Similarly, if you’re rough with your coffee urn, this can also shorten its lifespan.
How to Choose a Coffee Urn
Coffee urns can be convenient options for people that need to keep a large group of people happy and caffeinated. While you’ll always want to consider the capacity, don’t forget that ease of use and the heating system will also be essential factors that impact your purchase decision.
Best Coffee Urns Key Factors to Consider
1. What is the cup capacity?
This should be the first question you ask yourself. Think about why you’re purchasing a coffee urn. Do you need this for special events where you have large gatherings? Are you adding an urn to your equipment because you have a catering business?
These questions will determine whether you focus on smaller urns in the 12- to 20-cup range or if you opt for a commercial-grade solution that can produce massive quantities of coffee in a single brewing session. Keep in mind that when measuring capacity, cups are considered to be five ounces. That’s much smaller than what the average American coffee mug can hold. So, if you choose a smaller urn for home use, you need to adjust the capacity to be compatible with larger coffee mugs.
2. Which heating system does the coffee urn use?
Remember that coffee urns rely on one of two systems — active and passive. If you’re hosting events where people slowly consume coffee throughout the day, an active system makes more sense. In contrast, if you’re shopping on a budget or know that guests will drink the coffee quickly, a passive system that relies on insulation to keep the coffee warm may be a better investment.
3. Is the urn easy to move or transport?
Smaller urns designed for home use are usually easy to move between rooms — even by one person. In contrast, larger urns that can make bigger batches of coffee may require multiple people to move and reposition.
4. Is the filter basket permanent, or do you need to use paper filters?
Most modern coffee urns are made with a permanent filter basket. While you’ll need to use a coarser grind to prevent coffee grounds from seeping through the filter, a permanent basket can be more economical and environmentally friendly.
5. How easily can you clean the coffee urn?
If you’re trying to get the most use out of your coffee urn, you want a unit that’s easy to clean. Look for brewers with filter baskets that are dishwasher safe. Also, consider how easily you can clean the internal components that you can’t put in a dishwasher. If you have to struggle to get your hands into the brewer because the lid isn’t completely removable, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to clean it properly.
6. What other features are available?
There are a few other qualities that can make using a coffee urn more intuitive. For example, an internal liquid level gauge allows you to see when the coffee is beginning to run low so you can brew another batch. A double spout would allow two people to pour coffee simultaneously, while a drip tray helps to contain messes. And LED indicators can also let you know when the coffee is ready or running low.
7. What is the material?
Durability is important if you’re trying to get the most out of your investment. Typically, most coffee urns are made either with stainless steel or aluminum. Aluminum can be a great option if you’re concerned about budget or you want a lightweight urn. But if you want longevity, opt for stainless steel because not only is it incredibly durable, but it retains heat better. Alternatively, you can also find plastic urns, but these will have the shortest longevity.
8. Can you control the brew strength?
Some people prefer a bolder cup of coffee. If this is you, you’ll want a coffee urn that allows you to control the brew settings. This means that you can shorten or lengthen the amount of time required to brew a cup of coffee — ensuring that you get the perfect cup every time.