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Types of Carafes & Decanters

Types of Carafes & Decanters

From preparing luxurious wines for high-end table service to serving steaming hot coffee at a trendy breakfast bar, you'll find that carafes and decanters function as vital tools in all kinds of establishments. Learn how to boost sales and fit these vessels into your operation by becoming familiar with their purposes and significant differences.

Carafe vs Decanter: What's the Difference?

Glass decanter being filled with red wine

Overview of Decanters

Depending on its purpose, a decanter can hold a variety of liquids, making it a highly functional vessel! You can use a glass decanter to aerate and decant wine, as well as to store other liquors like whiskey, bourbon, tequila, vodka, gin, or rum. The dainty, slender shape of a decanter will appeal to customers and add a heightened element of refinement to your winery or fine dining establishment.

Decanters are also commonly used for serving hot coffee in coffee shops, diners, and even convenience stores. The vessel keeps large batches of coffee hot and preserves flavor, encouraging guests to ask for refills. In addition, the portability of decanters allows servers to quickly refill mugs with piping hot coffee and keep guests satisfied, even during rush hour. Coffee decanters are commonly constructed of glass, stainless steel, or thermal stainless steel. 

Expert Tip
Because of their large, hollow shape, decanters can be difficult to dry. Purchasing a reusable decanter dryer is a common method of drying this uniquely shaped vessel. Simply hang the dryer from the decanter's neck to absorb moisture. Alternatively, you can twist a paper towel into a narrow wick and feed it through the neck of the decanter to soak up moisture.
Glass carafe of water with lemon with elegant water goblet

Overview of Carafes

As with a decanter, a carafe’s uses depend on its intended beverage. Glass carafes will quickly become indispensable to your establishment, as they can be used to enhance the presentation of iced tea, water, juices, and lemonade. Glass carafes are also excellent for serving wine, as they elevate its visual appeal. Coffee carafes are typically made of metal and insulated to serve warm, aromatic coffee to guests at large catering events, busy cafes, and popular breakfast bars. 


Wine decanter beside two glasses of red wine on elegant table

Why Use a Wine Decanter?

Sommeliers and servers will often pour wine into a wine decanter to aerate it. Adding oxygen to wine, especially to young wines or wines with a complex flavor profile, helps to soften tannins and bring out its unique aroma and flavor. 

Sommeliers also use decanters to rid the wine of any sediment that may have collected in the bottle over time. Wine should be aerated and decanted before pouring it into a carafe and serving to guests, as sediment taints its flavor and general appearance.

Wine decanters typically have a flared base, narrow neck for pouring, and flat or slanted top. The size and shape of the vessel varies depending on the type of wine you're serving, so be sure to pick the right decanter for your needs. 

  • Used to enhance flavor and aroma of wine before serving
  • Enhances the presentation of wine and adds a sophisticated flair at wineries, upscale bars, or high-end restaurants
  • Their often-delicate shape makes decanters susceptible to damage, and they will most likely shatter if dropped
  • Due to their wide, hollow shape, decanters can be difficult to dry

How Long to Aerate Wine

Type of Wine Time
Young red wines (under 8 years old)
1 - 2 hours
Mature red wines (over 8 years old)
30 minutes maximum
Very old red wines
No aeration needed
White wine, rose, champagne, sparkling wines
No aeration needed - open right before service

What Is a Wine Carafe Used For?

A sommelier or server at a restaurant may pour wine into a carafe to elevate its presentation when serving guests.

Carafe of wine pouring red wine into wine glass
Carafe of wine pouring red wine into wine glass
  • Eye-catching presentation for guests
  • Promote consistently measured wine service to eliminate over-pouring
  • Classic flared design prevents spills when pouring and facilitates the aeration of wine
  • Because of its glass construction, a carafe can be broken if handled improperly
  • Taller carafes can be susceptible to tipping and spills
Wine carafe sitting beside a bunch of grapes

How to Clean a Wine Decanter or Carafe

Figuring out how to clean a wine decanter or wine carafe can be difficult. It's best to avoid washing your carafe or decanter with dish soap, as dish soap tends to leave behind residue and faint flavors.

  1. First, rinse your carafe with warm water and soak.
  2. Gently scrub the inside of the carafe.
  3. Finish the process by rinsing with white vinegar, water, and ice.

How Many Glasses of Wine Are in a Carafe?

The servings of wine in a carafe will vary with the size of the carafe, so be sure to purchase the best size to suit your serving needs.
Carafe Capacity Number of Glasses
3 - 11 oz.
1 - 2 glasses
12 - 26 oz.
2 - 5 glasses
27 - 39 oz.
5 - 8 glasses
40 - 64 oz.
8 - 13 glasses

What Is a Whiskey Decanter?

It isn't necessary to oxidize or remove sediment from whiskey. As such, the main purpose of a whiskey decanter is simply to enhance the presentation of the liquor.
Crystal whiskey decanter beside two whiskey glasses
Crystal whiskey decanter beside two whiskey glasses
  • Typically comes with an airtight seal to preserve taste and avoid too much oxygen interacting with the whiskey.
  • Adds a sophisticated look to your whiskey presentation
  • Old whiskey decanters may contain trace amounts of lead in the crystal. Be sure to use a decanter with lead-free crystal to avoid the risk of lead leaking into your whiskey.

What Are Coffee Carafes & Decanters?

Coffee carafes and decanters are more traditional and are what guests expect to see when they order coffee, so you can be sure that this option will satisfy even the most difficult to please customers. These vessels can be made of glass or stainless steel, allowing you to choose which construction best fits the needs and desired aesthetic of your establishment.
Glass coffee decanter with black handle filling a coffee cup
Glass coffee decanter with black handle filling a coffee cup
  • Easy to use - simply pick up and pour
  • Glass decanters are transparent, making it easy for servers to know when to brew a new batch of coffee
  • The open top on a glass decanter allows the coffee's aromatics to fill a room
  • Normally compatible with decanter brewers
  • Glass decanters are breakable and will likely shatter if dropped
  • Consistently applying heat to the coffee makes the coffee taste bitter or "burnt"
  • Mineral and oil build up from frequent use makes decanters difficult to clean
  • Glass carafes and decanters can become hot to the touch

What Are Thermal Coffee Servers?

Thermal coffee servers are made out of a variety of materials including plastic, polypropylene, and stainless steel. They're often insulated with stainless steel or glass. These servers are typically double walled with a vacuum between the two walls to preserve the heat of the beverage by minimizing heat loss through convection. Thermal coffee servers usually hold a maximum of 64-72 oz. of coffee, so they will last through an early breakfast rush without needing frequent refills.
Insulated thermal coffee carafe sitting next to coffee cup
Insulated thermal coffee carafe sitting next to coffee cup
  • Keeps coffee hot without applying heat
  • Fresher taste for longer periods of time
  • Portable, since it does not need a warmer
  • Some servers have volume gauges that signal how much coffee is left, allowing for faster refills
  • Delays oxidization of the contents
  • Most are shatter resistant - perfect for busy environments like commercial kitchens
  • Not transparent, making it difficult to tell how much coffee is left in the pot
  • May not provide the best presentation for elegant or formal serving situations

What Are Coffee Pots & Tea Pots?

Coffee and tea pots are designed to serve both coffee and tea, making them a versatile and invaluable vessel in any food service establishment. The sleek, contemporary look of these vessels enhances beverage presentation for table service and buffets.
Mirror-finished stainless steel coffee pot
Mirror-finished stainless steel coffee pot
  • Stainless steel construction resists corrosion, pitting, and rusting, ensuring years of quality service
  • Easy to clean
  • Lid prevents spills and preserves coffee's fresh taste
  • Smudges and finger prints show up easily on stainless steel, necessitating frequent cleaning of pot
  • Typically not insulated as well as other hot beverage serving options
  • Can become hot to the touch

What Are Airpots?

Coffee Airpots are portable and vacuum insulated with a stainless steel or glass internal lining to keep coffee, tea, or hot water warm for hours.
Stainless steel airpot beside coffee cup
Stainless steel airpot beside coffee cup
  • Keeps coffee hot without the need to apply heat
  • Maintains fresh taste for longer periods of time
  • Portable, since it does not need a warmer
  • Coffee brews directly into the airpot, saving valuable counter space
  • Allows guests to serve themselves
  • Some airpots have a glass liner, which will most likely shatter if dropped
  • Not transparent, making it difficult to tell how much coffee is left in the pot
  • You must press down continuously to fill your cup, which some may find tedious
  • Difficult to clean

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