Best Coffee Urns

Updated September 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

62 Models Considered
16 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
98 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best coffee urns

Last Updated September 2019

If you live in America, you’ve probably made a pot of coffee at least once in your life. If you’ve ever studied for final exams or worked a job that requires long or early hours, you’ve probably made many pots of coffee. There are dozens, if not hundreds of professions where drinking coffee is de rigueur.

But what about those times when you need to make lots of coffee for lots of people? Product shows, job fairs, weddings, pot lucks, business conferences, training classes, and graduations are just a few of the occasions that would call for large amounts of piping hot java.

For those occasions, you need a coffee urn. A coffee urn is any type of jug or pot that brews coffee for 20 or more people at a time, sometimes up to 100 or more. The urn performs the actual brewing function, then continues to keep the finished coffee warm for an extended period of time. Read on to get piping hot tips and advice about buying the best coffee urn for your needs.

“Cowboy coffee”, which requires boiling the grounds over an open fire for four minutes, is a favorite among some coffee drinkers, but it can’t be done in a coffee urn.

Key considerations

Size

The size of a coffee urn is measured in cups of coffee. That’s different from actual cup measurements. Most coffee cups are rated to hold about six ounces of fluid, not eight. So when an urn, or a regular coffee pot for that matter, specifies a certain number of cups, keep in mind that it means six-ounce cups, not eight-ounce ones.

Power

  • Electric: Virtually all coffee urns today are electric. Other than antiques, there are only a few exceptions.

  • Gas: Coffee makers that are powered by gas are either commercial coffee makers for restaurants or small pots for camping that use butane. Some coffee pots are designed without any internal power of their own and will state that they are intended to be used on an electric or gas stovetop.
FOR YOUR SAFETY

Water weighs 8.34 pounds per gallon. An urn full of water will be very heavy and difficult to move.

Features

Material

  • Aluminum: Coffee makers intended for stovetop use are designed to be as lightweight as possible. Therefore, some of them are made from aluminum. For people with kidney problems, aluminum can leach into the coffee and cause medical issues. Luckily, very few coffee urns are made from aluminum, but there are some.

  • Stainless steel: The preferred material for modern coffee urns is stainless steel. It is easier to clean and maintain than aluminum, doesn’t corrode, and doesn’t pose any known health risks.

Color

Coffee urns are mainly stainless steel with back spigots, bases, and lids. If you want any other color, you must custom order it.

Brewing speed

How fast an urn brews the coffee is dependent on the urn’s cup capacity. The larger the urn, the longer it will take to brew the coffee. Be sure to start brewing the coffee well ahead of time.

For 40 cups of coffee, plan on an hour of brewing. For 60 cups of coffee, plan on an hour and 15 minutes of brewing. For 110 cups of coffee, plan on one and a half hours of brewing.

Dispenser

  • Two-handed: Most coffee urns have spigots that require the use of two hands to operate: one hand to hold the coffee cup and one hand to push or pull the handle of the spigot. This is the industry default.

  • Single-handed: Some coffee urns have a pressure switch on the spigot. You press your coffee cup back against it and it begins filling your cup. This is helpful if you’ve got a plate of food in the other hand. Be careful, though. You need to ensure that the urn can’t slide backward when someone starts filling their coffee cup.

Cleaning

Urns are too big to put in a dishwasher. You’ll have to clean them a different way. After each use, wash them by following the first two steps listed here. After every fifth use, add step three as well.

  • Step one: Drain the urn and fill it with warm water. Run a complete brewing cycle (without coffee grounds) then scrub the entire inside of it with a long-handled brush. Using warm water helps shorten the brewing cycle.

  • Step two: Drain the water and repeat step one.

  • Step three: Fill the urn with warm water and add coffee urn cleaning compounds or tablets. The directions will be on the package. Run a complete brewing cycle, and then scrub the urn with a long-handled brush. Empty the urn and rinse it out. Fill it with warm water and run a complete brewing cycle.

Stability

Coffee urns are full of hot coffee. If they’re rocky or unstable, you have a potentially dangerous situation on your hands. If you purchase an unstable urn, send it back and get a replacement.

Accessories

  • Drip tray: Every coffee urn ever made drips now and then. You need a drip tray to put under the spigot so it won’t stain the table cloth. This value pack from Winco includes four drip trays for an appealing price.

  • Carafe: A carafe that dispenses coffee and keeps it warm is a great accessory to help ease congestion around the coffee urn. Make your coffee in the urn or a small pot. Then, pour it into the carafe and set it out wherever appropriate. This stainless steel carafe from Cresimo keeps hot beverages warm for up to 12 hours.

  • Coffee urn filters: You can’t make coffee without coffee filters, but be sure to buy the right size for your coffee urn. For example, this 250-pack from BUNN is for commercial-size coffee urns.

  • Coffee urn cleaner: Stainless steel coffee urns need to be cleaned on a regular basis. For the best-tasting coffee, you need to use cleaners that won’t leave a residue behind. Urnex makes a lot of great products for cleaning coffee makers, including this 48-count box of cleaning packets.
EXPERT TIP

Don’t use a coffee urn to brew tea. They are different beverages, and their flavors will cross-contaminate each other. If you must use your coffee urn for brewing tea, make sure you give it a thorough three-step cleaning before using it again for coffee.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Tap water can leave calcium deposits inside your coffee urn, especially in the center tube. Use a long-handled brush with a narrow head to clean the inside of it.


Staff  | BestReviews

Coffee urn prices

Inexpensive: The low end of the coffee urn price range runs from $35 to $60. That gets you a simple coffee urn that will make 25 to 40 cups of coffee per batch.

Mid-range: From $60 to $110 is the middle range price for coffee urns. These urns have a larger capacity, from 40 to 50 cups, and a glass-tube level indicator to let know how much coffee is left inside.

Expensive: Anything over $110 is the high end of the coffee urn price range. Some of these urns have capacities of up to 100 cups, automatic brewing controls, one-handed spigots, and better quality construction.

Tips

  • Never use chlorine bleach to clean a coffee urn. The chlorine in the bleach will eat the stainless steel as well as the rubber gaskets in the urn.

  • Before filling the urn with water, unlock the center pole in the urn and remove it. Pour in the water then replace the center pole. You will have to turn it to lock it into place.

  • The minimum amount of coffee you can make in most urns is 20 cups. If you’re making less coffee than that, use a regular coffee pot.

  • You can use vinegar to clean a coffee urn, but it’s not recommended, since vinegar tends to leave an odor behind.

  • Make a number of cups of coffee equal to the number of people who will attend an event, plus 25%. For example, if 40 people will be coming, you want to brew 40 cups plus 25% (10) for a total of 50 cups of coffee.

Other products we considered

We like the ChefMaid Extra Heavy Coffee Urn. It has a three-gallon capacity (64 cups) and uses a fuel can underneath to keep the coffee warm for an extended period of time. This is really useful when you're putting it somewhere there aren't any wall sockets. It won't make the coffee, but it can dispense it from anywhere in the room.

We also like the Continental Electric Professional Coffee Urn. This self-serve urn has a 50-cup capacity with digital programming for brewing, heating, and reheating. There is a permanent filter included with it. A built-in drip tray avoids the need to purchase one separately.

Moving a coffee urn full of hot coffee is dangerous. The best practice is to put the urn in place, then fill it with cold water and brew the coffee where it will be used.

FAQ

Q. What is the difference between a percolator and a drip coffee maker?

A. In a percolator, hot water is forced up a hollow center tube. The water splashes off the lid of the coffee maker and falls back down onto the coffee grounds. A drip coffee maker forces hot water up through a tube that drips it on the coffee grounds.

Q. What is the best temperature for brewing coffee?

A. The optimal temperature for making coffee is 198ºF. If you boil the coffee (212º F), it will burn the coffee grounds and leave a bitter taste.

Q. Should I reheat cold coffee?

A. You could nuke it in the microwave, but some people feel that process leeches out any remaining taste.

The team that worked on this review
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Michael
    Michael
    Writer

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