Last update on 2020-10-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Never enough coffee? Sick of making a huge batch for those family gatherings?
It’s time to get something that’s going to work for you, so you aren’t slaving over a hot brew basket every single day.
The best coffee urn is one that works perfectly for your direct needs, matches the volume that you’re expected to provide, and takes a lot of the guesswork out of planning for functions.
Not only that, but you can use it to make coffee for yourself at home if you’re staying in and cramming for a test or binging your favorite game.
The point is, coffee urns are versatile and multifunctional.
You can do just about anything with them, including storing tons of coffee during travel, stash hot chocolate inside during those cold winter months, or even use them for tea if you’re not in the mood for coffee.
They might be harder to clean than your standard carafe, but nearly twenty-four hours of storing hot coffee and almost two full days of storing cold beverages is enough of a reason to grab one.
Our Reviews Of The Best Coffee Urns
Hamilton Beach 4051SR 45 Cup Coffee Urn
Hamilton Beach is known for being the top-of-the-line brand when it comes to inexpensive small appliances.
They simply know how to make a good product without charging the consumer an arm and a leg, and they’ve done exactly that with their 4051SR model.
With a full metal design and internal marked cup marker, you get quality insulation, as well as a way to brew high volume coffee.
The interlocking lid snaps right into place, holding your grinds perfectly in place while you get everything else set up.
There’s even an indicator light that lets you know when everything is done so you don’t have to fiddle around with timers.
The only problem here is the number of cups that they tell you about. They claim it’s a 45 cup unit, but with a maximum capacity of 196 oz.
That means each coffee cup is barely over four ounces (the equivalent of two shots of espresso).
We don’t know about you, but we don’t know anybody who has a four ounce cup of coffee. While the cup measurement system is off, 196 oz is a great capacity.
With a two-way dispensing system, you’re left with nothing but a smooth transition from urn to cup, every single time.
Hamilton Beach also includes a one-year limited warranty to protect your product from defects.
West Best 58002 Polished Aluminum Coffee Urn
It looks good, it brews well, and it’s insanely affordable for a high capacity coffee urn.
West Best includes a long cable that gives you plenty of distance between the table/counter and the outlet, so you can bring this virtually anywhere with you and brew like a master.
This unit is NSF certified, meaning it’s been checked over by a third-party certification system that isn’t associated with the United States government, ensuring sanitary practices on a global level.
It’s one of the highest standards that you need for clean, reliable kitchen equipment that comes into direct contact with food.
It’s important to note that the sidewalls are hot to the touch from the outside, so approach with caution. It might be worth it to put a little “Hot – Do Not Touch” sign up somewhere.
While this is a minor design flaw, the dripless faucet and cool tip touch filter at the top are excellent touches in maintaining quality.
When you go to toss out the grinds, you won’t burn yourself on the lid. The warranty is a bit of a joke, as a fair warning.
While they will replace the unit from defects, the warranty shipping costs can be about 20% of the price of the unit, which makes it feel like it’s only so worth it to mail it back for errors.
Users report years of reliability, so this isn’t likely to be an issue.
Nostalgia HomeCraft CU30SS Coffee Urn
If safety is a concern, especially if the function you’re bringing this to has little ones, Nostalgia has you covered.
Between the twist-and-lock lid, there are two clamps to keep the lid in place, so there’s virtually no chance of this tipping and causing burns.
That’s also due in part by the no-drip nozzles that keep the coffee where it’s supposed to be: in the urn.
One of the most notably excellent features about this unit is the automatic warming function.
Once the coffee is done brewing, it just switches over to the warm setting to keep it at the perfect temperature.
We don’t know where these companies keep getting this 5 oz cup of coffee measurement, but it certainly isn’t right.
150 ounces is enough to meet most needs, and for normal cups of coffee (QSR locations usually have a 10 oz for a small), you’ll get 15 cups out of this.
With a relatively short cord, you might need to bring a 3 ft extension cable along for the ride to get this to reach the necessary areas.
It’s a compact model with broad legs that keep it stable and sturdy, and brews a stellar batch of coffee.
Nesco CU-50 Professional Coffee Urn
Finally, someone who understands a more reasonably-sized cup of coffee.
The 50 cup capacity is at least based on 5.7 ounce cups of coffee, which is a bit more transparent than we’ve seen so far.
That’s 285 oz in total, meaning that for the same price as some other units, you’re getting far more volume.
But it isn’t just about the volume. Nesco also brews a tantalizing cup of coffee, and gives you full control over the temperature.
Where some units might continue to “cook” coffee while it sits there, this has a warming function that keeps everything at the perfect temp for serving.
Pair that with the double wall insulation, and you’ve got a solid unit. You can see through the little window on the front to monitor the amount.
This unit is seriously not meant to store cold liquid, however, because for some reason, the spout will leak when cold water is inside.
You could use this to store tea or hot chocolate, just wait until you’re actually at the function before you add it in to prevent leakage.
The main issue with this unit is that it’s fairly slow when you make a high volume of coffee.
You could compare it to making a ton of 32 oz carafes, but the point of an urn is high output in as little time as possible.
Nesco made a good unit with a great price tag on it, though it doesn’t have more than a five-year lifespan on it.
Airpot Coffee Carafe Dispenser
It’s important to note that this is simply a holding urn, and will not brew the coffee for you.
But with that being said, it is able to hold hot and cold beverages with ease.
The pump-action dispenser on the top gives a forceful flow of coffee from the top spout, while the sturdy bottom base keeps everything in place.
Keep anything hot or cold for up to twenty hours straight—perfect for tailgating, camping, long functions that are a few hours car ride away, and more.
The only limitation is your imagination. One minor picadillo of this unit is that it needs to be perfectly level to properly dispense coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.
Otherwise the pump forces out a bit of air and sprays the drink instead of letting it flow into the cup.
Coffee Urns FAQ
How to Use a Coffee Urn?
Whether it’s 50 cup coffee urns or a simple 15 cup unit, they all work in two ways.
Coffee urns hold the grinds along the top of the unit in a filtered basket. You can pour the water through the coffee and quickly seal the top to retain heat, or use it as a percolator.
It all depends on the unit you choose, and what your preference is.
Fill the brew basket with the necessary amount of coffee grounds before operating. Measure the grind amount against the water you’re using.
Most units come with individual booklets that give you a measurement system, since every brand and unit is different.
Set the basket, fill with water, and flip the on switch.
If your system does not come with a timer that automatically shuts the unit down or switches it to a warming method, it’s imperative for the shelf life of the hot coffee that you get your own timer, and understand the capabilities of your unit’s insulation.
While most can hold heat for up to twenty-four hours, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be at its highest quality at that time.
How to Clean a Coffee Urn?
Stainless steel coffee urns are basically the easiest thing you’ll ever clean.
Even though coffee essentially cooks to the side of it, these urns don’t usually come with a BPA plastic interior lining, which is a good thing for both your health and your time spent cleaning.
All you need is a non-abrasive, soft bristle brush to scrub the interior.
Some urns might have a metallic reflective interior or a ceramic interior, and that’s okay: those are fairly easy to clean as well.
If the top comes off to reveal the brew basket and spire, remove those and soak them separately.
You should have plenty of space to reach around and scrub the inside like a barrel, and use a rag to hit the corners to remove any residual coffee buildup.
Run a spray hose with hot water through the open spigot, and gently brush around the edges of it with a smaller brush.
If your unit doesn’t have enough room for you to get your hand in there, you can work around it. Use that soft bristle brush we talked about earlier to get all around the edges.
Use plenty of soap. Since coffee has a high oil concentrate, that’s where a lot of the stuck-on mess is going to come from.
Some dishwashing soap will take care of that. Let it run through the spigot at the end to pull out any extra coffee.
It’s very important not to use steel wool or the abrasive side on your sponge.
Scratching up the interior can not only damage its ability to retain heat and reflect it properly, but it can eventually lead to bacterial buildup.
Scratches and crevices along the side of the interior can hold onto water and coffee oil, and are virtually impossible to pinpoint to clean any deeper than that.
Just treat your urn properly from day one, and this won’t be a problem.
How Does a Coffee Urn Work?
Most large coffee urns are basically big percolators, where boiling or hot water travels upwards through a tube from pressure (much like a siphon coffee maker).
It then gently comes out of the spray head or ending tube, where it covers the coffee grinds.
The water drips back down to the bottom of the reservoir to begin the process again. Over time, you get a darker and stronger brew with each passing minute.
Elegant coffee urns use this method as well. Percolators are famous for allowing you to control the strength and brevity of the coffee you’re serving.
If you let it run continuously, then the coffee acts as water and goes back through the grinds, strengthening it with each pass.
Since there’s a lot of filtration at work here, you start off with fewer dissolved solids in your coffee (thinner, smoother coffee).
Over time, more dissolved solids enter the coffee (think creamier consistency, like espresso). There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s just all about preference.
How Long Does Coffee Last in an Urn?
In a sense, it’s sort of up to you.
Even if you turn your urn from its make setting to the warm setting, which will stop the percolation process, you still have a certain amount of time before that coffee starts to taste off.
Despite your best efforts to keep your coffee away from oxidation so that it can stay fresh, you just created escaped oxygen from the heated water that’s sitting inside of the urn chamber.
Don’t open it, though; you’ll only allow more oxygen in, and all the heat will get out. This is just a painstaking part of using a coffee urn.
You can let the heat sit there, at which point the oxygen from the water will slowly oxidize the coffee and give it a stale taste.
Or, you could put your own shelf life on the coffee and ignore the “20+ hours of heat retention” messages on the urn packaging.
Just because it holds heat does not mean it retains quality.
No matter what urn you get, quality will slip as it sits there, so try to set a reasonable shelf life of a couple of hours after the brewing process is complete to maintain flavor and freshness.
How Much Coffee For a 30 Cup Urn?
Each coffee urn puts a different “X cup system” message on their marketing.
The best 30 cup coffee urn might not be 30 different 8 oz cups, but instead, they might measure cups as 4.36 oz, as one of the models we reviewed did.
The best way to determine how much coffee you’re going to need is to look at the overall capacity for the entire unit.
The best coffee urn reviews out there all talk about a similar issue: people not knowing how to properly use their units.
Your coffee-to-water ratio is critical in making a good batch of coffee. You should measure one tablespoon of ground coffee for every six ounces of water used.
This is going to make an agreeable strength in your coffee, but if it isn’t sufficient, you can do two tablespoons per six ounces of water.
If you’re using a 150 oz coffee urn, then you’re going to need to have at least 25 tablespoons of coffee grinds (1.5 measured cups), up to 50 tablespoons (3 measured cups).
Since everyone drinks their coffee and enjoys it differently, listen to feedback from those who you’re serving it to.
You might find it to be the right strength and consistency, but others might disagree.
Tweak the measurements slightly based on that feedback, especially if you’re going to be in charge of coffee the next time around as well.
As a side note, even if you buy pre-ground coffee for this, you’re looking at 12 to 24 ounces of ground coffee.
If you bought a standard two-pound container of coffee grinds, you could be spending anywhere from $7.00 to $20.00 just to make coffee. Factor in costs and brands into your equation.
How to Make Hot Chocolate in the Coffee Urn?
Even the best commercial coffee urn isn’t designed to make hot chocolate in a traditional sense, but it can be manipulated from its original use to make hot chocolate.
If you were to put hot chocolate powder into the brew basket, it would try to percolate, which isn’t what you want to happen. That would stay in the brew basket and turn into clumps.
You want to drop it right into the distilled tap water that you fill the basin with.
You can use the measurement system on the side of the container/package in order to get the right volume.
Once the two are mixed, stir it with a non-abrasive plastic or silicone spoon to blend everything properly. The water is going to heat up and move, but it’s not going to come to a rolling boil.
Turn the machine on, and give it half of the usual brew cycle. If the unit takes about twenty minutes for a 50 oz batch of coffee, give it ten minutes instead, and so on.
Apply that across the board for any powdered beverages that you make in your coffee urn. At the halfway mark, turn the knob or flip the switch so that it’s simply on the warm setting.
The tricky thing about hot chocolate is that it settles. You need to pop the top open and stir it as often as possible to ensure it doesn’t just rest like sediment at the bottom.
For this, it’s recommended to set a timer right next to the urn, as well as a spoon rest for the hot chocolate stirrer.
If you don’t stir it occasionally, it could clog the spigot tract.
That’s going to make cleaning it out later very difficult, and could block up the spigot despite there still being hot chocolate inside the chamber.
It’s not intended use, so you will have to use some judgment here and inspect your coffee urn warranty to make sure everything is compliant.
High Capacity for the Busy Life
Make gourmet coffee for the employees, treat your neighbors, bring hot chocolate to the big game—whatever the case is, you have thousands of uses at your fingertips.
High capacity coffee urns are made to bring top notch quality in high quantities, and with these urns, you’ll be doing just that.