Home Coffee Gear The Ultimate Guide to the Coffee Urn: Types, Usage, and Features

The Ultimate Guide to the Coffee Urn: Types, Usage, and Features

The Ultimate Guide to the Coffee Urn: Types, Usage, and Features

A coffee urn is the ideal tool for any place that serves coffee in large volumes and at a continuous rate. Whether it is a family reunion, an office, or a cafeteria, you will need a dependable urn that is easy to clean and use. Not to be confused with a thermal coffee carafe and quite different in functionality to a standard coffee machine, let’s look closer at the coffee urn and uncover why it is the perfect solution for all your large-scale caffeine-related needs!

What Is a Coffee Urn?

In the simplest of descriptions, a coffee urn is like a large coffee percolator, except it keeps the coffee hot rather than just brewing it. This is done through its double-walled steel composition that minimizes heat escape, keeping the drink inside hot for long periods.

Typically, a standard coffee urn can make up to at least 20 cups. Aside from your regular coffee, you can also use this machine for other beverages, including hot chocolate, milk, and tea.

Unlike most coffee gear, an urn does not have multiple spouts and working parts. Instead, it features a removable top for inserting the basic ingredients, a single front nozzle for dispensing, and an on-off switch alongside the indicator light to notify you about the device’s operation status.

Some new models also feature various buttons for controlling the time and heat settings and LED display screens. However, in most instances, standard urns offer the same functions as essential coffee makers. 

To find the perfect coffee urn to suit your requirements, we recommend checking out Amazon for the most comprehensive range of choices.

What Is the Difference Between a Coffee Maker and a Coffee Urn?

*If you’re in the market for a coffee urn, you may also find our article on coffee carafes useful!

It can be easy to confuse coffee makers and urns. Even though these two kitchen appliances have a similar outside appearance, there are major differences in their heating method, taste, ease of use, and versatility.

Here is a quick sneak peek at them:

Coffee Capacity of a Coffee Urn

A standard coffee maker can brew about 20 cups of coffee. Therefore, these machines are ideal for small families with moderate coffee consumption.

Conversely, coffee urns make 30 cups of coffee on average. Some larger models can take the number up to 100 cups. Urns are primarily for commercial use and are an excellent accompaniment to large gatherings.


The warming mechanism of urns is their star feature. These mighty machines can keep your coffee warm for several hours. The built-in warming plates retain all the heat, maintaining the temperature inside.

However, unlike urns, your coffee sits without a warming mechanism in a coffee maker, getting cold and stale after a few hours.

Clean-Up and Descaling a Coffee Urn

It is normal to wash your coffee machine every day with soapy water. However, descaling is a tedious, multi-step process that is time-consuming. In comparison, coffee urns offer a relatively quick descaling process that involves only three easy steps, as shown below.

  1. Prepare a Descaling Mixture

Start by purchasing a premade descaler or preparing one from scratch using non-toxic and food-safe ingredients. Fresh lemon juice and white vinegar mixed at a 1:1 ratio with warm water is a good pocket-friendly option for getting the job done effectively.

  1. Run Through a Brewing Cycle

Next, remove the stem and basket from your urn and pour the prepared descaling mixture into it. Finally, close the lid, plug in the urn, and let it undergo a full brewing cycle.

Once completed, leave the urn on to keep the mixture hot and let it soak for at least ten minutes. After ten minutes, run the descaling solution through the spigot to drain it from the system.

  1. Clean the Urn

Let the urn cool down and go through your usual cleaning routine to remove the leftover descaling chemical, residual vinegar, or lemon juice flavor.

What Are the Different Types of Coffee Urn?

Coffee urns are categorized into two different types based on their urn capacity. First is a commercial coffee urn that can brew up to 100 cups and is best for hosting large events. Meanwhile, a home coffee urn is comparatively smaller and can brew between 20 to 30 cups at once. To find the perfect coffee urn to suit your specific group size and serving requirements, we recommend checking out Amazon for the most comprehensive range of choices.

The best way to select between these types is to assume that each person drinks 1.5 cups of coffee and then multiply it by the total number of people attending the event. This estimate leaves room for people who don’t drink coffee or for those who may drink more than one cup.

How to Use a Coffee Urn

Coffee Urn

One important thing to note is that coffee urns do not work like standard coffee makers. Instead, an urn has different capabilities and functions.

Want to Learn to Use a Coffee Urn?

Follow these few steps, and you will be well on your way to brewing the largest and tastiest batch of coffee you have ever thought possible.

Pop the Lid and Add Water

First, you must open the access point to the water and coffee filter. For this, start by removing the lid and taking off the coffee filter. Once you have removed the filter, fill the urn with water based on the level markings on either its outside or inside.

Add Coffee

Now it is time to add your coffee. While you can guess how much coffee you should add to the urn, it is always better to consider your urn’s capability.

For example, if your machine can only produce 20 cups max, it would not matter how many cups of coffee ground you insert for the maximum water level; you will still only get 20 cups. 

Start Brewing

After you have added the necessary coffee and water, shut the lid and lock it tightly. Then, you can power the urn on to begin the brewing process. Usually, it takes 40 seconds to one minute to brew a cup.

Remove the Coffee Basket and Serve 

Once the machine finishes brewing, remove the coffee basket immediately since leaving it in can make the coffee taste burnt or stale if you leave your urn out for extended periods.

And, ta-da! You are all set to enjoy multiple cups of your favorite hot beverage.

How Much Coffee to Add to the Coffee Urn?

Most coffee aficionados ask how much coffee to add to the coffee urn. A good rule of thumb is to add 8 cups of coffee grounds for every 100 cups of coffee you serve.

But if you are going for a milder brew, we suggest using 6.5 cups of grounds for every 100 cups.

What Features Should You Look for In a Coffee Urn?

Having discussed their importance in brewing coffee, it is unarguable that the right coffee urn plays a pivotal role in kickstarting your day immediately. But how do you know which machine is reliable enough to brew your coffee without hassles?

To help you make this decision, here is a list of features you should consider in any coffee urn before paying its price. Once you know what type of coffee urn you need to suit your requirements, we recommend checking out Amazon for the most comprehensive range of product choices.

Urn Capacity

First and foremost, you need to know how many cups of coffee you will brew daily. Are you getting the machine for your home or for commercial purposes where you must serve coffee frequently to customers?

Coffee urns are offered in a wide range of sizes, starting from 12 cups to 100 cups or more, depending on the price you are willing to pay. Remember that the cup size of these machines is relatively small compared to the usual cup size, and the higher the urn capacity, the harder it will be for you to transfer the liquid.

Heating System

As stated above, the major purpose of a coffee urn is to keep the drink ready and hot for serving. Coffee urns use either an active or passive heating system to do this job. An active system uses power to warm your coffee, resulting in an expensive electricity bill.

On the other hand, a passive system uses built-in insulation to preserve the drink’s heat.

Even though a costly choice, an active system does a better job at maintaining the temperature of your coffee and keeping it piping hot for longer periods than a passive one.

Basket and Filters

Coffee urns that include a removable, built-in brewing basket are cheaper and more sustainable than buying disposable filters.

Fortunately, the latest coffee urn models come with the former option. However, you can choose between a plastic filter and a stainless steel one if you choose the model with removable filters. Just ensure the coffee grounds are not so fine that they can easily pass through the filter.

Ease of Use and Maintenance

There is no point in spending money on a smart machine if you can’t operate it alone. For this reason, always see if the coffee urn is user-friendly by checking if its coffee and water levels are easy to read and if the lid is easy to remove, amongst other things.

Other features that facilitate an urn’s use and maintenance include accessories like drip-free faucets, drip trays, and dishwasher-friendly construction.


We have reached the end of our comprehensive guide about coffee urns and their different types, features, and usages in daily life.

We hope that by now, you are fully aware of the type of coffee urn you need for your business or home to brew the tastiest cup of coffee without any hassles and keep it sizzling hot for the longest time.

Happy brewing!

If you’re in the market for a coffee urn, you may also find our article on coffee carafes useful!

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