Drippy spout: feature or bug?
August 28, 2007 5:37 AM   Subscribe

Why do coffe-maker manufacturers design the carafe spouts so that they cannot pour well?

In my google searching around this question, I've come across lots of complaints, so I know I'm not alone. But I haven't found any discussion of the "design why." It seems that every coffee carafe I've used is designed such that liquid has to be poured very slowly, or else it runs down the side of the carafe or otherwise dribbles everywhere. Given that most other types of fluid serving things like soda bottles and beer pitchers don't suffer from this problem, I'm inclined to think that it is an intentional design feature. But why?
posted by yesster to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I doubt it's an intentional feature. It may be a harder problem to solve than you're thinking, in that solving it would require time and money for prototypes and testing. Since it's something that consumers can't normally try out before they make their purchase, it doesn't effect sales. Thus there's no incentive to fix it.

Coffee behaves differently than water. (Less surface tension?) So it's more of a problem in carafes than pitchers.
posted by hydrophonic at 5:59 AM on August 28, 2007

Feel your pain, but solved it on my carafe:
If you have the type of glass carafe that has an attached lid, then the lid is part of the problem. A solution is to slightly lift the lid when you're pouring - this prevents the coffee from spilling off the edges of the lid and running down in unintended places. (hard to explain, but try it and you'll see.)
posted by mightshould at 6:10 AM on August 28, 2007

Maybe it is a feature, not a bug? Why hurry pouring the coffee?

I have seen this problem in home use coffee makers (home use, a few cups). One usually pours a cup or tow, not in a hurry.

Commercial coffee makers have better carafes. The one we have at the office allows very fast, no spills serving.

small thumbnail image
posted by Dataphage at 6:21 AM on August 28, 2007

Spouts are surprisingly hard to design well; there are some fun boundary layer issues going on there.

I remember a few years ago some scientist designed a better pouring spout with the intention of applying the design to ship prows - similar design concepts can reduce drag on the ship's hull. BBC article on the subject.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:13 AM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

you can also pull the lid up with your thumb, as an alternative to pouring slowly.

and, yes, it's stupid.
posted by letahl at 7:20 AM on August 28, 2007

Maybe it has something to do where the spout goes while the coffee is brewing -- in the back, toward the water reservoir. There probably isn't a lot of room back there for a deep, easy to pour spout (and probably not room enough in the budget to figure it out, either).
posted by notyou at 7:24 AM on August 28, 2007

Take off the carafe lid before you pour your coffee. The lid on the carafe I used to own had a strainer that fit over the carafe spout. The strainer appeared to diffuse the coffee stream, causing some of it dribble down the front of the carafe.

I first witnessed this lid-removal solution -- I kid you not -- while watching Robert DeNero pour himself and Val Kilmer coffee in "Heat" using the same Krups coffee maker I used to own. Before he fills his mugs, DeNiro takes the lid off. I like to imagine DeNero spilling coffee all over the counter in the first couple takes of the shot, until a clever PA realized that the lid was the problem.

Alternatively, buy a carafe-free coffee maker.
posted by hhc5 at 8:23 AM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Blenders have the same problem, and it being less solvable (you can't just buy a new pitcher for your expensive blender base, nor are you usually pouring with the lid on anyway). Solution to that would be greatly appreciated too.
posted by artifarce at 8:45 AM on August 28, 2007

This drives me batty as well, and it doesn't really manifest as much when I am pouring a cup of coffee - I can be reasonably patient and aware and pour slowly THEN. The time when it is really annoying is when I am pouring the water into the reservoir.

I have to hold the pot much higher because, obviously, the opening where you pour the water in is the highest point of the coffee maker. So I am holding the pot high and out of comfortable range. I am going from a full pot all the way to an empty one so I have to change the angle of my hand through the whole pour. The thumb technique results in instability that causes more spillage.

If there is not a specific "design why" what could the "design why NOT" be? Why is there NOT a better way?

Of course, I use a french press at home, so there IS a better way. But still!
posted by dirtdirt at 8:47 AM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yes, this drives me nuts too! The high pour with the thumb on the back of the lid helps...but if I haven't had my coffee yet, I often forget to do this. D'oh!
posted by iamkimiam at 9:15 AM on August 28, 2007

mightshould has it. It's the lid that causes the dribbling. Flip the lid with your thumb before pouring.

I've noticed that Mr. Coffee machines all seem to have this design flaw. My Melitta at home pours fine without flippling, but this abominable Mr. Coffee at work that a co-worker bought that I wish would die already and I would kill with my bare hands if not for the fact that it has a mechanical on/off switch rather than a 1 hour timer that's not office friendly... whew... breathe... anyway, I feel your pain. I'm tired of wiping up the coffee mess from the other people around here who just can't seem to flip the lid even though you tell them about it every other day.

Black & Decker models with the plastic spout on the carafe pour nicely too.
posted by AstroGuy at 9:22 AM on August 28, 2007

Take off the lid. It's acting like a dam.

I transfer my coffee to this vacuum jug as soon as it finishes brewing. Eva Solo has making liquid containers with lids down to a science. The CafeSolo flask with knitwear jacket is quite nice.
posted by junesix at 9:49 AM on August 28, 2007

This may sound weird, but...

I always had the spillage issue; I poured (as you would think was correct) by twisting my wrist to tilt the carafe, increasing the angle of tilt as needed in order to fill the cup.

I changed my method to:

Hold carafe above cup, arm slightly bent. Keep the carafe more or less stationary and simply raise elbow, which causes the liquid to pour out of the carafe. The wrist doesn't bend and the carafe tilts only as an extension of the bent arm (caused by the elbow-raise).

For some reason, this works- no spills.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 10:38 AM on August 28, 2007

A sharp edge on the spout at the proper angle can help with drip issues. Unfortunately, it can also lead to early morning wounds.
posted by Good Brain at 11:33 AM on August 28, 2007

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