Friday, June 25, 2010

Self-Cooling Terracotta Water Pitcher: Cool Gear

There are few things in life that are more delectable than a cool glass of fresh, pure water on a hot summer day. Unglazed terracotta water containers have the remarkable property of being able to cool their contents. Water seeps through their pores, and progressively evaporates. The evaporation process absorbs heat and cools the container and its content, being able to maintain a temperature 12-15 degrees below ambient - efficiency is best in dry weather. This age-old process is widely used in the Middle East to keep water cool, but unglazed terracotta pitchers are hard to find in the US. Always use a coaster or base for these containers, as they will mark a wood surface with water marks.

#2 VKB Stay-Cool Terra Cotta Carafe. The VKB Carafe, available for $42, is a modern design, made of unglazed red terracotta, mounted on a gray silicone base (to avoid marking the surface on top of which it resides). It contains one quart of water, and is easy to pour one-handed. While we enjoy its capabilities, we are not in love with the too obvious silicon in its base, and find the design as a whole somewhat unbalanced. We like the fact that the base is integrated with the pitcher, and therefore harder to misplace.

#1 Terracotta Carafe Cooler. This hand-made carafe cooler is composed of unglazed red terracotta, with a plastic base and stopper of the same color. It is available from Fante's Kitchen Wares for $25.  It is 9" high and 5" wide, and contains a little over one quart of water. We find the classical shape graceful, and the use of plastic is not so obvious as that of the VKB carafe. Using the stopper does not appear to generate any difference in temperature, so we assume that it is not a necessary implement. Because the belly of the carafe is larger than that of the VKB, it is necessary to pour from the neck of the pitcher (an etiquette no-no:-), or hold the carafe with two hands.

We also found several other self-cooling terracotta containers that we did not feel were appropriate to the task. This 2-gallon filtering water dispenser, by Royal Doulton, adds a transparent plastic holder on the top, and uses a diatomaceous water filter, which needs to be periodically rinsed. The plastic top just looks too tacky to us. We like the lines of the Stefani Terracotta Water Crock a lot more, but it includes a replaceable filter that periodically needs changing, and we are doubtful of some of the "scientific" claims of the company, which look to us more like pseudo-science.

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