Both a decanter and a carafe may be used as containers for liquids such as wine and other alcoholic beverages. As for their differences, some say that a decanter usually has a cork, and a carafe has none. Their real differences, however, lie in their purposes and functions.
As compared to a carafe, a decanter probably has a more important role in wineries. This bottle is used during the process of wine decantation, hence the name “decanter.” Red wine in particular, especially the old and aged varieties, can form some sediment at the bottom of the bottle. This sedimentation can result in a bitter and unpleasant flavor. Once the sediment has settled at the bottom, the wine can be poured into the decanter, which will now hold the “clarified wine.”
A carafe, on the other hand, serves as a decorative bottle or container to make table settings look more elegant. They can also contain other beverages other than wine or liquor and can be used for cool or warm juices. Some carafes are even made with insulation to maintain the beverage’s temperature for a longer period.
The carafe does not come with a stopper or a cork to make it more convenient to pour the drinks. Decanters may need corks to prevent air from contaminating the wine and to avoid the clarified beverage from spilling. The purposes of both a decanter and a carafe can heavily dictate the materials used on the bottles. Glass is usually the primary—and only—material for a decanter, and a carafe can use other materials such as plastic or metal. Transparent glass is important for a decanter in order for the wine pourer to see whether or not there are still sediments remaining in the wine.
Both a decanter and a carafe can have a wider bottom, tapered necks, and a wider lip. The difference is that the decanter tends to have a much wider bottom, much like a basin’s, and a longer neck. The carafe tends to have a wider neck, and an overall longer body to accommodate larger volumes of liquid. A decanter and a carafe can both be used to serve wines and beverages, though a carafe is used more often during everyday meals. A decanter, on the other hand, is used only when an aged wine is to be served, since wines should be opened and drank within a few days.