Percolator

NOTE: There is a fair amount of disagreement on this article. For opposing views please take a look at the comments and make your own decision based on what you like.

Percolators violate most of the natural laws about brewing coffee.
o Don't over extract the oils and flavor. Percolators work by taking coffee and reheating it and throwing it over the grounds over and over and over again.

o Never reheat/boil coffee. This destroys the flavor. For best flavor, boil the water, pass it over the grounds and retain the heat. Don't reheat it.

Violating these rules may not sound like much, but these are about the only rules there are. The effect of a percolator is to keep passing boiling water/coffee over the grounds until there is no flavor left and the flavor in the coffee is so dead that it's a worthless waste.

There seems to be a great deal of misunderstanding about the re-boiling of already brewed coffee.

About half way through this video from "Coffee brewers institute" (1961) there is a good example of the boiling and re-brewing over and over again of coffee in a percolator. At approximately the 7 minute 40 second mark they show a glass percolator. If you look in the bottom half you will see already brewed coffee. The already brewed coffee is boiling and being pushed back over the grounds. That's a pretty good visual demonstration of what is happening.

Reading several comments some seem to be people who are not talking about a percolator but a vacuum pot or a moka pot.

If you have a brewer that pushes water up into a second (usually upper) chamber by steam and holds the water in the upper chamber during brewing then pulls it back via vacuum into the lower changer after brewing that's not a percolator. That is a vacuum pot which is described over here. Vacuum pot coffee also happens to be one of my favorite ways to have coffee.

A moka pot unlike a vacuum pot will push the water through the grounds and into an upper chamber that it is served from. I realize that in a few cases manufacturers have chosen to add the word percolator to the description of their moka pots. Strictly speaking this is not any more correct than calling a moka pot an espresso maker which is another common marketing gimmick for moka pots.

To further clarify (I hope) I am going to add a "typical" picture of each of the three confused types of coffee makers:

Ultimately the preference of coffee makers comes down to personal preference. I'll go further to say most people will probably prefer whatever they are accustomed to so if you grew up on perc pots you may always prefer them even if they have inherent problems. There is nothing wrong with that. You won’t get the “best” cup of coffee as defined by coffee snobs like myself but make yourself happy. Having said that if you are looking for your first coffee pot or your first non-drip coffee pot I would encourage you to skip the perc pot. If budget is a concern a French Press is excellent. If budget is less of a concern you can get a good manual Vacuum pot for a little more than an electric perc pot.

If you have already tried the other methods and want to try something new give a perc pot a try. They are not expensive so you won’t be out a lot of money. If you end up loving perc above all else then by all means celebrate your discovery of the way that is right for you.

Comments

Perc's needlessly bad image

Daniel, I think you're doing your visitors a disservice by leaving the perc description here so biased and uniformly negative. As the earliest comments in the threads indicate, a good percolator - particularly the simple electric perc available from department stores - does not boil the coffee and does not cycle it endlessly through the grounds. I have one of these percs that I bought after years of suffering with mediocre coffee from drip machines and being only marginally satisfied with the output of my moka pot and french press. The perc was a revelation! It brews a smooth, complex cup, and the design ensures that it won't produce the burnt garbage coffee that a stovetop perc pot will do if left unattended.
This is an important consideration! If your experience with percolated coffee is based on someone using a stovetop perc pot but paying poor attention to the process, then you haven't had properly prepared percolated coffee. It's the equivalent of leaving a moka pot on the stove to boil. That coffee will be lousy too, but it's not the fault of the brew method. Perc coffee was the standard cup in America for a long time for a reason! Done properly, it's amazingly smooth and delicious.
 
The electric percolator pot has a brew cycle that works quite well; it first heats up the water to just under boiling and percs it through the basket. On my 4-cup farberware percolator, this happens quickly, with a brew cycle of about 5 minutes. Then it throttles back the heat quickly, stopping the brew cycle entirely, but keeping the pot warm. 
Don't knock this brew method until you have tried it. It's outstanding, and a much better alternative to most drip machines. You're doing yourself a disservice by dismissing a very viable brew method based on bad implementations you've been exposed to in the past. Try it again, and you will see. 

Reply to Perc's needlessly bad image

 I couldn't agree with you more Roger! Unfortunately Daniel's negative and misleading comments, about percolators, is absolutely doing a HUGE disservice to people everywhere.  I, too, had been suffering with mediocre coffee from drip machines for years, because I had no idea there could be a better cup of coffee -- just better beans and good water. Keep in mind that no one is really discussing the quality of coffee beans or water either.  This does have a lot to do with a good cup of coffee, no matter how you choose to make it. 
I was hooked on an electric percolator, about 6 months ago, when my mother purchased a new percolator.  I was at her house when she served me this beautiful cup of gold.  Immediately my mouth dropped and I couldn't stop praising the taste of the coffee.  I simply could not believe the taste.  We both use the exact same coffee bean too, so the only difference was the percolator.  Let me also add that because my normal cup of drip coffee was so mediocre, I had to use flavored creamers.  With a percolator you do NOT have to use the creamer!  WOW!  That's a GOOD cup of coffee! The entire weekend I couldn't stop talking about that coffee and always wanted a reason to have another cup. 
Now, I have to tell you a little story about what my mother did. I live 1.5 hours away from her, yet I come to visit usually once a week, among other things, I take her laundry home with me and do it for her, she is 73.  We laugh, I am her fluff 'n fold service!  Anyway, when I got home that day, and started to sort her laundry, I noticed that there was a large box hidden in the clothes -- it was her NEW percolator!  OMGoodness was I surprised!  Yes, she loved her new percolator but saw how much I enjoyed it, decided to give it to me.  That is a sweet mommy!  Her birthday is in October, she will be pleased to find that one of her gifts is, that's right, another new percolator for herself! 
In a nutshell, I implore you to please 'just try it once'.  Of course, use a NEW, modern percolator and not and your mother's old one.  Perhaps that is where the supposed taste issue may be.  Today's percolator is delightful and delicious! 
NOTE: Apparently no matter how you spacing or indent, this site continues to mess it up, as you probably have noticed, if you are writing a reply.  Any mistakes (other than my grammer and spelling) are from the site and not my doing. I made all new paragraphs and accurate spacing, where needed.  It's so frustrating re-doing this reply over and over again due to, too many spaces, no spaces and no indention.  arrrrg.

Perk Up, Everyone!

Here! Here! ...for perked coffee! Actually, with the snobbery out there regarding this time honored way of brewing joe, I think Daniel was more kind than some others on this subject. I agree whole-heartedly that making coffee in a percolator (stove top or electric, in my opinion) can produce a great tasting result when done properly. This debate reminds me of a cook who once told me that it's not possible to fry food successfully in olive oil because it burns easily. All my Italian ancestors and THIS American decended from those ancestors can attest to the nonsense of that! Act like a Neanderthal with the heat and you can ruin either experience. Do it gently and the results are sublime. In my opinion, current coffee making practices reflect just how far our culture has come down the road of wastefulness, selfishness and snobbery. Drip coffeee makers use filters that are usually thrown away and the latest contraption asks us to buy tiny containers that must be discarded/recycled so all the self-involved pups can have their "vewy own individ-woo-al kind of coffee" . I say, that's not what coffee making is about!!! It's about sharing the same "pot" with friends as you linger in a communal spirit of common experience! So, get back to the pot, America. Let the percolater bring you home and back to the right track for a deeper, fuller coffee drinking experience and a less wasteful lifestyle. And remember...those grounds can go right into the compost pile so absolutely nothing is going into the trash ;-) 

Thanks!

Just wanted to say thanks for starting my day off with a thought :)
Seriously though, your mention of the "communal spirit" of a pot of coffee got me thinking about (oddly enough) a couple of rehabilitation places I stayed at for a while... One had the new "fad" version of a single cup brew packet machine... Good taste and all, but everyone walked into the kitchen, made their cup, and walked out of the kitchen to read the paper, watch tv, etc... Another had an old fashioned percolater... We all sat at the kitchen table together talking/waking up/generally socializing while it perced, then almost everyone stayed at the table while drinking their cups... The difference in the morning coffee experience was drastic and your comment explains it perfectly.. Never realized how much of a social focal point the pot of coffee could be
As for the OP... I recently inherrited an old '60s or '70s model percolater from my grandmother's passing... I had no idea how much nuaince drip coffee makers take away... This was the first time I've EVER been able to not only drink, but actually ENJOY a cup of coffee with almost zero cream and sugar....usually I add so much I get teased about how much coffee I add to my cream and sugar. Can't wait to try a vaccuum pot.. Sounds really interesting

Perced coffee

My Mom served me up a cup of coffee the other day and I said "OMG this is fabulous coffee, what kind is it?"  I found out that it was Raleys French Roast run through her Presto Electric Percolator.  Way better than my drip maker coffee Braun.  It was piping hot and so SMOOOTH.  Yum  I made her order up a percolator just like hers from Amazon.com
 
 

Long Time Coffee Drinking Snob

I have to agree with Roger, your doing a great disservice to your readers. Percolator coffee was all there was when I was a kid. I remember visiting relatives and the whole house smelling of great percolator coffee every morning. Nothing's come close since. I too was sucked in by the newer, shinier methods of brewing coffee in my 20's and beyond because someone else told me it was better, but have come back to percolating my coffee. Ironically, I saw a food channel TV show recently with a bunch of 20-something food nerds excitedly talking about this new coffee brewing method they'd just "discovered." Some sort of contraption with water at the bottom and ground coffee in an upper chamber and the water flowed over the grounds as it was heated. It brewed the most amazing cup of coffee they'd ever tasted. They had "discovered" percolator coffee. 

Coffee brewed by a coffee

Coffee brewed by a coffee percolator or coffee urn may not taste like that made with drip coffee makers, yet many people do like coffee made with percolators, and the percolators that can brew many cups of coffee are very useful as commercial coffee urns for large crowds and gatherings (family, frineds, business, seminars, etc.). There's a drawback that it makes a noise when brewing, but it can be done in advance, which is necessary anyway in order to have the coffee ready when needed.

New to Perc and a Happy Camper

I've spent a small fortune on a variety of moderately priced drip coffee makers. I also have a couple of french presses. I do so love the taste of coffee in my French Press, however, I love my coffee piping hot with a rich smooth taste. The press does that for the most part but I have to reheat and reheat and reheat as I do not gulp it all down at once.
I've never been happy with the taste of any of the various coffees I've ran through drip makers. Regardless of high end whole bean ground at home or lower end supermarket ground coffee. 
I'm on the verge of spending more than I'd like on a Keurig as I don't want the entry level ones but decided to try a Percolator first. I got the Hamilton at Target and OMG. LOVE IT. LOVE THE TASTE. LOVE THE PIPING HOT RICH SMOOTHNESS. 
Soooo, toss me in jail for violating all that is pure in how affecienados choose to brew. As long as I'm happy with the Perc - that's all that matters.
 
 

Percolators

I got a sudden urge for perked coffee a few weeks ago, went to WalMart and purchased a stove top percolator for $13.  I came home and made a pot and gave my nice drip coffee maker to my daughter.  You do have to watch it and not overperk it, but if done right it makes the BEST cuppa coffee you ever drank.....smooth, rich, hot and delicious.  Okay, so it doesn't have a clock or timer on it, but I can leave it on the burner for hours on very low heat, and it stays beautifully heated and still tastes good. 

Coffee

Thank you, I bought a Keurig and returned it. The coffee was terrible. If you ever purchase one keep all packaging and receipts cause you will need to return it. My boss bought one for our office and no one uses it. They beg me to make fresh coffee. May try the Hamilton.

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