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.

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

I must disagree with those

I must disagree with those who prefer percolated coffee. It's absolutely the most tasteless cup of joe I've had. I recently bought a nice percolator, remembering it was always in my home as a child. The quality of the coffee tastes more like a cigarette when you don't smoke -- it's a strong but harsh tobacco taste, with less coffee flavor and aroma. It's mostly robust brown water. The drip method preserves more of the smooth, rounded coffee flavor. Too bad -- I love the way the percolator looks and the stainless-steel innards. Very cool, and the pot looks better on the cabinet. But I've packed it away, probably forever. Drip method from now on.

Severe Constipation

Since I quit caffeine again 3 months ago I have been having digestive issues. Constipation is one of them. Some weeks things will be ok then another week constipation again. I know I had this back in 2011 when I quit caffeine for a year but I forgot how bad it was. What was the longest any of you had to deal with constipation issues because its a pain in the butt.

Just try it once.

Percolated coffee is among the best brewing methods. I've had countless pots in a french press, through high quality auto drip, pourover, vacuum, (not to mention the barrels of coffee through low shelf auto drippers that I've had the displeasure of consuming). The only method I haven't used is the aeropress. I do use high quality beans that are freshly roasted, and I grind fresh every brew. That said, in my view percolated coffee is definitely up there with all of the other methods I've tried. If anything, percolator brew tends to be smoother than some of the other methods while maintaining a fully body and richness. Over-extraction has never been a problem with my percolator (while occasionally I have screwed up with other manual methods).

The electric percolator I have (a cheap 40 dollar Presto) keeps the coffee in the holding tank at just under 190 degrees while brewing (I checked it with a candy thermometer after reading this article), so overheating is not an issue. I wasn't able to check the water tempt as it hits the coffee, but most seem to agree that the water coming out of the percolator stem is just under boiling as it should be.

As for the idea of percolated coffee being over-extracted via the brewed coffee mixing in the reservoir and then being re-brewed, this is no different than french press, which steeps the coffee for 4 minutes in one big reservoir.

All of that said, the proof is in the pudding. If you are a coffee lover, get a percolator and try it out for yourself. It is my go to method for serving coffee when I have a large group of guests over. There is definitely a lot of disinformation out there about percolated coffee.

Let me add this to my last

Let me add this to my last comment. With a percolator you can take starbucks beans and make a better cup of coffee than Starbucks makes. Of course, the same can be done with other manual methods as well.

Is the Altitude a factor?

I just bought a percolator, watched the videos, experimented (a little) and now get the absolute best coffee I have ever had. And I've had a French Press, a single-cup drip, and several drip machines over the years. Yes, the percked coffee surpasses them all.

But I live at a high altitude. In fact, water boils here at about 200degrees--supposedly the optimal temperature for coffee brewing. So if my percolator takes the same ol' coffee, boils it, then reprocesses it until it's "dead", then it is doing it at the right temperature.

I wonder if this could be one factor in the wide disagreement people have over percked coffee?

RE: Is the Altitude a factor?

You know this is something I had not considered before but it makes a certain amount of sense.

Perculator Coffee

I have had Drip, French Press, Pour Over, Stove top and Electric Perc's. For years we used a Faberware stove top 6 cup percolator, made the best coffee. Everyone that had a cup said so. Eventually went to a Braun Drip that would make a cup in 3 minutes. It made good coffee. After it died, I couldn't justify the $100 price tag. I bought a West Bend 12 cup Electric Percolator. Wow! I had forgotten how good a non-gourmet cup of coffee could taste. We use Maxwell House Classic, and it is great.
We enjoy for a change Jamaica Blue Mountain. We had gone to the World Market to get a bag, but they were out. Decided to try the South Pacific Island blend. I have to say that in the Perc, it was wonderful. Smooth, not acidic, full bodied, just good coffee.
If you like gourmet coffees, try them in a percolator, you might be surprised.

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. 

Im very grateful for all of

Im very grateful for all of the comments. Can't wait to try out a percolator! !

You are talking to nobody,

You are talking to nobody, those posts are all out of date, so take your percolator and put it …...

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