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

Percolator

I have every type of coffe maker you could name, including a vacuum pot.
The vacuum pot is in fact my second favorite way of brewing coffee, but nothing....nothing can beat percolated coffee, for the aroma, the flavor, and the smoothness.
I believe that most of the people on the web simply follow the words of others...(parrots/sheep)....and sing the same old song about the evils of perked coffee.
Case in point: I have a neighbor that sings that same old evil percoplator song to me, then one day I asked him: did you ever even have perked coffee?
Not surprisingly his answer was: no! .... point made!

They're called "sheeple" and

They're called "sheeple" and they are a surprisingly abundant species....

Percolators

My neighbors were cleaning out 'Granma's' house and gave me three percolators(1900?, 1930's & 1950's).  One manual and two electrics and I dig them the most!  I was looking for how the electric circuits know when to perc and when to shift to warm.  [email protected]

Percolicious

New to Percolators, well sort of, as my Grandparents used to make it this way in the "old days".  I prefer the taste over the drip models. Call me old fashioned, but it just tastes GREAT, full of flavor and HOT! What was once old, is NEW again!

Percolating coffee

What an interesting article.  I just recently posted an article asking what happened to perked coffee.  It is one of my favorite ways to drink coffee.  Although, I must say I am also guilty of calling a Moka pot a stove top espresso maker, this is now my absolute favorite form of coffee.  On the subject, however I personally think that percolated coffee offers much better flavor than auto drip coffee.  I love the strength in perked coffee.  In my opinion the flavor is much better than most other forms.  As for perculating coffee being an effort, this is so true.  Perked coffee can easily be too weak or too strong and bitter.  The idea is to learn exactly how you like and for me it's based on time of perk and color.  All that being said, all beans are not alike and unless the coffee bean is of quality, any coffee can taste terrible.  Thanks for postingt this article though.  Very good reading.  

A long search for a drip coffee maker

I have been on a long search for a drip coffee machine that makes a good cup of coffee, and... I haven't found one :(  I have hopelessly tried different machines of varying price ranges, reviews, and ratings.  The latest one that I just bought based on reviews is the Cuisinart DC1200 (it gets the highest ratings on Amazon and other websites).  I do admit that I have not tried the Technivorm- just something about spending $300 on a drip coffee maker does not sit well with me.  Nevertheless, the end result is all the same- bland, mediocre coffee that is not hot enough.  I drink lots of coffee (2-5 cups a day) and I appreciate a good tasting cup of coffee.  I buy my coffee beans at a local roaster, so they are fresh all the time.  This morning I decided to give the Cuisinart another shot- the temperature, although not hot, was bearable- drinkable at least.  As far as taste and aroma- bland, boring- slightly better than gas station coffee.  I turned around and brewed some coffee on my mom's electric percolator (hamilton beach $40 at Target)... Result- aromatic, flavorful, HOT coffee...  So, I don't know/care what kind of coffee laws the percolator violates, but this baby can make one heck of cup of coffee, imho...

Must have good coffee

I have spent a lot of $ on coffee equipment. My made in Holland Techivorm coffee maker and my Rancillio burr grinder are both very expensive. I also have a 30 years coffex espresso machine I repaired and make excellent espresso. I would rather spend more money and buy products that last a lifetime and work well that but cheap stuff that breaks every 2 years. It is not so cheap then. And buying fresh coffee beans is a must. Costco has good prices and that is were I buy my french roast. Depending on what kind of coffee you make you need the approprate grind. You will either waste coffee or it won't be as good as it can be. Sorry, store bought used to be good just now is just plain bad. Yes my Techinvorm makes excellent coffee and I am experimenting with a vintage glass pyrex peculator maker. I do like hot coffee and it does this well. The coffee tastes different than drip. I also use a french press. I think you can make a good cup o joe with any kind of coffee maker if you do it right AND use good coffee.
While it was painful at the time I spent so much on coffee equipment I am glas now I bought them. I NEVER buy coffee at a shop. I can make better and it cost a lot less.I am drinking a cup of perc coffee now but I need use more coffee, still a little weak for me. A side not, the stronger the coffee the less caffeine it has. The longer the roast the less caffeine is left.
ENJOY!!
 

coffee maker question

Hey, can you tell me if you are still liking your Technivorm? Thinking of buying one of them - the one that brews into the thermal carafe. I love my percolator and French Press but my husband keeps a very different schedule than me so I want to make coffee for me in the early AM and have him drink it still be drinkable 2 hrs later. I guess another option would be for me to decant the percolator into a pre-warmed thermal carafe, which would be a lot cheaper than buying a great drip coffee maker.

Please let me know if you still think the Technivorm is worth the $, thanks!

RE: coffee maker question

I'm not the original poster you replied to but I had a Technivorm for years and can tell you it is a great drip coffee machine. A year or two ago I replaced it with a Bonavita which is, in my opinion, on par with the Technivorm although probably not quite as nice to look at. My memory of why I decided to replace the Technivorm escapes me at this time. I looked at another Technivorm, Bonavita and the Behmor but settled on the Bonavita. You should be able to find bake off comparisons of these three brands/models.

The SCAA has a certification program and it looks like a couple more brands have ended up on the list so it may be worth giving them a look. Also with the exception of Technivorm and Behmor be sure to check the model as all the pots in a line may not be certified. At the time I purchased Behmor had not hit the list yet and that was part of the reason I did not go that route. http://www.scaa.org/?page=cert2

Having said all that no coffee that is 2 hours old even in a great carafe of air pot is going to be as good as fresh but start with a better product and you will end with a better product.

I'm of the opinion that a vacuum port or french press are both still better than the best drip coffee but for weekdays drip is much more convenient.

Two rules to counter yours...

A lot of people have told me the rules mentioned above, that you shouldn’t boil coffee and you shouldn’t over-extract the oils and flavors. But the proof is in the cup of coffee.

I’ve been entertaining people for over 20 years, and I’ve been using a percolator all that time. I buy whatever coffee is on sale at the grocery store, mostly “Chock Full of Nuts” or “Maxwell House.” I make the coffee strong, and put just a tiny bit of cinnamon (~1/8 teaspoon) on the grounds.

Despite all of these egregious errors, I consistently have been told “this is the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had.” I hear this from unsophisticated coffee drinkers. I hear this from coffee snobs. I’ve heard this from people from Seattle. I hear this from business people who travel to Costa Rica regularly. I’ve had people swear I must be using expensive coffee. I’ve had people watch me make it and stand in disbelief as they savor the coffee.

Observing the success of my coffee, I have come up with my two immutable facts to counter yours:
1. Everybody likes a strong cup of coffee.
2. Everybody likes a hot cup of coffee.

Most other methods of brewing coffee violate both of these rules or at least make it more difficult to achieve them. Percolation, especially in an automatic electric percolator, makes both of these rules easy to achieve.

I’m not saying the way you choose to make coffee is wrong. I’m just saying everyone likes my coffee.

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