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.


Very helpful!

My wife gave me a percolator for Christmas on the grounds that I love using somewhat archaic technologies.  I was horrified, because I like excellent coffee far more!  But to save her feelings, I've been using the stovetop percolator and finding the coffee surprisingly good.  Eric's clarification is very helpful--if properly managed, the percolator is not actually boiling the coffee, but rather using convection to pump hot water over the grounds.  This helps me explain why (to my surprise) I don't hate perc'd coffee.  The upside: a big pot of good coffee to serve a group.  The downside: doing this well on a stovetop requires some vigilance.  So this becomes a go-to way to make coffee for a group, while my french press or Melitta filter is great for just me.


I read Eric's comment as I was mentally composing my paragraph defending percolators. No need for me to write it though because he said it. Stovetop, low heat. And theoretically continuous flow=suspending grounds. Yup, I agree.

Sure, the flavor is different than drip, vac, press, moka as all are different from each other. I prefer a low acid, high body coffee leaning in profile to earthy or chocolate in a perc, but I'll brew brighter, lighter coffees in a vac pot, and maybe fruiter in a press. Depends on the bean and the flavor you want. Those older stove top pyrex or corningware from the thrift store can do a nice job if you watch the time and heat. Just like other methods, it takes fiddling. I'm not keen on electric perc any more than I'm keen on electric vac (eg bodum santos automatic, old sunbeams) because I can't easily control the heat and time during brewing the way you can with a stovetop.



RE: I haven't seen the 1961

Interesting. If you are interested in the video it is linked in the article.


I am trying to give the best first-hand experience, non bias comment around..

First, I drink my coffee black. I am not a fan of drip or percolators. I totally agree that with the comments that people that own drip machines are generally dissatisfied and I was one of them but I much prefer a drip over a percolator. However, I now have a Bunn that I use every day and I love it. It brews the coffee very strong and with lots of body. That's because it shoots the water out in 5 streams to mix up all the grinds rather than a slow drip. And apparently people keep their Bunns for 15 years! I realize I sound like I work for Bunn, but you could easily spend $100 on a Krups drip machine that is no better than the $25 Mr. Coffee. It's Bunn or french press for me.

Now my first-hand experience. I always roast my own coffee and this Christmas I gave some to my uncle who has a percolator. After consuming the coffee I gave my uncle brewed in his new automatic perc, I was sad to realize that the taste I love from my home roasted coffee was gone and it tasted just like it was the same Folgers coffee that my uncle and my grandparents use. Further more, both my uncle and grandparents drink their coffee with heavy cream so I am assuming they can't taste the difference anyway.

In conclusion, I would say that coffee brewed in a percolator has a certain taste, which I do not like. But if you are going to argue that dripers are better, you do not have much ground (pun intended) to stand on if the machine you are using is a proctor silex.

If you want great flavor extraction and spend $30, use a french press. But again, that is how I feel and other people may not like really good, strong coffee. There is always manual pour, but I have never tried that.

The author of this article

The author of this article must like thin tasteless coffee. Percolators make far better tasting coffee than drip. Dirp coffee makes are for people who don't know what coffee should taste like or that don't like the taste of coffee.

RE: The author of this article

You are certainly welcome to your opinion. Just remember that you are disagreeing with almost every specialty coffee professional. Drip coffee isn't perfect by any means. Vacuum or press pot are by far better but drip does not boil the coffee so it's the lesser of evils.

I agree perc coffee rocks

I agree perc coffee rocks over drip coffee. You can call me tasteless, and my coffee too, but you'll have to pry my PollyPerk percolator out of cold dead hands to get it away from me.

coffee percolators

There was a time when one could purchase a small (1-2 cups) coffee percolator which was ideal for someone living alone. I have an old one which has seen better days, but now all the percolators on the market are made for four cups and up. Sure, they say you can make two cups of coffee, but one still has to use a large percolator just to make one or two cups of coffee.

A percolator making its

A percolator making its bubbling music and the wonderful aroma of percolating coffee is unbeatable. No other coffee maker creates such a pleasing ambience. Throw away the coffee and drink from another pot jif you wish, but the nostalgic aroma dn music spells "Good morning!" and at other meal times it says,"Welcome to the table!".

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