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

Works for me...

I recently bought a Presto stainless steel percolator. I've had no problem adjusting the grind for a perfectly balanced taste, neither over nor under extracted. The coffee is very rich and tastes more like coffee from a press than from a drip machine to me. The coffee is hotter and seems to last longer in the pot without burning... no filters... no paper or plastics to leech chemicals into your coffee... I highly recommend the Presto perc if you enjoy a great cup of coffee.

I've also found by using a finer grind suitable for drip coffee, you can make "super" coffee with a caffeine kick that will knock your socks off.. lol

i have a drip, percolator,

i have a drip, percolator, and french press. sorry but the percolator makes the best coffee in my opinion - the flavor is a lot better - now i usually drink darker coffee - french roast & colombian so i dont know if that matters - i think it depends on the drinker.

complete nonsense

After reading this description of a percolator, I literally burst into laughter. The amount of misinformation is astounding. Percolators boil water into new grounds of coffee; they do not reheat coffee thats what a microwave does. A person does not need a completely different appliance to reheat coffee, which is not what a percolator is used for.

I advise checking the facts before misinforming the population.

percolator nonsense

sorry drama-queen, you are the misinformed one. your taste also fails fact.

re: complete nonsense

I'm glad I could help you get a good laugh. Laughter is good.

Reheating may not be exactly the correct word but I think if you will read the text again you will see that what I am talking about is the fact that the brewed coffee in a percolator will continue to boil and be recirculated through the grounds over and over again. This is a reheating of the coffee. If the water simply got to a boil and was pushed into a separate chamber (cooling to slightly below boiling before it ever hit the grounds) where it would stay like a vacuum pot then the coffee would be safe but that is now how a percolator works. A perc repeatedly boils the already brewed coffee. That's just a way to scorch coffee.

Having said this if you like perc coffee by all means drink it and enjoy it. But if you are buying good beans and drinking straight black coffee in my opinion you would be better off with almost any other prep method. If you are buying cheap beans and then loading it down with milk and sugar it probably doesn't make much difference.

Sorry for you, but the

Sorry for you, but the coffee does steam upwards through a shaft where which the coffee is effectively caught in another chamber. In this chamber, as you have worded it, the coffee sits and is never re-boiled. I'm not sure where you got the information you have stated but I believe it to be horribly mistaken. Seriously, just observe the design of the pot.

RE:Sorry for you, but the

If you would be kind enough to read the article you will see a link to a video. 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. Say it's not true if you like but that's a pretty good visual demonstration of what is happening. Now on the other hand if you want your coffee to be pushed up into a second chamber by steam and held safely away from boiling that's not a percolator. That is a vacuum pot which is described over here.

I watched the video of a

I watched the video of a 60's style percolator, who uses one of those percolators? Maybe campers or grandparents. If you want to get an idea of the kinds of percolators coffee enthusiasts use take a look at http://www.bialetti.com/
Yeah, the kind of percolator in the video does make the worst coffee ever. I would never use such a dumb concoction. I use a percolator at home for great coffee and a french press in my studio for decent coffee. I'm not sure if you knew there were two types... Although, if you are commenting on this forum and you don't know the differences between this percolator in the video narrated by William Shatner and the Italian stove top percolator well, then maybe you're hurting worse than I. Who has a paper due on Monday but can't seem to stop watching percolator videos.

RE: I watched the video of a

The site you point to sells Moka Pots which are covered separately in the FAQ over here. The look similar but that is where the similarities end. Finally maybe I have an answer for why so many people say they love percolator coffee.

Once again a Percolator is not a Moka Pot or a Vacuum Pot. A percolator is that thing in the video and yes people still use them.

Perc is the best!!

Sorry to burst the anti-perc bubble, but I had a very expensive Krups machine that made awful coffee, and several other drip machines before that which fell into the "medium grade" price and quality range.

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I could never make good coffee until I got my Percolator at an antique dealer for $12. It offers the ultimate in strength control, and something about boiling it makes it absolutely smooth, with no sourness, and no bitterness.

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Let me ask you this... if boiling coffee is so bad, then why does Turkish coffee exist?

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Not to mention that my perky-pot is all enamel so there's absolutely NO chemical reaction with the coffee. Most other coffee tastes like burnt plastic or heavy metals to me.

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I think the people who come up with "rules" for making anything are bigoted and shortsighted. Maybe the "coffee rules" people have simply never learned to make coffee the right way in a percolator.

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Maybe the "coffee rules" are just marketing ploys by drip manufacturers to make us pay higher and higher prices for their awful machines when we don't need filters and their fancy machines after all.

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