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 Perks - We need a blind taste test comparision

My parents owned a percolator, as I am sure many others over the age of 30 recall. Believe me, Starbucks can't even compete with the aroma emitted from a percolator.

I would imagine that like automatic drip, coffee presses and espresso machines, there are some percolator designs that are better at what they do than others. My point being, that generalizations almost never do justice to the subject of coffee preparation. On the flip side of the coin, I fully accept the fact that coffee purists aren't going to embrace the percolator concept if only because the principles of operation are a turnoff. By the same token, however, I doubt many of the percolator detractors on this site have based their opinions on any recent first-hand experience. By contrast, the folks who are saying "perc is best" probably had a cup this morning. So who am I going to believe?

There is a certain nostalgic appeal to the percolator, which makes me want to buy one — especially in view of the fact that I have recently returned not one but FIVE automatic-drip coffee machines that did not satisfy my high expectations (despite the use of premium, freshly burr-ground coffee beans). Percolators also more elegant on the kitchen counter than the typical automatic-brew machine.

Here's another angle to take under consideration: On Amazon the reviews for automatic drip coffee makers are almost entirely negative across all brands/models — with few exceptions. When you see a positive review, much of the time it is written by someone who has only owned the product in question a few weeks or less. Those who actually take the time to use the product in question for a year or so are generally less satisfied. The percolator, by contrast, seemingly operates according to simpler principles that are less likely to vary wildly from brand to brand, or even unit to unit within the same model/brand.

Looking, for example, at the Faberware percolator reviews on Amazon, you don't see a love-hate relationship — it's mostly love. There's got to be something to this, people! Perhaps modern electric percolators aren't the same as yesteryear's four-hour-old burnt coffee from a diner or church kitchen? If the Amazon reviews are any indication, I predict that percolators will enjoy a comeback in the coming years. Like fashion, everything old is new again.

We all know that the true secret to a good cup is not only in fresh beans, but proper technique. It doesn't matter if you use a percolator or a French press — in the wrong hands, with the wrong beans and the wrong grind it will fail to impress. Percolators were developed before coffee drinking took on wine-like devotion/fanaticism. It's possible that those old memories of a bitterly strong brew were influenced not so much by the equipment but by the casual coffee consumers who operated them.

If the same folks who regularly buy coffee brewing equipment spent half as much time testing out or experimenting with percolators, I would expect a credible commentary on the pros and cons of a percolator. In the absence of any recent experience with percolators, however, I suspect what we are reading are mostly a rehash of the same old negative assumptions that we've been "taught" to believe by people who themselves haven't used or seen a percolator in the kitchen since the 1960s.

Of course, no comment to a post like this will settle the debate. What we need is a blind taste test — to include automatic drip, French press, etc. — to see if the same people who would otherwise avoid percolated coffee will maintain that bias when they no longer know from what mechanism the coffee they are sampling was brewed.

Percolated coffee may not be for everyone, but heck — last time I checked it was still a free country. Personally, until I try one I'm not going to dismiss the possibility that it might taste as good as the aroma I recall growing up.

Better than any of them

I have tried drip pots and other coffee makers.Sure,they are quicker and more efficient ways of making coffee,but I would rather wait a few more minutes for the great-tasting perk.I don't care what people say,it is the best.People usually don't use them any more but it is very nostalgic to listen to the coffee perking on the stove.You can also control how strong you want it.They are also good to have around when the electric goes off.I do have a perculator,but I can't find it.Some people don't know what they are missing.If you have one,keep it.

Percolators

I am obsessed with percolators ever since my boyfriends aunt introduced me to them. To me percolated coffee is the best coffee ever! I have a electric Delonghi retro style percolator and it makes a delightful cup of coffee when i have guests over. Everyone loves it! So i can't agree with what you wrote because percolated coffee is the best! Maybe your confused with stove top percolators, since those take a good watchful eye to make sure it doesn't over brew once it boils.

Percolators

I have been asking people lately if the way everybody drinks coffee nowadays (brewed) is different from percolated coffee, mostly because I still remember the amazing coffee my grandfather used to make on an old, dented, stovetop percolator. I was wondering if it was just childhood nostalgia...but I felt like I hadn't ever had coffee that good since. I think I am going to go out and find one!

Percolated Coffee

Submitted by PigeonMan

Perculated coffee always SMELLS SO GOOD as it is being brewed; but know this: What you are smelling you will not be tasting -- for the laws of physics prevent that volitile essence from being in both places at once!

Aroma reduces the flavor?

Even steaming foods, which is said to retain vitamins (and some also say flavor) more adequately, allows us to smell the aroma of the food. I really don't think we should be so concerned about some the flavor escaping --- just attend to our experience (flavor, aroma, etc.) of the meal or beverage. A large part of our enjoyment of foods is in the aroma. Therefore, perhaps we shouldn't assume that what we smell when the coffee is perculating is a part of the "flavor" we want on on tongues anyway. Nature just might have meant that part of the coffee essence for our noses afterall!

If one has never enjoyed a really delicious perked cup of coffee, it may be because he has never had one brewed properly. Brewing coffee is not at all as simple as using a drip. There is also a difference between electric perc and stovetop perc. The best tasting cup will come from a well-brewed stovetop. However, it takes the right technique which comes from experience of knowing a particular stove, coffee pot, and brand of coffee, etc. before one can brew a really good pot of coffee. And as it's been said, it MUST be watched. Most people will underbrew or overbrew until they master the technique and UNTIL THEN the taste will be lacking. But, it is well worth the time and effort, trial and error, to finally be able to make, share, (and taste!) that perfect pot of coffee. The electric percs take the guesswork out of this process but their drawback is that it can't be fine-tuned to one's detailed preferences. With a stovetop, EVERY decision is yours. Talk about having it "your way"! Stovetop perculating is truly the "gourmet" style of coffee.

Percolated coffee

Rubbish!!!! The finest coffee I've ever had was percolated in vast urns in Iraq from a domestic (Gulf) grind. The only downside (if you can call it that) was that it was *hot*!

We use a percolator at our

We use a percolator at our camp that does not have electricity. We used to use instant and tried the drip method. Everyone enjoys the perced coffee. It may be considered the worst way to make coffee but we enjoy it.

I love the percolator

I have never made better tasting coffee than when I let it brew in the percolator for 10 mins. My Mr. Coffee broke and I had to resort to this method, and I cannot go back.

Can't beat a percolator

A friend of mine bought me a vintage "Handy Hannah" electric percolator to match my stainless steel kitchen and the coffee from it far surpasses anything that ever came from my automatic drip coffeemakers. One secret is to remove the coffee basket and the grounds as soon as the coffee is brewed. The flavor of the coffee is unbeatable! If and when this 60's-era appliance quits working, I'll go right to the store and buy another one! Now any coffee from a "Mr. Coffee"-type machine tastes like scorched plastic to me.

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