8 Best Percolators | March 2017
- clear plastic lid knob
- non-reactive interior
- spout pours somewhat messily
- traditional italian styling
- all parts are stainless steel
- requires a very finely ground bean
- available in speckled blue or red
- filter lifts out of percolator
- it is easy to clean
- satisfying brewing sound
- 12-cup capacity
- easy-grip knob on lid
- easy-pour spout design
- signal light indicates readiness
- stainless steel construction
It's Time for the Percolator
This titular song rose to popularity in the nineties, however, the actual percolator enjoyed fame much earlier than that. A percolator is a device used to brew coffee. Out of the myriad of options you have for coffee brewing today, the percolator is the precursor to modern brewing methods and it's still used today due to its simple design.
It works by placing a heat source at the bottom of the pot; which is filled with water. The water boils and travels up a central tube in the pot and recycles down on a filtered layer with coffee grounds. The boiled water makes contact with the grounds and extracts the coffee. The water then travels back down towards the heat source and the process is repeated until the entire pot has percolated.
The taste of percolated coffee, given no other variables, will differ from an automatic drip brew. If you come from a background of a certain brew method, I strongly advise you to try percolated coffee before you purchase it. Many claim that percolated coffee will come out stronger and more robust, albeit not as consistent as an automatic drip brew.
The heat source can be an electric hot plate or a fire from a stovetop or bonfire while camping. If on a stovetop, it's essential to remove the pot once it boils: "Coffee boiled is coffee spoiled," as the adage goes. The electric heated pot is designed with this in mind and has a built-in feature to shut off the heat source once the optimal temperature is reached.
Perks: Ups and Downs
Depending on the number of coffee drinkers in your household or how often you host java-loving guests, you must determine the size of the percolator you need. Some will only brew two cups at a time. The measurement of two cups is misleading and varies greatly. A standard cup is eight ounces, however, most coffee cups are designed to hold ten to twelve ounces, leaving the consumer with less coffee than desired. A twelve cup percolator will be beneficial for large gatherings and it eliminates resetting and cleaning the percolator many times to serve everyone. Large percolators are usually found at church gatherings or special interest meetings.
Most of today's models are electric; unless you dig into your basement and find your mom's pot from the seventies. The electric percolator tends to brew a more consistent cup of coffee, however, some prefer the non-electric models so they can make coffee anywhere. Porcelain models are ideal for campers who enjoy making fresh coffee over a campfire. Given that it's no completely reliant on an electric source, the percolator shares a closer relationship to the Moka and french press than the automatic drip coffeemaker.
While porcelain is an option for stove tops, the stainless steel model reigns supreme. The danger of steel, however, is that the heat conducted during percolation makes the handle too hot to touch. The rectify this, quality models will support a sturdy handle that is far enough away from the body of the pot to eliminate accidental burns.
The complaint most have with the percolator is that the water is too hot when it makes contact with the coffee. With a pour over coffee, you have some time for the coffee to cool before the pour. The result of percolated coffee is an inconsistent cup that can easily become overpowering with flavor. In my opinion, the fix is to simply add less coffee and it'll save you money in the long run.
A Brief History of the Percolator
The first percolator model was invented in 1814 by Sir Benjamin Thompson to simply supply the Bavarian Army with a quality stimulant. Thompson's model, however, did not include the central tube to recycle the boiled water. It wasn't until five years later in neighboring France that a tinsmith called Laurens improved the designed and made it capable of being heated on a stovetop.
In 1889, Illinois farmer Hanson Goodrich perfected what is to be known as the modern percolator. It used the down flow method and gravity to extract flavor from the beans, and Goodrich's model has not been adjusted drastically since.
The percolator rose to popularity in the 1970's, particularly for camping, as one could make coffee without electricity. It was ousted by the automatic drip coffeemaker, which was seen as a vast improvement over the manual coffeemaker. Building on that technology, most of today's models of percolators use electricity. Perhaps this is the best of manual and automatic in brewing the perfect cup of coffee? Only time will tell.