A percolator is one of the smallest coffee brewing appliances you can buy. It brews through the force of gravity, cycling the brewed coffee through the grounds over and over again until the desired strength is reached.
It is definitively old school. Percolators fell out of vogue in the 70s with the advent of automatic drip coffee makers and haven’t quite come back in style. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good method of brewing for coffee lovers.
The thing with percolators is that, for most people, it’s about nostalgia. Maybe you visited your grandparents, and they always had one going on the stove. The smell and the taste can really bring one back down memory lane.
The other thing that die-hard percolator fans attest to is the piping hot coffee that comes out of the pot. Because of the constant cycling during the brewing process, the drink you pour is some of the hottest you can get.
There are two types of percolators: gravity and pressure. Both types make delicious coffee; it just is a matter of the manner that the water is pushed through the grounds.
A gravity percolator is the more traditional style of coffee maker. Water slowly drips through the holes in the lid of the metal filter basket, making sure that the grounds are evenly saturated. The water finishes trickling into the second basket, which lets the water out but keeps the grounds in. The thing to note about gravity percolators is that if you don’t keep an eye on it, it will over brew and the end result will be an over-extracted, bitter drink.
Pressure percolators are actually Moka coffee makers! The beginning of the brewing process is similar to gravity. At the end of the water’s journey into the second chamber, it moves up a central tube, through the grounds, and up to the top of the appliance where the coffee is kept away from the heat source. While the end product will taste just as robust as any percolator, it won’t be as toasty.
Benefits of owning a percolator
These little guys still carry the vintage design that plays into the nostalgia they are so loved for. Most of them look like they belong in a diner or, again, harkening back to visits to Grandma’s. The flavors are strong and bold in a way that you just can’t replicate with other coffee makers. When you pour a cup, the aroma is just as in your face.
These bad boys are designed to serve without fear of spilling (good to know considering how hot the coffee gets!). With the vintage design, you may just want to leave it on the table, and since the coffee is so hot, you don’t have to worry about the contents getting cold any time soon.
Like the French press, percolators don’t always require a filter (though some may need one, it just isn’t common). You could get some grit in your drink because of this, but it isn’t a huge issue. No filter is great for the environment and your wallet (one less thing to buy!).
They come for the most part in stainless steel, but you can find other models in enamel, too. They make anywhere from 4 to 12 cups. They can brew coffee in about a minute, so they’re really fast. Brewing pots back to back takes no time at all if you’re making some for a crowd.
Percolators are small and easy to transport. They come in electric or stove models. Owning a lightweight stovetop percolator is perfect for camping. There’s just something about making coffee over a campfire, and combined with the strengths of the taste and smell of said coffee would make for a divine experience.
If you buy an electric percolator, be aware that you limit yourself to where you can use it. You’ll, of course, need an electrical outlet, but you also need a flat surface.
Both models are extremely durable and can handle a few dings. The exterior of the coffee maker matches the incredible strength of the brew it produces.
Perhaps one of the negative things about some types of percolators is the small parts within the appliance. While most models are dishwasher safe, running the risk of losing the spring can be a little daunting. However, as long as you’re careful, it shouldn’t be a problem.