If you are of a certain age, you remember the bubbling sound of the percolator making coffee and the wonderful smell emanating from the kitchen (even if you didn’t like coffee, you had to admit it smelled divine).
Until the “Mr. Coffee” was invented in the 1970’s, percolators were the most common way to make coffee; even today they are popular, especially when it is necessary to have a lot of coffee made at the same time. If you are looking for a new coffee maker, consider the pros and cons of percolator coffee vs drip coffee.
Advantages of Percolator Coffee
Your grandmother probably used a percolator (either an electric or stove-top model) to make a rich, full-bodied coffee that filled the house with its aroma. To use a percolator, you fill a metal basket with coffee grounds, and insert a hollow metal tube in the middle of the basket. The tube/basket combo is centered in the coffee pot, which has been filled with water, and a cover it placed on top. Heat is applied to the bottom, either by placing it on the stove, or, with electric models, by plugging them in. As water is heated, it is forced up through the tube, where it spurts out the top, and lands on the grounds. As it drips through the grounds, coffee is made.
Fans of percolated coffee claim that it stays hotter longer than drip coffee. They believe it is richer and more full-bodied. Also, drip coffee makers use disposable coffee filters. While they are made of paper, some people object to having disposable anything if it can be avoided; percolators’ metal basket functions as a filter, and is, of course, reusable.
All parts of a percolator can be easily cleaned after each use, whereas drip coffee makers have parts that are inaccessible and have to be cleaned by “brewing” a cleaning solution. While water is the only thing that touches those inaccessible parts, mineral deposits can give the coffee an “off” taste, particularly if you have hard water.
Finally, all parts of the percolator that touch the coffee are metal; drip coffee makers have plastic parts and when exposed to hot water, some of that plastic may leach into the coffee. While most people don’t notice it, those especially sensitive to plastics may.
Let’s take a look at a couple of modern percolators:
Presto Coffee Maker
The Presto Coffee Maker looks like the one Grandma had in her kitchen. It can not only brew the coffee but can be used for serving as well. The until can be used to brew from two cups of coffee to twelve cups at one time and a signal light shows when the coffee is ready to serve. The brewing cycle is about twelve minutes. This unit is the #1 best-seller on Amazon.com.
The Farberware Percolator is available in sizes ranging from four cups to twelve cups, though the “cups” tend to be smaller than what many people consider to be a “cup” of coffee. The cord is detachable so you can bring the pot to the table to serve the coffee.
Note: Most pre-ground coffees today are made for drip pots; coffee for percolators should be a coarser grind, so go ahead and grind your own beans at the store. If you are new to perked coffee, it may take some experimentation to get the right grind the right coffee/water ratio.
Advantages of Drip Coffee
If you prefer a milder-tasting coffee, a drip machine is probably for you. With drip machines, you pour the water into a reservoir in the back. The coffee grounds go in a filter in a basket. The water is heated and sucked out of the reservoir and dripped over the grounds.
On average drip coffee makers are quicker than percolators, though not by a lot. The filters do a better job of keeping grounds out of the coffee than the metal baskets do. The filters also remove some oils that can increase your cholesterol (though this is only a problem for those who drink more than four cups of coffee per day).
Also, because drip coffee makers are today’s most common choice, their makers have incorporated modern electronics so that they can be programmed to brew your coffee so that it is ready when you wake up in the morning.
Here are some popular models:
Mr. Coffee Coffeemaker
The original Mr. Coffee was the first commercially successful home drip coffee maker. Today’s Mr. Coffee 12-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker is Amazon’s #1 best-seller. It includes a water filter that removes the chlorine from the water. The electronic timer not only turns the machine on when instructed, it also keeps track of how long it has been since the coffee was brewed and turns itself off after two hours. You can adjust the strength of the coffee to taste.
Conair Cuisinart Brew Central
The Conair unit includes permanent filters so that the paper ones are not necessary. Another useful feature is the adjustable warming plate–you get to decide whether it keeps your coffee VERY hot, or somewhat cooler. As with most other drip coffee makers, you can program it to start your coffee before you get up in the morning.
All of these models are comparably priced, depending on the chosen size, finish and accessories. All are well-reviewed and should make good coffee for you. The winner of the percolator coffee vs drip coffee battle is really one of personal taste.