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Joined: 11 Feb 2002
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Posted Fri Sep 5, 2003, 12:27pm
Subject: Re: Drip vs Percolating

Yes....  for my personal taste the press pot method is not the best choice as the sediment and the slight additional acidity of that preparation method are not a good fit for my taste and physiology.  I was unaware of that issue with thermal press pots (but it makes sense that the thermal type keeps brewing). No matter what the preparation method, I believe in transferring the brewed coffee to a preheated thermal carafe unless it's all going to be poured and consumed immediately after brewing.

What I was trying to express was simply the fact that the ranking or preparation in order of desirability is based on what appears to majority consensus among coffee aficionado's, not necessarily a reflection of my own taste. I remain baffled as to why anyone would think a percolator is a good way to make coffee.

Also...  yes, the too cool brew temp of many auto drip machines is one of the big reasons only a handful of them are recommended for best results. Excessively long brew time is another issue. Some folks get around this by brewing two separate four cup pots but a better solution is probably to get the four cup Kitchen-Aid drip maker that is said to produce the right temp and also uses the right lenght for brewing time  (and it's relatively cheap)

I've read the recommendation about wetting the paper filter first but I doubt that my taste buds are discerning enough to notice the difference and I don't bother to do that.

As for temperature when using a Melitta or Chemex?  I just bring the water to a boil, let it sit for about one minute or so and start making the coffee. Have never bothered to check the temp but I always get great coffee.

Owen O'Neill
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Joined: 19 Feb 2010
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Posted Thu Mar 11, 2010, 3:31pm
Subject: Drip vs Percolating : LOOKING FOR FIRSTHAND DATA

This is an old topic, but to me it's new (I just read it).

Apparently chef/food writer Michael Ruhlman prefers the perc (to the obvious consternation of many!):


Here are some reactions to the above:

Click Here (gadgets.boingboing.net)

Confession: I decided to try an electric percolator before I discovered Coffee Geek, having purchased a PRESTO perc about 3 years back. It was my first. I have no childhood memories of perc coffee so I like to think this freed me of any biases for or against perc coffee. Of course, I will admit that I have since *become biased* if only toward my own percolator because contrary to what I was "told" to expect, my Presto doesn't boil! The only conclusions I can draw from this are 1) Not all electric percolators are created equally; 2) Technological progress has not passed the electric perc over, after all; 3) If you take the spent grinds out and don't warm the coffee on the element any more than the coffee purists out there would rely on a warming plate on an automatic drip coffeemaker, the results aren't bad. (Like every other coffee preparation method, technique, cleanliness and fresh, burr-ground coffee makes all the difference. It also probably helps that Robusta beans are not quite so prevalent as I understand they were "back in the day".)

I visited Amazon recently where the electric 12-cup PRESTO Percolator gets mostly 5-star reviews. There I found a series of photos uploaded by a guy who took his PRESTO apart and was quite impressed with what he found:

Click Here (www.amazon.com)

Now I don't claim to know all things coffee, but I do know that my PRESTO percs at 1-cup per minute at 195F using an 800-watt element (p/n: 02811). From what I gather, the Old School electric percs took about 20 minutes to "boil" 12 cups using a 1000+ watt element. If this is no longer the norm for an electric perc, perhaps the unfavorable comparisons to automatic drip coffeemakers no longer hold the water they once did (pun intended :).

For the past couple of years, I chalked my Presto percolator success up to "lucking out" a fluke of an electric perc that may not be representational. Recently, however, I had to question that assumption when I caught a department store ad for a Faberware percolator that advertised a brew temp below boiling, higher than mine but also within the optimal extraction temperature range. Now as most of you know, your average ADC manufacturer does not specify the temperature at which their units are designed to brew which is why a lot of die-hard coffee enthusiasts will pay a premium for the few that do. If, however, my Presto percolator isn't the fluke I first thought, the fact that an electric coffeemaker that brews at the proper extraction range exists on the market for less than $80 qualifies as "news you can use"! (Don't take this to mean that I discourage the pricier ADCs only to point out, especially in these economic times, that there are "budget friendly" options. I think that's fair.)

The upshot? Perhaps we're several decades overdue for a revisit of the "conventional wisdom" and the "foregone conclusions" that dominate discussions of the electric percolator. So here's my proposal: Let's go at this topic from an evidence-based approach worthy of the coffee-loving community Coffee Geek is: Specifically, I am curious to learn if anyone around here is willing to run an electric perc old and/or current market offerings through the same performance tests many of us have been known to subject our ADCs to?

In the interest of full disclosure, I haven't gone out and tossed my French Press, my Melitta pour-over cone or my drip coffeemakers. My Presto percolator is just another tool in my coffee making arsenal. (And an attractive one at that.) So my secondary "curiosity question" to throw into the mix is whether there are other coffee loving rebels around these here parts who would like to "come out of the closet" and confess to dabbling on the dark side?

Third, just to make sure I'm clear on things, it would appear that the operational principle of an ADC is quite similar to an electric perc in one respect: That is to approach or reach boiling of the water to get it to travel up the tube toward the brew basket (sans electric pump). So based upon my own percolator vs. ADC findings, it would appear that either there is some mechanism to prevent continuous boiling OR by the time the heated water travels the length of the perc or the drip tube, it has lost just enough heat in transit to settle into the ballpark of desirable extraction temps. (The latter of which is my working assumption.)

Here's how all this ties in with the ADC method: Cooks Illustrated, in 2008, recommended the Technivorm, an ADC that's undoubtedly familiar to a lot of folks here. The editors at Cooks Illustrated reported that some of the ADCs they tested scorched/over-extracted the coffee grinds, while the vast majority of ADCs they tried failed to reach optimal extraction temps until late in the brew cycle, if at all. (For those of us who do not routinely brew a full pot of coffee, this finding calls into question whether we benefit from proper extraction temps at all.) In any event, if we assume that many drip machines are suffering their own "issues", is an electric percolator at any huge disadvantage and perhaps even offering a cost-effective *advantage* if one wishes to keep the plastic taste and "lukewarm" annoyances common to ADCs at bay?

In closing, I don't expect to resolve this controversy in a day. With any luck, however, perhaps enough data will accumulate here to speak for itself.

Thanks for reading!
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Posted Thu Mar 11, 2010, 6:26pm
Subject: Re: Drip vs Percolating

I weighed in on this topic before, and of course there weren't many here in agreement with me.  While I personally would not agree with Michael on the brand of coffee he prefers (canned Folgers), I find no fault with his method (old GE percolator).  As a matter of fact, I weighed in  on his blog in regards this topic, as well as gave him the technical specifications on the average electric percolator.  Most electric percs are between 800 and 1000 watts, and brew at a temperature of 195-205 degrees.  The percolator does not boil water, and most electric percs do brew at cup a minute speed.  A percolator continually cycles the water/coffee through the basket of grinds; a press has the grounds float in water/coffee for a period of determined amount of time.  There's not a whole lot different chemistry going on here, except that the water will actually cool to below 180 degrees if you are steeping your press for 4 minutes (actually, after a minute it's down to about 185).  So technically, the press doesn't brew at the proper temperature, at least for half the time, unless you grind fine and steep quickly.  I have used many methods of brewing, and I feel that good whole bean coffee brewed in a good quality percolator is very close in texture and flavor to that brewed in the Chemex, only not as clean.  The main reason for a percolator to brew terrible coffee has to do with cleanliness.  The pump tube can be a pain to keep clean, and if the filter basket has slots (as do all modern percs), these can become depositories for old, stale coffee oils.  So, it is extremely important to keep a percolator spotless.  

Now, when it comes to reviews for these, you have to pay attention to the reviews written by people who use percolators.  The Presto gets pretty good ratings, as does the Farberware (except for its looks).  Thrift stores are very good sources for old GE percolators, but you have to be sure to examine the inside for any loss of chrome plating.  Some of these older models have a copper base to the chrome, and you can get a nasty little shock if this is exposed.  The Poly Perk is an old favorite, and many folks love them for the 70's kitch look; plus they do a good job. Not a great job, a good job.  I love the percolator, and am not ashamed to admit it.  And it's not like I don't know about coffee.  Michael Ruhlman is right (except for the Folgers, but don't tell him I said so) about the percolator, but he isn't quite correct about drip machines.  The early Mr. Coffee drippers were actually percolators.  They had a 3inch long pump stem with a plastic elbow and spout attached to one end, and this sat down inside a small metal heating well.  And they were all around 1500 watts, so they did make hot coffee as long as you didn't use super cold water to begin with.  If you have one of these old "Joe Dimaggio" Mr. Coffee's lying around, these are the ones I'm talking about.  If you like the coffee that you make, that's all that really matters.  If your idea of a perfect cup of joe is Folger's Crystals mixed with sewer water, go for it.
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Joined: 18 Jan 2010
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Location: KY
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Posted Fri Mar 12, 2010, 9:13am
Subject: Re: Drip vs Percolating

spontz Said:

At the moment I'm using a Braun AromaDeluxe drip machine, and it makes the best coffee I've ever made at home, but that's only because it's the first coffee maker I've owned that's better than those Mr. Coffee things you can buy at Wal-Mart.  I just purchased a Zassenhaus wall-mounted hand mill, thanks to the advice of people on this forum, and I can't wait for it to arrive.  It was a tad pricey, though, so my Braun machine will have to last until I can dredge up another hundred bucks or so to spend on coffee hardware.

Thanks for the advice!  Now I can do some good research while I wait for my bank balance to recover enough to buy one of these machines. :)

Posted September 5, 2003 link

The AromaDeluxe might actually be pretty good.  My Dad has/had a $20 Braun Aromaster that was really good.  The brew temps were great, even though the construction fell on the flimsy side.  He originally bought it to hold him over until he found another machine, but he never got around to buying anything else (he lives overseas now, so I don't know if he still uses it or not).  Sometimes you can get lucky with a cheap machine.

"I have measured out my life with coffee spoons" - T.S. Eliot
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Posted Sat Mar 13, 2010, 8:38pm
Subject: Re: Drip vs Percolating

First coffee I had with a fresh burr ground roast and a french press was so good I never went back to drip.  Then I got a vacuum pot and kind of put the french press away.  Very smooth coffee with a vacuum pot.

They may be getting better but most drip machines a while back would not get close to a good brewing temperature.  There's also not a lot of control over either the saturation of the grinds or the extraction timing.

A french press offers full control.  You control the brew temperature.  You can stir the grinds for full saturation.  You control how long the coffee steeps.  For the price, that's a lot of control.  More than any drip maker I can think of.  Good coffee with a french press.

A vacuum pot offers good control as well.  Maybe not so much with the brewing temperature but its design hits a good brewing temperature on it's own.  You can control everything else.

As well, with both french press and vacuum press it's really easy to clean all the equipment.  Clean brewing equipment makes good tasting coffee I've found.

I read that purcolating is a brewing method that shouldn't work but it does.  The brew temperature of a purcolator, because of the pressure, apparently gets hotter than what's acceptable for good coffee extraction.  The coffee should burn.  But it doesn't.  Some really like purcolated coffee.  I would say it's a matter of taste.

edit to say:  just read what bodum posted.  Didn't know that.  I'm interested in trying out a purcolator.  Sound like a good method.
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Posted Tue Mar 16, 2010, 7:18am
Subject: Re: Drip vs Percolating

I STILL prefer the percolator method of brewing coffee.  I like the hotter temperature it makes coffee. Drip coffee is too lukewarm, for me.  I also think the percolator makes richer tasting coffee..fuller-flavored.  I wont go back to drip coffee. No comparison.
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