history of electric coffee percolator

The History Of Electric Coffee Percolator

The Invention of the Coffee Percolator

who invented the coffee percolator

Did you know that a long time ago, people discovered a really cool way to make coffee? It’s called a coffee percolator, and it has a very interesting history.

A smart man named Count Rumford came up with an early idea for the coffee percolator way back in 1810. But it wasn’t quite perfect yet. 

Then, a farmer named James Nason improved the percolator design in 1865. And guess what? Another smart guy, Hanson Goodrich, made it even better in 1889.

The coffee percolator became super popular, especially in America. It made coffee taste really strong and yummy. People loved it so much that it became a classic way to make coffee. 

Sale
Farberware Classic Stainless Steel Coffee Percolator, 12 Cup, Silver with Glass Blue Knob, 7.28″D x…
  • Note: 1)Too coarse a grind, too little coffee, or insufficiently tamping the grounds before brewing can all lead to…

The history of the electric coffee percolator shows how it revolutionized coffee-making over 100 years ago and still remains an important part of coffee culture today.

Nowadays, we have other ways to make coffee, but the percolator is still a big part of the history of coffee. The history of electric coffee percolators is fascinating!

When was the coffee percolator invented

Remember Hanson Goodrich, the smart guy from Illinois? He filed a patent for his new percolator design in 1865, and it became a major breakthrough. Goodrich’s design:

  • Used gravity more effectively to cycle boiling water over the coffee grounds
  • Resulted in a smooth, robust coffee flavor not achieved before
  • Was made of lightweight metal instead of glass, making it more durable
history of electric coffee percolator

By improving on previous percolator patents, Goodrich created the first truly successful coffee percolator. His 1865 patent filing marks a key moment in coffee history.

Goodrich’s Stovetop Percolator Spreads in Popularity

Goodrich’s well-designed stovetop percolator caught on quickly after he filed the patent. By the late 1800s, Goodrich’s percolator was being sold across the country. However, there was still one major limitation:

  • Percolators still had to be heated on a stove, which was inconvenient
  • The stove provided inconsistent temperature control, affecting coffee taste

Goodrich’s patent enabled better home coffee, but percolator technology still had room for improvement.

The Electric Coffee Percolator Revolution

In the early 20th century, a major innovation changed the coffee percolator forever 

  • In the 1920s, the first electric percolators were introduced and patented
  • Electric percolators no longer needed external heating – they could self-heat
  • This made percolator coffee brewing far more convenient and accessible

After WWII in the 1940s and 1950s, electric percolators became hugely popular in American households. Electrification led to the percolator revolution.

Different Types of Percolators Through History

While the basic percolator design has remained the same, many different styles and models of percolators emerged over the years.

Presto Percolator 12-Cup Review

Early Percolator Design Variations

  • Metal vs. Glass – Early percolators were made of metal or glass. Glass allowed you to see the percolating, but was fragile. Durable enameled metal became more popular.
  • Stovetop Models – Early stovetop percolators were designed for use on wood, coal, or gas ranges. Different models were optimized for each.
  • Size – Percolators came in many sizes, from 1 cup models to over 100 cup commercial versions. Larger families often had 12 cup percolators.

Shape Some percolators were narrow and tall while others were wide and squat. The shape impacted brewing time and balance.

Electric Percolator Styles Emerge

Once electricity was integrated, even more percolator variations emerged:

  • Mid-century Retro Styles – Electric percolators took on cool 50s retro styles with bright colors and space age design.
  • Automatic Features – Electric percolators enabled features like automatic shut-off and timers.
  • New Materials – Electric percolators utilized materials like plastic and aluminum.
  • Immersion vs. Drip – Some electric percolators immersed a tube into the brew while others distributed water from above.

While the core percolating technology stayed the same, innovators found many ways to adapt and customize the device to fit different consumer needs over time.

Coffee Percolator History

  • Electric percolator sales surpassed stovetop models for the first time in 1950.
  • By 1955, over 5 million per year were sold in the U.S.
  • In the mid-1950s, 30% of households owned an electric percolator, rising to 50% market share by the end of the decade.

Anecdotes and Ads from the Percolator’s Heyday:

  • “No kitchen was complete without the comforting gurgle of the percolator” – excerpt from a 1960s home living magazine
  • A 1952 magazine ad proclaimed electric percolators “the modern way for modern wives to serve coffee.”
  • Many ads focused on how electric percolators saved time and labor compared to stovetop brewing.
  • Post-war suburban homes were filled with the sounds of percolators running each morning.
  • Electric percolators were common wedding gifts in the 1950s and 1960s as kitchen essentials.
  • By mid-century, the electric percolator had become an icon of the American dream and growing consumer appliance market.

In the 1900s, the coffee percolator was very popular in many homes. It became more than just a coffee maker. The percolator helped bring people together.

When families, friends, or neighbors got together, the percolator often brewed the coffee. 

The bubbly percolating noise and yummy smell brought people to the kitchen or break room. People gathered around to talk and share the fresh coffee.

So the percolator helped create special moments of connection while the coffee brewed. This shows how important the percolator was in homes and communities.

The statistics and stories reflect just how deeply electric percolators penetrated the mainstream coffee culture and kitchens of mid-20th century America.

When was the coffee percolator invented

Understanding Coffee Percolators

What is a Coffee Percolator?

A coffee percolator is a brewing device that uses gravity and boiling water to continuously pass water through coffee grounds. The key components of an electric percolator include:

  • Pot – Holds the water and coffee. Often made of metal or heat-resistant plastic.
  • Heating element – At the bottom of the pot. Heat the water to a boil.
  • Stem – A vertical tube that extends from the bottom to the top of the pot.
  • Coffee basket – Sitting atop the stem. Hold the coffee grounds.
  • Lid – Covers the top of the pot. Some lids incorporate the coffee basket.

The pot fills with water and the coffee basket holds the grounds. As the heating element boils the water, it travels up the stem and spreads over the grounds. Coffee concentrates drip through holes in the basket back down into the pot below.

This cycle repeats until the coffee reaches the desired strength. The continuous percolating motion also produces the familiar burbling sound.

How Does a Coffee Percolator Work?

Details on Water Heating and Circulation

  • The electric heating element at the base of the percolator heats the water in the bottom chamber.
  • As the water boils and turns to steam, pressure forces it up through the vertical stem tube.
  • The hot water sprays out over the coffee grounds in the basket at the top.
  • Gravity then pulls the water downward through the grounds, extracting flavor.
  • The concentrated coffee drips from the bottom of the basket back down into the lower pot.

The Percolation Cycle

This cycle repeats continuously:

  1. Water boils and rises up through the stem.
  2. Hot water sprays over the coffee grounds.
  3. Coffee concentrates drip down into the pot.
  4. The cooled water reheats and repeats the process.
  5. The constant recycling results in robust coffee extraction and characteristic burbling noise.
  6. The coffee brews to desired strength after approximately 5-10 minutes of percolating.

The continuous flow of hot water through the grounds results in thorough flavor extraction for a bold, robust cup of coffee.

The Science Behind Percolators

Chemistry and Physics of Flavor Extraction

The continuous cycle of heated water through the coffee grounds results in excellent flavor extraction through chemical and physical processes:

  • Coffee solubles – Hot water dissolves and releases caffeol, coffee oil, and other soluble compounds that provide aroma and taste.
  • Diffusion – The concentration gradient as fresh water reaches the grounds allows diffusion of solubles into the water.
  • Osmosis – Water moves across the semipermeable membrane of the coffee cells to equalize solute concentrations.
  • Hydrolysis – Heat causes hydrolysis or breaking of chemical bonds to release soluble components.
  • Vapor pressure – The pressure of water vapor rising up the stem improves circulation.
  • Gravity – Gravity pulls the concentrated liquid through the grounds, resulting in efficient extraction.
  • Surface area – The showerhead dispersion provides ample surface area for water-coffee contact.

So in summary, the percolator provides continuous hot water contact for excellent solubility, diffusion, osmosis, hydrolysis, and gravity drainage to unlock the flavors in the coffee.

camping coffee percolator

How a Coffee Percolator Works: Pros and Cons 

Pros:

  • Thorough extraction – Continuous cycling extracts more oils and solubles from the grounds.
  • Strong, robust flavor – The repetitive hot water contact results in bold, intense coffee.
  • Fast brew time – Percolators can brew a full pot of coffee in around 5-10 minutes.
  • Higher caffeine content – The robust extraction yields more caffeine per cup than other methods.
  • No electricity needed – Stovetop percolators can be used without electrical power.
  • Nostalgia – Many appreciate the familiar sounds and retro aesthetic.

Cons:

  • Over Extraction – Coffee can more easily become bitter and acidic.
  • Sediment – Fine grounds can escape the basket resulting in sediment at the bottom of the cup.
  • Lack of control – It’s difficult to adjust or stop brewing once started.
  • Delicate flavor loss Subtle aromatic compounds may be diminished.
  • Not portable – Percolators are bulky and need to stay plugged in.
  • WasteSome warmth and vapor is lost during the cyclic process.

While percolators provide strong, rapid coffee, other methods like pourover and French press allow more refined flavor control for specialty coffees.

Market Trends and Usage

Historical Market Share of Electric Percolators in the U.S

  • In the 1950s, electric percolators held over 50% market share for household coffee brewing.
  • By the 1970s, the market share dropped to around 20% as auto-drip makers gained popularity.
  • In the 1980s, the percolator market share fell to just 5% in the U.S.
  • Today, electric percolators make up less than 1% of household coffee machine sales.

Companies Stopping Percolator Production

  • General Electric stopped making percolators in the late 1970s amid declining interest.
  • West Bend discontinued their popular percolator line in 1983 due to lagging profits.
  • Sunbeam stopped most percolator manufacturing in the 1990s as drip makers dominated.

Commercial Coffee Equipment Market Share

  • The global coffee machine market was worth $6.41 billion in 2022.
  • Experts expect the market to grow 4.7% each year from 2023 to 2030.
  • The commercial coffee machine segment is predicted to grow 4.5% annually during this time.
  • Demand for coffee machines in cafes, restaurants, airports, hospitals, and hotels is expected to increase a lot.
  • Major companies in the market are spending money on research and development to make coffee machines with the newest technologies.
  • Some key companies are Keurig Green Mountain, Panasonic Malaysia, Nestlé Nespresso, De’Longhi Appliances, and Electrolux.

Usage of Electric Percolators by Age Group

  • Percolator usage is highest among the 65+ age group, with 27% using them.
  • The 55-64 age group has the second highest usage at 17%.
  • Percolator usage declines in younger age groups – 13% for 45-54, 7% for 35-44, 3% for 25-34, and just 1% for 18-24.
  • In summary, electric percolator usage correlates with age. Older consumers above 55 have the highest usage rates, while younger consumers below 45 have much lower usage. This may be due to newer coffee brewing methods gaining popularity.

Percolator Usage Over Time

Market Share and Sales Data Over Decades

  • In the 1950s, electric percolators held over 50% market share for household coffee brewing.
  • By the 1970s, market share dropped to around 20% as auto-drip makers gained popularity.
  • In the 1980s, percolator market share fell to just 5% in the US.
  • Remaining percolator sales in the 1980s and 90s were primarily commercial and niche users.
  • Today, electric percolators make up less than 1% of household coffee machine sales.

Stories from Companies Stopping Percolator Production

  • General Electric stopped making percolators in the late 1970s amid declining interest.
  • West Bend discontinued their popular percolator line in 1983 due to lagging profits.
  • Sunbeam stopped most percolator manufacturing in the 1990s as drip makers dominated.
  • Some companies like Farberware shifted to market percolators as novelty items into the 2000s.

By the 1980s, most major appliance companies discontinued or drastically reduced percolator production as household usage plummeted. Devoted users eventually had difficulty finding replacement parts

While no longer as widely used, classic and modern electric percolators are still produced today by brands like..

Brands and Types of Percolators

Famous Brands of Electric Coffee Percolators

1. Cuisinart PRC-12 Classic Stainless-Steel Percolator

Cuisinart PRC-12 Classic 12-Cup Stainless-Steel Percolator, Black/Stainless
  • Note: 1)Too coarse a grind, too little coffee, or insufficiently tamping the grounds before brewing can all lead to…
  • Description: A 12-cup stainless steel percolator with a detachable cord for easy serving.
  • Pros:
    • Easy to clean
    • Elegant design
    • Detachable cord
  • Cons:
    • May be prone to dripping
    • Some plastic parts

2. Hamilton Beach 40616 Stainless-Steel Percolator

Hamilton Beach 12 Cup Electric Percolator Coffee Maker, Stainless Steel, Quick Brew, Easy Pour Spout…
  • BREW GREAT-TASTING: The percolator automatically brews rich, flavorful coffee that makes for a perfect morning. The…
  • Description: A 12-cup capacity percolator with a cool-touch handle and automatic keep-warm mode.
  • Pros:
    • Affordable
    • Keep-warm feature
    • Durable stainless-steel construction
  • Cons:
    • Short power cord
    • May be challenging to pour without dripping

3. Presto 02811 Stainless Steel Coffee Maker

Presto Stainless-Steel Electric Coffee Percolator, 12-Cups, Black
  • Please refer to user guide or user manual or user guide (provided below in PDF) before first use
  • Description: A classic 12-cup stainless steel percolator with an elegant traditional design.
  • Pros:
    • Consistent brewing
    • Easy to use
    • Long-lasting
  • Cons:
    • No automatic shut-off
    • Filter basket may be flimsy

4. Farberware FCP412 Percolator

  • Description: A 12-cup stainless steel percolator with a rolled edge for drip-free pouring.
  • Pros:
    • Drip-free pouring
    • Sturdy construction
    • Automatic keep-warm mode
  • Cons:
    • May be noisy
    • Lid may fit loosely

5. West Bend 54159 Classic Stainless-Steel Percolator

Sale
West Bend 54159 Classic Stainless Steel Electric Coffee Percolator with Heat Resistant Handle and…
  • Note: 1)Too coarse a grind, too little coffee, or insufficiently tamping the grounds before brewing can all lead to…
  • Description: A 12-cup percolator with a detachable cord and a cool-touch base.
  • Pros:
    • Cool-touch base
    • Detachable cord
    • Elegant appearance
  • Cons:
    • May take longer to brew
    • Some parts may be prone to wear
stovetop coffee percolator

 Non-Electric Coffee Percolators

1. Farberware Yosemite 8-Cup Coffee Percolator

  • Description: An 8-cup stovetop percolator made of heavy-duty stainless steel.
  • Pros:
    • Durable
    • Easy to clean
    • Suitable for camping
  • Cons:
    • Handle may get hot
    • Requires careful monitoring
Farberware 50124 Classic Yosemite Stainless Steel Coffee Percolator – 8 Cup, Silver
  • Classic coffee maker: Make delicious coffee morning or evening with The Original 8-Cup Farberware Stovetop Percolator

2. Coleman 9-Cup Aluminum Coffee Percolator

  • Description: A 9-cup aluminum percolator designed for outdoor use.
  • Pros:
    • Lightweight
    • Ideal for camping
    • Affordable
  • Cons:
    • Not suitable for induction stovetops
    • May dent easily
Sale
Coleman Stainless Steel Percolator Coffee Pot, 12-Cup Capacity Lightweight Coffee Percolator, No…
  • Please refer to user guide or user manual or user guide (provided below in PDF) before first use

3. GSI Outdoors Enamelware Percolator

  • Description: A classic enamel-coated percolator with a 12-cup capacity, perfect for outdoor adventures.
  • Pros:
    • Attractive design
    • Large capacity
    • Suitable for outdoor use
  • Cons:
    • Enamel may chip
    • Handle may become hot
GSI Outdoors Percolator Coffee Pot | Enamelware Campfire Coffee Boiler Kettle for Outdoor Camping…
  • STAY CAFFEINATED: Coffee? Always! The enamelware percolator makes your caffeine needs attainable for any campsite,…

These options cover a range of electric and non-electric percolators, each with unique features and considerations. 

Whether you’re looking for modern convenience or traditional brewing, there’s likely a percolator that fits your needs.

Farberware Electric Coffee Percolator, FCP240, Stainless Steel Basket, Automatic Keep Warm, No-Drip...
18,225 Reviews
Farberware Electric Coffee Percolator, FCP240, Stainless Steel Basket, Automatic Keep Warm, No-Drip…
  • Please refer to user guide or user manual or user guide (provided below in PDF) before first use

The Decline of Percolators

Why Did People Stop Using Percolators?

While percolators dominated family kitchens for decades, by the 1970s forces were aligning that would dethrone these once beloved appliances. Reasons for their declining popularity starting in the 1970s included:

  • Auto-drip makers were more convenient and easier to use.
  • Single-serve coffee makers provided more choice and customization.
  • Percolators developed a reputation for brewing bitter, acidic coffee.
  • Younger generations favored the milder taste of auto-drip coffee.
  • Percolators were seen as outdated and no longer stylish.
  • Electric cords and hot surfaces raised some safety concerns.
Cuisinart PRC-12 Classic 12-Cup Stainless-Steel Percolator, Black/Stainless
  • Note: 1)Too coarse a grind, too little coffee, or insufficiently tamping the grounds before brewing can all lead to…

Competition from Drip and Single Serve Coffee Makers

  • Programmable auto-drip makers required no monitoring or cleanup.
  • Single-serve K-cup machines offered speed and variety.
  • New makers had sleek, modern aesthetics compared to percolators.

Cultural and Taste Preference Shifts

  • Specialty coffee trend valued delicate flavors over robustness.
  • Consumers developed a taste for milder coffee over strong percolated.
  • Younger generations saw percolators as part of outdated domesticity.

By the 1980s, changing tastes and new technologies made the automatic percolator fall out of favor in most households.

Sale
Presto 02822 6-Cup Stainless-Steel Coffee Percolator
  • Please refer to user guide or user manual or user guide (provided below in PDF) before first use
Sale
Elite Gourmet EC812 Electric 12-Cup Coffee Percolator with Keep Warm, Clear Brew Progress Knob…
  • BREW UP TO 12 CUPS of hot, flavorful and fresh coffee or tea in less than a minute per cup. Using the simple On/Off…

As we’ve explored, the electric percolator fundamentally revolutionized coffee consumption in American homes. 

This once-ubiquitous device dominated mid-century kitchens thanks to its convenient self-heating and rapid brew times. While later innovations have reduced its role, the percolator’s legacy remains indelible. 

Its retro charm endures, and its presence in so many households for decades underscores its lasting impact. 

The electric percolator’s story is one of innovation and influence, ultimately shaping how generations of Americans came to enjoy their daily cup of coffee.

FAQs

1. How does an electric coffee percolator work?

An electric coffee percolator works by heating water in the bottom chamber. As the water heats, it turns to steam and rises up through a hollow tube into the upper chamber, where it passes through the coffee grounds. The coffee grounds then extract their flavor into the hot water, and the resulting coffee is collected in the upper chamber.

2. How long does it take to make coffee in an electric percolator?

The brewing time for an electric coffee percolator will vary depending on the size of the percolator and the desired strength of the coffee. However, in general, it takes about 5-10 minutes to brew a pot of coffee in an electric percolator.

3. How much coffee should I use for an electric percolator?

The amount of coffee you use for an electric percolator will also depend on the size of the percolator and the desired strength of the coffee. However, a good rule of thumb is to use 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every cup of water.

4. What type of coffee should I use in an electric percolator?

The best type of coffee to use in an electric percolator is a medium-coarse grind. This will help to prevent the coffee grounds from clogging the filter and will also allow the coffee to extract its flavor evenly.

5. How do I know when my electric percolator is done brewing?

There are a few ways to tell when your electric percolator is done brewing. One way is to listen for the sound of the percolator. When the percolator is done brewing, the sound will change from a steady bubbling to a more intermittent sputtering. Another way to tell when the percolator is done brewing is to look at the coffee. When the coffee is done brewing, it will be a rich, dark brown color.

6. How do I clean an electric coffee percolator?

To clean an electric coffee percolator, you will need to disassemble it and wash all of the parts with warm, soapy water. You can also use a vinegar solution to clean the percolator. Once the percolator is clean, you should rinse it thoroughly with water and dry it with a clean towel.

7. What are the benefits of using an electric coffee percolator?

There are a few benefits to using an electric coffee percolator. 
First, percolators are relatively easy to use. 
Second, percolators can brew a large pot of coffee quickly. 
Third, percolators can produce a rich, flavorful cup of coffee.

8. What are the drawbacks of using an electric coffee percolator?

There are a few drawbacks to using an electric coffee percolator. First, percolators can be more difficult to clean than other types of coffee makers. Second, percolators can produce a bitter cup of coffee if the coffee is over-brewed. Third, percolators can be more expensive than other types of coffee makers.

9. What are some tips for making the best coffee in an electric percolator?

Here are a few tips for making the best coffee in an electric percolator:
Use fresh, cold water.
Use a medium-coarse grind of coffee.
Don’t overfill the percolator.
Preheat the percolator before brewing.
Don’t over-brew the coffee.
Clean the percolator after each use.

10. What are some common problems with electric coffee percolators?

Here are some common problems with electric coffee percolators:
The coffee is bitter.
The coffee is weak.
The percolator leaks.
The percolator doesn’t turn on.
The percolator doesn’t heat up.

Conclusion

While the coffee percolator’s popularity reduced in the 1970s, many people still use this coffee maker even today.

Percolator enthusiasts continue to hold that these machines are the best brewing machine for strong, rich-tasting coffee.

In the past few decades, more and more types of electric percolators have been invented, giving people a variety of options to choose from.

Nonetheless, all coffee percolators retain a bottom pot’s basic design, tube, and chamber that holds coffee for brewing.

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