A coffee percolator is a special type of pot designed to brew coffee by cycling the near-boiling brew continually through the coffee grounds until it reaches the desired strength.
The origin of the coffee percolator is fairly complex. Count Rumford, also known as Sir Benjamin Thompson, an American-born English physicist, is credited with inventing the percolating coffee pot sometime between 1810 and 1814. However, the pot, he created didn't have a tube through which boiling water rises as part of a continuous cycle to make the coffee ever stronger.
In 1919 a Parisian tinsmith named Laurens procured a patent for what is considered the first modern percolator. The Laurens' coffee making pot had the tube and all the other standard percolator elements and could be heated on a stove. A Franklin, Massachusetts native James Nason received the first US patent for the unique coffee percolator in 1865.
Nason's percolator employed a down flow method and not rising steam and water. Still, the die was cast and people who tasted coffee made with a percolator were hooked and usually sought out a percolator of their own.
It wasn't until August 1889 that a coffee percolator with a central tube to guide water and steam upward, a broad base for boiling, and a perforated basket to hold the ground coffee while the steam and hot water flowed over them.
The man who got the patent on this stove-top percolator was Hanson Goodrich, a farmer from Illinois. This basic design is still in use today. Plus, it allowed almost any standard coffee pot to be transformed into a stove-top coffee percolator. While many other tweaks were made and other patents granted, the design has remained the same.
A Love Affair
People love the flavor of coffee made in a percolator. For almost a hundred years most people's favorite way for getting a flavorful cup of coffee was to have it made in a percolator.
They praise it's hotter, more robust flavor, and great aroma, for creating the most satisfying cup of the coffee ever made. To these coffee percolator enthusiasts carefully controlling the percolator to make the perfect cup of coffee is an art that's worth mastering because the payoff is an outstanding cup of coffee. Some people still prefer their coffee made in percolator to this day.
A Simple Design
The basic design of the coffee percolator is very simple. There is a pot at the bottom which is a small chamber. This is placed on the fire or other type of heating source. Leading from the pot to the area at the percolator's top is a tube. Located just below the tube's upper end is a perforated chamber.
To make some coffee in the percolator, you simply pour the number of cups of water you need into the pot and Put the coffee in the perforated chamber. It's essentially the water placed in the pot does not reach the coffee chamber.
Once the appropriate amount of water and coffee are placed in the percolator, the percolator itself is then placed on the stove or other heat source.
Gradually the water will be brought to a boil. At this point, depending on the model percolator, you have, the hot water or steam will begin to make its way up the tube.
Once the hot water gets to the top of the tube, it will flow over the coffee beans in the coffee chamber. The water will then work its way through the ground coffee beans, flow to the bottom of the coffee chamber, and back into the pot.
What many people like about the percolator is that the coffee saturated water will continue to do this cycle over and over again with the coffee getting stronger and more flavorful each time it passes through the coffee chamber and back into the pot from the perforated lid of the coffee chamber.
This water then seeps through the coffee grounds and leaves the coffee chamber through the bottom, dropping back into the lower half of the pot. The rest of the cooler water in the pot is meanwhile also forced into the tube, causing the entire cycle to repeat continuously.
Recommended Electric Coffee Percolators
Presto 02811 12-Cup Stainless Steel Coffee Maker
Maxi-Matic EC-120 12 Cup Percolator, Stainless Steel
Moss & Stone Electric Coffee Percolator | Copper Body with Stainless Steel Lids Coffee Maker
Arguments For And Against
While this recirculation process created the strong coffee some people like, others say because the percolators expose the grounds to high temperatures and recirculates already brewed coffee, the coffee a percolator brew can suffer over-extraction.
Detractors say percolation can remove the volatile compounds in coffee beans. They point out that while the coffee may smell great while percolating, much of the flavor is lost by the time the coffee is drunk. Percolator enthusiasts say the key is knowing when to stop the brewing process.
In automatic percolators, the hot water continues to seeps through the grounds and the temperature of the water continues to rise until it reaches the boiling point. At this point the pot begins to make a sputtering sound commonly known as "perking".
That means the coffee is ready. For people using manual percolators, that means it's time to remove the pot from the heat otherwise the coffee will begin to boil. Should the coffee not be taken off the heat at this point, it will start to get a bitter taste and will be considered spoiled.
Newer percolators have a built in electric heating element. These coffee pots should not be used on a flame. The heating element allows the brew to reach the appropriate temperature and then automatically reduces the heat when the brewing phase is complete.
This keeps the coffee at the perfect drinking temperature without allowing it to boil and ruin the taste. This helps to satisfy both the people who love the taste of coffee made in a percolator and those who simply want a better tasting, full flavored cup of coffee.
The best rated electric percolators not only ensure that the coffee only brews long enough to make a great cup of coffee, those coffee percolator brands make brewing the perfect cup of coffee simple. Gone is the mystery of trying to guess when the best time is to take the percolator off the fire.
For the average person that means they can get a great tasting cup of coffee every single time, whether or not they have experience using percolators. This has significantly increased the number of people who regularly drink coffee.
Taking Coffee Outdoors
The invention of the percolator which could be used on an open flame was welcomed with open arms by people who spend lots of time outdoors. Percolators became increasingly popular among outdoorsmen and campers for another reason.
The percolator gave them the ability to make a good cup of coffee without needing to use electricity. Plus with the addition of paper filters, the coffee not only tasted great, the danger and inconvenience of having coffee grounds slip into the pot and poured into each cup was eliminated.
Standing The Test of Time
The hugely popular percolator is one of those inventions which have stood the test of time. While a wide range of common household appliances has seen numerous upgrades, the percolator has changed very little since its introduction early in the 20th century.
One of the biggest changes was how coffee is put into the percolator basket. In the early days coffee was spooned into the basket. In the 1970s sealed filter rings full of ground coffee were introduced. Paired with the percolator, this led to a dramatic improvement in the quality of the coffee in the average home or office.
But the percolator itself remained essentially unchanged. Self-contained coffee packs simply meant the percolator was now easier to clean. No more damp, loose coffee grounds stuck in this part and that.
The future looked bright for the percolator. Like its best days were ahead of it. But an invention would be revealed in the late 1970s that would almost make coffee percolators history and change the way America and much of the world drinks coffee.
It would combine convenience, with ease of use, and a low price to dramatically change the coffee making landscape.
Percolators are an American icon. For many people they conjure up images of family, reunions, vigils, cold work days, or get-together in the church basement.
The percolator has a place in American lore that cannot be underestimated. People seemed to draw strength from drinking a common brew while working on a project.
It was an essential part of the fabric of American life from early in the 20h Century until the 1970s. For many, meeting around the percolator for intense or relaxing conversations were the glue that helped to keep the group together and the goal in focus.
Even with all the newfangled coffee makers on the market, millions of people still rely on their trusted percolator to brew up the perfect cup of coffee for them early each morning. For many high-achieving, happy, well-adjusted people, loading and starting the percolator has become part of their wake up ritual.
It helps them to organize their thoughts and focus on the day at hand. Plus there's the bonus of smelling the aroma of great coffee early in the morning. It's almost like a form of alchemy that been going on since Hanson Goodrich first percolated coffee on his farm in 1889.
A Simple Goal
Hanson Goodrich sets out to create a coffee pot that would keep grounded and impurities out of his morning coffee. He ended up creating a cultural phenomenon that has taken on a life of its own.
The percolators quickly broke out of the confines of the kitchen and made their way into worksites, ski lodges, and boardrooms. It epitomized energy, endurance, and determination. Plus, it felt quintessentially American. It started in America's agrarian roots and spread its magic with her children wherever life took them.
Why It's Endured
The term to percolate has even become a part of the American lexicon. It means to work your way to the top and produce the best. That's what people have long depended on their percolators to do.
Take coffee and water and transform it into a beverage that looks, tastes, and smells great. And invariably the percolator did just that.
Dependability is part of the good name the percolator has proudly owned from the start. It's a simple yet elegant and effective technology with few parts. Yet whether it's plugged in or placed on heat or flames, you could depend on it every day.
Ease of use is another reason the percolator has endured. Just about anyone of legal age can operate a percolator. In fact, setting up the percolator was almost something of a rite of passage. It signaled the person was responsible, capable, and committed.
It moved them to another level. Running the percolator was about more than just making good coffee and keeping it flowing. Depending on the quality of coffee they produce they could earn even more respect. It's one of those simple things that made parents proud. Seeing their children mature enough to help.
When Hanson Goodrich decided to use percolation rather than decoration or infusion, he unwittingly stared a cultural phenomenon. Today there is a seemingly endless array of coffee percolator brands on the market.
Most of them simply tweaking Hanson Goodrich's design slightly. Some of these new models have made their mark and gone down in electric coffee percolators history.
Those coffee percolator brands that have gone down in electric coffee percolator history are an illustrious group. They too have made invaluable contributions to an American icon.
Some of the best rated electric coffee percolators have rabid followings. People who wouldn't dream of using a different percolator to start their day or warm and refresh their friends and family.
Many percolator purists, on the other hand, think even the best rated electric coffee percolators are a corruption or a lowering the bar from the original concept.
An idea that you paid attention to the percolator and used all your senses to identify when the coffee was ready. The purists complain that electric coffee percolators have taken some of the individuality out of coffee brewing.
Drip Cup Coffee Makers
When researchers for the best electric coffee percolators review we have to admit, even the most modern ones still use largely the same technology in Goodrich's original percolator.
If groups of highly skilled professionals looking for the best electric coffee percolators review electric coffee percolator technology see little difference between models created in the new millennium and those created in 1889, then we have to admit Goodrich's percolator technology created on his farm was indeed near perfect.
The percolator millions of Americans grew up using eventually fell victim to new technology. The electric drip coffee maker was introduced in the early 1970s and it was an immediate success.
It dominated the coffee drinking market and made coffee percolators history. Much like the percolator before it, the electric drip coffee maker is easy to use and clean, makes great coffee and is inexpensive.
The electric drip coffee maker has replaced the percolator in many American kitchens, but cannot remove coffee percolators from the hearts of many Americans.