Percolator Vs Drip Coffee Makers: Which Type Makes The Best Coffee?

Drip vs percolator

We are all unique and we all have different tastes in fashion, music, movies, and even football teams. Coffee is no different and why should it be? Some people go for a more cultured espresso while some are happy with a simple instant coffee and others will drink anything if it has caffeine in it!

So asking the question, which is better? drip coffee makers or percolator coffee makers will ultimately always depend on what you like and what you personally want from your coffee. However, here at The Coffee Stir, we love a challenge, so here goes… Which is better, drip or percolator coffee?

Percolator Coffee

Coffee percolators have been around since the 1800’s. In fact, the first known use of a percolator was in 1819 by the Parisian tinsmith Joseph-Henry-Marie Laurens. So, it is fair to say that coffee percolators have been around for a very long time. Over the decades since, percolators have come and gone out of fashion but have never disappeared. In fact today, they have had a bit of a resurgence.

Coffee percolators were very popular up until the mid 1970’s when coffee tastes evolved to other brewing methods like drip coffee. To this day there is still a market for percolated coffee but not as much as before the 1970’s.

How Does a Coffee Percolator Work?

A coffee percolator is essentially a coffee pot with a water/coffee drink receptacle at the bottom of the unit and a chamber at the top which houses the coffee grounds filter above it. A pipe runs from the water receptacle up to and above the coffee grounds filter. When the water heats up and runs up the pipe it mixes with the coffee grounds in the filter and then drips back down into the receptacle. This process continues until you remove the heat source and you are left with the percolated coffee in the pot.

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The Taste of Percolated Coffee

The taste of percolated coffee stirs up a lot of debate among coffee aficionados. Some people swear that the coffee’s flavor is far more robust and well rounded than coffee made from other methods. Other people claim that the coffee produced just tastes metallic, bitter, and burnt.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle of those two schools of thought. When brewed correctly, and I place a lot of emphasis on the brewed correctly bit. The coffee produced has a nice strong flavor with some nice rich coffee tones in it. It is certainly true to say that you will always get a more bitter taste with percolated coffee but with some good practices, you can balance that bitterness out with the richer more subtle flavors of the coffee.

The main complaints about percolated coffee tasting metallic and burnt are almost always due to over extraction of the coffee grounds plus the high temperature of the water. The problem occurs due to recycling the brewed coffee back through the coffee grounds multiple times. This will continue to happen all the time the percolator remains on the heat source.

This results in the over extraction of the coffee grounds and a stewed flavor that comes across as bitter and harsh. The hot temperature of the water/coffee drink will also burn a lot of the oils present in the coffee and destroy the flavor as a result.

So How Do You Make Good Coffee In a Percolator?

The trick with making good percolated coffee involves several things.

  • Choose good coffee beans.
  • Grind the beans yourself with your own burr grinder.
  • Test the optimum amount of coffee grounds to water until you find something you like.
  • Invest in a good quality coffee percolator.
  • Use pre-filtered water to remove unwanted minerals and chemicals in the water.
  • Ensure that your percolator brews at around 205°F (96°C).
  • Do not let the percolated coffee stew on the heat for longer than necessary.
  • Check the timings for how long your percolator brews for and remember the optimum time for next time you use it.

If you follow these points when you are making coffee then the taste of your brew will improve considerably.

What Are The Best Percolators?

There are many coffee percolators on the market but there are a couple of things that you need to consider first before deciding on which is the best coffee percolator on the market right now.

  • The amount of cups a percolator can brew at one time.
  • Whether it is a stove-top or electric powered percolator.

Your first consideration needs to be, where are you going to be using your coffee percolator? If you are planning to use it while camping or out on a trek somewhere then you should look at stove top products. These can be used on a camping stove or on a hob at home.

If you are looking for a stovetop coffee percolator then our top recommendation is the Farberware 47053. It has all the features you need from a percolator and more…

  • Available in 8 or 12 cup versions
  • Beautiful and durable stainless steel
  • Makes delicious coffee
  • Is dishwasher safe
  • Has clear glass knob to see when the coffee has perked

The other type of coffee percolator is an electric powered one. Obviously these types are better for home use and probably not while out and about on your travels. Once again, there are plenty of products to choose from and after some searching we have found what we regard to be the best electric percolator on the market today.

Our top recommendation for electric coffee percolators has to be the Presto 02811

  • Makes between 2 to 12 cups of percolated coffee
  • Beautiful and durable stainless steel
  • Makes delicious coffee
  • Has an easy pour spout
  • Is dishwasher safe
  • Signal light comes on when the coffee is ready

Drip Coffee

So now on to our second contestant in this dance-off between two heavyweights of coffee making, the drip coffee makers, or as it is otherwise known, pour-over coffee or filter coffeeor even brewed coffee. Sometimes people just refer to this method of coffee making as well, just… Coffee! Whilst there are subtle differences between the methods just mentioned, they all essentially refer to the process of passing water through coffee grounds in a filter.

What Does Drip Coffee Mean?

Drip coffee refers to the process of dripping hot water onto a filter containing coffee grounds and letting the coffee drink drip into the coffee pot below.

In 1908, Melitta Bentz from Germany invented paper coffee filters and it is said that this is when drip coffee making method began. Melitta is now known as a leading brand in the coffee filter world and also in the world of coffee products in general.

What Does Drip Coffee Taste Like?

The taste of drip coffee can be described as a simple but pure coffee flavor. There isn’t much in the way of roundness of flavor like you get with espresso for example but you do get a very straight cup of Joe with drip coffee. The good thing about drip coffee is that it is only brewed once, so you don’t get that over-stewed taste that you can sometimes get with percolated coffee.

You also have to try and use pre-filtered water if possible because the hot water is straight from a kettle and contains all the minerals and chemicals found in tap water. It might not be a problem in most places but some tap water can have a particularly metallic taste to it.

Advantages Of Drip coffee Makers

The taste of drip coffee might not be to everyone’s tastes, but if you like that pure coffee taste that is neither too bitter or too acidic then you will be pleased with coffee brewed like this. So what exactly are the main advantages that drip coffee makers have?

Ease Of Use: A drip coffee maker is generally very user friendly and simple to get a decent standard and consistent cup of coffee from. There are none of the complexities you get with espresso makers. With drip coffee makers, you put X in and you know you will get Y out every time.

Automation: Most drip coffee makers on the market today can be automated in some way so that at a certain time, you will have a cup of coffee freshly brewed and waiting for you. Many machines have timers to achieve this.

Convenience: You can make a pot of drip coffee in the morning and it will sit there for as long as you want it on the coffee makers hot plate gently keeping itself warm. So, anytime you fancy a cup of Joe, you just pour it into a cup and away you go. Very convenient when you are busy.

What Is The Best Drip Coffee Maker?

There are many great drip coffee makers on the market and it can be quite bewildering which one to choose when looking. The best way is to try and understand what is important to you by asking these questions.

  • Is the convenience of quick coffee on the go important to you?
  • Are you more concerned about the quality of the coffee you drink?
  • Would you like a pot of coffee waiting for you first thing in the morning?
  • How much coffee do you want to brew in one go?

By answering these questions it will prioritise what is important when look for the best drip coffee maker for you.

For those that want more control over the process of making pour-over coffee then the Bodum Pour-over coffee maker is for you.

  • Brews an excellent cup of pour-over coffee.
  • Quick and easy to use.
  • Made of durable, heat-resistant borosilicate glass.
  • Is dishwasher safe
  • Makes around 8 cups of coffee.

If you are on a bit more of a budget but would like a few bells and whistles of automation as well as great coffee then the Mueller Ultra Coffee Maker is the one for you.

  • Great automation features
  • Easy to use
  • Great tasting coffee
  • Permanent coffee filter
  • Variable brew strength

If the budget isn’t quite so much of an issue to you. If you also want great automation features as well as awesome tasting coffee then the best buy winner has to be the Ninja CE251.

  • Custom brew strengths to suit all tastes
  • Hotter brewing technology – advance boiler for hotter cups of coffee
  • Makes delicious coffee
  • Fully programmable and automated coffee maker
  • Removable water tank for easy filling

Who Wins – Percolator Coffee or Drip Coffee?

In all fairness there are advantages and disadvantages to both coffee making methods in terms of coffee taste and the method of coffee making. Ultimately it all boils down to what is important to you.

Both methods are more convenient ways of making coffee in the sense that you can brew the coffee easily and make a pot that will last most of the day. Both produce a coffee taste that can be described as enjoyable but probably not to the taste of espresso connoisseurs.

If convenience and automation is important to you and you just want a cup of coffee while you are racing around living life then a drip coffee maker is best for you. If you want a decent coffee while you are out and about camping, then get a stove percolator. If you prefer a darker, deeper and perhaps slightly bitter coffee, then get a percolator.

For me, for what it is worth, I prefer the taste of a good percolated coffee over drip coffee but that is just my preference. I suggest you try both and make your own mind up.