When Monica Eng concluded her story about my love of Cleveland (she would also critique Elements of Cooking in a piece so thoughtful it would merit a marriage proposal were I not already fanatically devoted to Donna)—she described my coffee percolator and my skin-flint affection for Folgers.  I subsequently got a few emails from percolator devotees and it renewed my desire to rid the world of the ridiculous automatic drip coffee maker, a sham perpetrated on an unthinking, convenience minded public.

                                                                                                    Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

When my beloved General Electric 9-Cup Percolator, filched from my father’s house, gave out after 40 years of vigorous life, I got what I’m sure was a gift from heaven: another one (above).  Discovered on E-Bay, this one, manufactured in 1950, was all but unused.  When this one went kerplooey, I got an even better gift on ebay: three of them, for $13.

I cherish the General Electric percolator (apparently no longer in production), but when I tell people that it makes the best coffee, by far superior to the ubiquitous automatic drip machines, they look at me like I’ve just confessed my belief in creationism.

It astonishes me that I have to defend this sleek, 9-cup wonder.  I serve generic decaf to guests and they’re begging to know what kind of coffee I buy.  Swear to God.  I haul out the big green can to prove it.  Coffee snoobs will say percolated coffee is "over-extracted."   I call it very strong, rich coffee that’s piping hot and stays hot without burning.  That its biggest advantage—percolators keep the coffee HOT, auto-drips burn it.  And yet the GE model with its glass top and elegant drip-free spout has long been retired.  Today’s percolators, what few remain, are awkward vessels with stubby spouts.

How did this happen?  Where did the percolator go?  Automatic drip coffee makers for the home, introduced in 1974 by Mr. Coffee (a Cleveland invention, no less! by people I know and like!), are the dominant household coffee machines, selling 20 million a year.  And yet the coffee they make is at best OK.  The flavor can be good IF it’s good quality to begin with and it’s served immediately upon being brewed.  (But better to use a French press in this case.)   Auto-drip coffee though almost never hot, especially if you put anything in it.  If it sits for a half hour, it’s tepid, and soon burnt.  It’s usually not much faster, nor appreciably easier to make.  The machine is not better to look at, while the GE percolator is one of the great home-appliance industrial designs.  And instead of the aromatic, enticing rush of gurgly percolation—one of the daily pleasures of this device—you get instead the sound of someone tinkling.

America lost something when it stowed the percolator in the back of the cupboard.  It gave up a superior machine to a marketing strategy, fashionable gimmick and the promise of “convenience.”  I want the percolator back.  I want people to wake up.


190 Wonderful responses to “Percolator Love”

  • Dan

    I’m a university student, that being said, I’m both young and I drink a lot of coffee.

    Quite a few companies now make drip machines without hotplates, the coffee goes into a vacuum sealed container and stays reasonably hot almost all day. It doesn’t burn!

    Percolators are antiquated! They seem to be largely for groups rather than a small 4-cup drip machine. They’re messy and can easily burn the coffee.

    As for presses, I can’t get the hang of it. It’s too rich! I can’t handle the coffee – I don’t know if it’s good stuff or bad stuff.

    This topic is a lot like a few people have said previously: Folgers and a perc to Ruhlman are like Bourdain and KFC. It’s all personal taste, but some tastes are better than others!

  • Maryann

    Talk about coffee and commenters come out of the woodwork! haha
    I like the memories the percolator brings back, but will keep to my moka pots, thanks 🙂
    Way to start trouble, Michael 😉

  • Maryann

    Talk about coffee and commenters come out of the woodwork! haha
    I like the memories the percolator brings back, but will keep to my moka pots, thanks 🙂
    Way to start trouble, Michael 😉

  • Kathryn

    for me, coffee is all about location

    when I am at home during the week, my “Mr. Coffee” style with a splash of 1% is just fine

    when out, nothing but the best from Cafe Artigiano (Vancouver) will do

    but when I’m camping? it’s all about my over-the-fire perculator and evaporated milk – have tried this at home and it just doesn’t cut it

  • Natalie Sztern

    The only time I have percolated coffee in the last 20 years is when someone goes into the basement and brings the 30 cup percolator for the Shiva house!! ….and the grinds are a pain to clean

  • bob

    I gotta be honest. I tried the Swanson broth in my french press, and it was definitely better than any veal stock I’ve ever made. Now I’m thinking about secretly switching out my wife’s folgers for…..

  • Frances Davey

    I can only imagine the disharmony in a house where spouses disagreed on the coffee. I’d be curious to know how many happily-married coffee-drinkers quibble about coffee with their spouses.

    I remember working for a lady who complained that her husband liked his coffee “weak as possum piss.” Okay, let’s move past wondering how she would know so much about possum piss. Anyway, they eventually divorced. It all makes sense to me now…

  • luis

    Charlotte had a great idea of using her italian stove to expresso machine (percolator) to make a cup of coffee. I am trying this idea an it produces very good coffee. Cleaned out the calcium deposits on the water tank overnight and replaced the gasket. This morning the coffee is delicious.

    chefmav, I respect your opinion on the different flavors of coffee and basically there are two types of coffee. One you like and what you don’t. Folks may not be able to discern one brand from the other. But everyone knows bad coffee when they taste it. There are tons of cafeterias that make huge money selling bad coffee. Disgusting.
    French Press (I will get one soon) has a lot of variables which is why folks seem to have mixed feelings about them.
    Temp of water, coffee, water quality, duration of the steep… this are variables.
    The stove top expresso machine eliminates the steep time thus delivers consistentcy and repeatability in the brew. And it’s fast, I can just stand there and butter toast while it brews. It’s genius.

    I am getting a cuisinart 12 cup for family and company. Ruhlman is right again, most drip machines burn coffee and honestly those without hot plates are a lot like ill designed percolators. Seems to me you folks buying them are overpaying for someone to reverse engineer the drip back to a basic percolator with a fancy thermos jug and a paper filter. Those of you that buy machines which grind your coffee beans and time the time of brew… Bravo for you!. You all probably have one of those fancy japanese toilets that powders your tushes. It’s not envy folks…just admiration at how the other half manages.

  • Morning Glory

    After Fourteen years in the coffee industry working from seed to cup I have come to one conclusion…The only wrong way to drink coffee is to not drink it at all.

    That said, I will return to my roaster and get back to work.:)

  • Populuxe

    I happen to know the head of GE licensing who is responsible for licensing their brand into the appliance space. Maybe I can convince him to license the percolator.

    In the meantime, I suggest you check out Devicestyle coffee makers from Japan. Those guys are freaks about coffee.

  • Victoria

    In the 1970’s I moved from NYC to Kansas City, Missouri, where I had the good fortune to live for two years. As I recall, Folgers was actually in downtown KCMO at the time; I remember walking around surrounded by the great smell of coffee beans roasting. Anyway, coffee obviously is very personal. Just look at all these posts. My best friend drinks coffee that he makes in a 6-cup (the size would be for six espresso cups) aluminum Italian pot that you’re supposed to do some gyration with on the stove – put the coffee in the top, put the water in the bottom, heat the water, then flip over the pot to make it work – which would be quite a feat first thing in the morning. He just puts the coffee in and pours boiling water in to drip down over the ground coffee. If you’ve ever seen one, you will know what I mean. I too hate automatic drip coffee makers. The coffee is awful, the hot plates burn the already awful coffee, blah blah blah. I personally hand drip my coffee cup by cup using a Melitta cone and paper filters. I just (this minute – it’s still in its Zabar’s bag) bought a tiny 1 – 3 cup Chemex because then I can avoid the plastic filter. What about the hourglass-shaped Bialetti that most people use in Italy? Every time I’ve ever tried one, I hate the coffee, and I always think I’ve done something wrong because I have friends who swear by this method. My hat goes off to Michael. I trust him completely. But having had a lot of percolated coffee at my aunt’s table in Illinois, I’ll have to pass and stick with hand drip. But, hey, Michael, if you invite me over for coffee, I’ll show up, and I won’t complain at all no matter what. I’d kind of like to see that hair in person.

  • Edgewater Joe

    My original memories of coffee were Eight O’Clock Coffee from A&P (and still on the market!), brewed in a tabletop coffee pot – and the one thing that I remember is the aroma that filled the house when it was done. THAT is something you do not get from any other coffee pot, whether French Press or drip or whatever else you got.

    I have no doubt that when Ruhlman talks about taste, it has to be connected to the smell of it, and it is tempting me to get yet another device, Which is frightening: I’ve got a large and small plunger pot, Bialetti expresso pot, another flip-it-over expresso pot, a super-cheapo Braun “expresso” pot, and a Braun vacuum pot because I, too, hate hotplates with drip pots. Oh, and a Melitta drip as well.

    Clearly, I need another hobby.

    BTW, as a transplanted Chicagoan I second the vote for Metropolis, a father-and-son micro-roastery that also has one of the friendliest coffehouse vibes you’ll ever find – http://www.metropoliscoffee.com.

    And Ruhlman, I’d love to compare notes about your experiences at U.S. We’re close to the same age, I was a debater and knew the team from your school, and one of my best friends was a U.S. grad in ’80 (but won’t admit it now …)

  • Tony

    Michael, thank you so much for bringing back memories of my Grandmother’s house in South Euclid. The Chicago article referencing your ability to drive by your elementary school and be back to those days is exactly how it is when I return to Cleveland. I can smell my Grandmother’s GE Percolator (she worked at GE in Cleveland and was all things GE) cranking in the morning. It’s been 25 years, but it’s amazing the scensory history that our memory retains.

  • Sandy

    I second the notion that the next post should be on the virtues of the crock pot.

    My mother had the very same GE percolator and only brought it out for big dinners. The old stubby percolator was used the rest of the time. She went Maxwell House or Hills Bros though, no Folgers.

    Thanks for another stroll down memory lane…

  • Atomic Cow

    Hello, my name is Atomic Cow and I’m a coffee snob.

    How much of a coffee snob am I? When I couldn’t find a local roaster who could consistently provide me with great fresh roasted coffee, I began to roast my own from green coffee.

    Roasting your own coffee gives many benefits from always knowing how freshly roasted it is to paying a lot less for coffee. Green coffee retails for about $5 a pound. Green coffee lasts more than a year. You don’t need any special storage or refrigeration; I keep mine in the bottom of my pantry. If you’re interested, check out sweetmarias.com

    I’ve tried every method mentioned here in the comments to make coffee and to me each has it’s strengths and weaknesses. The absolute best method I’ve found is an glass Cory vacuum brewer. You can usually score one on eBay for $35 or so. Be sure the rubber gasket is in good shape and that there are no cracks or chips in the glass. They are simple enough that little else can fail with them.

    If you’d rather purchase a new vacuum brewer, follow the Sweet Maria’s link above, they sell the Yama vacuum brewer which is an adequate substitute and the Cona vacuum brewer which is slightly superior but much more costly.

    As someone previously mentioned, the grinder is probably more important than the brewer or ever the brewing method. An inconsistent grind means that some of your coffee will be over extracted and will damage the flavor. You can find a quality burr grinder for under $100 if you look around. As I’m a snob I went for the Mazzer Mini, a commercial unit intended as a second grinder (for decaf, flavored coffee or other lower demand grinding needs).

    You probably won’t need anything that industrial nor want to pay $450+ for your grinder, but a decent $90 burr grinder like the Capresso Infinity can make an easily noticeable difference.

  • Deborah Dowd

    I have to admit that I have a drip coffeemaker at home, but use a percolator to make real coffee(instant coffee is a waste!) when we camp. There is nothing like the rhythm of those ever quicker perks and the smell that dissipates the promise of a hot, potent cup of java. I will never forget the first time we used ours when camping, and after about 10 minutes, heads were peeking out of tents from the sites around us and sniffing the air to see where that heavenly smell was coming from!

  • SideShow Bennie

    I grew up in the 50’s-60’s and have been drinking coffee for as long as I can remember. I mean that literally. My first grade teacher was awfully upset when she learned I had a big mug of coffee before coming to school. All of my youthful coffee was perked. As I grew up and went out on my own, it was drip coffee, French Press and coffee house brews. I bought the hype and all the propaganda against perked coffee. Recently, my lovely bride told be that a co-worker was giving away a percolator that was made by the fine folks at Fiestaware. Since we are Fiestaware devotees, we took the machine, mostly for novelty purposes. It is a beatiful 12 cup sleek stainless steel coffee making bullet. It sat of the shelf, neglected for a few weeks and finally we decided to give it a try. I ground some good Sumatra beans and loaded it up. The sound alone brought back a flood of memories of my mom’s kitchen. The smell filled the house and when I poured the first cup, it was steamy and hot and absolutely delicious. A damned fine cup of coffee! The beautiful part is that the last cup was just as steamy and delicious as the first. This fine piece of coffee brewing technology will no longer sit neglected on the shelf. Thanks for reminding me of my youth and confirming that percolation is the way to go…

  • luis

    “Ijust hope your next post is about Crock Pots.
    Posted by: French Laundry at Home | February 09, 2008 at 11:52 AM ”

    Sarcasm? or for real?

  • French Laundry at Home

    “i loathe crockpots. you can’t control the heat. what exactly is the point of them?” — Ruhlman

    Luis, honey, it’s sarcasm, my darling.

    I don’t get the point of crock pots either. I just figured it would spark some good debate. I’m sure people use them effectively (perhaps as a sort of chafing dish for a chili party or something), but I’ve never eaten anything that came from a crockpot that I’ve enjoyed. Oh wait — one exception — meatballs in that disgusting grape jelly/ketchup combo served at a church picnic when I was nine. That was delicious. Then. Now? Not sure my digestive system could handle it without massive revolt.

  • Tags

    I left sauerkraut and country style ribs in a crockpot a few times and they were great (to me, anyway).

  • bob

    although we regifted five of them, my wife and I kept one of the crock pot wedding gifts we recieved, and we make great kim chee chigae in it. confessions of the son of working class.

  • Bob delGrosso

    The name “crock pot” is derived from a common vulgar expression that refers to a ceramic commodes that has been filled to capacity.

  • rockandroller

    I find it difficult to believe you really don’t know what the purpose is of a crock pot. Or the person who said they’ve never had anything good out of one. As someone who clearly understands the cooking method “low and slow,” what’s hard to understand?

    I think they remain popular because there are actually an awful lot of us who work all day outside of the home. Some of us have two jobs, or children that need tended to, sometimes without another parent to help. When working people come home, they’re actually tired and often crave something comforting, like pot roast or homemade soup or chili. You stick the ingredients in in the morning (or the night before and put in the fridge, then take out in the morning), cook all day “low and slow” and come home to a hot meal, no muss, no fuss. It’s a time management device.

    I don’t use mine frequently but find it handy for making beans now that I’ve switched to dried instead of canned, and I use it every time I make my stuffing (mostly holidays), which is quite good and is always one of the first dishes to empty on my table. It’s nice because I can just put everything in and then leave it away from the rest of the cooking space. And it DOES have temperature adjustment. Mine has 5 different heat settings.

    There are a lot of “assembly” cooks out there who find them a good way to get into at least attempting a home-cooked meal with SOME from scratch ingredients, whether it’s soup or pork chops or pot roast or whatever. I would rather people use their crock pots than go to Boston Market when they want something “homestyle.”

  • Sandy

    The crude origin of the crockpot was hilarious.

    Actually, you CAN make some killer beans in a crockpot… I’ve also had some stellar chicken tacos shredded and marinated and cooked for several hours in one. Both of these were more chafing dish or party applications. That said, its not a bad option for people who can’t be home to babysit a stove for whatever reason.

    More interesting to me are the recipes. The most disgusting crockpot application I have seen to this point is a crockpot spice cake peddled by some Food Network personality who shall remain nameless.

    Someone please explain to me what the point is of baking a cake in a crockpot?

  • luis

    French Laundry and Rulhman wanna be…
    “i loathe crockpots. you can’t control the heat. what exactly is the point of them?” — Ruhlman
    Luis, honey, it’s sarcasm, my darling.
    I don’t get the point of crock pots either. I just figured it would spark some good debate. ”

    I suppose you have all kinds of control over your pressure cookers and microwaves?

  • Bob delGrosso

    I think it is really interesting how so many of us see the things we cook with as extensions of who we are and how we organize and live our lives. For example Ruhlman writes that he uses a percolator and some take it as a sign of flawed moral character while others see it as a sign of virtue.

    I was especially intrigued by rockandroller’s defense of his/her use of the crockpot. It seems to me that R&R sees the crock pot as something that represents the way he/she lives and so the negative comments about the tool became personal.

    I’m not condescending here. Actually, I think that the only reason I can recognize what is going on is that I do the same thing myself: see the things I own as an extension of who I am and how I live.

    We are all such strange beasts. Well, I am anyway.

    So what about the crock pot as a cooking tool?

    If there was no need for it and it did not do what it was designed to do, it would not exist in the numbers that it does. There’s millions of those things out there because they do a good job of slow-cooking and free up cooks who can’t afford a sous vide setup and who cannot be home all day doing got-damned mise en place and french laundry 🙂

  • rockandroller

    I actually don’t use my crock pot very often but I probably did sound a little bristling as I felt Michael’s comment was either baiting (bait I happily took) or a little thick. I just don’t believe anyone is so far removed from the “normal, little people” of the world and regular cooking that they can’t conceive of the purpose of or perpetuated existence of a crock pot. It just smacked of elitism, which, as you point out, is ironic given his Folgers proclivity. 🙂

  • rockandroller

    oh, and by “regular” I don’t mean “often,” I mean normal, non-chef type cooking that the average person makes, not foodies with sous vide machines or who make foam or whatever.

  • ruhlman

    I’m not a snob about crockpots. I used one that was in our rented apt in tivoli. i think it cooks things too hot, that’s all, you can’t control the temps. You can do a better job in a low oven, and yet they’re sold as this unique cooking tool. again marketing wins over common sense and practicality. i kind view them as a sham.

    like the automatic drip coffee maker, in fact.

  • Bob delGrosso

    I agree that the oven is a better slow cooker but the crock pot is certainly more convenient. And it may be safer than slow cooking in an unattended gas oven all day.

    I don’t have a crock pot, of course. Neither do I have any need for most convenience type cooking things. Like you I suppose, my a la minute cooking skills are pretty sharp, and I always have stock and other fonds on hand so I can knock out a meal in 30 minutes or so on any given night. Plus, when you think about food and cooking as much as we do, it’s kind of difficult to be caught with your pants down at dinner time -ever.

    These convenience products are not meant for people who spend all their waking hours thinking about cooking. Planning and visualizing mise en place and plating schemes as we mow the lawn or whatever.

    Crock pots and drip coffee machines are for people who have real lives. Not us. Well, not me anyway. What the hell do I do all day: blog, cut up hogs and make salami.

  • latenac

    The sad thing about the crockpot is it doesn’t live up to its intended purpose anymore. They adjusted the heat of the newer ones so it’s higher. Most slow cooker recipes call for things to be cooked 5-6 hours on low or 3-4 on high.

    I work full time. Growing up the purpose of a crock pot was to put something on at 7am before leaving for work and come home at 5 or 6 to dinner. The joy of having on a weeknight something that would normally take a couple of hours to make. You can’t do that with the newer, safer models b/c nothing can cook that long. You can’t even make Alton Brown’s overnight steel cut oatmeal without scorching it. So crock pots while always a marginal tool in my book have been rendered completely useless.

    On the average weekday morning at 5:45, I cannot say the same about my drip coffee maker that has just finished making me coffee while I had been hitting snooze.

  • amber

    i gotta say, my automatic drip machine is a vital reason why i’m actually able to get out of the house on time in the morning. it’s prepped the night before and i can quickly flip it on while i’m finishing getting ready. and then presto, a few minutes later, out the door i run, with a fresh cup of coffee in hand.

    and while my crockpot doesn’t get used all the time, it definitely does have it’s place in my apt. there are just some days that i have other things that have to get done and throwing a quick dinner in there and letting it simmer away is better than running through the nearest fast food joint.

    i will say i’ve enjoyed all the back and forth over these 2 appliances that i thought were quite harmless. who knew they’d generate such debate!

  • Sandy

    Bob’s right about not leaving the gas stove on for hours. That’s one time its better to use a crockpot.

    I don’t use the crockpot much anymore, but I surely did when I was just out of college and working insane hours. I remember using mine to make my first pot roast. Something about pouring a can of pepsi over it.

    As far as cooking a cake in the thing, no, nonononono. Make a mix before you do that!

  • Timm

    I got online to find out if people still made coffee in percolators because I was fondly remember my grandfather making the best coffee EVER in an old, dented, stovetop percolator. Time to get myself one.

  • Lisa

    I don’t drink coffee, but my parents have always used a percolator. I recall asking my mom in the 70s why she didn’t get a drip machine when the percolator broke and she was shopping for a new one, and she said, “drips are for drips”.

    My parents always set up the percolator at night and put the machine on a timer, so they’d have coffee ready to go early in the AM. You can buy one at a hardware store for under $10. So, morning convenience isn’t just a drip machine feature.

    As for crock pots, they are great for cooking dry beans. I use mine every couple of weeks for that task. It allows me to not have to mind the stove and produces the same end result as stove top boiling.

    The only other thing I cook in mine is New Mexico style flat enchiladas. I learned this trick while living in Santa Fe. The classic Crockpot has a crock which perfectly accommodates the average corn tortilla with just enough room for sauce to bubble around the edges. I make layers out of various veggies, beans, cheeses, etc. with tortillas and generous scoops of sauce -which I do make from scratch; red in winter, green in summer when the chiles ripen. The enchiladas cook in a little over an hour’s time, and I don’t have to heat up my whole oven for them.

  • luis

    I am enjoying my stove top expresso percolator. It’s all about flavor. My ten oz old expresso machine has brought a kick in my step in the morning.
    I can’t wait for tomorrow. I am planning to brew a tbsp of columbian with some tsp proportion of ARABICA expresso. Don’t have coco powder on hand but it’s coming….
    I am getting a bit ahead of myself. I need to research this compound coffee ( to borrow from master ruhlman). Hey fooling around with ingredients is an end in itself. If it’s crummy then change the plan…right?

  • luis

    The Rules…
    How coffee is ground influences the result. Grinding your own coffee beans is a way to ensure freshness. Consider your style of java. Coffee ground for an espresso machine is different than the grounds for drip coffee, Espresso machine grounds are very fine because it only brews for about 20 seconds. Drip coffee grounds are coarser for a longer steep. Brewing is another important component in getting a great tasting drink.
    Brew in water between 190 degrees and 200 degrees. A ratio of two tbsps of coffee to every six oz of water is recommended. Brewers agree that it is important to keep the correct ratio. Most concerned coffee houses use filtered water, as tap water can alter the taste of the brew. Coffee is roughly 90 percent water. folks have said …many times here. Water quality is key.

  • luis

    Bingo!.. Using the 10oz Italian expresso stove top coffee maker. I hit one of the sweet spots of flavor this morning. Check this out:


    10 oz of quality water
    1 Tbsp of fresh Colombian coffee ground for drip machines.
    1/2 Tbsp Arabica expresso coffee ground for expresso machines.

    That’s it. The results are very fair.
    This medium really lends itself for testing new ideas.
    You use very little, almost no product and the results are repeatable and FAST!.

    The possibilities are endless. Add a pinch of cinamon or a hint of vanilla. A touch of mint or coffee liqueour… see my point.

    This is my coffee toy thing now. One thing I really need to scrub the insides of the coffee maker every day.

  • Eric

    I found a link to this article over at coffeegeek.com, where all the coffee snobs are guffawing in disbelief that anyone who knows about coffee would write so glowingly of the percolator. My favorite method has always been a presspot, but I went ahead and dug out a very old Faberware 4 cup perc to give it a try. With eight o’clock columbian beans ground at about presspot coarsness, and using a paper disc filter, I brewed a pot of coffee that is far superior to anything I’ve gotten out of a drip machine with the same beans. And it borders on presspot quality. All I can say is, “I’ll be danged; he’s right”.

  • rasqual

    Anyone present — including the author — who hasn’t blind-cupped perc against other methods isn’t really justified in their opinion. “Golly, I tried it and it was great! He’s right!” “Geez, what a bozo. I tried it and it sucked.”

    For my part, I HAVE blind cupped perc against other methods. And I’m not about to declare the results. Anyone who wants to be sure they’re drinking the best possible coffee, will take it a level past loyalty to their favorite food critic, or iconoclastic critique of the author.

    Check it yourself, folks, and be open to learning something.

  • luis

    rasqual, It’s not about that!. I think what ruhman has done with this post is admirable.
    I have been brewing shitty drip coffee for a long time and I have been totally aware of it.
    My little bro and his fam love coffee and they would love to brew great coffee.
    Their drip on steroids computerized coffee machine never stood up to my lousiest drip brew. Go figure.
    It’s not about cupping. It’s not about the super coffee smart folks.
    Basically it is about wether we have been sold a bill of goods by Madison ave regarding the immenselly inferior drip system in the ever expanding growing gaudy plastic white elephant drip machines.
    This morning I can actually see some counterspace in my kitchen afer I kicked the crappy dripper to the curb.
    It’s not about you guys…. and as always don’t think for a minute that folks can not tell good coffee from lousy coffee because that much we can manage without surveys or cupping or any other bs….

  • Hamhock

    I’m surprised that no one has mentioned cold-brewing coffee yet. Although it’s usually only made for iced coffee purposes, it can be reheated to the proper hot temp along with water or milk.

  • kanani

    Bob, so true.
    For those of us who’ve been cooking for our families for over 30 years, you can bet that we’ve used most “convenience” tools out there. This includes crock pots, rice cookers, smokers, gas bbq’s, deep fat fryers, panini makers, cuisinarts, blenders and pasta makers. In the past it’s even included the occasional hot dog from Costco.

    Cooking is what we do every night, morning and for many lunches. All these tools are fun, and if someone looks down at me for using a crock pot or percolator, I will gladly toss them in the kitchen with hungry teens and kids, then ask them to do eight loads of laundry, drive errands, help with homework, walk the dogs, and put in 8 hours at work.

  • luis

    kanani, you are the salt of the earth. Outstanding post. The thing is this type of thing needs not to be defended. The idea you are mad enough to set the record straight is enough for me. I think lots of folks live in a vast amount of either pure and apart worlds of perception or they are just not connected to the collective. if you are a star trek fan ..you’d know what I mean by the collective. If you are not then sub in community for collective.

  • kanani

    Luis, Sweetheart….
    Thanks for the nod. It’s been a long day. I screwed up in the kitchen. Dinner was a disaster(total lack of focus and comprehension –I shall take this up with the butcher who failed to mark a package of shortribs, which I mistakenly thawed thinking they were chicken). But never fear, there were cookies and coffee made in the percolator.

  • Mary

    I used a drip brew coffee maker for years and never liked the taste of that tepid, weak-taste. I also spent a small fortune to replace the glass decanters as they break very easy.
    Tried many brands of coffees, nothing worked until I remembered the percolator I got as a weddng present 38 years ago,(still works!!) Got it out, brewed coffee drank my first cup and the angels sang.
    The coffee always tastes like coffee should and it is always HOT!!!!!!
    Nothing better in the morning.

  • luis

    Mary, my percolator has arrived in town. I will have to pick it up sometime next week. When I do I will bring it to my little bro’s for coffee brew-off if that’s a word. I am excited to match my new perc against his super duper dripper….

  • Persephone

    My first percolator back in the seventies was an electric Corning Ware pot that made wonderful coffee. You are also right it does keep the coffee hot. But I always pour it into a thermal carafe so it doesn’t keep cooking.

  • misa

    absolutely! my grandparents used one. my mother used one for years, till hers broke and she couldn’t find one anywhere to save her life. that was before Ebay. i will ONLY use a french press or percolator to make coffee, it’s just the best. really, it IS the best. thank you for extolling the virtues of the percolator!!!!!

    by the way, you CAN buy one new, they are made still. last time i was in Bed Bath and Beyond they had them, although it seemed overpriced at $49.95.

  • misa

    absolutely! my grandparents used one. my mother used one for years, till hers broke and she couldn’t find one anywhere to save her life. that was before Ebay. i will ONLY use a french press or percolator to make coffee, it’s just the best. really, it IS the best. thank you for extolling the virtues of the percolator!!!!!

    by the way, you CAN buy one new, they are made still. last time i was in Bed Bath and Beyond they had them, although it seemed overpriced at $49.95.

  • luis

    Amazing Grace Bubba!. Been at my other bro’s house. I commented on the percolator coffee talk here. He recalled that he had a french press. When I looked at it in his crystal closet I was thrown back a bit. It is beautiful Silver and pyrex glass with porcelain lining under the silver top.
    I said no thanks that’s too tooo…. I am just gonna make some coffee in it. He insisted. Take it and try it….it’s just collecting dust and turning pewter from oxidation. This french press is a thing of beauty. But come tomorrow it will go to work and I will experience the brew some of you have raved about.
    Sometimes you are just lucky and you shouldn’t fight it.

  • luis

    The Cuisinart 12 cup Percolator is in the house. It’s beautifull, well crafted and so simple. It’s small in comparison with the drip monster. It’s made to be plugged in do its thing and get washed and put away. It comes with no aspirations of taking up any counter space. A marvel of design. Very high quality stainles steel. Made a pot of coffee not bad need to adjust the amounts of water to coffee to get it closer to my taste. But delicious. I am happy as my drip machine needed replacement and this percolator requires NO PAPER BAGS. The best part about it is that it doesn’t burn the coffee and its allright to make more than one or two servings at a time. Day to day use. I was getting a bit weary of using the stove top job. If I was to reverse engineer it. Only thing I’d wish for was a conical coffee receptacle. That would just hit it outside the park as it would save me money in coffee. For now, I am a percolator guy. The french press is also in the house and I need time to fool with it.

  • kanani

    It sounds like a work of art.
    Of course, we expect you to buy the appropriate apron, now that you have your percolator. We also would like you to invite some lady friends over, who could play Bridge, then help you make the bridge over to Schnapps.

  • captain_petes

    Luis, congrats on the Cuisinart. They are nice looking. I bought the 8 cup Farberware last week, and am quite happy with it. I use a grind just a tad big coarser than auto drip grind, and the Melitta 3 1/2″ paper disc filters to ensure a clean brew. I haven’t had coffee this good since I used to have a Krups Moka Brew. My favorite coffee to use in the percolator so far is Folgers Gourmet Selections Lively Columbian whole bean. I use a Capresso Infinity grinder to ensure a nice consistent grind.

  • luis

    kanani, It is beautiful and simple. I can use it, wash it and place it on a shelf out of the way. The counter is free from the drip monsters that never quite washed well enough…on and on… as for the lady friends.. is in the works. We are pitting the percolator vs the super drip in the home of coffee lovers starbucks fanatics. Perhaps a super brunch thing…. time will tell.

  • luis

    captain_petes , Thank you for the tips I need to remember them and specially remember the capresso coffee grinder that allows you to grind the beans to your requirements.
    I think you can not go wrong with fresh colombian coffee and quality water. I remember a guy that sold water filters in insanediego. He shared his technique with me. Actually he would go to folks homes with roses and demonstrate tap water vs his filtered water by putting a rose in one and one on the other. Needless to say the rose in the clean filtered water would outlive the rose in the city water by a bunch of days… something like that. The water is as important as the coffee I think. I wish Ruhlman would open bottled water up for discussions. I would love to hear folks opinions on which water they find best.

  • Emily

    I am staying out of the coffee wars here, because even though I’ve tried them all, I still love Community coffee. Also my moka pot and cheap Lavazza. However, my point in writing is have you seen the Presto brand perc pot:
    It looks exactly like your vintage ones. Just thought I’d leave the link, as I don’t think I’ve already seen it posted.
    Thanks for an interesting post!

  • captain petes

    Bottled water? Aaugghhgh! All those little plastic bottles littering the planet. Truthfully, you get the same result by installing a Pur water filter on your tap. Where I live, the tap water is pretty good without filtration, so I don’t ever worry about it. I hope this thread doesn’t die. Ruhlman wants people to wake up, and from the level of participation here, I would say that he’s getting his wish. I will never drink canned Folgers though. I actually wrote a guide on percolators over on ebay that explains their operation in detail. Same user name. After careful study of the principles of percolators, and looking up some of the chemical processes that go on during the brew cycle, turns out percolators don’t violate the rules the way we’ve been told.

  • captain petes

    Bottled water? Aaugghhgh! All those little plastic bottles littering the planet. Truthfully, you get the same result by installing a Pur water filter on your tap. Where I live, the tap water is pretty good without filtration, so I don’t ever worry about it. I hope this thread doesn’t die. Ruhlman wants people to wake up, and from the level of participation here, I would say that he’s getting his wish. I will never drink canned Folgers though. I actually wrote a guide on percolators over on ebay that explains their operation in detail. Same user name. After careful study of the principles of percolators, and looking up some of the chemical processes that go on during the brew cycle, turns out percolators don’t violate the rules the way we’ve been told.

  • luis

    Emily , thanks for the link. The presto percolator looks similar to the twelve cup cuisinart I bought. When you compare them with the older GE model you see the simplicity of their design. I love it. No KNOBS to turn. NO sight glass to turn brown and all mucky on you. Just the clean design. plug it in and when the light lights your coffee is ready. They are fast and efficient and take up no counter space like the ubiquitos drip monsters.

  • luis

    captain petes , Capresso grinder… I will check it out soon as I can. I have gotten away from grinding the beans because the drippers have issues which negate culinary progress. Like Ken Kawayashi san my old boss used to say Coffee is Coffee… Not quite. he wasn’t really right about anything very often.
    I agree the rigth water filter is better than bottled water. But for just making the daily pot of coffee… you know? what half of this and the other.

  • auntmimi

    I agree with Michael. I have had my cute, little, squatty 4-cupper Farberware electric percolator coffee pot for 20+ years. It’s still going strong and the only thing I have to buy for it every few years is a new cord. ($4 at the hardware store) And I agree with one of the other comments–drink what tickles your fancy. I am sure most of you will cringe when I tell you what I drink and absolutely love–chicory & coffee made with my perc pot. The kind they serve in New Orleans. And, I like it really strong too. If I ever move away from the south, I will have to mail order the stuff–I love it that much–it’s that good.

  • Mike

    Is supercilious the word of the day? or is it pretentious? First of all, the properly functioning percolator does not boil or overheat the tank full of coffee, it heats a tiny amount of water which is driven up a tube and splashed out, diffused, over the grounds. When enough of it has heated, risen, showered the grounds, the tank has attained sufficient heat to tell the percolating heater element to shut off, after which the tank merely maintains temperature.
    Feeding groups of 20 to 200 people, I would often (for the higher $ parties) go buy fresh ground Starbucks or other highly touted, overpriced coffees, sometimes grind up some fancy shmancy beans. All well and good, but still, I never have gotten as many compliments as when I just brewed Folgers. Some years back, I’d been drinking some fancy Columbian thing for a couple weeks or so- fresh ground, etc. One day I came to work and my assistant handed me a cup of coffee which tasted so-o-o-o good! Since we had a few premium brands on hand,I asked her what she’d used and she replied “Folgers”. Go figure.
    By the way, I just happened across this message board- lots of fun, in an off-hand, silly way, a nice escape for a few minutes. Who is Michael Ruhlman? I guess I should recognize the name, but I do miss a lot in the popular culture. What universe is he the center of?

  • luis

    Mike, Percolators keep Coffee fresher than drips. I have gone down from as many as three brews/day to one or two. Also no paper filters. They do not overheat and set your counter on fire like the drips have been known to do, and they don’t take up a square foot of counter space. Even more advantages…. percolators seem to last longer than drip machines. Drip machines have very short life spans.

  • Mike

    If you use a gold filter, a decent drip machine (I use a Cuisinart), decent coffee (never Folgers) in espresso grind, and good water, you’ll get good coffee. If you don’t, you’re doing it wrong.

  • swag

    Why is it that so many food experts can have such elaborate understanding of flavors and meals, and yet so few have so much as a even a mildly developed palate when it comes to coffee? Thomas Keller will wax poetic about the unrivalled virtues of Equator Estate coffees in the press, and yet virtually no one I know in the coffee industry sees anything special. Meanwhile, Andy Barnett of nearby Ecco Caffe roasting is legendary among those in the quality coffee business — but ask Mr. Keller, and he will tell you he never heard of them or their coffee.

    Preparing coffee is cooking. It’s chemistry. It’s about controlling the right temperature and pressure to exact the right amount of heat, time of exposure, and control of extraction. Because in making coffee, you’re trying to draw out the tasteful elements with hot water and leave the bitter dreck behind (and some of that dreck is water soluble, which is where the time comes in).

    On these criteria, making coffee with a percolator is akin to baking with a blow dryer — not even a light bulb in an Easy Bake Oven. The #1 problem with most home filter drip coffee makers is temperature control. The percolator “solves” that by scalding coffee grounds unevenly with boiling water (it should be about 205-210℉, just below boiling, for proper extraction).

    The percolator was part of the post-WW II era of Folger’s crystals and instant coffee. The era of Tang as a scientific advancement over orange juice. It was also one of the greatest atrocities mankind ever committed to quality coffee. You will never find any business that rests its success on making good coffee using a percolator, and with good reason. Those Dark Ages should be banished along with Potato Buds.

  • R Phillips

    I love my percolator!!! The coffee tastes far better than drip to me… Presto still makes a 100% stainless steel model with the nice spout. It looks almost exactly like the one pictured, but the top isn’t clear so you can watch the coffee perc… 🙁 Still… I highly recommend the Presto for anyone who doesn’t want to take a chance on buying vintage. Makes a great cup of coffee and even has the light that goes on to tell you when the coffee’s ready. Most of the other manufacturers did away with that.

    I’ve had no problem getting perfect extraction and a very balanced cup by adjusting the grind. I’ll bet the Folgers ground for drip machines packs a pretty serious caffeine punch when made in a percolator. Although… that brew strength control on the vintage GE probably makes it possible to adjust the extraction without adjusting the grind. Finer grinds in the Presto make “super” coffee that tastes over extracted, but packs a caffeine buzz you wouldn’t believe!!!

  • Shawn

    I used an auto drip coffee maker for years and it produced a quick cup of ok lukewarm coffee. Recently I got my mother’s old coffee pot working again after finding a new cord. Gotta admit that after forty years the old perk coffee pot works fantastic and really does brew a great cup of hot delicious coffee. If you like fancy foo foo coffee and fancy foo foo equipment I think that’s great. Hey, to each his own… As for me, perk coffee and Folgers seem to work quite well.

  • Mark

    Haven’t had a perked cup of coffee in a long time, but was up in Northern Quebec on vacation and the person who lived there perked some coffee. I don’t care what anyone says…that coffee had such flavor and it was a stovetop model. I won’t buy a stovetop model, but I’m converting back to a percolator. Much superior in my opinion.

  • Waldo - Where am I?

    After reading some of the comments, I did a little experiment this morning. I dripped a pot of folgers and perced 6 cups of ronnco decaf-turned it down to med hi after it actively started to perc- and tried both. the perced coffee has a more full rich flavor….it just tastes better. and the ronoco coffee is perfect for my perculator…its ground more coarse than my folgers.. Looks like the percolator is gonna get a lot more use in the future.

  • Mer

    I switched back to a percolator after using a drip system for several years. Drip coffee has a flat hard edge with no body whereas percolated coffee seems to come alive with flavor. I spent a fair amount on expensive coffee and Folgers while not quite up there is close enough for me – I really can’t taste that much difference. I sometimes think people buy expensive coffee for the wrong reasons and do so only to impress. The coffee drinking experience would be much better without the politics (fair trade). Buy what you like and forget the rest which is just bs anyway.

  • Gerald Coates

    Thanks for your comments on perolator. I did a lot of research into various coffee makers, espresso makers, etc. I did order a combination espresso and coffee (drip type) maker and when it finally came the product was a used and broken unit that got shipped by mistake. I cancelled the order.

    Then I went to a store and saw the GE perolator and it thought why not give it a try till i can get what I want.

    Well thank you (company that missed up my order) – I now remember what I have been missing in the taste of coffee – all every one has is a drip type coffee maker or if your lucky you get a espresso –

    However after making my first pot of coffee in the perolator I am back hooked on the orginal way of making coffee. The flavor is great – and you can make it exactly as strong as you want it. Not only that NO MORE buying filters or having to wash a used one out to make coffee as your out and its to late or early to buy more –

    GO PEROLATOR – pass the word.

  • blindhari

    As I reach the golden years (geezerhood according to our daughter)I belive that I have tried every kind of coffee brew going. I remember Army coffee, black gang coffee, fine european hotel coffee, drip, perk, fresh ground, french press, vacum, boiled in c rations, and made out of old grounds because it was the best my host could offer. I have worked in food service for off and on for over 40 years and the greatest cup of coffee was from the poor man who shared all he had.

    I have gotten to the point that I must restrict caffine and acid. The best I can make for my guests is fresh MJB when I can get it,and Folgers half caf when I can’t,
    I just lie to coffee snobs about what they’re drinking and how I made it. Works every time.

  • EJG

    Thanks for putting this up. I just tried a stovetop percolator from a camping kit and the coffee was amazing.

  • Becky

    I was born in 1950. Oh yes, I also have fond memories of the sound and smell of coffee brewing in the mornings. My mother and grandmother made great coffee in their GE percolators (just like in your photo above). When I married I was using a drip maker. Around that time my Stepmother made the best coffee ever—-in a Faberware percolator. She and my dad gave us one that year for Christmas. Sometime later I fell back into using the drip process. Four years ago a friend made us coffee in a Farberware percolator that had belonged to his mother. That put me back on the right track. Couldn’t find my old percolator so I purchased new Farberware and have been loving it ever since. After brewing I always pour that fresh brew into an insulated carafe that stays hot for up to 8 hours. At Christmas I always take and make coffee at my daughter’s house. Her inlaws now insist that perked coffee is much better than drip. I drink regular Maxwell House or Folgers—–which ever is on sale.

  • Leonard

    I switiched to a perculator a few years ago and like having a hot cup of coffee. My neighbor has one and told me he pours the new grounds over the old ones until the basket gets full. I tried it in now do the same thing.

  • Ashley

    I love my coffee percolator. I am never going back to a drip maker. The drip machines make tepid coffee that tastes like burnt plastic. I love the fact that a percolator brews hot coffee and it never touches any plastic, only stainless steel. It has a very good smooth flavor and most importantly it is hot and stays hot without burning or scorching. If you haven’t tried percolated coffee, trust me, you’ll be surprised in how good it is. You may also become a born again percolator fan. I am using the Presto 02811 Percolator and I really like it.

  • Marlene Banks

    I am looking for a Farberware electric perculator. Our old one broke and we have not been able to find the above (10 cups). Does anyone know of the address of Farberware. I would like to write them and perhaps make a direct purchase from the company. Thanks

    P.S. We miss our old electric perk.

  • Mark

    Ahh! To meet another percolatorphile! I have been a coffee snob for a good part of my adult life. I had an espresso machine in my college dorm room! I have since reached adulthood and the luxury of a coffehouse brew daily is not in the budget. I have “lived” with the terrible taste of a drip brewer for years. Mine just kicked the bucket. I hauled out my percolator from my camping gear. Wow! the coffee from it is amazingly good. Yes I am using Folgers too. I never thought it would taste anything more than brown crap. Percolators have some magic that erases the nastiness. It makes the coffee I remember from my grandmother house(incidentally when I fell in love w/ coffee). Thank you !

  • candacem

    For all those percolator fans without a family home to ‘burgle’ or a hankering for used small appliances, I recommend the Cuisinart Classic percolator. It’s expensive, but well worth the cost. It’s not going to last as long as my mom’s old percolator lasted both her and me, i.e., almost fifty years, but it’s graceful, works great, and has replaceable parts that are still available. cmm

  • Ryan

    I tell ya, when do the marketing rackets stop? (It’s the same as the marketing of those crappy disposable razors, and “miracle” 5 blade cartridges – if you don’t know what I mean, look into double edge shaving, it’ll change your life! LOL) My Braun drip maker just died (and they’re even a good one, by the reviews, and the 3 years I had it, especially compared to Mr. Coffee’s single year; I think Bunn makes the only really good one), and I’m definitely gonna find a good percolator, ‘looking forward to it. My Grandma used to use one that worked with the heat of the stove, and that was far better coffee than those other machines. And no kiddin’, the others are no easier to use, in fact they’re kind of a pain, and clog up all the time – plus they need those stupid paper filters, another racket! LOL I’m all for progress, but just because something’s new doesn’t mean it’s better…

  • Sandy

    Hi there,
    Just got my GE immersible perc on ebay. Of course there were no directions with this vintage perc. Can you tell me what the dime/nickel size metal part does and where it goes? Thanks in advance for your help!