Coffee Maker Vs. Percolator (Things to Consider)

There are a wide variety of coffee brewing methods and instruments available. The process and device you select for this task will primarily be determined by your taste preference which differs from person to person. When it comes to a coffee maker and percolator, which one of these will work best for you? 

A coffee maker will be best if you enjoy a milder taste, while a percolator will be better if you want a more intense flavor. The taste differs because a coffee maker runs the same water through the coffee grounds only once, while a percolator does it multiple times, thus extracting more compounds.

There are also a few other differences between a coffee maker and a percolator to consider, such as the grind size used and how you operate the devices. These factors are also likely to affect your decision to purchase a coffee maker or percolator.

Image of a Coffee maker and a percolator with a cup of coffee between them

How Do Coffee Makers And Percolators Differ?

The Coffee Maker

A coffee maker usually has a hot plate, container (often made of glass), small water tank, and filter holder. Water is placed in the water tank, and coffee grounds are placed in the filter holder along with a filter. The container is placed on the hot plate underneath the filter.

When the coffee maker is switched on, the water in the tank is heated, after which it runs through the coffee grounds and filter, extracting the coffee compounds. The mixture then makes its way into the container from where the coffee can be served. The hot plate is continuously switched on and off (automatically) to keep the coffee warm. 

Some coffee makers do not have hot plates and glass containers. Instead, these coffee makers have thermal containers that keep your coffee warm for a while. It can be great for saving electricity and will also prevent your coffee brew from potentially getting burnt, resulting in an awful taste. 

The Percolator

A Diagram of Percolator and its parts

A percolator consists of a metal container with two compartments. The top compartment consists of a lid with small pierced holes at the top and a filter at the bottom. The coffee grounds are placed in this section of the percolator, between the pierced lid and filter. Water is poured into the lower section of the pot. These two chambers are connected with a small upright pipe. 

Heat is applied from beneath the bottom partition, causing the water to heat up. The hot water then gets pushed through the pipe to the top chamber. From here, it exits the top of the tube and runs through the perforated lid, coffee grounds, and filter before returning to the bottom chamber. The water is continuously cycled through the coffee beans until removing the percolator from the heat.

There are several different kinds of percolators available. Some are used on a stovetop and must be manually removed from the heat source before the brewing process stops. Others are electric and will automatically switch the heat source off at the right time. 

How Does Coffee Brewed With A Coffee Maker Taste?

Photo of a coffee maker with three cups  and saucer, a jar of coffee beans, and some fruits beside it

Since the water in a coffee maker passes through the coffee grounds only once, the resulting brew will have a less intense flavor than coffee brewed with a percolator. However, it is possible to get a more potent brew by using a coffee maker with a metal filter as it allows more diterpenes to pass through than paper filters do.

It might also be good to note that there is potential for a brewed pot of coffee to get burned, as the hot plate continuously switches itself on and off to keep the coffee warm. It will accordingly be helpful for you not to leave the coffee pot on the hot plate for too long. 

If you would like to keep your coffee warm for longer without it getting burned, it might be a good idea to pour the freshly brewed coffee into a thermal container which will keep it warm without burning it. Alternatively, you could consider buying a coffee maker with a thermal pot instead of a glass pot. 

How Does Coffee Brewed With A Percolator Taste?

Since the same water is cycled through the coffee grounds multiple times, extracting more compounds each time, the resulting brew tends to have a more robust flavor. Therefore, if you enjoy a more intense taste, a percolator might be a good option for you.

However, it would be good if you were careful not to let the water cycle through the coffee grounds too many times, especially when using a percolator on a stovetop. The result will be an over-steeped brew with a harsh taste due to the undesired bitter compounds extracted. Therefore, it is essential to stop the extraction process before these last compounds are drawn from the grounds.

Also, as the water temperature gets close to its boiling point, there is a risk of the coffee getting scorched. Some experts recommend brewing the coffee over medium heat for 7 – 10 minutes. Alternatively, you could also consider purchasing an electric percolator, which will automatically stop the brewing process before it goes too far. 

Coffee Maker Vs. Percolator: The Coffee Grind Size Used

The more finely your coffee beans are ground, the faster their compounds can be extracted when water passes through them. Therefore, when your coffee beans are ground more finely, the water requires less contact time to draw the necessary compounds from the beans. Finer coffee grounds will also make the water pass through them more slowly. 

As the water in a coffee maker passes through the coffee grinds only once, a course coffee grind will not allow the water sufficient contact time to extract enough compounds. A fine grind size will enable the water to draw more compounds in a shorter time, but the ground coffee granules might get into the brew. Experts, therefore, recommend a medium grind size for coffee makers.

Since a percolator cycles the same water through the coffee grinds several times during the brewing process, the water will have plenty of time to extract the needed compounds from the beans. Therefore, experts recommend a course coffee grind to prevent your brew from being over-steeped.

Conclusion

The biggest difference between a coffee maker and a percolator is the number of times the water cycles through the coffee grinds. A coffee maker runs the water through the coffee beans only once, while a percolator cycles the water through a few times. 

When deciding whether to get a coffee maker or a percolator, the determining factor will be your taste preference. If you enjoy a less intense taste, you should consider a coffee machine. On the other hand, a percolator might be better if you want coffee with a more intense and bold flavor.