Coffee percolators

In the United States, percolator coffee machines are still top-rated. And although they are no longer used, they continue to be widely used in offices, catering sites, and various workplaces. On this page, we are going to review the history of the percolator coffee maker, its functioning and its leading exponents. Here we go:

What is a coffee percolator?

The coffee percolator takes its name from the verb percolate, which generically means “to pass a soluble substance through a permeable substance, to create a soluble compound”.

That is, in our case:

  • Soluble substance: water.
  • Permeable material: ground coffee.
  • Resulting soluble compound: coffee.

That’s clear.

Nowadays, almost all coffee percolators on the market are electric, although traditionally, this was not the case, and they had to be put on fire to be heated. As you may have noticed, one of the main qualities of a coffee percolator is its size: it allows you to prepare 15 or 20 litres of coffee at once.

That’s why it’s widely used in offices. A coffee percolator is much more practical than a traditional coffee maker or any other type.

What is a coffee percolator like?

The coffee percolators have a pure and simple design. On the outside, all we see is a large cylindrical metal container (usually stainless steel) with a pair of insulating temperature handles.

If we look inside, we see that part of the bottom is more profound than the rest. The main piece of a percolator fits a detachable vertical tube attached to a vessel or perforated filter (where the ground coffee is poured).

Outside, we see the unmistakable faucet-surfer, which is opened manually to fill the cups.

And what is the result of making coffee here? Contrary to what many may think, percolator coffee has a lot of flavours and a lot of body, as long as it is well prepared.

Difference between percoladora and a coffee machine?

A coffee percolator is also a coffee maker because it is a gadget used to make coffee. However, there is one key aspect that distinguishes them: the essential difference between a percolator for coffee and a regular coffee maker is the pressure. Or rather: the absence of pressure.

The percolator works thanks to the movement of liquids (water, coffee) when subjected to different temperatures and not thanks to any pressure. In an Italian coffeemaker, for example, water vapour exerts a pressure that is responsible for “the coffee rising” from the cauldron or lower body of the mocha.

How does a coffee percolator work?

As we said in the previous section, the force of gravity is responsible for the correct operation of a percolator.

When the water begins to heat up, it rises through the hollow tube inside the container (due to the difference in temperature) and ends up passing through the vessel where the ground coffee is, infusing it. This water continues to rise until it comes out of the smallest container and ends up falling to the bottom of the container (where the rest of the water is).

At this point, this water (or coffee-like liquid) is again colder than the rest, and then the cycle begins again. The water will pass over and over again through the coffee filter until it reaches the extraction point that the user wants.

Note: This cycle does not end until the coffee maker is removed from its heat source or is turned off if it is electric. In other words, it is up to the user to decide manually when the percolation cycle ends. If we spend too much time, the coffee will be over-extracted (bitter).

In the following graph, you can see it better (it corresponds to a Moka, but it is practically the same system of a classic percolator):

percolador system

How to use a coffee percolator

Once we know the internal workings of a percolator, we will lower it one more level. Suppose we already have it in our hands, and we want to start making coffee with it. Whatever the model of coffee percolating machine, the generic steps we will have to follow are the following:

  • The first thing is to have a coarse grind, more or less like the one we use in a plunger coffee machine or French press.
  • Next, open the percolator and add the water.
  • Close and serve the ground coffee to the vessel or upper filter.
  • Close this part again, and seal the coffee maker well.
  • Now it’s time to heat the percolator (if it’s electric, plug it in and turn it on).
  • When will the coffee be ready? Well, when the water reaches the right temperature and begins to bubble out of the tube.

Once finished, it is essential to consume the coffee within the first hour. If not, we would have to remove it from the percolator (so it would cool) or run the risk of burning or over-extraction if the percolation process is activated again.

In this other video, you can see how to use a Bartscher Regina coffee percolator (one of the ones included in our ranking).

The best percolator coffee maker

And finally, we go with our rankings to discover the best percolator of the market. Of the different options we can currently find to buy a multi-cup percolator, we have highlighted three by different criteria. We explain them below:

Bartscher Regina

Bartscher’s Regina is probably the most popular percolator on the Internet. It is a 15-litre electric percolator (between 80 and 100 cups of coffee, depending on the size of the cups). It measures 46 cm high and 27 cm in diameter.

Besides, there is another smaller model: Regina 6-liter Percolator.

Bielmeier Digital Percolator

It is perhaps the best percolator in our classification. It has a brutal capacity (27 litres of coffee), is electric, but above all, we highlight its digital operation. Through a panel and a screen, we can program both the temperature and the time of the complete percolation cycle. And it also serves to sterilize fruits and vegetables!

50-cup Coffee Pro Percolator

Here is a professional stainless steel percolator from Coffee Pro with a capacity of 50 cups. There is a transparent visor that helps you know how many are left inside, a removable tray, and safety closures to prevent coffee from spilling.