There’s a huge variety of ways to make coffee at home nowadays, all of which have their fans and detractors.
It’s so easy to get swept up in a whirl of capsules or to lose yourself in the world of timers, scales, and pouring kettles.
From cafetiere to Aeropress and everything in between, you would be forgiven for forgetting an old coffee-making staple; the humble percolator.
First patented in the US in 1889, the percolator was one of the most popular ways of making coffee at home until the omnipresent drip machine overtook it in the 1970s.
The percolator dropped out of fashion due to a perception that it often led to over-extracted coffee, but in a world where people are more aware of how coffee brewing works that needn’t be the case!
Before we dive into the best percolator coffee makers available right now, a quick note on how percolators work is probably a good idea.
Within their jug-shaped exterior, there is a water reservoir at the base and a basket near the top which you fill with coffee.
You either place the percolator on a heat source such as a hob, or in the case of electric percolators the base contains a heating element.
A tube runs up from the water reservoir, carrying the heated water up and into the coffee grounds to enable extraction to take place. It’s essentially a filter that pours itself.
The reason this design can lead to over-extraction is that this is a continuous process, and often an invisible one due to the body of the percolator being opaque.
However, a little bit of experience (and some design improvements in some modern models) make this wholly avoidable.
The percolator is an easy-to-use coffee brewing method and one which deserves its time again!
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
Let’s kick things off with a modern classic. With percolators of old, your heat source was your stovetop.
We will be reviewing some great stovetop percolators in this article, but the advent of the electric percolator was a serious step forward in the portability and user-friendliness of percolators.
With an electric percolator, you can brew anywhere you can plug in!
The Presto 02811 is a quick-boiling percolator with an auto-warm function. You can have a cup of coffee ready in one minute, and keep it at drinking temperature until you’re ready.
You can brew up to 12 cups of coffee in this percolator, making it perfect for gatherings or meetings, or if you just want to have a hot cup of coffee available whenever you fancy it throughout the day.
The Presto 02811 is mostly made out of stainless steel, except for the base and handle.
This includes everything from the external body of the percolator, all the way through to the internal basket and perk tube.
Stainless steel is a hard-wearing but attractive metal, making this percolator both durable and classy to look at.
The plastic handle insulates your hand from the heat of the percolator.
The handle is smartly designed to avoid discomfort and burns, wrapping all the way around your hand and preventing you from touching the metal body of the percolator as you pour.
Pouring itself is easy thanks to the smartly designed spout and detachable cord.
The only major negative aspect of the Presto 02811 is that it doesn’t have an automatic shutoff function.
You are alerted to your coffee being ready by an indicator light, which is no problem if you’re able to attend to your coffee while it’s brewing but could lead to over-extraction if you’re in a busy environment or are distracted.
It’s also worth noting that this percolator doesn’t have an on/off switch. That’s one less part to fail, but it also means that once you plug it in, it’s on!
- Stainless steel construction - hard-wearing and solidly attractive, stainless steel is a classic percolator material for a good reason.
- Speedy percolation - you can have a cup of coffee ready to go in just one minute.
- Stay-warm function - brew yourself a pot in the morning and keep it at drinking temperature until you’re ready.
- No auto-shutoff - a lot of electric percolators turn off automatically, but not the Presto 02811. This might not be the best choice for a busy workplace.
- No on/off switch - you can’t leave this percolator plugged in, but it’s only a minor inconvenience.
Another design classic, this time for your stovetop, the Farberware Yosemite is a quietly beautiful percolator that delivers excellent coffee every time.
If you’re looking for a charming stovetop percolator that’s also easy to use, the Farberware Yosemite should be high on your list.
Every part of this percolator is made from stainless steel except for the plastic insulating handle and glass top knob (more on this later), and it is fully and easily disassembled for easy cleaning.
Every part of this percolator is dishwasher-safe and fully immersible.
The use of stainless steel for the body of this percolator is perfect for two main reasons.
The exterior is polished to a mirror shine, so it looks great in your kitchen or on your table.
The interior is non-reactive, so you don’t impart any unwanted or unpleasant flavors to your coffee.
The stainless steel filter basket is easy to remove and clean, eliminating the need for filter papers.
The glass knob is a neat little innovation on this percolator.
Situated directly above the perk tube outlet, it allows you to see when percolation begins, and also to monitor the progress of your percolation process.
With a little bit of practice, this window into your percolator should enable you to stamp out over-extraction!
- Timeless design - there’s something about the shape and construction of the Farberware Yosemite that gives an impression of an enduring classic, and thanks to the durable stainless steel construction it matches form to function perfectly.
- Glass top knob - you can observe your coffee as it percolates, helping you to time your heating process to perfection.
- Dishwasher safe - every part of this percolator can go through a dishwasher, or be fully immersed for hand washing.
- It’s not electric - if you’re looking for a stovetop percolator then you know this and it’s not a problem, but you’re going to need a heat source for this percolator!
Back to the world of electric percolators now for the Cuisinart PRC-12, another great percolator which combines aspects of the previous two we’ve looked at in this article.
Once again made from stainless steel with a plastic handle and base, this is a solid option for anyone looking for an electric percolator.
The Cuisinart PRC-12 has an elegant tapered spout for easy pouring, and the plastic handle stays cool while your coffee heats up.
Like the Presto 02811 there’s no automatic off function here, just an indicator light, but making coffee accurately is made easier by the inclusion of a transparent knob, as on the Farberware Yosemite.
This means that while you still need to keep an eye on your percolator, you have better visibility on when your coffee is ready!
Much like the Presto 02811, the Cuisinart PRC-12 doesn’t have an on/off switch, meaning that whenever it’s plugged in it’s heating.
The cord is detachable for easier pouring, and the base is designed for stability and to not scratch or scar any surface you place it on.
This is a great office coffee maker, but it’s also a winner in your home.
- Durable construction - stainless steel is always a winner with percolators, and it’s the same with the Cuisinart PRC-12.
- Easy-pour spout - shaped to help you pour with a minimum of mess and fuss.
Detachable cord - take the cord off for easier pouring, or to make moving your percolator around with you hassle-free.
- Transparent knob - you can watch your coffee percolating and time your brew with ease.
- No auto-off - you only get an indicator light, but the transparent knob helps with timing your percolation process.
- No stay-warm function - you can leave the Cuisinart PRC-12 on and it will stay hot, but it will also keep percolating; not necessarily what you want!
Can you make a stovetop percolator out of glass? You absolutely can when you use lab-grade borosilicate glass!
The Medelco One All is a departure from the norm in terms of percolator design, bringing a vibe that’s a little more modern, hewing closer in look to a cafetiere than a traditional percolator.
Glass construction aside, the Medelco One All is exactly as you would expect a percolator to be.
It has an insulating handle and detachable inner filter, and every part of the percolator is dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.
It even comes with a trivet to make it usable on an electric stove, and the borosilicate glass is hardy enough to go from stovetop to refrigerator without cracking.
Because of the all-glass construction, avoiding the pitfalls of over-extraction is much easier with the Medelco One All than with any other percolator.
The best tell for over-extraction is the color of the liquid that is being extracted from your coffee grounds.
If you’re getting a nice, dark, rich liquid through then you’re extracting desirable compounds from your beans.
As the extraction process comes towards its end, you’ll see the liquid start to thin out and change color to more of a yellow hue.
A truly balanced extraction will contain some of this, but too much leaves your coffee tasting thin, burnt, and bitter.
With the Medelco One All you can see every step of the extraction process, so you’ll know exactly when to remove it from the heat every time.
- Eye-catching design - an all-glass percolator really sets itself apart from the competition, and the Medelco One All is a very attractive piece of coffee-making equipment indeed.
- Easy to control extraction - with the whole percolator being made of glass, you can see every aspect of your percolation as it happens. This means you can avoid over-extraction with ease.
- Robust - despite being made of glass, this percolator is a tough cookie. It can go from the heat of the stove to the cold of your refrigerator with no issues, and while you don’t want to be dropping it from a height it’s fairly knock-resistant.
- Only holds eight cups - the Medelco One All has a slightly smaller capacity than the other percolators we have reviewed.
One of the best uses for a percolator is when you’re out hiking or camping. Slung over a fire, there’s no better way to make coffee out on the trail.
You can use a stainless steel home percolator for this with no trouble at all.
But if you want to keep your shiniest percolator for home use and instead have something dedicated to the outdoors available, the GSI Outdoors enamelware percolator is perfect.
Built from heavy-gauge steel with a vintage-style enamel coating, the GSI Outdoors is built to endure the rough and tumble of outdoor adventures.
The three-ply, twice-kiln-hardened construction ensures excellent heat distribution too, so you get a great cup of joe every time.
In keeping with some of the more indoorsy percolators we’ve reviewed, this trail champ has a transparent knob on top to let you see your coffee as it’s percolating.
You shouldn’t have to compromise on your coffee just because you’re out in the backcountry!
All the internal parts are removable for easy cleaning, including the steel filter basket (which also means you don’t need to bring filter papers along for the ride).
The flecked enamel coating and stainless steel on the rims make this a very attractive little vintage-style coffee pot.
Who knows, you might find that it’s good-looking enough for promotion to kitchen duties! It makes a great cup of coffee whatever environment it’s in and is definitely worth your consideration.
- Hardy - this percolator is designed for outdoor living, and while it’s equally at home in the comfort of your kitchen it won’t let you down out on the trail.
- Visible percolation - the transparent knob (made of resin here for extra durability) means you can see your percolation as it’s happening.
- Vintage styling - far from the modern look of an electric percolator, this is a country home companion in every way.
- On the smaller side - this percolator only has an eight-cup capacity.
- No modern conveniences - a classic percolator any way you slice it, there’s nothing here to help you with your brewing. It’s just you, your percolator, and your coffee.
After a quick look at some of our favorite percolators on the market, you hopefully have more of an idea of what you’re looking for from your coffee-making equipment.
However, there’s a lot to digest when it comes to choosing a percolator. After all, your morning cup of coffee is precious, and you want to make sure you get it right!
That’s why we’ve brewed up this handy buyer’s guide to percolator coffee makers so that you have all the information you need right at your fingertips.
Stovetop VS Electric
The big debate at the heart of your coffee percolator decision is whether to go for the classic stovetop design or a modern electric model.
They both have their pluses and minuses. One huge advantage of stovetop percolators is that they are really easy to clean.
Nowadays, pretty much every stovetop percolator disassembles to its constituent parts, and as a consequence can be put in the dishwasher to be kept sparkling clean.
Obviously, with a bunch of electrics in the base, you can’t do this with an electric percolator! It would be clean, but it wouldn’t work anymore.
However, electric percolators do have the convenience factor in their favor. As long as you have a socket, you can have coffee.
This works in reverse for camping and outdoor activities, but if you’re looking for a super-convenient home or office percolator then going electric might be your best bet.
Cleaning And Ease Of Use
Playing into the discussion about electric versus stovetop percolators is the issue of cleaning and ease of use.
Percolators all work in pretty much the same way, and the positives and negatives mostly come from whether your percolator is electric or not.
Electric percolators have a big advantage over stovetop ones in that they can be used anywhere, and only need either the flick of a switch or to be plugged in to start brewing delicious coffee.
Stovetop percolators have to be placed on a heat source which needs to be controlled to create the optimum heat for percolation.
Most of the best percolators nowadays have an integrated filter basket that negates the need for filter papers.
This makes them much easier to use and clean than models which need filter papers. The filter baskets are removable, so they’re super-easy to keep clean and fresh.
In terms of monitoring your brew, the thing you’re most looking to avoid is over-extraction (as we’ve mentioned a bunch throughout this article!).
Look for percolators with either viewing windows or transparent top knobs that let you see your coffee as it’s brewing.
This is the best way to control your percolation process.
The other option, and one which is not available on any of the percolators we have reviewed, is to find a percolator with an automatic stop feature.
However, you might find that the automatic stop is set too late, and allows too much water to flow through the coffee grounds.
In general, when it comes to making coffee you’re better off manually timing your extraction for the best results.
The percolator is a sociable coffee-maker, generally producing between 8 and 12 cups per brew. Make sure you take the amount of coffee that you want to be able to make at a time into consideration when you’re buying a percolator.
There’s such a huge variety that you will definitely be able to find the right one for you!
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