If you’re new to the specialty coffee journey, it can be hard to learn about all the brewing techniques. Coffee has been around since the 9th century so it’s not really surprising to find out that there are a countless number of brewing techniques that have been discovered since then. For today’s blog, we want to take a look at two of these brewing methods, one using a percolator and the other using a drip coffee maker. We want to compare them and give you an answer to the age old question: Which is better, percolator vs drip coffee maker?
But first, let’s find out what these coffee machines are and how they work.
A coffee percolator is a device that uses physics to circulate boiling or nearly boiling water through a tube and over coffee grounds. This cycle goes on until the desired strength of coffee is reached. It consists of a pot with a chamber at the bottom where water is heated from a heat source. When heated, water is drawn up in a tube into an upper chamber that contains the coffee grounds. Water then spills out over the ground coffee.
In the upper chamber, holding the coffee grounds is a perforated container. This container allows brewed coffee to drip through the filter or perforated bottom and back into the primary lower chamber. This continues to circulate until it is removed from the heat source.
The image below shows how it works.
The drip coffee maker is truly a modern marvel. You’ll find these coffee machines in a lot of modern households. The 1970s is when the drip coffee maker really started shining. Around that time, they conquered the brewing world and effectively “killed” most of the percolators.
So how does the drip coffee process work? Well the drip brewing process starts by placing a paper filter and ground coffee in your machines designated spot. After doing that, you fill its water tank, and turn your machine on. After that, all the manual work is done, the rest is done by machine. The drip coffee maker will heat up your water to a boil or near-boil and the tube system will allow the steam to rise into the drip area where the steam is dispersed.
The next step the machine takes is letting the heated water evenly flow throught the coffee grounds and the filter into a coffee pot. The simplicity and accessibility of the drip coffee maker is unmatched and that is why its most people’s way of making coffee.
Check the diagram down below to see the drip coffee maker broken down.
The story has it that the percolator was invented by Count Rumford, an American-born British inventor during the American Revolution. Hanson Goodrich, an Illinois farmer, patented the modern U.S. stove-top percolator. The percolator was created with one goal in mind. To replace decoction, a brewing technique which consisted of simply mixing boiling water with coffee grounds.
Percolation aimed to correct the impurities that decoction created in coffee. A downside to percolation was the bitter taste it created from over extracting. That’s why the drip coffee maker largely replaced the percolator in the 1970s. The percolator design continues evolve, but the basic concept remains intact.
The components that are used in your everyday drip coffee maker were invented at different times. For example, the paper coffee filter was invented in 1908 by a woman in Germany named Melitta Benz. The first electrical drip brewer was not invented until decades later by Gottlob Widmann. Yes, the “wigomat” as he called it was patented in 1954, half a century after the paper coffee filter.
Naturally, the drip coffee maker quickly became a favorite and widely replaced the stovetop percolator in the 1970s. The over-extraction of coffee that was caused by percolation was a big issue because of the bitter taste it produced. Another benefit of the drip coffee maker or the paper coffee filter specifically was being able to dispose of the coffee grounds and filter together. The ease of use and better taste won over the public and that is why drip coffee is the most popular brewing method in the world
Percolator vs Drip Coffee – Convenience
In terms of convenience, the drip coffee maker is unmatched. This is one of the main reasons why you will find a drip coffee maker in almost any household, diner, café and restaurant. You just put your coffee grounds in a filter, pour water into a reservoir and voila, you have coffee. Even the cheapest drip coffee maker can automatically regulate heat and brew time. So the first round winner in the percolator vs drip coffee match up, is drip coffee.
Percolator vs Drip Coffee – Taste
Although most people prefer the smoother and cleaner taste of drip coffee, it all comes down to how you like your coffee. The percolator is looked down upon in the specialty coffee community because of how it produces coffee. There isn’t a lot of balance or clarity in the taste. A big disadvantage of percolators is the way they rebrew coffee over and over. This “shocks” the grounds and produces an overly bitter, strong coffee taste.
If you’re a fan of that kind of flavor, then a percolator might just be right for you. Drip coffee doesn’t rebrew coffee, it’s a one-and-done kind of deal. Important things like acids, oils and bitter compounds aren’t pulled out of the coffee in an aggressive manner with the drip coffee, unlike the percolator. Thus you end up with better, clearer tasting coffee. Second round in the percolator vs drip coffee matchup goes to drip coffee.
Percolator vs Drip Coffee – Maintenance
A percolator requires more maintenance than a drip coffee maker. After every use of a percolator, you should be removing the grounds, and cleaning the brew basket, lid, and carafe. The problem with a percolator is long term maintenance. To remove mineral deposits, every 3 months you should be using baking soda and vinegar.
To clean a drip coffee maker, simply add some water to the reservoir and let the machine clean itself. For a more rigorous cleaning process, you can add white vinegar to the reservoir and let the machine do the work. Third round in the percolator vs drip coffee matchup goes to drip coffee.
Percolator vs Drip Coffee – Price
The only category that the percolator wins in is a strong cup of coffee at a great price. If you are on a tighter budget, but still want a good cup of Joe, a coffee percolator might just be the right option for you. The last round in the percolator vs drip coffee matchup goes to the percolator. Which means our final score is drip coffee 3, percolator 1.
So, it all comes down to this. The percolator vs drip coffee maker. What should you get?
Most people will answer the percolator vs drip coffee maker question by choosing the drip coffee maker because of it’s modernity, ease of use, and it’s superior taste. But there are undoubtedly people who prefer stronger coffee who will go with the percolator because of taste and ease for providing coffee for a crowd. Specialty coffee enthusiasts choose drip coffee because of how it tries to keep the natural coffee taste without altering it. At the end of the day, you’ll need to internalize your coffee preferences and choose the right brewing machine for you!
Already know what you prefer in the percolator vs drip coffee maker debate? We have a wide variety of specialty coffees that would go great with your brewing method, check them out down below!