Contemplating which side to take in the battle of drip coffee maker vs percolator? Let us help you weigh in which one works best for your taste and needs. But before that, let’s take time to learn about these two coffee makers and how they work.
A Brief History of Drip Coffee Makers and Percolators
Between the two, the percolator arrived much earlier in the coffee scene than the drip coffee maker. The former was invented by an American soldier and scientist, Sir Benjamin Thompson, also known as Count Rumford, sometime between 1810 and 1814.
Then, in 1889, its modern version was patented by Hanson Goodrich, a farmer whose stovetop version could turn any coffee pot into a percolator. Since then, percolators were a staple in American kitchens until the 1970s with the introduction of the drip brew coffee machine.
On the other hand, the automatic drip brew coffee maker we see today is based on an invention by an enterprising housewife, Melitta Bentz, in 1908. However, it was not until 1954 that the first electric drip brewer called the Wigomat came to be. Since then, a lot of improvements have been made in the automatic drip brew coffee maker, replacing percolators in American kitchens in the 1970s.
How Are Drip Coffee Makers and Percolators Different?
From the outside, percolators look like elongated kettles. But when you open the lid, you’ll find a pump stem, a basket, and a spread-cover.
While water is being heated, pressure starts to gather and causes the water to go up the pump stem. The tube then releases heated water to the spread-cover that showers it onto the coffee grounds in the basket. The water with coffee then drips back down to the water below. The process continues until the coffee boils.
Percolators can either be stove-top or electric.
- Drip Coffee Makers
A drip coffee maker looks a little more complicated than percolators although you’d find almost the same elements. The tube system and the basket are there. But instead of one compartment for the liquid, you have two—one for the water and the other for the coffee. And a heating element can also be found under the carafe or the coffee pot.
To make coffee with an automatic drip coffee maker, you place paper filter and coffee grounds in the basket. Then, you fill the water compartment and turn on the machine. Steam passes through a tube system connecting the reservoir and the basket. A spray head distributes the heated water that then seeps through the grounds and falls to the carafe of coffee pot below.
Drip Coffee Maker vs Percolator: Which Is Better?
The ideal water temperature to brew coffee with is just below boiling point. Percolators, however, use boiling water, while drip coffee makers typically wait 30-45 seconds after the water has boiled before releasing it over the coffee grounds. From this standpoint, it’s easy to see the susceptibility of coffee grounds in a percolator to over-extraction.
Additionally, percolators recirculate brewed coffee. While this results in a more aromatic and enticing brewing process, it further exacerbates the issue of over-extraction. Thus, coffee made with a percolator tends to taste bolder than one that’s made with a drip coffee maker. Nevertheless, some prefer brewed coffee prepared with a percolator over one made with a drip coffee maker.
So, the verdict on which is the better one all comes down to preference. If you like your coffee light, smooth, and flavorful, then you’ll find your match in a drip coffee maker. If you want brewed coffee that’s bolder and stronger, then a percolator is the one for you.
Before, if you’re looking to make more coffee in one go, then you should gravitate towards a percolator rather than a drip coffee maker. In fact, if we go as far as comparing the non-electric versions, then the drip coffee method is no match since it only allowed you to prepare one cup at a time.
But all that has changed today. Presently, you can find drip coffee makers that can make large batches. Outfitted with a heating element at the carafe area, you don’t even have to worry about your brewed coffee cooling down before getting a full pot.
The largest capacity we’ve found so far in a percolator is 14 cups for a stovetop and 12 cups for an electric one. On the other hand, the largest capacity for the automatic drip coffee maker is also 14 cups.
While it’s a tie in terms of the amount of brewed coffee that can be prepared in one go, preparation time is an entirely different story. Because of the different systems used, a percolator will beat a drip coffee maker any time.
So, if you’re looking to prepare large batches of coffee in a cinch, then the percolator offers a faster solution. Now, you only have to make sure that you have a group of coffee drinkers who like their coffee strong.
While it’s easy to prepare large batches of coffee with a percolator, you might need to babysit it while it’s brewing. If you can remember, percolators tend to cycle through the grounds many times, and each time the water temperature gets higher and higher. Thus, if you want a decent batch of coffee for yourself or to share, then you need to sit through the brewing time and watch closely. But if you’ve gotten the hang of it already, then you might get better at predicting when it’s time to turn it off or take it off from the heat source.
With drip coffee makers, on the other hand, the machine itself regulates the heat and brew time. Hence, you don’t have to worry about over-extraction, and you can multitask while waiting for the process to be completed.
In terms of cleanup, however, the opposite is true. Since there are more parts to a drip coffee maker than a percolator, the former generally takes longer to clean. You may even have to perform maintenance cleaning once a month or so with such appliance to maintain the quality of the brew.
So which side wins in this battle—drip coffee maker vs percolator? It’s easy to tell in terms of quantity, preparation time, and convenience. But, in the end, the primary consideration should always be the taste, and that will always be subjective.
That brings us to one deciding question: “How do you like your coffee—light, clean, and flavorful, or rich and bold?” Let your taste buds decide.