Long before drip coffee machines existed, percolators made bold-tasting brews with plenty of caffeine. They’ve made a comeback among coffee aficionados who like a robust, full-bodied brew. Coffee percolators work by forcing boiling water up through a tube and saturating coffee grounds within a filter basket. The high temperature draws more caffeine from the grounds and removes some of the impurities contained in them, resulting in a more pleasant and potent aroma.
If you need caffeine to kick-start your day and enjoy an intensely flavored brew, there are many percolator options in today’s coffee-living world. Traditional stovetop percolators can be used on a range, on the grill, or over the fire on your next camping trip. Electric percolators are great for the kitchen or office, with modern convenience features like programmable brewing times.
These coffee makers are available in different capacities, materials, and finishes, with either a gravity or pressure brewing method. You can opt for customization and refine your brewing skills, or go with a machine that’s nearly effortless to use. Read on for essential shopping considerations, and to learn why the following picks are among the best coffee percolator models available.
- BEST OVERALL: Farberware Classic Yosemite Coffee Percolator
- BEST BUDGET: Primula Today Aluminum Stove Top Percolator
- EASIEST TO USE: Presto 12-Cup Stainless Steel Coffee Maker
- MOST PORTABLE: COLETTI Bozeman Coffee Pot
- BEST FOR ESPRESSO: Bialetti Moka Express Export Espresso Maker
- ALSO CONSIDER: GROSCHE Milano Stovetop Espresso Maker
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Coffee Percolator
When searching for the best coffee percolator to suit your needs, consider the following factors to discover your ideal brew.
Strength and Taste
Coffee shops and manufacturers use alluring words to describe their coffee, like “rich,” “bold,” “strong,” and “full-bodied,” but what do these terms mean? It depends on the coffee specialist or producer.
- Strength may refer to caffeine content, water to coffee ratio, or taste. Dark roast coffee may be described as strong or bold in terms of taste, while it contains less caffeine content. A cup of drip coffee has a higher water content compared to a shot of espresso, yet both can be described as strong.
- Caffeine content is mostly influenced by the brewing method, roast, and the quantity of coffee grounds. For instance, percolated coffee contains an average caffeine content of 200 mg per cup, while the average for drip coffee is 145 mg per cup.
- Rich coffee is described as containing a full body, flavor, or acidity. For instance, lightly roasted coffee retains more of the bean’s original flavor and lacks body, while darker roasts are full-bodied and have a more bitter taste—yet both can be described as rich.
- Body refers to the texture or heaviness of the brew, which varies based on numerous factors, such as the roast and brewing process. Percolators produce full-bodied coffee and are often paired with medium-dark roasts to balance bitterness and body.
- Taste refers to the sensation or experience of the flavors in coffee, influenced by elements like acidity and body. Flavor is the combination of aroma and taste, affected by numerous factors such as compounds in the coffee bean or blend, grind size (fineness/coarseness), and brewing process. Taste and flavor are often used interchangeably.
Evidently, the elements that create your coffee are all interconnected, but the brewing process itself doesn’t have to be as complex. This guide won’t get into all the nuances, and will instead focus on the two types of percolators, their features and brew methods, and how this affects coffee strength.
Stovetop vs. Electric
The rate at which oils, acids, and caffeine are extracted affect flavor. For example, brewing coffee too quickly will bring out fewer flavors that calm down the acids, resulting in a sour taste. Brewing temperature also affects strength; when coffee is brewed at too high of a temperature, the beans become over-extracted, which results in a bitter taste.
Stovetop coffee percolators are a traditional means of brewing coffee. The coffee brews from the heat provided by an electric or gas range, a grill, or campfire. Since they don’t require a power outlet, they’re often chosen by hikers and campers for outdoor brewing. When used on an adjustable heating element, a stovetop percolator allows you to set the temperature manually, providing more control over the rate of extraction, allowing you to customize the taste of your brew.
Stovetop percolators require close observation, because they need to be removed from the heat as soon they reach the desired brew strength. If a stovetop percolator stays on the element for too long, or heats up too quickly, the coffee can become over- or under-extracted.
Electric coffee percolators plug in to an outlet and heat water using electricity. Most have only one brewing mode and no options for adjusting the temperature. While electric percolators don’t offer the same control over taste as stovetop models, the tradeoff is convenience. Most electric percolators have an internal sensor that prevents them from heating coffee above its optimal temperature. Some also shut off automatically when coffee is finished brewing. This feature offers more safety compared to stovetop percolators and also prevents over-extraction.
Some electric percolators have extra features such as a keep-warm function, so you don’t have to worry about your coffee getting cold. If you’re not truly awake in the morning until after that first cup, an automatic-start function allows you to set the brew time for when it’s most needed. Electric models are more convenient to operate compared to stovetop percolators, but they’re also more expensive.
Coffee percolators are categorized based on brewing method, either gravity or pressure. By understanding how the different brewing processes work, and the coffee’s end result, you can figure out which type is most suitable.
Gravity coffee percolators consist of two chambers. Water boils in the lower chamber, then rises into the second chamber. In the upper chamber, the boiling water filters over coffee grounds, contained in a filter basket, before trickling back down to the bottom. This cycle repeats and the brew gets stronger over time, resulting in dense, full-bodied coffee. With stovetop percolators, brew strength can be tailored to your preference. Most electric percolators brew using the gravity method.
Pressure percolators (Moka pots) have three chambers: a water basin at the bottom, a filter basket in the middle, and a carafe at the top. This type of percolator works when steam generates enough pressure to push boiling water up through the grounds in the filter basket and into the upper chamber, where it collects. While gravity percolators recycle water and semi-brewed coffee continuously through the grounds, a pressure percolator features one gradual brewing process.
Pressure percolators create a rich, concentrated taste that more closely resembles espresso. If you want to make drinks resembling americanos or cappuccinos at home, but aren’t prepared to invest in an espresso machine, a Moka pot is a more economical option. In rare cases, pressure buildup can cause these pots to blast open, leaving you with coffee on the ceiling. However, most devices have a safety valve that helps prevent this.
Coffee percolators are most often made from stainless steel, aluminum, or enamel. Some also contain elements made of BPA plastic or silicone on the handle or lid. Glass options are available as well, though less common. Consider the following features of each material:
- Stainless steel percolators are the most durable option. They don’t rust, won’t leach flavors into your coffee, and are generally dishwasher safe. Stainless steel retains heat well and is a great choice for stovetop percolators. It will keep your coffee warm for longer compared to aluminum, enamel, and glass. Stainless steel percolators are among the highest quality and most expensive.
- Aluminum percolators are similarly durable. Some are inexpensive, but high-quality designs can also come with a higher price tag. Unlike stainless steel, aluminum is very lightweight; it’s a suitable choice for large-capacity percolators and for brewing coffee on a camping or hiking trip. While it’s conveniently quick to heat up, it also cools down quickly. If you’re considering an aluminum stovetop percolator, be prepared to drink your coffee sooner rather than later.
- Enamel percolators contain a baked ceramic, used only for stovetop models. It’s slightly less expensive than stainless steel and retains heat well. Enamel is a sturdy material, but it may crack or chip if dropped on a hard surface. Some enamel percolators come in bright shades with attractive gloss finishes, adding a fun splash of color to the kitchen.
- Glass percolators offer an interesting aesthetic and the ability to watch your coffee as it percolates. This is particularly useful for stovetop devices, to ensure the coffee is taken off heat, or the temperature is reduced, at the right time. On the other hand, glass does not retain heat well, so your coffee would not stay piping hot for long. These percolators are typically affordable and feature a stronger type of glass, such as borosilicate or tempered glass. However, even these types are still breakable and must be treated with care.
When shopping for a percolator, it’s important to focus on models that are suitable for your caffeine intake. Each percolator is usually labeled with the number of cups it makes. Most have a capacity between 8 and 12 cups; smaller percolators make 2 or 3 cups, while extra-large capacity options can make 14 cups or more.
However, keep in mind that one cup is about 8 ounces, which might not even fill your entire mug, depending on its size. Some manufacturers use even smaller cup measurements, so don’t assume that an 8-cup percolator will serve eight people.
The speed at which a coffee percolator brews coffee depends on how quickly the water reaches a boil. Since the user can set the temperature manually, stovetop coffee percolators offer more control over brewing speed. Most electric coffee percolators are designed with a single mode of brewing and the temperature cannot be customized.
In general, stovetop percolators take about 5 minutes to brew, whereas an electric percolator can take up to 10 minutes. The size of the percolator and the amount of coffee also affects speed; it’s common for percolators to take about a minute per cup to brew.
Coffee percolators can contain additional features for safety or convenience. A locking lid helps prevent spills and burns, while cool-touch handles are designed to protect your hands. Most pressure coffee percolators have a safety valve that releases steam to prevent dangerous pressure buildup.
Some percolators are built with a no-drip pour spout to discourage messes. A particularly useful feature is a clear lid, which allows users to monitor the coffee as it brews. Certain electric models contain a longer cord for flexible placement, and wraparound cord offers easier storage.
Coffee percolators must be cleaned after each use, so a machine that disassembles easily offers faster cleanup. It’s common for coffee percolators to have several parts, including a filter basket, cover, pump stem, and a carafe that holds the finished coffee. Rinse these parts thoroughly after every use.
Our Top Picks
This list of top picks incorporates the shopping considerations above, featuring different sizes, designs, and brew methods. These devices are among the best coffee percolators available in their respective categories.
Farberware’s Yosemite stovetop coffee maker is modeled after the traditional percolators of earlier generations. It uses the gravity method of brewing coffee to produce between four to eight cups, depending on mug size. Featuring durable stainless steel, the 8-cup Yosemite percolator has a tightly fitted lid that seals in heat, with a transparent glass knob for monitoring the brew.
This affordable yet heavy-duty percolator is dishwasher safe. Its cool, comfortable handle has a balanced grip that makes pouring hot coffee a breeze. The Yosemite retains heat well and its steel construction will last for years. Plus, the sleek mirror finish has a stylish and modern look. This Farberware percolator also comes in a larger 12-cup model.
This budget-friendly gravity percolator makes a quality batch of coffee. With a capacity slightly under 9 ounces, the Primula will brew nine smaller cups of coffee. The sturdy aluminum coffee maker weighs less than a pound, especially suitable for camping, hiking, and travel. It contains a screened basket filter, stem, and lid.
The lid contains plastic elements; a transparent knob so you can see the coffee percolating, and a handle that stays cool to the touch. Its lidded spout encourages clean pouring. This inexpensive coffee maker works on most flat heat sources, except for induction cooktops. For long-lasting durability, handwash and polish it periodically with lemon juice and warm water.
For those who want the convenience of an electric percolator and the ability to brew many cups at a time, this Presto model delivers. The 12-cup brewer is made from strong stainless steel. It’s a set it and forget it model—the machine shuts off automatically to ensure the coffee doesn’t get too bitter, then turns on a warming mechanism to keep it at drinking temperature. A signal light indicates when the brew is ready to serve.
Presto’s electric percolator brews one cup per minute, with the ability to make between 2 and 12 cups. The percolator resembles a kettle and has an easy-pour spout. With its mirror finish and detachable cord, it makes for an elegant serving vessel. The coffee basket and stem are removable and dishwasher safe, and the carafe should be rinsed with soapy water between uses. This Presto percolator is also available in a 6-cup model.
For a camping coffee pot or a hardy percolator for the kitchen, the Bozeman is a classic. The stovetop percolator works on gas and electric ranges, grills, and over an open flame. It’s engineered for rugged conditions, constructed from 18-gauge thick stainless steel. The 9-cup COLETTI coffee maker contains a heat-resistant rosewood handle and a heat-tempered glass knob on the lid.
Despite the heavy-duty steel construction, the Bozeman weighs only 2 pounds. It’s designed to be packed along with camping gear so you can enjoy caffeine in the outdoors. This percolator will retain heat well after the fire goes out. The Bozeman is dishwasher safe and comes with a 20-pack of optional paper filters to ensure thorough filtration.
The first espresso machine was built in Italy over 130 years ago. For close to nine decades, Bialetti has designed Italian coffee makers of the utmost quality. Made in Italy and crafted for the ideal Moka espresso, Bialetti’s percolator is the essence of authenticity. The Moka pot features a lightweight aluminum construction and Bialetti’s distinctive eight-sided shape. This form enhances aroma and provides optimal heat diffusion as steam infuses the grounds.
The Moka Express works on electric and gas stovetops, grills, and campfires. An ergonomic, anti-scald handle provides a comfortable grip. The device includes Bialetti’s patented safety valve. This pressure percolator has a 12-cup capacity, but it’s also available in 1-, 3-, 4-, and 6-cup models. The Moka Express comes in 10 color schemes to suit different preferences. This percolator must be washed by hand.
If you’re on a budget and looking for rich, espresso-style coffee, the GROSCHE Milano Moka pot is a great option. This 9-cup pressure percolator has a separate bottom chamber for water, a basket with a small tube for grounds, and an upper basin for the finished brew. The Milano features a strong aluminum construction and weighs less than 2 pounds. A stay-cool handle and knob contain rubber that’s artfully styled to look like wood. A safety valve and secure silicone seal prevent pressure buildup and leaks.
This compact pressure brewer works on stovetops (except induction), grills, and campfires. Choose between black, red, white, and silver models. The Milano is also available in 1-, 3-, and 6-cup models. To extend its lifespan, wash this percolator by hand.
The Advantages of Owning the Best Coffee Percolator
There are numerous reasons to brew your java with a coffee percolator. These coffee makers have some shared benefits, and others depend on the type or brewing method:
- Percolators let you enjoy coffee at a fraction of the cost compared to a coffee shop.
- They produce a stronger, more full-bodied brew than a drip coffee maker.
- Higher brewing temperature removes some of the impurities in ground coffee, enhancing the aroma.
- They can easily be cleaned by rinsing with water or using the dishwasher.
- Pressure percolators (Moka pots) allow you to brew espresso-style coffee without buying an expensive espresso machine.
- Stovetop percolators can be used on a variety of heating elements, so they’re great for camping, hiking, and travel when there is no access to electricity.
FAQs About Your Coffee Percolator
You may still be wondering how percolators different from other coffee makers and what the brew tastes like. Here are answers to the most commonly asked questions regarding coffee percolators.
Do you need a special coffee for a percolator?
Not necessarily, but a medium roast is recommended. A dark roast may brew too bitter, and a light roast may taste too watery in a coffee percolator. Coffee aficionados recommend a coarse grind.
Does a coffee percolator make good coffee?
Coffee percolators make robust, full-bodied, and aromatic coffee. Using one is also an excellent way to quickly brew large batches of coffee at home.
Can I use a filter in a percolator?
Use a paper filter in many coffee percolators to keep coffee grounds out of brewed coffee. But follow the instructions on your coffee percolator regarding filter use.
How long does the coffee percolator last?
A stovetop percolator can last years, even decades, with proper care. An electric coffee percolator typically lasts about 5 years. Stainless steel is the most long-lasting material for these devices.