Percolated coffee

Earlier this week, in a seizure of nostalgia, I bought a stovetop percolator coffee pot. I thought it would be cool to make coffee like everyone did back in the Sixties! The kitchen would fill will the aroma of perked coffee! I could watch the bubbles in the little glass globe!

(For the past 10+ years I’ve made coffee daily in a Chemex glass pot, slow drip through fine-ground beans in a thick filter which is supposed to weed out all the oils and other unpleasantness.)

So here I am with a $20 super-cool retro stainless steel Farberware percolator, and a pound of my usual coffee ground coarse for perking rather than fine for drip. I’ve had perked coffee the past two mornings. And I dislike it intensely.

The color is ugly, for some reason. The beverage looks like dirt when I pour it into the cup. The bottom of each cup – and the bottom of the pot – are full of sludge. The flavor is…unpleasantly reminiscent of my parents’ house back in the '60s, when I was a little kid.

Am I doing this wrong? Or is perked coffee really supposed to be this fuckin’ awful? Does the pot need to “season,” like a beanpot or a cast iron skillet? Or is it always going to be this bad? Should I throw this thing out the window – or use it is a flower-vase – and go back to my yummy Chemex coffee?

Did you use the right grind? Most coffee today is ground for coffeemakers instead of for percolators.

I bought my regular blend…a dark roast stronger than Viennese but lighter than Italian espresso…and ground it coarse. I put the little pointer on the grinder on the picture of the stovetop percolator, rather than the electric percolator. According to my pre-purchase research, it’s the right grind.

Percolated coffee is always going to be awful because it boils the coffee to make it go up the tube and into the percolator. Boiled coffee = bad, bad coffee. Always.

One plus to report. The coffee stays hot, since you’ve boiled the water right there in the steel pot. With the glass Chemex, cup no. 2 is lukewarm at best.

Another minus: I have to make a minimum of 4 cups, which is more than I drink in an average morning. I’ve poured leftover smelly dirty-looking perked coffee down the drain the past two days.

Also, the grounds left in the steel basket are a mess to dispose of. My idea was “WOO HOO! No more paper filters!” But they are easy to fold and toss into compost. The basket has to be dumped and rinsed and washed and a bunch of soggy grounds still end up going down the sink.

Nah. Once the water comes to a boil, you turn the heat down to a simmer. After five minutes of perking, you shut it off and pour. The coffee doesn’t sit there and boil. It takes the full five minutes for all the water in the bottom to come up and filter through the grounds.

True, if you LEAVE the pot on the heat the finished coffee will go back UP and filter back DOWN again and the coffee would be truly awful. But I am Mister Fussy in the kitchen, especially where the morning beverage is concerned.

So I was misinformed and, in fact, it’s never time for the percolator? :wink:

I’ve been having cream and sugar in my coffee the past couple of days. This requires a spoon to stir it. My dad took sugar in his coffee, and he used an electric percolator. The great thing about the percolator is that he didn’t need a spoon. Put the sugar in the cup, and pour the coffee from the spout so that it spins around.

This is correct. Oh so correct.

Percolators usually pass the water/coffee through grounds more than once, so the coffee tends to get over-extracted.

I grew up with perked coffee.

There’s a good reason no one makes it anymore.

I don’t like the dregs of percolated coffee. I normally put Kahlua in the coffee. I don’t want to toss the dregs, if they contain a tincture of Kahlua. Yeah, I am frugal.

Yeah, percolated coffee is just going to be not great. I have a percolator solely for camping and even that is useless as you can now get caffeinated water enhancers so I just blort some maxwell house caramel latte into 16 oz of milk and the percolator hasn’t left my car trunk in years.

You’re forgetting to put fresh crushed egg shells in with the grounds? If not, there’s your problem. D’uh. :slight_smile:

One of us!!

Ahh, the memories!!

But seriously. We use a plug-in percolator, I think a Proctor-silex. As long as the grinds are big, and you don’t let it run all morning, it’s the best option. We went thru a schmancy espresso machine (till the kids wanted to surprise us with morning coffee and exploded it), several iterations of teapot + french press (they all shattered at some point), generic Mr. Coffee machines (serviceable but dirty-seeming). I really like the percolator. It doesn’t work well with hubby’s nostalgic French Market with chicory (Community or CDM)–I gotta brew that like tea-- but it works a damn treat with Dunkin Donuts original blend or this coarse-ground Costa Rican coffee I like.

I didn’t grow up with a percolator, my parents had a Mr. Coffee by the time I started drinking coffee. But I’ve inherited one, and I really prefer it over drip coffee. It comes out thicker and heavier, and I kind of like the grounds in the bottom of the cup for some reason. It doesn’t matter what coffee I use (there’s still variance, so I usually use Community), the result is a nice strong cup of coffee*. To get something similar in a drip, I end up using a wasteful amount of coffee.

Mine is an aluminum Sunbeam “Fully Automatic Coffeemaster model AP-AW”. I think it may be older than I am, but it’s 40 if it’s a day. Leaving it on isn’t a problem at all. It percs for a few minutes, then it automatically turns down the heat so the water stops circulating. When it stops perking, coffee’s done. And the hot coffee is great until, you know, the dregs.

But, IME, that thick stuff is what percolated coffee is all about. If that is what’s turning you off, it might be the percolator you bought, but I doubt it. If you want to go further into this experiment, I think you can get one like mine for $10-15 on ebay.

*C’mon, coffee’s supposed to be opaque. Perhaps you’d like a cup of tea? :slight_smile:

Before Christmas I was reminiscing to my aunt about my parents using a giant pour-over glass carafe. I might have had a cup or two when I was really small, but that was it as far as tasting it. I was mostly remembering how odd it looked in comparison to today’s options.

Lo & behold, she sent me a Melitta Ready Set Joe single cup coffee brewer. I’ve been using it since then, and love the results now that I’ve got the water/grounds mixture dialed in. It’s a lot easier & quicker to use than my Mr. Coffee-like machine, and doesn’t involve the cleaning that the machine requires. And I feel like I’m more efficient doing it this way when I’m living by myself & having only one to two cups a day. And it’s also easier when it comes to the times when I feel like I should swap over to decafe - no throwing out the rest of the pot of regular. At only $5-6 it’s a pretty darn good deal.

I think the OP independently discovered why my parents, after 40 years of perc’d coffee (that’s what they grew up on) they got a drip machine and never looked back.

Also was WOO HOO about no more paper filters, then found that the cleanable filter was more of a pain in the ass, and wasted water, so back to paper filters.