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A Head to Head Comparison of Percolator vs Drip Coffee

Dave Carter

July 16, 2020

Brewing coffee is an art that coffee connoisseurs explore with several modes to prepare their preferred brew. It involves different machines, accessories, and equipment. You may find coffee espresso machine reviews, percolator reviews, and French Press reviews. Two of the most popular methods are the use of a percolator and drip coffee. These two methods are quite exciting and produce unique tasting brew as well. The percolator is a staple coffee preparation partner in most American homes. But recently, more coffee drinkers are discovering the unique taste of preparing coffee through a drip machine. Let's find out whether a percolator vs drip method works for you best.


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Percolator vs Drip Coffee Makers​

There are now modern percolators that mimic the brew produced by new coffee pots in history. But in the 70s, people started to use drip coffee machines. So how do these two methods fare in today's coffee drinkers?

What is a Percolator?​

The percolator was invented in the late 1900s. It is used for nearly a hundred years for preparing coffee. It is the perfect tool during such times because the metal ones can be used to brew coffee over an open fire. Even in these modern times, it is still used by camping enthusiasts to prepare coffee in the wild.

But of course, electric versions of the percolator are now available. Unlike the older types, electric percolators can be plugged-in and left to brew on your kitchen counter. It will shut-off automatically when your brew is ready.

How A Percolator Works to Brew Your Coffee​

A percolator is a pot with a small chamber at the bottom where you put water. This chamber is closest to the source of heat, and from here, a vertical tube leads boiling water towards the top chamber. Just below the upper end of the tube is a perforated chamber where coffee is placed.

The quality desired is poured into the pot's water chamber, and a specific amount of coarse-ground coffee is placed in the top, perforated section of the percolator. The water in the bottom will bubble up and rise towards the upper chamber through the tube. It works like an airlift pump that involves energy from the compressed air. The liquid will rise quickly and pour out of the tube's upper end towards the coffee chamber. A perforated tray will ensure that the boiling water is distributed evenly over the coffee grounds. The water will seep through the coffee and make its way back to the bottom of the coffee chamber.

A cycle will happen on the water, as it continues to boil, bubble and rise towards the upper end of the chamber. The liquid movement helps mix the brew at the bottom as it keeps cycling over and over again. This is how coffee around the world is prepared over time using a percolator.

Are Coffee Percolators Worth It?​

Investing is a coffee percolator that is ideal if you often prepare coffee for a large group. Typically, it is not for everyone, and even businesses prefer to use simpler brewing contraptions like a drip coffee maker. When using percolators, you need time for preparing and for brewing. Modern coffee drinkers today may find drip coffee makers to be more convenient and produce better brews.

But coffee connoisseurs will appreciate the unique flavor of percolated coffee. Those who have a terrible experience with the loose ground in their cup may prefer drip types, but an adequately percolated coffee has a far superior flavor. More so, the aroma of brewing using this method is glorious. The wondrous smell of percolated coffee enhances its taste as it tickles your senses.

If you view coffee drinking as such an experience, then investing in a percolator is a good idea. Various types of modern percolator will suit your lifestyle. You can go for an electric version or a stovetop kind. It is a flexible coffee tool that you can use for barbeques and outdoor cooking. Campers also find percolators to be handy for preparing great brews in the wild.

The Flavor of Percolated Coffee​

Percolated coffee is often intense, robust, and bitter-tasting. It is because of the combined consistent boiling and the length of time that the boiling runs. The boiling water from the bottom chamber can rise repeatedly, and the brewed coffee can run through the grounds several times.

If you use a percolator, you should attend to it to maintain the temperature and brew time. If you leave it too long, the coffee you produce will not taste good. But once you become familiar with the timing and the temperature, you will have better brews every time you prepare coffee with it.

The main attraction of a percolator is its flexibility. You can find self-heating and stovetop options. Percolators can be used in-house, on a stovetop, or over the fire outdoors.

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Do electric percolators make good coffee?​

An electric percolator coffee machine operates with a timer and has a keep warm mode. Compared with a stovetop version, the electric type provides better control over the brewing process and time. Opt for stainless steel ones to keep unpleasant favor out of your coffee.

When you use an electric percolator, you'll have a smooth and creamy coffee with an unbeatable flavor.

The French Press vs Percolator​

If you look at the different ways of preparing coffee, you will notice that the percolator is often compared with the French Press and the drip coffee maker. If you know how to use a French Press coffee maker, you know that it is somehow different from the other methods. With the French press, you need to immerse the coffee in water and steep it for some time. Afterward, you will press down on the ground to accelerate the extraction using pressure. Often, the brew is strong and full-bodied.

On the other hand, percolating coffee is an older method that uses steam to brew. It is an ideal means of preparing coffee in large batches. Like the French Press, it also produces robust and full-bodied brews.

Drip coffee​

The drip coffee method is not a familiar way of coffee preparation for the typical drinkers. But it is the way one brew using the ordinary coffee maker. Although the French press and the percolators are also coffee makers, the drip coffee is the brew produced using the automatic coffee maker. It has a basket with ground coffee, a chamber with water, and a carafe where coffee drips on.

The term drip is used to distinguish this coffee from espresso as some people are confused between these two.

It is easy to prepare drip coffee and learn how to use a coffee machine. You might observe others putting a scoop of coffee for every two cups of water when making drip coffee. But if you want to be more specific and pursue proper portions, a good ratio of 60 grams of dry coffee to a liter of water is a start.

An average cup of American joe is 8oz, and a liter is about 33.814 oz. Thus, every liter of coffee is only four cups to be precise. So, if you will prepare a cup of coffee, you will need about 14 g of dry coffee for every 8oz cup of water.

Can you use drip coffee in a percolator?​

Coffee grounds to use in a drip coffee maker is finer than coffee used in a percolator. When brewing coffee in a percolator, it is ideal to use coarsely-ground coffee beans because it has a mesh-like tray where coffee can steep and flow. It is not advisable to use drip coffee-type coffee because they are finer and can easily pass through the mesh and mix with your brew. Drip coffee makers have finer mesh or use paper mesh when brewing coffee.

Which Coffee Brewing Method is the Best?​

There are many ways to prepare coffee, and you can find an array of coffee-making machines and apparatus. You can check out your local kitchen store or visit online stores and find an overwhelming collection. There are drip coffee machines, percolators, pod-machines, French press, and some of the best automatic coffee machines.

But of course, the best brewer for you still depends on other factors apart from the machine that you will use. Will you be preparing batches of coffee? Do you need to clean up? Will you be using high end coffee? And how do you like the flavor of your coffee?

Depending on your taste, and all the other factors, the two most popular options for brewing are the percolator and the drip coffee method. The percolator is recommended for those who prepare coffee in large batches and those who like robust, full-flavored coffee. Drip coffee, on the other hand, is more convenient, and it is more common today than the percolator. But like the percolator, it produces a bold-flavored, but smoother brew.


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Discovering different types of brewing is an eye-opening experience for coffee lovers. It starts off a journey of tasteful discoveries to find the perfect brew that suits your taste and needs. Coffee connoisseurs are beyond needing coffee for a caffeine fix. With each method of coffee preparation, a specific type of brew can be produced. And with the right combination of techniques, proper coffee and water ratio, you can come up with a great-tasting drink. It's good to know that you have several choices regarding coffee preparations that will suit your lifestyle and tastes.


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