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Home » Product FAQ » The Difference Between the Automatic Drip Coffee Maker and the Coffee Percolator

The Difference Between the Automatic Drip Coffee Maker and the Coffee Percolator

percolator vs drip coffeeIn the previous article, we compared two methods of brewing coffee, the French Press and the Coffee Percolator. The two extraction devices used differing approaches in brewing coffee. The French Press uses a mesh attached to a plunger to separate the beans from the coffee while the percolator uses percolation or dripping from steam which passes through the beans to make coffee.

Both methods have their own pros and cons and the selection of either one ultimately depends on the user. In this article, we will discuss the Coffee Percolator a lot more and this time, compare it with the coffee machine that ultimately put it out of business, the Automatic Drip Coffee maker.

Coffee Percolator

The other article mentions the Coffee Percolator as the most common way of brewing coffee in the old days and by old days meaning from the 1800s up to the 1970s.

The Coffee Percolator primarily works by containing a huge body of water. This huge body of water generates steam, but the steam passes through a small crevice only. The small crevice leads to another chamber separated from the body of water by a filter where the coarsely ground coffee beans are placed. The steam eventually turns into small dew drops which then fall on the ground coffee beans and back into the body of boiling water.

The process is aided by a piece of metal with holes called a spreading plate. The spreading plate ensures that an equal amount of water goes through coarsely ground coffee beans. This ensures that an even taste is gathered.

One should be wary of temperature control when brewing with a percolator. This means keeping the temperature of the water hot but not boiling. It is necessary to keep maintain the temperature in the pot to avoid overcooking the beans inside the pot.

Like the French Press, ratios should also be kept in mind when brewing using percolators. The guide below gives a concrete example of how much coffee you should use per amount of coffee

Coffee Percolator Highlights

The Coffee Percolator is universally praised for its ability to brew a large batch of coffee with an even, consistent taste, something which other coffee brewing mechanisms are unable to do. Even more impressive is that the percolator is able to brew huge batches of consistently tasting coffee in such a short time. Thus, the percolator is very convenient during times when your friends drop by and you need to make a batch on the fly.

Percolators also some sort of versatility. Glassware percolators can be used on a stovetop, microwave or over a campfire as many campers prefer. One should always consider the instructions stated along with their preferred method but the good part is that users are not limited to only one cooking appliance. Some electric percolators come with their own heating device which is not a bad thing either.

The percolator also produces a more robust tasting coffee compared to other brewing devices. This is mainly a result of the over extraction that the percolation process tends to have. Since the beans are constantly being roasted in the hot temperature of the pot, they develop a stronger, bitter flavor. In addition, the percolation process constantly reuses the body of water inside the pot. This means that the liquid, already with the coffee’s particles, flows back into the chamber where it passes through the coffee beans again.

Automatic Drip Coffee Maker

Before the drip coffee maker went automatic, coffee brewers used to drip coffee by using paper filters. The method was invented in 1908 by German housewife Melitta Bentz. The cupcake shaped filter held the coffee and allowed water to pass through it, making the first drip brews.

The Automatic Drip Coffeemaker, also known as dripolators, simply automates this process. Basically, the coffee maker contains a reservoir where water is held. An aluminium tube which is attached to a heating element carries the hot water from the reservoir to the drip area, the area where coffee is placed. This method is referred to as thermosiphoning. A showerhead is connected to the tube carrying the hot water and this sprays the hot water all over the collection of beans. Finally, the water passes through the beans, turning it into coffee and this is placed in the pot where we pour our nice cup of Joe.

How the Automatic Drip Coffee Killed the Percolator

Comparing the Coffee Percolator and the Automatic Drip Coffee Maker, one can say that the processes are actually similar. Both approaches have a similar setup wherein water and coffee are stored in separate areas. Both approaches utilize the dripping of hot water to make coffee. The only difference is that the percolator reuses the coffee to produce steam and dripping factor unlike the Automatic Drip method where in water passes once and brews the coffee.

Why then did people prefer the Automatic Drip over the Percolator? Well, simply put, the former is found to be more convenient as compared to the latter. As discussed above, users have to manually maintain the temperature in percolators by toning down the heat. The Automatic Drip does this…automatically. One can just sit back and relax while waiting for the machine to finish brewing.

Secondly, many people favor the taste of automatic drip brews more over percolators. Since the water in the Automatic Drip passes through the coffee once, this lessens the strength of the coffee. Also, since the beans are kept in a separate chamber in Automatic brews, they are not over extracted. The resulting coffee thus tastes smoother as compared to percolator brews.


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