When you hear the word percolator, you may remember an old coffee maker sitting out on your grandmother’s stove, but percolators are not just about nostalgia. The bold, piping-hot coffee that is brewed in a percolator is like no other.
This kettle-shaped brewer has undergone a number of changes through the years and in the modern world, it is no longer sequestered to the stovetop.
Whether it be for camping or a lazy Sunday morning, if percolator coffee is what you are looking for, we have you covered. If you are wondering what is the best percolator to buy, we have reviewed the best percolators on the market so you can make an informed decision on purchasing the best percolator for your needs.
Our Top Picks
|Best Overall||Presto Stainless Steel Percolator|
|Best Budget Percolator||Primula Today 9-cup Percolator|
|Best Electric Percolator||West Bend Stainless Steel Percolator|
|Best Percolator for Camping||GSI Outdoors Enamelware Percolator|
|Best Stovetop Percolator||Farberware Classic Yosemite Percolator|
|Best Percolator for Induction Cooktops||Coleman Stainless Steel Percolator|
- Our Top Picks
- The Best Percolators
- What is a percolator?
- How does a percolator work?
- Types of Percolators
- Is a percolator the same as a moka pot?
- Why should you buy a percolator?
- What to Look for in a Coffee Percolator
- How to Clean A Percolator
- How To Brew The Best Percolator Coffee In 10 Easy Steps
- Final Thoughts
The Best Percolators
If you are in the market for a percolator that you don’t need to constantly monitor, this electric model by Presto automates the brewing process for you. It comes in two sizes, a 6 cup version and a 12 cup version, both of which have an affordable price tag.
This machine does not have an on/off switch but rather turns on when you plug it in. An indicator light lets you know when the brewing process has finished and then the percolator switches over to a keep-warm mode, allowing the coffee to stay hot but not over brew. In order to power off, the machine must be unplugged.
The larger Presto percolator allows you to brew 4-12 cups of coffee, and brews a small pot of coffee just as well as a large pot (something not all percolators do). It has an average brew time of around one minute per cup, and the long neck, drip free spout, and detachable cord make serving at the table easy.
One of the main reasons we love the Presto percolator so much is the lack of plastic in its perking process. This all stainless steel model only uses plastic in its base. The all-metal construction, including the filter basket and percolating tube, makes the machine lightweight yet durable.
Be forewarned, the stainless steel construction means this brewer gets HOT. This means you will have a piping hot cup of coffee, but you also must wait for the machine to cool down to brew a second pot.
It also includes paper filters, which can help keep stray grounds out of your brew (an unfortunate side effect of many percolators). The paper filters also make the machine very easy to clean. While these filters may not be easy to find at your local supermarket, they are readily available on amazon
- Smooth pouring
- Easy to use
- Can brew different amounts
- Keep warm feature
- Easy to clean
- Requires electricity
- No on/off switch
- No automatic shutoff
- Must wait for pot to cool between brews
Farberware is a brand known for producing well-made kitchen products, and their Yosemite coffee percolator is no exception. This stainless steel percolator has a classic look that would be at home in your grandmother’s kitchen, and produces an excellent strong cup of coffee.
It has a polished stainless steel exterior, with a glass knob at the top that gives it that 1950’s vibe without being so retro that it would stand out in a more modern aesthetic. The glass knob also allows you to watch the coffee as it brews, a must for timing the bubbles.
The interior of the machine has a non-reactive coating so you don’t have to worry about the odor absorption, and the handle is insulated to prevent burns, but be forewarned, it can still get pretty hot.
Finally, the filter is designed in a way that you don’t need paper filters, and the entire brewer is dishwasher safe, so clean-up is a breeze.
- Easy to use
- Dishwasher safe
- Filters not required
- Handle can get hot
- Can leak when pouring
If you are looking for a great coffee percolator but are on a tight budget, then look no further than the Primula.
The lid, basket, screen filter, and pot itself are all made from aluminum so it is light-weight enough for camping or can easily be used on the stove. The aluminum however, will not work on induction cooktops. The clear knob on top allows you to carefully watch the brewing process and the plastic handle stays cool to the touch.
The Primula brews up to 9 cups of coffee so it is perfect for a family or when camping in a group. So if you are looking for great coffee on a tight budget, the Primula may be the best percolator for you.
- Great for Camping
- Easy to clean
- Plastic Knob
- Could be more durable
This 12-cup stainless steel coffee percolator by Coleman is great for camping and brews up a great cup of coffee. You can brew anywhere from 2-12 cups of coffee at a time, making this brewer suitable for any situation, but if you are camping solo or in a pair, it is probably a little too bulky to deal with. However, if you take frequent family camping trips, this brewer is perfect.
The durable stainless steel construction means it can stand up to anything, and cleaning is a breeze. The percolator doesn’t have any water measurements marked so you will need to use a separate measuring device, but spout makes for easy, mess free pouring.
The clear knob on top allows you to watch and closely monitor the brewing process, and the permanent coffee filter in the stainless steel basket means you don’t need to purchase separate paper filters.
In addition to brewing coffee, it can also be used to boil water for hot tea, hot cocoa, or instant oatmeal. It can be used on a grill, gas stove, or even an induction burner.
- 12 cup capacity
- Light weight
- Great for camping
- Glass knob is breakable
This affordable 8-cup brewer makes a great cup of coffee, and even has a sleek and modern appearance. Cook N Home has updated the classic percolator with a few modern touches, including a large ergonomic handle that stays cool to the touch, and measurement markings on the back.
A little slower than some percolators, it takes around 10 minutes to brew, but you can carefully watch the entire process through the clear knob on top.
Made from durable polished stainless steel, this percolator is perfect for campers. It offers an 8-cup capacity but is not too large to carry in your bag.
It is dishwasher safe, which makes cleaning a breeze, and retains heat well, but will not work with induction cooktops.
- Dishwasher safe
- Exterior measurement markings
- Sturdy handle
- Hinged lid
- Slow to brew
This Capresso Perk offers a contemporary take on an old classic, and is a great coffee percolator for families or a morning brunch with friends. This 12-cup brewer can brew for a crowd or as little as 4 cups for those mornings you don’t need quite as much coffee.
Made from durable stainless steel, it can hold up to repeated use. It brews super hot coffee but the ergonomic handle stays cool to the touch, and the automatic stay-warm feature will keep your coffee hot so you can sip cup after cup.
The keep-warm feature also means you can pre-brew coffee to serve with dessert, and if you need a second round, this pot can brew one up in less than a minute per cup.
This glass top percolator allows you to watch the coffee perk, and the interior has water measurement markings as well as coffee measurement markings, simplifying the brewing process and saving you time.
Finally, the detachable cord and drip free pouring spout make serving from the table easy so be ready to impress the next time you have friends over.
- Durable design
- Brews quickly
- Stay-warm feature
- No automatic-shutoff
- Hand wash only
Cuisinart is well known for making quality appliances and this percolator is no exception.
It is made from Durable stainless steel and features a removable basket with measurement markings that take the guesswork out of how much coffee to add. The transparent knob on the top of the brewer lets you watch your coffee perk away, and the stay cool base sits safely on any surface.
The Cuisinart Classic has a 12 cup capacity but can brew as few as 4 cups well. The ergonomic handle, knuckle guard, and long, tapered no-drip spout make pouring cup after cup easy and mess free. An indicator light lets you know when your coffee is ready and the detachable cord allows for table side serving.
Let’s face it, no percolator is going to win a prize for best looks but cuisinart keeps in trend with their classic design, featuring a slim build with a tapered spout and transparent know on top. If a percolator could be called elegant, this one would be it.
For a list of other recommended Cuisinart coffee makers check out our review.
- 12-cup capacity
- Detachable cord
- Coffee ready indicator light
- Sleek design
- Will not brew fewer than 4 cups
- Some consumers have reported issues with the top knob breaking
Hamilton Beach is another well known name in the kitchen appliance market and they offer a decent percolator as well. This 12 cup electric brewer is a little different that some of the other coffee percolators that made our list. Its retro style is unique and it uses a twist and lock lid.
An indicator light lets you know when your coffee is ready, the coffee remains piping hot as long as it is plugged in, and the stay cool plastic handle helps to prevent burns.
It has a 12-cup capacity so it is great for family use or for serving brunch or a dinner party. It can also brew as few as two cups, for those times you just need a little pick me up, and at less than a minute of brew time per cup, you will have your coffee in no time.
This percolator is also multifunctional. In addition to brewing a great cup of coffee, it can also be used to boil water for tea, hot cocoa or even instant oatmeal. The detachable cord makes transferring from the kitchen simple and the drip-free spout makes table side serving mess free.
- Stainless steel build
- Keeps coffee warm
- Ready to serve indicator light
- Drip-free spout
- Cord is on the short side
- Heavy and not very portable
The West Bend is quality stainless steel percolator that is ideal for dedicated coffee drinkers, larger households, or entertaining. It has a classic look and the stainless steel finish is easy to keep clean.
All of the brewing components are made from durable stainless steel that is designed to last.
A spreader is included to help evenly saturate the coffee grounds, which is key if you want to achieve the best extraction possible.
To brew, simply plug the machine in and wait. You can view the perking process through the transparent glass knob on top, and an indicator light will let you know your coffee is ready for serving. After brewing the West Bend percolator automatically switches over to a stay warm mode.
The base and the handle are both heat resistant and the handle has a clear window that lets you monitor the level of liquid inside the brewer.
The resulting brew is rich, bold, and hot. The keep warm feature means you can brew your coffee ahead of time for serving after dinner. The detachable cord is on the short side but makes this percolator ideal for table side serving.
- Detachable cord
- Water level window
- Automatic Keep Warm
- Cord is on the short side
What camping trip is complete without a piping hot cup of coffee cooked over the campfire? Many of even the best percolators will not hold up to rigors of the rugged outdoors. This enamelware percolator from GSI Outdoors however, meets that challenge. It is made with heavy gauge steel and three-ply construction for maximum heat distribution.
Not only does it look the part with its rustic design, it also brews a rather tasty cup of joe in a matter of minutes.
This durable percolator will hold up on stovetops, grills, and even open fires. This 12-cup model is big enough to serve a crowd, and made of lightweight enamel so it’s easy to pack too.
It is easy to clean, and even dishwasher safe…if you have a dishwasher in the woods that is.
The only downsides we have found are the enamel can chip, and the small plastic knob on top that lets you view the perking process gets pretty hot, and can melt if the flames catch it.
- Easy to clean
- Classic enamelware design
- Plastic knob can melt
- Enamel can chip
What is a percolator?
The coffee percolator is a type of coffee maker that brews coffee by continuously cycling boiling water through the coffee grounds until the preferred coffee strength is reached.
The first modern percolator was invented in 1819 by Joseph Henry Marie Laurens. This type of coffee maker enjoyed great popularity for over a century, but went out of fashion in the 1970s with the invention of the automatic drip coffee maker.
Percolators have made a recent comeback with the nostalgic kitchen aesthetic. Sometimes called a campfire coffee pot, they are also popular with campers and RV enthusiasts.
How does a percolator work?
The way a percolator works is quite simple. Water is placed in the bottom chamber of the percolator, and coarsely ground coffee is placed in a basket filter in the upper chamber. A vertical tube inside the coffee maker allows boiling water to travel up to the coffee grounds, pass through them, and then drip down. The process is repeated over and over until the coffee reaches your desired strength.
In addition to recirculating brewed coffee through the grounds, percolators typically expose the grounds to higher temperatures than other brewing methods. The result can be over-extracted coffee but many percolator enthusiasts argue that the over-extraction can be avoided with careful control of the brewing process.
Types of Percolators
There are two types of coffee percolators: the gravity based percolator and the pressure based percolator. Each percolator makes different types of coffee and has its own advantages. The main difference between the two types is the mechanism used to move boiling water through the coffee grounds.
A gravity type percolator has a vertical tube in the center of the device. As water rises inside the tube, it trickles down through small holes in the top of the percolator, passes through the coffee, and drips back down into the lower portion of the device. These small holes allow the water to evenly saturate the coffee grounds, similar to the shower head in a drip coffee maker.
Careful attention is needed to ensure that the coffee doesn’t over-brew, resulting in a bitter and unpleasant flavor. Be sure to remove the filter basket from the pot before pouring so coffee grounds don’t end up in your cup. We may or may not have experienced this first hand, so learn from our mistakes.
A pressure type percolator is actually not a percolator at all, but rather a moka pot.
The term ‘percolate’ refers to the process of water trickling through the grounds. A pressure type machine is similar to a percolator in how the coffee is brewed, but it has three separate sections. The section at the bottom holds the water, the one in the middle holds the coffee grounds, and one at the top collects the brewed coffee.
As the water boils, the pressure forces the water to move through the filter and grounds before making its way into the upper section, which holds the finished product.
Is a percolator the same as a moka pot?
Not exactly, as we said before, the moka pot uses a pressure type system to brew the coffee while the percolator uses more of a drip system.
The moka pot has three separate sections. The section at the bottom holds the water, the one in the middle holds the coffee grounds, and one at the top collects the brewed coffee.
As water boils, the pressure produced forces it up through the filter and through the grounds before making its way into the upper section, which holds the finished product.
Coffee brewed through this pressurized system will be stronger and more similar to espresso than traditional drip coffee.
Why should you buy a percolator?
With so many advances in technology since the 1800s, why would anyone want to use a percolator?
The fact that they are still being produced today says a lot. Many individuals enjoy this old fashioned form of brewing for a number of reasons.
Many people grew up with the smell and sound of a percolator brewing on their grandparent’s stovetop. The robust aroma that comes out of these old fashioned machines is like no other, and brings back fond memories of childhood.
They also fit well into kitchens boasting the popular aesthetic reminiscent of the style of the 1950s.
With that bold aroma that takes us back in time, comes a bold flavor. While the average coffee drinker may find the taste of percolated coffee overpowering, a growing number of coffee enthusiasts are embracing the percolator to brew craft coffee. The third wave of specialty coffee has made these old fashioned brewers popular again.
If you prefer to serve coffee directly at the table, percolators are an aesthetically pleasing option. While you could use a drip coffee maker with a thermal carafe, a percolator brings a certain style to the breakfast nook or a patio brunch.
If you live in a small apartment or have embraced the tiny house craze or RV lifestyle, you know that counter space can be valuable real estate. Drip coffee makers, espresso machines, and even Keurigs take up space that you may not have.
A percolator can be stored in a cabinet, on top of the fridge, or even displayed on the stove, freeing up counter space for food preparation and other appliances.
You Love to Go Camping
Every camper needs a strong cup of coffee to start their day, and campsites don’t lend themselves to traditional coffee makers.
The percolator is sometimes referred to as the campfire coffee pot. Certain types of percolators are designed to brew coffee directly over an open fire. You can easily brew your morning cup over the campfire or on a grill.
What to Look for in a Coffee Percolator
Luckily, coffee percolators use a pretty simple operating system so there aren’t a lot of different features to consider. Percolators in general work the same way, but there are a few things to keep in mind before purchasing to ensure you find the best percolator to meet your specific needs.
Stovetop vs. Electric
Percolators come in two main categories: stovetop models and electric models.
Stovetop percolators were the original design and are still the most common today. Stovetop models are great if you need to be able to make coffee anywhere you have a heat source. If the power goes out, you can still use them on a gas stove, wood burning stove or even on your grill. They are also typically dishwasher safe for easy and convenient cleaning.
If convenience is what you are looking for, you should consider an electric percolator. Electric models offer the convenience of automatic drip coffee makers along with the flavor that can only be produced with a percolator. Simply add water and coffee, plug it in and let it do all the work for you. They often brew more coffee at once too. The only downside is electric percolators cannot be used off the grid in the event of a power outage.
The brewing capacity or size is perhaps one of the most important things to consider when choosing any coffee maker.
Percolators come in a number of sizes so keep your particular needs in mind. Do you brew 1-2 cups at a time? If so a small 2-4 cup model will suffice. If you often brew for several, you may want to go with a 12-14 cup model instead. If you plan to use your percolator for camping or backpacking, don’t buy too large a model, no matter how much coffee you drink, a large percolator is a nightmare to carry on the trails.
Stick to an all stainless steel percolator if you can. Plastic components tend to be weak and can break or wear out. If you are choosing a stovetop model, plastic and melt over too high a heat, which will destroy your percolator.
If you plan to take your percolator on the road, you may also want to consider enamelware for ultimate durability.
Another reason for the percolator’s popularity is the price. You can get a decent model for less than $25 and even the fanciest models tend to be under $100.
Electric percolators tend to be more expensive than stovetop models simply because they have more components so keep that in mind if you are on a tight budget.
Percolators can be a little harder to clean than traditional drip coffee makers since they don’t use a paper filter and you must disassemble the brewer for cleaning, but luckily it is pretty easy to find dishwasher safe models. If your model is not dishwasher safe, be prepared to rinse several small pieces by hand after each use.
Other things to consider
A couple of final things to consider before purchasing a percolator is how easy the device is to disassemble and does it have a drip free spout.
Percolators can also come with extra features like stay-cool handles, detachable cords, and ready-to-serve indicator lights.
How to Clean A Percolator
After each use you will want to wash all parts by hand, including both the part that holds the finished coffee as well as the brew basket for the grounds.
In addition to daily cleaning, once a month you will want to do a deep cleaning. Limescale buildup can cause your percolator to stop working properly, and while percolators are usually made out of durable stainless steel, the staining power of coffee is monumental! Brewing coffee in a coffee maker that is full of stains and has the unwanted aroma of old stale coffee is not a good way to start your morning, so let’s take a look at how to clean your percolator.
What You Will Need:
- A cleaning brush
- Baking Soda
- White Vinegar or Lemon Juice
- Fill the percolator with water mixed with 3 tablespoons of baking soda
- Turn the percolator on and run it through a brewing cycle
- Allow the water to cool then scrub the inside of the percolator with the cleaning brush
- Discard the water and rinse thoroughly
- Fill the percolator with half white vinegar or lemon juice and half water.
- Run a brewing cycle and then discard the cleaning mixture
- Run two more brewing cycles of clean water through the percolator (discarding the water after each cycle) to rinse away any remaining vinegar
How To Brew The Best Percolator Coffee In 10 Easy Steps
How do you make the perfect cup of percolated coffee? Percolators can be tricky but if you follow these simple steps, you will have the recipe for the best percolator coffee you’ve ever tasted.
Step 1: Measure The Coffee
A well balanced brew is the result of a properly measured coffee to water ratio. We recommend using 1 ounce of whole beans to approximately every 16 ounces of water.
Step 2: Grind Your Own Beans
Use a coffee grinder (we prefer a burr grinder) to grind your coffee beans to a coarse grind size. If you use grounds that are too fine (aka pre ground coffee) will create a bitter brew and make their way into your mug. If you do end up with grounds in your cup, just filter them out with a fine mesh sieve.
Step 3: Use Cold Water
Your main goal is to let the water come to temperature slowly so starting with cold water helps. Make sure you measure the water to get the appropriate beans to water ratio.
Step 4: Assemble The Percolator
Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Since each percolator is slightly different we won’t give you detailed instructions here. If you don’t have the user manual, not to worry, just google it. Almost all manufacturer’s post their manuals online.
Step 5: Add The Coffee To The Percolator
After carefully measuring and grinding your beans, fill the percolator’s brew basket. Make sure not to overfill the chamber. Keep in mind that percolators in general make strong coffee so it’s best to stick to the lighter side the first time you brew. If your model’s basket has a lid, now is the time to put it back in place.
Step 6: Turn On The Heat
Place your percolator on the stove and set the heat to low or medium heat. The heat level depends on your individual stove. The key to a great percolator coffee is using a slow heating process and to avoid bringing it to a boil.
Step 7: Keep A Close Eye On It
You want to get the water hot enough to steam the coffee but not so hot that it comes to a boil. Most percolators have a clear glass knob at the top of the kettle. You will see the water bubbling up into the knob when it reaches temperature. Make sure the bubbles are around two seconds apart. If they get closer together, lower the heat and if they slow down, raise the heat.
Step 8: Set A Timer
Once the water reaches the bubble stage, set a timer for 8-10 minutes. How long the coffee brews is a matter of personal taste. If you prefer stronger coffee, stick to the 10 minute mark and if you prefer a lighter flavor, try 8 minutes. Once the timer is set, don’t walk away. You need to continue to adjust the temperature to maintain that steady bubble.
Step 9: Remove The Percolator From The Heat
Once your timer goes off, remove the percolator from the heat source. The machine will be very hot so be sure to use an oven mitt to protect your hands and place the brewer on a trivet.
Step 10: Remove The Coffee Grounds
Before you pour your first cup, you will need to remove the coffee grounds from the brewer. Failure to do so will result in a cup of sludge (don’t ask…just take our word for it). Remove the brewing basket from the percolator, toss the grounds.
Replace the lid, pour yourself a hot mug of coffee, and step back in time into your Grandmother’s kitchen.
Percolators are not as easy or convenient as a drip coffee maker but they are a truly special way to brew your morning…or afternoon cup. While they aren’t for everyone, percolators are a wonderful way to save counter space or take you back in time.