Finding the Best Electric Percolator for Brewing a Perfect Cup of Coffee

Aren’t Percolators Just for Campfires?

Oh, the joys of a perfect cup of coffee!

There are several methods to brew this morning ritual, but when I want a bold and robust cup, I go for my best electric percolator. Now, I know that some of you have already raised an eyebrow at that. Many people think that the coffee percolator only lends itself to campfires and other rustic conditions where we’re just happy to have a pot of coffee brewing at all.

The reason for this misconception is that non-electric percolators require manual temperature and brew control. As is the case with most things, if the percolator is not a quality item or care is not taken, then yes, I can guarantee you it will make a bad cup of coffee.

The great thing—and essential thing, in my opinion—is that percolators can be electric these days. The best electric percolator is going to regulate temperature and brew strength automatically, which means we get all the benefits of percolation without risking the petty mistakes!

I tested five best-selling electric percolators to find out which one worked best for me, so let’s take a quick look at the results and then we’ll dig a little deeper into how the testing and reviews worked.

Top 5 Best Electric Percolator 2017

Name

Price

Cups

Material

Weigh(lbs)

Editor's Rating*

Hamilton Beach 40614

(Editor's Choice)​

$$

12

StainlessSteel

2.9

Presto 02811 

$

12

StainlessSteel

3.8

Presto 02822

$

6

StainlessSteel

2.65

West Bend 54159

$$$

12

StainlessSteel

1

​Farberware FCP280

$$

8

StainlessSteel

1.5

*Rating takes into account brewing results, price, and quality

How does a Percolator work?

To understand how to avoid the pitfalls of a percolator and why some people are die-hard fans while others are its mortal enemies, let’s take a look at how it works. Strictly speaking, to percolate something is to cause a substance to pass through a permeable layer where it will mix with something else, and result in a whole new “something.”

In the case of coffee percolation, there are three levels of its construction:

  1. The Base, where the water begins
  2. The Tube, through which the water passes to reach...
  3. The Coffee Basket

In the case of a coffee percolator, water is heated until near-boiling, whereupon the pressure of the heat causes the water to bubble up through a tube which passes from the base to the coffee basket. At the top of the tube, the water hits a convex cover which ensures that the water is distributed evenly as it falls down over the coffee. As the water intermingles with the coffee, it filters down through the permeable basket to the base again.

Warmer water continues to be pushed through the tube, while the recently-percolated coffee waits in line as it reheats. This process continues until the right temperature is reached and the correct number of revolutions has passed.

I love this vintage video that actually does a great job at helping show the physics behind how a percolator works!

Should you buy an Electric Percolator?

Despite all the controversy around what type of brewing system makes coffee best, I definitely believe that a percolator is a worthwhile investment. Personally, I keep a few coffee brewing methods around the house; sometimes I want an espresso, sometimes French Press, and sometimes I really crave the robust flavor of a percolator.

There is also the nostalgia component: I grew up around percolators and I really love the sound it makes when brewing, and luckily the best electric percolator keeps the tradition going!

Apart from personal opinion though, there are a few reasons that lean toward the objective view as to why an electric percolator is a great kitchen standby:

Arguments for an Electric Percolator

  • Robust, bold flavor
  • Electric (automated brewing cycle and temperature control)
  • Usually keeps coffee warm when plugged in
  • Keeps coffee grinds separate from finished brew (unlike a French Press)
  • By removing the coffee basket, it’s easy to reheat the brew

Now, I’d be remiss not to mention some downsides to the percolator, so here are a few issues that tend to be present across the board:

Arguments Against an Electric Percolator

  • Clean-up can be a hassle
    Because there are a few components to an electric percolator, the inner tube and coffee basket have to be removed for washing and the spout can need a specific type of cleaning brush depending on its shape.
  • To best avoid coffee grounds getting in the brew, it’s best to grind the beans on a specific “percolator” setting
  • Filter is often need even if the machine claims to have a built-in filter
    Even despite grind setting, grounds often end up in the brew no matter how well-made the percolator.
  • Electric
    Because of the power outlet required, this means the machine is less portable for outings and not wholly dishwasher safe.
  • Possibility of over-brewing coffee
    If the percolation cycle repeats too often, this can lead to bitter and over-extracted flavor. Most electric percolators prevent this, though, and if you need to reheat the coffee, you can always take the brew basket out.
  • No pre-programming options

All coffee brewing systems have their downfalls, though, so now that you know the pros and cons, I hope you’ve realized that once you learn the ins-and-outs of your machine, it’ll definitely be worth it!

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What to Look for in the Best Electric Percolator

There are two main components to consider in the construct of the best percolated coffee: the water cannot be so hot that it burns the coffee and the percolator should not recycle the brewed coffee endlessly. Even if a stable temperature were maintained, the latter would lead to over-extraction where the nuances of the brew get lost.

Considering those general requirements, there are many viable options on the market. In my research and testing, I’ve found that the best electric percolator should have a few key specific components:

  • Stainless Steel
    Many percolators claim to be stainless steel but in fact have aluminum baskets, water wells, or other components. Personally, I think that aluminum might give things a metallic flavor, especially when dealing with such high temperatures.
    There are also some arguments that aluminum can leach unhealthy metallic components into food with which it comes into contact.
  • Appropriate Power Cord
    Do you want something long or short, detachable or not? Think about storage and counter space for this one.
  • Safe Handling Measures
    Stainless steel exposed to near-boiling water will of course get scaldingly hot, so it’s important that the machine has safety components for handling it such as handles and lids that don’t conduct heat.
  • Easy-Drip Spout
    It drives me crazy when kettles leak all over the place after pouring—I would think that’s a pretty easy and obvious fix! Having an easy-drip spout is wonderfully convenient and helpful for cleanup.
  • Warming mode
    The best electric percolator should keep the brew warm once it’s finished percolating, which helps all the more with the “set it and forget it” idea.
  • Fill Lines
    Clearly-marked lines in the water well and coffee basket ensure that you’ll know to what level you should add water and coffee beans depending on how many cups you wish to make.
  • Auto Shut-Off
    If you’re anything like me, sometimes you just completely forget about things! I’ve definitely had instances where I’ve begun brewing a pot of coffee and then run out of the house for some errand.
    For safety reasons, I think it’s best that a percolator eventually shuts itself off. If it’s a huge inconvenience, you can always plug it back in to reheat!

Reviews of the Best Electric Percolators

Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for: the reviews! I found five best-selling electric percolators across the web, brewed a different batch each morning, and have the results for you here.

[amazon box=”B00004R946,B00006IV0Q,B002LVUIK8,B00C4VVLI8,B0036WS1FA” template=”table”]

1) FARBERWARE FCP280

The biggest standout about the Faberware FCP280 was that it brewed a great steaming cup of coffee very quickly. This has to do with it being an eight-cup percolator, so it is simply working with less liquid, but relative brew time still is faster than most.

I like the small size when considering counter space, and the taste is great, but when reviewing all the cons and absent bells and whistles, I simply can’t justify the very hefty price of this machine.

My biggest complaint is that this percolator does not even seem to do the bare minimum to meet the requirements of what I consider a good buy. Components such as a drip-free spout, ready light, or auto shut-off are all absent. It practically seems dishonest that the price tag is so high! Furthermore, the water well is aluminum, which is lower quality than stainless steel.

Granted, if you are able to find a deal on this one, go ahead and buy simply based on the fact that I think the coffee itself tastes great. Otherwise, I’d say avoid it!

Pros

  • Fast brew
  • ​Detachable power cord
  • ​Warming mode
  • ​Small
  • Mostly stainless steel, including coffee basket

Cons

  • No viewing window
  • ​Difficult to make out fill lines
  • ​No auto shut-off
  • ​Water well is aluminum
  • Short cord
  • ​Plastic lid handle seems flimsy
  • No ready-light
  • No drip-free spout

2) PRESTO 02811

If you are a bit strapped for cash, the Presto 02811 12-cup percolator is a great buy in my opinion. While it’s missing a few features that I prefer the best electric percolator to have, my feeling is that it’s “allowed” to do so due to its very affordable price. The price given the features that it does have is actually quite exceptional!

I also like that this is a 12-cup brewing system because I have options to make anywhere from two cups up to twelve. It just seems sensible to buy a larger-capacity brewer.

That being said, I have foreboding feelings about the longevity of this percolator. While the initial brew tastes great, I worry that the water well being aluminum will begin to affect flavor. Also, aluminum is simply cheaper than stainless steel and means that this product is lower quality.

If you are someone who drinks coffee daily, it might be worth the price to splurge on a machine that covers all the bases of features and construction.

Pros

  • Light indicates when coffee is ready
  • No-drip spout
  • Mostly stainless steel, including coffee basket
  • Warming mode
  • Inexpensive 

Cons

  • No viewing window
  • Difficult to make out fill lines
  • No auto shut-off
  • Water well is aluminum
  • Short cord

3) PRESTO 02822

I wanted to test out the 6-cup Presto 02822 for two reasons:

  1. The Presto brand does seem to have a very positive reputation for its percolators.
  2. The price of this product is very close to the price of its 12-cup sibling, so I wanted to find out if there seemed to be any advantage to purchasing a lower-capacity brewer.

My decision? Nope.

If you are going to pay the same price for a 6-cup versus 12-cup electric percolator, definitely go for the 12-cup. Yes, the 6-cup is smaller and has a detachable power cord, but the size difference is not so significant that it beats being prepared for extra guests or simply wanting more coffee one morning.

In addition to mentioning that detachable power cord, I also found the plastic out of which is made to seem pretty flimsy and when I did some research online I found that other buyers have had problems with it breaking completely.

Why add a feature if you’re not going to add it well?

It seems that Presto may have a great reputation for its low price and great-tasting brew, but the overall quality of the 6-cup leads me to believe it’s not a worthwhile purchase.

Pros

  • Light indicates when coffee is ready
  • No-drip spout
  • Mostly stainless steel, including coffee basket
  • Warming mode
  • Inexpensive 
  • Detachable power cord

Cons

  • Slower brew time
  • Difficult to make out fill lines
  • No auto shut-off
  • Water well is aluminum
  • Short cord
  • Power cord seems flimsy
  • No viewing window

4) HAMILTON BEACH 40614 (Editor's Choice)

Let me say right off the bat: I had a tough time finding problems with the Hamilton Beach 40614 12-cup percolator!

First of all, it’s completely made of stainless steel—finally! It had all the bells and whistles that I think a best electric percolator should have: ready-indicator light, warming mode, auto shut-off, and a water level viewing window, just to name some.

Maybe it’s just me, but I really am a fan of the viewing window; it’s just nice to know how much coffee I’m working with! With so many percolators having detachable power cords, I do like that feature on this one, even though the cord is a bit short.

While I really like that the glass lid is transparent, I can foresee this being a problem if high temperatures cause the lid to break. Furthermore, it was a bit difficult to twist on and off. I will definitely have to be careful with that part.

The machine was a bit louder than the others, but percolators tend to be louder in general, so I didn’t really mind this. The sound was the typical percolation sound, at any rate, and the wonderful coffee taste made it worthwhile!

Pros

  • Light indicates when coffee is ready
  • No-drip spout
  • See-through lid
  • Visible fill lines
  • Water level viewing window
  • Auto shut-off
  • All stainless steel
  • Warming mode
  • Detachable power cord

Cons

  • Cumbersome Lid
  • Glass lid could break
  • Louder than most
  • Short power cord

5) WEST BEND 54159

The West Bent 54159 12-cup is another great electric percolator for the books!

It had many of the features that I enjoyed in the very-similar Hamilton Beach 40614: ready-indicator light, all stainless steel, viewing window, and auto shut-off and warming.

Interestingly enough, the issues such as loudness, difficult lid, and short power cord mirrored each other as well. The other annoying thing about this was that the fill lines were difficult to make out. If the lines are going to be there, make them easily visible!

Despite it being 100% stainless steel, I do have to point out that it seems lighter than the Hamilton Beach, but I would still prefer it to any percolator with aluminum.

On the plus side, though, this percolator brewed fastest of all the 12-cups, but only by a minute or two. It also seemed to have a more significant amount of steam coming out of the top, which emitted a delicious coffee scent throughout my kitchen!

Pros

  • Light indicates when coffee is ready
  • No-drip spout
  • Water level viewing window
  • Auto shut-off
  • All stainless steel
  • Warming mode
  • Detachable power cord
  • Fast Brew 

Cons

  • Short power cord
  • Difficult to make out fill lines
  • Louder than most
  • Plexiglass knob on lid seems flimsy

Conclusion: The Best Electric Percolator

The Hamilton Beach 40614 12-cup electric percolator was the clear winner in my testing.

It has all the components of a great machine and its durable, fully stainless steel construction give me faith that this percolator will serve me for many years to come. With a few more features than the West Bend 54159 and a lower price tag, this is an obvious buy.

While the most of other percolators I reviewed were less expensive, there is no doubt in my mind that it’s worth it to pay for a higher-quality item, especially since the increased price of the Hamilton Beach is minimal. I would guess that the cost of replacing parts would even out the difference anyway!

For a great and strong tasting cup of joe that can please anywhere from two to twelve people, I highly recommend going for the Hamilton Beach 40614 as your best electric percolator!

Tiffany Watts
 

I'm a writer, a mother of two lovely little girls. I love cooking, reading, blogging, and spending time with my family. Follow me on Twitter.

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