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.
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:
- The Base, where the water begins
- The Tube, through which the water passes to reach...
- 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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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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!