The Best Coffee Percolators According to Pros
Invented in the 1950s, percolators harken back to a time before French presses, pour overs, single-serve machines, and drip coffee makers became standard in home kitchens. Those who remember the strong, sometimes burnt taste of coffee from the percolators of old will be glad to know that modern versions yield better (but still bold) brews, not without the appliance's signature rhythmic pulse.
Percolators were one of the first coffee machines, according to Daniel Teplitz, general manager of Klatch Coffee in Redondo Beach, Calif. "They have continued to be used for more than a century because of their simplicity," he says. Indeed, when you want to brew coffee fast and need few to no automatic features, the percolator still delivers. "You don't have to think about all the added variables that go into a pour over or some immersion brewers," says Jose Robles, a coffee master and trainer at California's Two Guns Espresso.
We spoke with three industry experts before researching the market and evaluating models based on criteria like style, cleanup, and ease of use. We found that the Moss & Stone 10-Cup Electric Percolator not only hits these marks but also stands out from other percolators as the best on the market. Continue reading for more details on this pick as well as the best coffee percolators for camping, serving a crowd, and more.
Our Top Picks
- Best Overall: Moss & Stone 10-Cup Electric Percolator
- Best Value: Farberware Yosemite Stainless Steel Stovetop Percolator
- Best Splurge: Cuisinox Roma 10-Cup Stainless Steel Stovetop Moka Espresso Maker
- Best Large Capacity Electric: Presto 12-Cup Stainless Steel Electric Percolator
- Best For Camping: Coletti Bozeman 9-Cup Stovetop Percolator
Best Overall: Moss & Stone 10-Cup Electric Percolator
Best Value: Farberware Yosemite Stainless Steel Stovetop Percolator
Best Splurge: Cuisinox Roma 10-Cup Stainless Steel Stovetop Espresso Maker
Best Large: Presto 12-Cup Stainless Steel Electric Percolator
Best For Camping: Coletti Bozeman 9-Cup Stovetop Percolator
What Didn't Make the List
Coffee percolators deliver bold, robust coffee flavor without single-use cup waste or overly automated and complicated brew methods, and they do this fast. They have the benefit of portability, come in various sizes and styles, and offer features that can help you choose the best one for your needs. Our in-depth overview of the best coffee percolator makers concluded with voting Moss & Stone 10-Cup Electric Percolator as our top choice.
Factors to Consider
What perks and features top your list? Are you looking for a large capacity percolator that's elegant for entertaining? Maybe you need a multi-use machine for everyday use that can still deliver at small dinner parties. Or do you need one you can easily tote on a weekend camping trip? Is your storage space limited? Do you want a stovetop model to display? Whatever's on your checklist, percolators come in a range of styles and sizes to suit you and brew style.
Percolators require more maintenance than a single-use espresso machine or drip coffee pot. Refer to the manufacturer's instructions on whether any parts are dishwasher safe, and what cleaning products can be used on the interior and exterior. Although, keep in mind that hand washing may be the best overall option for product longevity.
Ease of Use
In general, percolators are easy to use, though tailoring the brew to your tastes may take some trial and error. Stovetop models require more supervision and have the added benefit of not using electricity. Electric models require a lot of electricity to operate, so be cautious about where you plug one in so you don't blow a fuse. Ideally, you will want a dedicated circuit.
We extensively researched various brands and models of percolators and reviewed consumer product guides. We consulted a master coffee trainer Jose Robles, specialty coffee store manager Daniel Teplitz, and executive caterer and Top Chef alumni Betty Fraser. We weighed the information against factors like capacity, cleaning, and ease of use.
Pro Panel Q+A
Q: How do I use a coffee percolator?
A: "You use it by adding coarse coffee beans in the top chamber and adding the desired amount of water to the bottom before reassembling the pieces and putting it all over heat," says Robles. "Once you put it over heat, you'll have to wait until the water comes to a boil and it'll drive the water up the tube and then pour over the coffee. You'll know the coffee is done when you start hearing a spurting sound coming from the water."
Once you learn how to use a percolator, you will likely need time to get a feel for the process and its coffee, as both differ from those of drip coffee makers and other popular machines. "Electric percolators cycle the water through the coffee grounds several times, creating the characteristic complex, bold-tasting brew. Stovetop models like the Moka pot only pass water through the coffee grinds once, using pressure to produce the espresso-like brew," Teplitz says. "I would recommend using a coffee that is more robust in flavor so that its characteristics can stand up to the high heat and quick extraction produced by a percolator."
Q: What's the benefit of a coffee percolator?
A: "One of the benefits of this brew method is the ease of use, which requires little effort from the coffee maker. You don't have to think about all the added variables that go into a pour over or some immersion brewers," says Robles.
"The best reason to use a percolator is it only needs heat, water, and coffee. It's great for camping, making coffee with limited space, or making coffee in large quantities. Unlike other methods, percolators scale easily from just a single cup to brewing large amounts for events," Teplitz says.
Some use percolators to make tea or hot chocolate, and it's even capable of making broth, according to Betty Fraser, executive caterer and Top Chef alumni, who uses a percolator for these purposes. She says the percolator "is great when you need to serve a hot beverage to a large crowd of 20 plus."
Q: How should I clean a coffee percolator?
A: "When you're done using it, place it on a counter near a sink, open the spigot and let all the remaining hot liquid drain out. This is much safer than trying to pour it," Fraser says. "Then, place it in a sink and add some hot water from the faucet and a bit of soap, being very careful to not expose the electrical workings to water. Then, drain again through the spigot to clean out the spigot, and repeat the process with warm water until all soap has been removed." Dry the percolator before storing it.
Robles employs a similar method. "Just like when cleaning any coffee machine I have at home, I like to hand wash with a bit of dish soap and warm water," he says. "I don't like using super harsh chemicals or old sponges because you can end up leaving a lingering smell and taste that'll later impact your coffee. If you do start to see old coffee oils stuck to your brewer, you should let it sit overnight with water and whatever brand of chemicals your manufacturer suggests you use. Leaving this on for longer than you should impact the flavor of your coffee and give it a more bitter taste, so clean as regularly as you can to avoid having to drink bad coffee."
Teplitz holds another opinion on cleaning percolators: "You should dump the grounds after brewing. When the pot has cooled, take it apart and rinse all parts with hot water. Most importantly: never use soap," he says. "If you are unable to get all the coffee oils off, you can use a cleaner like Cafiza, which is intended for cleaning residual coffee oils."
Kara Mickelson is a recipe developer, producer, writer, and food stylist, an alumnus of UCLA and Le Cordon Bleu School of Culinary Arts, and the creator of Styled Delicious, a boutique culinary brand. She is a professional chef, food stylist, and creative content producer. She trained in Spain, and in Napa at the famed French Laundry, and has worked behind the scenes with top Food Network chefs. She is the author of Friends: The Official Central Perk Cookbook.