Coffee 101: What’s The Difference Between Percolator and Drip Coffee?

percolator vs drif coffee

Last Updated on October 17, 2023

If you’re a coffee lover you probably have a favorite brewing method. I know I do. My preferences lean toward the strong, rich, brews with nothing added to them. Just a black cup of coffee.

There are subtle, and not-so-subtle differences in brewing methods, and in this post we’re going to compare percolator coffee vs drip coffee maker brew. When it comes to these two brewing methods, a percolator is often thought of as the best option for java lovers who prefer a stronger brew. The reason for this is that percolators typically brew a stronger cup of coffee by virtue of the way the grounds are percolated. But I’m jumping ahead here.

So let’s unwrap this further, and see how a drip coffee maker brews a cup of coffee, then learn more about a stovetop percolator and the unique method it uses to brew coffee.

Then, you can decide which will make a cup of better coffee at home for…you!

Percolator Coffee vs Drip Coffee: How Are They Different?

comparing drip coffeemaker coffee to percolator coffee

Percolators and drip coffee makers are distinctively different in their brewing methods. There’s the percolator, which is a pot, usually stainless steel, with a spout on top of it very similar to an electric tea kettle. On the inside of the percolator is a basket filled with coffee grounds that sits atop a long stem that goes all the way to the bottom.

When the percolator is heated, it forces water and steam up through the stem, over the grounds, and backs down again repeatedly to extract all of that rich flavor.

A drip coffee maker also has a filter basket that sits near the top of the device. Heated water is sprayed over the grounds just once, then filters through and into the carafe below.

Percolators are typically thought of as the better option because they’re able to extract more oils and flavors from the beans, but both methods can be used in order to make a tasty cup of coffee.

About Percolator Coffee

percolator coffee vs drip coffee

How does a percolator work?

Percolators use a process that repeatedly passes boiling water and steam over coffee grounds in order to produce the brewed coffee. The percolator’s perky, bubbling action is what gives it its name. This process, though, is also what can cause percolated coffee to taste bitter. You’re actually “re-brewing” the coffee over and over again, and if left to its own devices for too long, your coffee will taste bitter and over extracted.

If you plan on camping, though, this might be a great choice, because percolators can make coffee without power. Just make sure you have a stove top model and not an electric model. Of course, you need a heat source so a gas camping stove or a campfire will be needed!

What does percolated coffee taste like?

Perked coffee typically has a bold flavor with more aroma and acidity. This is because there’s no paper filter that may soak up some of the oils from your coffee beans which can cause it to taste a little bit diluted. Think French press coffee and that will give you an idea of the taste, although not quite as much oil in the brewed coffee.

The downside? It takes longer for percolated coffee to brew!

How long does it take to brew a pot of percolated coffee?

The entire process of percolated coffee can take up to 15 minutes, so if you’re in a hurry for your cup of joe you might not want to wait for that brew time.

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How do you make good coffee in a percolator?

  1. Start with a clean percolator with no leftover grounds from previous use.
  2. Add water to the reservoir. In general, 2 cups of water make 1 cup of coffee.
  3. Add the grounds. Make sure to use coarse ground coffee to prevent it from seeping through the filter into the pot. If you like strong coffee, use a tablespoon of grounds per cup, and less if you don’t want it as strong.
  4. Make sure the percolator is assembled and the lid is in place.
  5. Heat over medium heat (unless you’ve got an electric percolator), and keep an eye on it. The water shouldn’t be steaming out of the top of the percolator.
  6. Perc the coffee for 7 to 10 minutes, depending upon how strong you like it.
  7. Take the percolator off of the heat, carefully remove the grounds basket, and let the coffee sit for a few minutes

How much does a percolator cost?

A stainless steel percolator is usually a budget-friendly option, but you can find less expensive stovetop percolators that are made of aluminum.

Do You Need an Electric Percolator?

About Drip Coffee Maker Coffee

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How does a drip coffee maker work?

Automatic drip coffeemakers on the other hand work by heating water in a water reservoir and then filtering it over the coffee grounds one time. The water drips through the filter and into the carafe below.

Brewing coffee in a drip coffee maker is very simple, pretty quick, and therefore is the go-to choice for many coffee lovers, particularly those that don’t want to wait very long to enjoy their java!

 One fairly common complaint about drip coffee makers is that the water is not hot enough. Yep. That can happen, particularly if the heating element in the coffee maker is not up to par. The brewed java will definitely be lacking in depth, flavor, and may taste weak. If that’s you jam, cool, you’re all set. If not, you might check out another brewing method like a percolator. Of course, that’s why you’re here considering percolator coffee vs drip!

What does drip coffee taste like?

Drip coffee is often described as “cleaner-tasting” than percolators because the brewing process is more straightforward and doesn’t involve water passing through the grounds multiple times.

Some people like percolated coffee as it can be stronger in taste, but others prefer the clean taste of making coffee with a drip machine.

How long does it take to brew a pot of drip coffee?

It usually takes about five minutes for a drip coffee machine to make 4 to 6 cups of coffee. This can vary based on the brand, model, and capacity of the coffee maker. It will brew coffee more quickly than a percolator, though, hands down. If timing is at the top of your coffee maker “must have” list, be sure to check out the features of the model you’re considering to make sure it passes the quickness test.

Ways to make good coffee in a drip coffee maker:

  • Good quality fresh coffee beans, with a medium grind. This will make for the best-tasting coffee in your drip coffeemaker.
  • Use filtered or bottled water – this will ensure that you won’t wind up with any off-flavors in your cup of Joe, and it’ll also protect against scale build-up on your coffeemaker’s heating element over time.
  • Keep your coffee maker clean. You’ll be amazed how much better the coffee will taste if the machine is cleaned after each use, and descaled periodically.

How much does a drip coffee maker cost?

A drip coffee maker can cost anywhere from $20 to a few hundred dollars, depending on the brand and features. It’s safe to say that there is a drip coffee maker to suit every budget!

Do You Need a Drip Coffee Maker?


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Sum It Up – Percolator vs Drip Coffee

In the end, it’s all about your personal preference. If getting that cup of coffee in your hand quickly is the goal, and you prefer to choose a lighter blend and brew, a drip coffee maker will probably be the right choice for you.

But if you’re someone who likes a stronger taste or smaller batches, percolated coffee may be more up your alley!