The Quest for the Best Coffee Maker: A Drip Coffee Maker vs Percolator?

percolator vs drip

If you are a true coffee lover, you might have already encountered these two brewing methods. Although both the drip coffee maker and the percolator provide us with satisfying caffeine experiences, the dispute on which one is better is still up and going until today.

Finding it difficult to choose which one to get?

Which is better drip or percolator coffee?

Want a quick answer?: The general opinion is that percolators brew stronger coffee because on first go, you’re having double brewed coffee. On the other side, a drip coffee maker just runs water once, allowing a smoother, less powerful drink. With a percolator, you’ll get good, bold coffee.

Want to go deeper? Hop in because we’re here to clear things up!

It is quite astonishing that these tools function almost similarly. In the bottom chamber, water begins to heat up until steam forms, rises, condensates and drips through the upper chamber grounds. Then, water flows to your cup, and there you have your beloved coffee!

Although there are similarities in how they work, the differentiating factors are the: frequency the process needs to be repeated and the flavor, strength, and mouthfeel of your cup of Joe.

The power of the drip coffee

drip coffee maker

The drip coffee maker—the percolators’ arch-enemy and the main coffee maker displayed on the majority of our kitchen countertops. Taking the world by storm in the 1970s, this little tool truly changed the game.

Why is this dripper the more common household choice? Simple. It is quick and easy without the weight of a true espresso’s price tag! How does it work?

Here’s a quick rundown of the drip brewing procedure:

1.   Place the paper filter and the coffee grounds of your choice in their respective compartments.

2.   Fill the water reservoir and turn the coffee maker on.

3.   The water will heat up to boiling or near-boiling and the steam will rise until it reaches the drip area.

4.   The heated water then penetrates through the grounds and the filter until it drips into your coffee pot.

5.   Add your choice of coffee add-ons: be it milk, sugar, or a drop of your favorite syrup.

6.   Enjoy and savor your lovely cup of coffee!

With this machine, this cycle only takes place once, and this is its main distinguishing factor from a percolator.

What’s a percolator?

clear glass teacup with saucer set on table

Invented by the American soldier and scientist Count Rumford, patented by James Mason in the year 1865, and adapted and improved by farmer Hanson Goodrich in 1889, the percolator has been a household staple in the American homes for years and years on end before the drip coffee made its grand appearance.

How does a percolator work?

As discussed, unlike the drip coffee machine, the percolator repeats the cycle production again and again, resulting in what we call as “over-extraction.” Due to this process of consistent boiling and the longer duration of the percolator run, you are most definitely going to have a cup of coffee that is strong and bitter. In this case, an already brewed coffee keeps on going through the coffee grounds multiple times resulting in an over-extracted and an over-brewed caffeine.

Because of the risk of over-extraction, the customers must put in time and effort to carefully monitor the temperature and brew time, unless they want a coffee that is quite unpleasant. I mean… who wants that?

Although the use of a percolator is not as simple and as easy as that of a drip coffee maker, the former can still brew you a decent cup of coffee once you get the hang of it. 

On the other hand, the main advantage of this tool is its versatility since it comes in both self-heating and non-self-heating variants. What does this mean? It means that you can either use a percolator on a stove-top, or heat it up in a microwave, or even over a fire on camping trips.

So which one should you consider?

1.   Brew strength & flavor

Based on our discussion, you now know that a percolator brews a rather stronger coffee due to over-extraction while a drip coffee maker gives you a coffee brew that is cleaner and less robust. Therefore:

  • If you love your coffee strong, bitter, and bold, the percolator will work best for you. But take note that since a percolator brew will most likely be over-extracted, the depth of the flavor may not be completely there.
  • If you want a more subtle and cleaner aroma with a lighter and smoother mouthfeel, then the drip coffee maker is your best friend.

2.   Brew size

Between the two coffee makers, the percolator is known to produce coffee for a greater number of people in a short amount of time as opposed to its drip counterpart. Some variants can even come up with twelve cups of coffee per single percolator run.

In contrast, a drip coffee maker can only brew enough for two coffee drinkers at a time.

To make it short, if you’re brewing coffee for the whole household, percolator is most definitely the way to go. But, if you’re only brewing for a couple of coffee drinkers at most, the convenience of a drip coffee is to your advantage. 

To throw you off a bit, you can also purchase bunn coffee makers, they can make coffee in 3 minutes!

3.   What’s more convenient?

Obviously, the single factor that made the drip coffee maker outshine the percolator is CONVENIENCE. This machine can brew us our caffeine boost in a relatively shorter amount of time and minimal effort.

Let’s also not forget the fact that this option does not break the bank!

However, despite the affordability of drip coffee makers, percolators still cost much less. So, if you’re quite low on budget, a basic percolator is a great consideration.

SO… What’s the verdict?

It pretty much depends on you! If you’re on-the-go and would love an easy-to-use coffee maker yet provides you a brew that is rich in flavor, go for a drip. However, if you need something to bring with you around when you travel, the percolator is pretty much what you need. 

That’s about it! We hope this helped you in your search for your coffee-making machine. May all your caffeine brews be ever in your favor!


man sitting statue

Can you use drip coffee grounds for percolator?

The filters used in a percolator are not as fine as a drip coffee maker. This means, if used, finely ground coffee will settle at the bottom compartment. Hence, coarse ground coffee is best as it can not move through filters.

What is the best coffee to use in a percolator?

A medium roast is best for percolator coffee. A dark roast may be too bitter or burnt, whereas the subtleties of a light roast are lost in the percolating process.

Do you use a filter in a percolator?

The percolator coffee pot doesn’t need a filter because it contains a filter basket. As water repeats its perking cycle, grounds will find their way through the basket holes into the finished product.

Does percolated coffee have more caffeine?

On average, a cup of coffee has around 150 mg of caffeine made using the drip process. When percolated, an average coffee cup contains around 80 mg.