FTC Disclaimer - This page may contain special links to merchants which can result in compensation paid to the site owner.
Percolator and French Press Coffee Compared

Percolator coffee and French press coffee are both great types of coffee, but have you ever wondered how they are different? Although the methods vary quite a bit, the resulting coffee is surprisingly similar in some ways.

Percolator coffee is a bit of an older style of coffee, whereas French press coffee, although somewhat old, has risen greatly in popularity, in recent times. Gamble Bay Coffee is one of the best sources for coffee knowledge you can find and is here to talk about these two methods.

Whether you prefer Percolator coffee or French press coffee, they aren’t all that different from one another, although the processes are.

Let’s look at how these two methods are different.

How are Percolated Coffee and French Press Coffee Different?

PercolatorBefore we look at each of these methods, individually, it would be helpful to go over how they are different.

  • Percolator coffee runs through multiple cycles, while French press coffee runs through a single brewing step.
  • Although both of these methods require babysitting, the percolator coffee is much more customizable. Since the latter runs through multiple cycles, you can stop it whenever you want to get a specific strength in your coffee.
  • Because of the way a percolator is built, the temperature has to be managed and kept at a certain point to avoid burning the beans, while this is not a problem for French press coffee.

So, while both of these coffees require attention and work to make sure they are brewed properly, I would say percolator coffee is much easier to mess up. Most of the time, if you mess up with the French press coffee, you will still be able to drink it, afterwards, whereas messing up with percolator coffee could ruin it, altogether.

Now, let’s look at these brewing methods on an individual level.

Is French Press Coffee Better than Percolator Coffee?

french-pressIn many ways, yes. Although the end product is quite similar in strength, French press coffee gets more of the beneficial stuff out of coffee that percolators simply can’t obtain. French press coffee uses more of a tight basket filter to allow some of the finer grinds, as well as the oils and minerals from the beans, to flow into the coffee. Doing this gives French press coffee more of a refined and unique taste than percolator coffee.

We know that spending a fortune on an automatic grinder and a fancy French press is not feasible for everyone, so for most people, a good manual grinder like this JavaPresse will work just fine. However, if you can spare the cash for a higher quality home grinder, and you are looking for something different, we have a page on manual grinders here and another page on the best automatic grinders here.

The grinds help give a bold taste and texture to the coffee while also giving it a natural, “fresh coffee” fragrance that you just don’t get from regular brewing.┬áThe downside is that for some people this bold taste is a little too much.

The bold taste in French press coffee is different from the strength of the coffee that percolator coffee generally has behind it.

Although it is somewhat time-consuming to brew it, the satisfaction you feel from having a properly brewed cup of hot French press coffee is what makes it so worth it.

Is Percolator Coffee Better than French Press Coffee?

percolator-coffeeI would have to say no. Percolator coffee does get more usage out of coffee grinds, since it runs multiple cycles on the same grinds; however, it does not achieve the same effect the French press coffee does, snce percolators use paper filters to separate the grinds, rather than a basket like the French press.

A percolator uses a series of chambers. One chamber holds a large body of water, which comes to a boil and the steam from the boiling water comes through a small crevice and passes the top of the percolator. When the steam starts to cool, the dew that comes down drips, or percolates, through the coffee grounds and back down into the boiling water to be reprocessed.

Now you might think that because of the way that this is done that the strength of the coffee would be uneven, but actually, the process is aided by a small plate in the pot called a spreading plate. The spreading plate ensures that an equal amount of water goes through the coarsely ground coffee beans. That way your coffee always has an even taste.

This process ensures you get the most value out of your coffee, although some people may not enjoy the sheer strength that percolator coffee tends to have. The caffeine content is roughly equal with that of espresso.

Earlier, I said it requires a bit of management. By this, I was referring to the temperature. The water in the percolator needs to be kept at a consistent temperature, just below boiling. The reason for this is because the beans and the water are kept in the same chamber. If the heat is too high, the beans get burned and, thus, will ruin the coffee. This is very easy to mess up if you are using a stovetop percolator, while electric percolators generally have a maximum temperature they can reach that is just right to avoid burning the beans or ground.

If you are interested in a percolator, even just to try it out, you can find some pretty inexpensive ones that work well. This Farberware Percolator is reasonably afforadable and is well worth the cash for a stovetop type. If you’re looking for an electric percolator, the Hamilton Beach Percolator is one worth checking out.

So, if you enjoy really dark roasted coffee with a strong scent and stronger taste, you will likely love percolated coffee.

Which of the Two is Best?

french-press-and-percolator-coffeeOverall, I would definitely say that French press coffee is the best choice of the two. Since both methods require time and care in the mornings to be crafted suitably, French press coffee is more worth the time. On the other hand, I will say that the difference in the type of “strength” in the two types of coffee may decide your own preference.

French press coffee has a bold, more natural oil flavor to it. Percolator coffee’s strong taste is from the sheer amount of coffee in it. French press coffee also has more health benefits because of the unfiltered minerals it has in it versus Percolator coffee.

In the end, it depends on the way you like your coffee. However, as I stated early on, you can manage the strength of percolator coffee and stop it at any point during the cycles to get your desired strength. Regardless, it still lacks the benefits of French press coffee that I believe make that process worth the effort.