Turn Back the Clock for a Better Cup of Coffee

   By ChefErin  May 19, 2011

Alright, I live in Seattle - admittedly the most coffee-obsessed city in America, possibly the world - so perhaps I’ve become a little coffee-conscious since I moved here. Coffee isn’t just coffee to me anymore. That’s good. I am not complaining. I’ve become refined in my tastes.

I’ve tried all the trendy and classic coffee drinks from frappu-whats-its to espresso. I’ve mastered coffee-house lingo. I’ve spent way too much money on expensive coffee beans. I’ve got a French press, and a drip coffee maker. I’ve tinkered with my daily java, adding chunks of cinnamon and a splash of vanilla. I like cream more than sugar. I prefer a dark-roasted (not burnt) full-bodied coffee with hints of sweetness and cocoa, that’s not too acidic. Seriously, I never thought this much about coffee before and by Seattle standards I am an amateur. But I thought I had it pretty well figured out...until a recently trip to Arizona to visit my parents.

Let me give you a little back story. My dad has been a coffee drinker all his life. He took it black, probably harkening back to his days in the army. I remember the agonizing, lingering over coffee at restaurants. (Agonizing for a child, so we’re talkin’ 10 or 15 minutes here.) My dad would order coffee and my brother and I would groan because we were done eating and wanted to go. We’d even take turns gulping swigs of bitter blackness from his cup just to speed the process.

Although he was a diner-coffee drinker, my dad always seemed to be on a quest for "a good cup of coffee." He’d try different blends and ask what restaurants were serving. He’d complain about weak coffee, grouse about bitterness. Out of exasperation, he even turned to tea for a while.

When he recently told me that he’d figured out the key to the "good cup of coffee" I was naturally intrigued. So here it is. Are you ready for it? A percolator. Doesn’t that conjure up visions of 1950’s housewives? Let’s just say I was skeptical - until my last visit. 

He pulled out the percolator on my first morning at home, brewed up a pot, and I was sold! The coffee was full-bodied, with a satisfying mouth-feel. Really, I mean it. It didn’t taste like coffee-flavored water. It was richer, more rounded. I just couldn’t get over it. (Don’t you just hate when your dad it right?)

I just don’t understand why drip coffee makers have become the norm? Maybe it’s the perception that drip coffee makers take less time? That may have been the case 30 years ago, but modern percolators brew coffee as quickly as drip machines - approximately, one cup per minute. Plus, a percolator uses half the coffee grounds to make the same amount of coffee that a drip maker does. And, the percolator is greener because it doesn’t use filters.

Quick, economical, environmentally-friendly, and really good coffee. What’s not to love?! So, I’ve traded in my expensive drip machine for a quirky looking, relic of a by-gone era. Join me at my next coffee klatch, won’t you?


How do you take your coffee? Have you figured out the perfect blend? Do you love your coffee maker? Tell me your story!


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basilandcatnip by basilandcatnip | GARLAND, TX
Aug 10, 2011

I'm still using the percolator and haven't gone back to other methods. Thank you Chef Erin for the article... otherwise I'd never have known!

basilandcatnip by basilandcatnip | GARLAND, TX
Jun 10, 2011

Well I have an old metal stove top percolator with original Pyrex company pyrex knob on loan til I can save for and locate a new electric one, it's got to be well over 40 yrs old. A friends mom had it and was tickled to hear I was on a mission to learn about them. She keeps one on hand in case of power outage, so she'll always have coffee. And I got to hear all the stories about people that used to accidenlty melt the handles. After using I can see why the plug in electric percolators became more popular. My first cup... lets say needed a little adjusting, had a few grounds in it, but it was pretty good. Having fun playing with ratios of coffee/water, time, temp. Best part... my whole house smells like it did when I was little. A few other people must have read your blog post, I've looked for Verona at several locations and its been sold out.

ChefErin by ChefErin | SEATTLE, WA
May 25, 2011

It sounds like your grandma was using a percolator. I think the electric ones are so easy. You just plug in and that's it, just like a drip machine. I agree about Starbucks sometimes tasting burnt. I don't get that with Cafe Verona though. Let me know when you try it. I'll be interested to hear how your seach goes. I seriously can't get over how much I like the coffee I am drinking these days. Not surprised that Toronto is a coffee town - any place that's cold or rainy or snowy! ~ Chef Erin

basilandcatnip by basilandcatnip | GARLAND, TX
May 23, 2011

I remembered an all glass coffee pot when I was 2-3yr old at my grandmas but too little to remember how or what it was used for, not sure if that was a percolator or not, coffee would bubble in the clear lid. Just read the West Bend 54159 instruction manual online to learn the process. Looked up the coffees, Verona should be easy to get, have bought Pike Place and the Italian Roast. Sometimes I find Starbucks is too burnt a taste. I've experimented with piloncilla and various honeys added to coffee. Also finding through personal friends posts Toronto area becoming a hot bed for coffee and many people are starting to want to try home roasting beans. There's also a place here that sells to all the Five star hotels and restaurants, I've been wanting to go for several years.... your post has me on a mission! Maui is one of those places that remains in your heart.

ChefErin by ChefErin | SEATTLE, WA
May 20, 2011

basilandcatnip - I purchased an electric percolator by West Bend. It looks like an old-fashioned chrome coffee pot with a plug at the bottom. My two favorite coffees these days are Caffe Vita's Cafe Luna and Starbuck's Cafe Verona. Love Maui! Vince and I were married there! ~ Chef Erin

basilandcatnip by basilandcatnip | GARLAND, TX
May 19, 2011

You'll have to describe what you mean by percolator. I want one now. I've been on a mission for great coffee, my story is similar to yours. I ask everyone about water type, bean, temperature, ratio amounts, material of contruction, to shape of cup. I have coffee makers to french presses. I'll try any coffee and love to have people from other countries make me a cup the way they would there. Still think a good cup of black coffee sitting in an airplane very early morning ready to take off on an adventure is the best tasting. Although the tray of coffee and half a fresh pineapple grown across the street they served over looking the ocean in Maui was pretty good.

sherrybaby by sherrybaby | wilmington, DE
May 19, 2011

We use a french press and LOVE it!