Glass Coffee Percolators: Going Old School For A Classic Cup-O-Joe

Are you looking for a new addition to your coffee collection? Look no further than the vintage percolator!

glass coffee percolatorsVintage and new, in this instance anyway, are not at all contradicting terms.

In this day and age, where coffee culture is at an all time high, people are constantly searching for the next big thing!

Aeropress and pour over have risen to the top of the caffeinated hierarchy.

The K-Cup had it’s single-serve moments in the spotlight before environmentalists demanded eco-friendly alternatives.

But it feels like the tides are turning back to more original roots– ancient coffee making techniques.

Espresso surely hasn’t gone out of style. But with the vast majority of our current populace opting for adventures in the great outdoors, we need a mobile way to get a strong cup of happy on the go.

Here’s where we see old-school become classic– stove top coffee pots are back in the game (and they don’t plan on leaving the scene.)

But it’s important to note that not all stove-top machines are not created equal.

There are three primary methods that fall into this category: the moka pot, the decoction method and the percolator.

Though they are similar in their mobility, it’s their yields are the make and break.
Moka Pot
Moka pots are great if they are done correctly. They make strong, dark cups of coffee but cannot live up to their colloquial name of “stove top espresso” because the steam produced does not apply nearly enough pressure. Instead, they are more like a strong drip or a heavily bodied french press.

how to make cowboy coffee


Though great in a pinch, the decoction method (otherwise known as cowboy coffee) is a tricky and inconsistent. It yields cups full of broken down coffee bits that most people dislike, unless you run the whole batch over a good, tightly woven filter.

But don’t be discouraged! Percolators rise above these inconsistencies, making them the superior stove top coffee maker.

It does take a little time to master, but what doesn’t. The variables are all controlled by your preferences and situation.

What is a percolator?

pot of percolator coffee Percolation, by definition, is the process of moving a solvent through a porous substance and the method stays true to the vocabulary.

Coffee percolation is an age old method that satisfies coffee lovers of all kinds.

Its versatility is only the first of its many lovable characteristics.

The earlier models had an aluminum build that had that rustic aesthetic to them.

Their simple and inexpensive design made the product easily replicated and renown as the perfect brewing method for any occasion.

No electricity? No problem! The percolator can warm on a gas stove or a campfire without forfeiting consistently good coffee.

How to brew with a percolator in 10 easy steps.

#1 Wash your coffee pot

This method yields oily, highly acidic coffee– which is great for those of us who prefer a good, strong cuppa. But it is best to give the rig a good scrub down after/before every brewing cycle. Don’t want to sabotoge a batch with stale or rancid tastes

#2 Add water to the kettle

This all-in-one coffee maker provides an easy as pie set up.

Of course, filtered water is preferred for a cleaner cup of joe. But if you’re out camping, spring water does the trick.

My biggest piece of advice is to watch your H2O levels. If your rig is in fact an antique, and does not have a nifty, “fill to here” indicator, I would suggest filling until about a centimeter under the spout perforation.

This prevents the unextracted water from pouring out and potentially burning you.

#3 Grind your beans

If you’ve been following any of our articles for a while, you know how hard we press that the key to good coffee is freshly roasted beans, ground appropriately for each brewing method.

I know this can be a challenge if you’re traveling, but if you can grind just before you embark on your journey and keep the grounds in an airtight container, you should be okay.

An alternative that you can consider would be to invest in a handheld manual grinder.

Regardless of your choice, aim for  medium to medium-coarse for the best results.

Grind too fine and you will have sediment in the end result.

Grind too coarse and you can have an under-extracted, weak cup of coffee.

#4 Load basket

Percolator coffee grounds sizePercolated grounds baskets are shallow cylindrical containers with many little holes to act as a filter.

However, you can add a paper filter to absorb oils, if you prefer cleaner, brighter cups of joe.

If you like body and oils, the metal filter will suffice.

Be sure to pack as evenly and loosely as possible. This method, like the moka pot will not provide enough pressure to push water through a grounds bed packed like an espresso puck.

#5 Attach basket to stem

The stem of this brewing system is the conduit for the coffee magic.

Its hollowed out middle acts as the pipe that the boiled water travels through as it becomes coffee.

#6 Attach chamber lid

This disk shaped top sits on the basket and fulfills the original intent of the creator, Hanson Goodrich. “a liquid which will be free of all grounds and impurities.”

#7 Place connected center piece in the kettle

The stem has a flat piece that keeps it upright. It’s contact with the bottom of the kettle allows the piping to warm up along with the brewing system.

#8 Set on heat source

Camp fire, radiator, range, stove top, you name it! As long as you can get this baby boiling, you can get your coffee fix.

I would advise you to be mindful of the handle. Position the pot so that the handle is not hovering over the source and avoid burning your hand when you try to serve a cup.

#9 Wait

The brewing process can take anywhere from 6-8 minutes, depending on your preferences.

#10 Serve

As soon as you see the dark (or light) colour your desire, take the kettle off the pot and allow the percolator to settle.

After the last boiling over, you can pour and enjoy.

Now that you know the how-tos– let’s talk about what is actually going on during the percolating process.

The design of this coffee maker is simple but nonetheless fascinating.

As the water warms to a boil, the steam creates a vacuum.

This pressure forces steam through the stem first. The steam warms and lightly moistens the grounds before the water even comes into contact.

After the steam permeates the grounds bed, the water is forced up and through the stem.

It is then showered over the coffee and flows back into the reservoir.

From there, it’s lather, rinse repeat.

Percolation =  multiple extraction

The reason why the percolator was abandoned for decades is that the masses decided that robust coffees that take time to brew were not ideal.

For a while there, we opted for drip coffee makers that have filter to catch oils and broken down particles i.e. body. And these are the characteristics that percolation highlights!

If that sounds like your cup of coffee, let me present to you the best (and prettiest) percolators on the market– glass!

The Pyrex Vintage Stovetop Percolator

Price range: treat yo self

Likability: 85+% love this item

Serving size: 6 cup

Materials: glass body, stem, lid and basket. Aluminum basket bottom.

Tips: start off at medium heat to warm the entire rig before cranking up to high for the boil. The base is glass, so you don’t want to shatter it by starting off high.

The Medelco Glass Stovetop Percolator

Medelco 8 Cup Glass Stovetop Percolator
Price range: affordable, buy me now

Likability: 60ish% really enjoyed this item

Serving size: 8 cups

Materials: glass body, durable plastic basket, stem and handle.

Tips: hand wash! Even though it is deemed dishwasher safe, you don’t want to warp the plastic of the filter. Also start with medium heat and work your way up to avoid breaking the bottom apart from the top.

Why wait! Click either photo to make your purchase today!


Brian Mounts

Head blogger, editor, and owner of "Top Off My Coffee", a website that has been educating readers about coffee brewing techniques and equipment since 2012.

Wait, Wait...There's More!