How Strong Percolator Coffee Compares to Espresso

I enjoy homebrew coffee, we all do. Homebrew coffee is a great thing to have, as being able to make our own coffee at home is a rewarding experience. Since there are so many different ways to brew coffee at home, we can often get confused about what method to use.

For instance, many people wonder what percolator coffee has that makes it different from espresso.

More so than you may think, these two methods of coffee are quite different, but both of them still offer strong coffee. Here at Gamble Bay Coffee, we are dedicated to giving you the most accurate information on coffee that you can find.

Let’s look at how these methods make a difference shall we?

How are Strong Percolator Coffee and Espresso Different?

I’d like to go ahead and talk about what makes these two brewing methods different before we take a look at each of them individually.

  1. Percolator coffee runs through multiple cycles, whereas espresso coffee only runs through once. This allows you to get extremely strong coffee depending on how long you are willing to wait.
  2. Percolators are a bit touchier. Since the coffee is in the chamber with the water, the temperature has to be managed to ensure that you don’t burn the grinds, which will ruin the coffee.
  3. Espresso makers use pressure to make coffee, whereas a percolator just uses steam.

Overall, both of these coffees take a bit of time to prepare. Depending on the strength you prefer to have your coffee, the percolator method can require a bit more time than espresso, which requires patience to make it in the morning and, unless you have an espresso machine, like the Cuisinart EM-200, at home, you’ll have to go to a cafe to get your daily espresso.

Is Espresso Coffee Better than Strong Percolator Coffee?

For the most part, I would have to say yes, although some people may prefer percolator coffee over espresso.

Espresso doesn’t require nearly as much work and moderation as percolator coffee does. Espresso coffee can also vary slightly, depending on the barista making it or the extras added.

Espresso requires no specific roast level or bean blend, but some beans are a better choice than others: find the best ones here. Ever since the third wave of coffee, you can find many coffee shops all over that can make an espresso in many different ways to really tailor to your personal tastes.

One of the bonuses of making espresso vs percolator coffee is that espresso coffee does not use paper filters like the percolator does. Since it does not use a paper filter, much of the oils and such that make coffee so healthy are able to get through into the drink. So if you want something a bit healthier, espresso would be better.

I think for most people espresso will be the more favorable coffee, due to the time and attention it takes to make a cup of percolator coffee in the morning and how easily you can mess it up and waste several minutes.

Most of the time, it will be much easier to make espresso and there are alternatives to buying the expensive home machines. This makes it much better than using a percolator.

Is Strong Percolator Coffee Better than Espresso Coffee?


The reason I say strong percolator coffee is that, because it runs through multiple cycles, varying on how you like it, your average cup of percolated coffee won’t be all that strong.

To the question, I 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 espressos do. Yes, it gets strong coffee, but it lacks the oils and all that an espresso retains. The paper filters are the drawback to percolator coffee makers.

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 into 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 affordable 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, though I firmly believe that it does not match the benefits of the espresso.

So Which is The Best?

Overall, I would say that if you have the funds to put toward it, you can do well with the option of getting a percolator, as it creates strong coffee, while not really overloading you. However, because espresso tends to keep the oils that coffee provides and there are good alternatives to obtain espresso if you can’t afford a home machine, I’d say you can’t really go wrong, either way.

Since espresso machines can be so costly, using something like a Moka Pot or an Aeropress would be a more affordable alternative. Comparatively, percolators are generally fairly inexpensive, though you do have to buy filters to be able to use them properly.

The Percolator Vs The Espresso Maker

A Strong Start Percolator VS Espresso

So you want something strong, but don’t know which brew to choose?

That can really depend on your personal tastes and how much you’re willing to invest.

Many coffee lovers find that both percolator coffee and espressos can provide a stronger, more intense boost than other brewing methods.

That said, these methods are really quite different!

In order to help you with deciding which option may work best for you, we’re going to take a look into each brewing method.

We’ll also take a look at the results you get from each!

Armed with that knowledge, you’ll know whether an espresso machine or percolator is a better buy for you.

So read up, learn and enjoy!

Percolator: Simple But Bold

pot of percolator coffee


Using a percolator is a very simple process.

The first thing you need to know is that there are a couple of different categories: the stovetop percolator and the electric percolator.

Stovetop percolators are very simple devices that appear somewhat like a kettle.

They are often made from stainless steel, and allow you to add your grounds into a basket which is built in to the device.

Electric percolators work much in the same way, except they don’t require the use of your stove.

Instead, they have a base that is plugged into a wall and used to heat the percolator itself.

In both, the use of a grounds basket ensures that you don’t need to worry about the need to filter the resulting coffee.

Because of their simple design, there are many who prefer percolators to other options out there.

They enjoy having more control over the brewing process.

However, that does mean you’ll need to be able to keep an eye on the water temperature.

Otherwise, you can end up with coffee that tastes overly bitter and burnt.

It is by no means an automatic process, though it is easier than others like Chemex and other pour over methods.

Percolators are truly a great option for those who are looking to simplify the process.


  • There isn’t a need to purchase paper filters.
  • Many find the flavor is rich and delicious.
  • Stovetop options are great for taking camping.
  • Users may appreciate the nostalgia.
  • You get more control over the brewing process.
  • Many percolators come at an affordable cost.


  • There is a risk of burnt coffee as a result of water that is too hot.
  • The flavor can be more bitter.
  • You can sometimes find that sediment makes its way into your cup.


If you want to step away from the more automatic machines, a percolator can be the perfect option.

They’re very easy to take with you on the go, and some are even specifically made for camping purposes.

You will need to keep an eye on the water, but they do make options that can either be programmed to reach a certain temperature, or you can use a thermometer.

There are plenty who come to prefer the flavor of percolated coffee to drip-style and other more common forms.

Unless you feel the need for extra filtering, you can also save money on paper filters by using a percolator.

Espresso Maker: Little Cup, Strong Flavor

Nespresso Inissia


If you’ve been to a coffee shop and had an espresso there, you may find that this type of drink fits your preference.

Using an espresso machine, there are a number of different espresso drinks that you’ll be able to make.

On top of that, making them at home is sure to save money over purchasing them regularly in coffee shops.

One thing that is important to keep in mind is that these are machines, which can be larger and more expensive than a simple percolator.

Luckily, there are a variety of options, such as Nespresso, Breville and Mr. Coffee model options.

Depending on how advanced you want to get, these models can really range in the amount of effort you put in.

With most Nespresso espresso machines, all you have to do is add a capsule, make a couple of selections and the machine handles the rest.

Meanwhile, others can work much more like what you’d find in a coffee shop. With those devices, you’d need to develop more of a skill.

It’s also wise to keep in mind that some of these machines can be rather large and expensive.


  • Often rather aesthetically pleasing.
  • Many are highly automatic.
  • Cleanup is generally very easy.
  • You get delicious espresso with minimal effort.
  • There are a wide variety of models out there at different price points.
  • Can often make espressos for multiple people rather quickly.


  • Many of these machines can be expensive.
  • Some can be bulky and take up a lot of counter space.
  • The machines can be a bit more complicated and harder to fix if parts break.


An espresso machine is the ideal option for those who don’t mind putting a little money into their beverages.

While the machines can initially be rather expensive, most people find that over time they are able to save money over buying espressos in coffee shops regularly.

It’s also a fantastic option if you want something very strong.

Espresso drinks are often on the smaller side, but pack a real punch as far as caffeine goes.

Do keep in mind that you may need to offer up some counter space for some machines!

However, in many cases the delicious results are worth it.

The Coffee

strong coffee


The drinks you can get from both of these devices are quite different.

Generally speaking, the coffee you get from a percolator is going to be pretty standard.

Aside from any changes you may choose to make to the ratio, it’s going to be similar to what you’d get from a drip-style coffee maker.

That said, it can often provide more flavor and a stronger overall taste. Many prefer this to options they’d consider to be “watered-down”.

It’s very much a simple process that creates a strong, flavorful result that you can drink however you choose to.

On the other hand, the beverages made with an espresso machine can be far more versatile.

This really depends on the machine you get and what it’s capable of doing.

In addition, this option is also likely to be far more automatic.

Many find that espresso drinks are stronger and provide more benefits in a smaller cup.

That can be very helpful in getting your coffee boost without consuming a great deal of extra calories.

If you’re new to both of these options, it might be a good idea to try out each, and see which one you enjoy more.


When we think about strength, many of us are considering just how much of a boost we’ll get from a certain drink.

With espresso, you’re going to be likely to get a lot of strength in a much smaller serving.

Based on that, it’s typically the more effective between the two kinds of beverages.

That said, not everyone wants espresso. The drinks can seem overly complicated, the machines can be expensive and some prefer to keep their equipment simple.

In those circumstances, users can turn to percolated coffee to meet their caffeine needs.

Of course, this is going to depend on the roast used as well as how long the percolator can run.

If it doesn’t run long enough, the drink isn’t going to be very strong.

You will also need to make sure that the water can run at the ideal temperature for a longer period of time.

This can take a little more focus than many espresso machines out there!

Cost of Brewing

There are a few different prices that are important to keep in mind.

Initially, the beginning cost of making espresso with an espresso maker can be much higher than the price of getting a percolator.

However, after that point, the pricing levels can even out.

This can of course depend on what you choose to include in your espresso or coffee.

Things like creamers, sugar, milk and other products can increase the overall cost.

Because of that, it’s important to think about which device you’re likely to get the greatest value from.

Both of these options have a lot to offer, but their results can be quite different.

Due to that, the method you choose will be up to your individual tastes.

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!