Thursday, April 23, 2009

Vintage Percolator

My mom has an old percolator that had belonged to her and my dad. Last Sunday, I went over her house to do some garden and yard work for her, and I cooked her a big Sunday breakfast, brewing dark roast coffee in the percolator. Needless to say, I just couldn't resist taking a few photos of it, and posting them here. It amazes me how so very few people nowadays even know what a percolator is, never mind how one goes about using it to make coffee! In my opinion, nothing tastes better than freshly perked coffee.

For those who are unfamiliar with this simple, but effective, piece of technology, there is a strainer sitting on top of a hollow tube. The tube has a flare at the bottom. Ground coffee is placed in the strainer, and the strainer-tube assembly is lowered into the percolator, which is filled with fresh water. You put the lid on and then place it over a flame on your stove top, and as the water begins to boil, it "perks" up through the tube, is caught by the little glass plug on top, is deflected back down into the strainer, flows through the coffee grinds, and then drains back into the percolator's main body. And after a few minutes of that, you have the best imaginable tasting coffee in the world!

My parents' percolator spent many, many years in the same old pot closet, and has numerous dings in its sides from all the times larger pots and pans had either crashed into it, or it accidentally fell off a shelf and down on to the floor. In the photo below, you can see some of the worst of these dents. You can also see gradations on the side near the handle, that allow you to determine approximately how many cups you're going to brew, by measuring how much water you've put in:

This next photo shows the front of the percolator, and its slightly dented spout:

Few people today use percolators. It's really a shame, in a way, especially given all the emphasis these days on great tasting and exotic coffees. Of course, you can still find suppliers of new percolators online, as well as vintage percolators for sale. But for the serious caffeine lover, there is just no better means of preparing a great tasting cup of coffee!

[And by the way, this posting is dedicated to my fellow caffeine-addict and blogger, TheCaffeinatedLibrarian, who also shares my appreciation of old, vintage percolators! ]


Shellmo said...

This is a classic! I like this percolator - seems like a funner way to make coffee!

juliana inman said...

A percolator and an electric frying pan were the "kitchen" on my first house rehab. project. The kitchen sink was the claw-foot tub. Ah, the sound and aroma of the coffee burbling through the percolator at 6:00 am - had to be at work on the construction site at 7:00. This was on the North Carolina Governor's Mansion:

Baby Rocket Dog and Hootie said...

I had a small percolator with our camping gear. Have no idea what happened to that when we down sized. Now that you mention it,I think I'll find another to make small batches of yummy coffee. (I have to severly limit my caffeine cuz it drives me up a wall.) What a good son you are to make your momma breakfast.Does she appreciate it?
Signing off using the dogsblog as I'm too lazy to switch over to mine.Your long lost cousin,Cassie

Caffeinated Librarian said...

I told my mom about your percolator and she was able to peg the family member who had one - my step-grandmother, who I've always liked and who always had the neatest stuff.

But even my mom remembered me being fascinated by the percolator, so it must have made quite an impression on my child self. Good job with the explanation, dude.

John Poole said...

Shelley ~ It's definitely a funner way to make coffee, especially given that that percolator is so old and clunky. For example, the little glass cap doesn't fasten to the top all that well. Sometimes, if you have a really good perk going, it will come flying off! (coffee all over the stove). Great breakfast time entertainment!

Cousin Elinore ~ Love to hear stories about roughing it in the early days of a project or vocation! That sounds like it must have been a great project. And what a beautiful job you did! (I would expect nothing less, of course). Thanks for the JPEG! It's going in my house file.

Cassie ~ Definitely consider getting a new percolator. No better way to make fresh coffee. And does my mom appreciate my making breakfast? Well, as long as I don't mess it up (like overcooking the coffee LOL!), then I think she's pretty happy. Thanks!

Liby ~ Interesting how things like kitchen appliances make a lasting impression on you when you see them in action at a young age. In my own case, that percolator and the electric egg beater likewise made quite an impression on my own child self. And thanks re my explanation and for the link on your posting!

SP said...

I have a percolator, but I never use it since I don't drink coffee. It just sits in my cabinet and looks pretty...unlike yours which looks like it was caught in a tornado! :D

John Poole said...

SP ~ Hey! It looks like it's been through a hurricane because of all the love it's received over the years. And if you want to sell that unused percolator, I'll consider buying it from you. I am always in the market for these things. :-)

Norman Stolpe said...

I stumbled on your blog looking for a photo of a coffee perkolator to use with my Sunday sermon. Though I am not a coffee drinker myself (personal taste, not conviction), the aroma of my parents' perking coffee is strongly associated with my memories of home. I loved the pix and your story.

Norman Stolpe

IF you like, you can see my blog at

John Poole said...

Norman ~ Thanks much for the visit. Glad you enjoyed the article and that it reminded you of growing up. That aroma has the same effect on me. Good luck with your sermon!

AlexandraFunFit said...

I will read anything that has the words "fresh" and "perky" in it. Oh, wait, you said "perked." Who cares. You got my attention. And I love the smell, but can only drink decaf. Can you imagine what percolated coffee wold do to me?