Are you the type of person that gets confused and repelled by those big coffee machines, whether it be a simple Keurig or a giant espresso machine?
I am, and not only because they seem unnecessarily complicated but also because they take too much space, make too much noise, and because they are not exactly budget-friendly or even easily-maintainable.
That’s why I prefer simpler yet no less effective coffee brewing methods which require a French press or percolator. They are pretty much able to produce good cups of coffee, and the brewing techniques you use with them make you feel like you are actually doing something.
However, considerations while choosing a coffee maker over another don’t end here because a further question ensues: which one is better? The French press or the percolator?
To lay that question to rest, let’s dive into the specifics of each and compare them based on further criteria.
Table of Contents
The French Press
The French press, or cafetière as the French call it, is a combination of a beaker made from glass, stainless steel, or ceramic and a plunger with a metal filter, and its operating principles are as simple as it gets. Furthermore, it produces great coffee, the strength of which is for you to decide.
Put coffee grounds into it, pour over some hot water, let the plunger apply some pressure on your brew to achieve extraction, and in a matter of a couple of minutes, you’ll have a well-brewed coffee in your hands.
The strength of the coffee is for you to decide
You can make light or strong coffee depending on the amount of time you allow it to brew. The ratio of the hot water and the coffee grounds you put in also affects the strength of your coffee. Both of these elements can be experimented with, too, if you are aspiring to be the barista of your own household.
It makes healthier and rich-tasting coffee
More importantly, though, the coffee you make will be more flavorful than those made by coffee makers that have paper filters such as Keurig. Since paper filters tend to absorb oil, the coffee that seeps through them turns out to be less flavorful. Metal filters, on the other hand, allow the essential oils to spread during the brewing process. Not only does it make the flavor of your coffee richer, but it also releases antioxidants and nutrients that render it healthier.
Most suitable for single-serve brewing
You should bear in mind that French presses are mostly made for single-serve purposes. Therefore, if you are a coffee lover who cannot be satisfied with just a cup and who cannot spare time to brew over and over again, they might not be for you.
Sediments will get into your drink
While you’re pouring your drink, sediments will seep through the plunger and eventually into your cup, which might ward off more puritan coffee drinkers.
Recommendation of the Koobies Team
If you’re in the market for one, I can recommend Frieling USA Double-Walled Stainless-Steel French Press with peace of mind. While its plastic-free construction makes sure no toxic elements end up in your drink, its thermal carafe helps preserve the temperature inside whether it is hot or cold.
If you want more options, our team has covered that as well with reviews of the best French Press coffee makers of 2021.
Percolating is an old method of brewing, dating back to the early 19th century. Although it has lately lost its popularity, it’s still a great method that produces strong coffee in big batches.
Percolation means to filter slowly through a porous substance, and that’s exactly how a percolator pot prepares coffee. At the bottom of the percolator is a chamber for water where a tube sticks out and runs the length of the pot. A grate for coffee grounds sits just below the tube’s top.
When the water in the pot boils, steam rises through the tube into the upper chamber. With continuously boiling water, the pressure increases and the vapor condenses to a liquid. That liquid, in turn, “rains” over the coffee grounds and trickles back to the lower chamber, infused with coffee. It goes on until the desired strength is attained.
Percolators are present in the market in two forms: stovetop, which you should heat on a stove, and electric, which will heat by itself but still requiring your attention.
The coffee percolator is ideal to use when you need to make coffee for a group of people and don’t have enough time. It can brew a huge batch of coffee in an impressively short period.
Strong coffee due to its unique technique
The French press operates on immersion, while pour-overs rely on drip methods, but percolators use steam and condensation to get the best out of the coffee grounds, and the results are no less than wondrous. Coffee brewed by a percolator will have a strong and robust body.
Simple and budget-friendly
I have already said that it’s been around since the early 19th century, so you can trust my word when I also say that it’s a simple device. That simplicity reflects on its price too, and considering its effectiveness, a percolator will always seem like quite a bargain.
Requires your full attention
Neither the stovetops nor the electric ones can turn off when the desired temperature is acquired. Therefore, you need to monitor the whole process and decide when the coffee is ready to be consumed. If you fail to pay attention, you may end up with over-brewed and even burnt coffee.
Sediments will get into your drink
Similar to French presses, percolators also run the risk of sediments seeping into the end-product.
Recommendation of the Koobies Team
If you’re looking for a durable electric percolator that will brew big batches of coffee for you and your friends for years, I can wholeheartedly recommend you take a look at Farberware 12-Cup Stainless Steel Percolator.
The Koobies team was prepared in case you wanted to see more and has compiled a list of the best coffee percolators as well.
French Press vs Percolator
Now that I have covered the basics of both, it’s time to see how they fare against each other.
While comparing the two, there are of course certain criteria to bear in mind – all of which are related to your preferences.
- How much time are you willing to spend while preparing your beverage?
- Are you patient enough to watch over it during the brewing process?
- Which coffee grind size do you prefer? Fine or coarse?
- How do you like your coffee? Light or dark roast?
- Do you want to savor all the chocolatey and nutty flavors?
If these questions are important for you, keep on reading as I dive into the details.
Brew Time and Preparation
Let’s get the first step out of the way first for the sake of thoroughness: whether you’re using a French press or percolator, if you have coffee beans, you should put your grinder to use and obtain enough ground coffee.
After that, if you’re using a French press, you should boil some water. Once you pour the boiled water over the coffee grounds in your cafetière, it shouldn’t take more than five minutes for your brew to be ready.
However, that brew will only be a single-serve. Therefore, if you are brewing for more than one person or with sustainable consumption in mind, you will need to repeat the process over and over.
A percolator, on the other hand, doesn’t require you to pre-boil water as it heats the water itself and is capable of producing enough coffee for more than one person due to its capacity.
As I have mentioned earlier, there are two types of percolators – stovetop and electric – and brew time varies between those types and even their models, but on average, they brew coffee in 2-10 minutes. It’s pretty amazing considering you’ll have a huge amount of coffee in the end.
Ease of Use
I have already praised these devices enough because of their simplicity, but it doesn’t get any simpler than a French press when it comes to ease of use.
Except for the device itself, you only need grounds and hot water, and once you pour the water in, you can do anything you want until it’s brewed. That said, you won’t have time to do much since your beverage will be ready in less than five minutes.
Percolators are also simple devices, but there might be a slight concern about using them if you tend to be negligent like me.
Since they don’t have any built-in heat controllers and you have full control over the heating process, they require constant monitoring until the brew is finalized. The moment you decide to turn it off will also determine the strength of your coffee.
The Koobies team has already covered which grind size is better for both of these devices, but let me sum it up.
For both, you should use a coarse grind. Since coarser grounds have more surface compared to the finer ones, they are ideal to steep in water as you’d do with a French press. It’s no different for percolators either because the water passes over the grounds more than one time.
If you go on and use a fine grind size despite all the warnings, you’ll run the risk of over-extraction and a bitter, even undrinkable end-product. Moreover, fine-sized grounds will easily seep into your cup because they are smaller, and as a result, sediments will ruin what could otherwise be an enjoyable coffee break.
Light roast coffees tend to have chocolatey, nutty, or even fruity undertones, and the best way to extract those notes is by steeping the grounds for a while.
That can be achieved by a French press where the coffee grounds lie in the water for about five minutes on average. During that time, sediments will be fully immersed in hot water as well, which might render the drink a bit thick and gritty, but, as a result, it will have a full-bodied flavor, too.
However, that’s not the only way a French press improves the taste of your beverage. The absence of paper filters also means that the oil in the grounds will disperse into the drink and enrich the flavor, providing a strong and complex brew.
If you’re using an electric percolator, on the other hand, you should lower your expectations in terms of flavor. Yes, it will produce robust coffee, but since there is not much contact between hot water and grounds, the flavor will not be extracted as successfully as it could be by immersion.
Some stovetop versions may produce better-tasting output, but still, if you want to savor a rich beverage, they will not be enough either.
Therefore, if you have a percolator, you should stick with dark roast and enjoy its strength.
Ease of Clean-Up
Oh, yes! I agree – even without you objecting yet. Cleaning the plunger of a French press is, at first, unnecessarily arduous and that’s unbecoming for the simplicity of the device.
However, once you get the hang of it, you’ll see that it’s not that difficult and it’s worth the effort given the richness of the coffee.
Just unscrew it and rub it gently with a sponge and a couple of drops of soap. Also, make sure that it’s completely rinsed before you leave it to dry because you don’t want your coffee to have a soapy taste. That’s not exactly why a French press is known for its rich taste. Or… is it?
A percolator, though, is very easy to clean, and it’s a bit surprising considering you have just served coffee to like a hundred people with it.
Get rid of the grounds and rinse. Congratulations, you’re done!
Let’s wrap up with a basic yet comprehensive verdict.
If you are a solitary coffee-lover and want to savor all the flavors of your roast in a single cup of coffee after a hassle-free preparation, we recommend you get a French press.
If you are a sociable person who wants to entertain their guests with a potent albeit less flavorful cup of coffee (might work wonders on a morning after a night of partying), we recommend you opt for a percolator.