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The history of coffee is abounding with unique brewing devices, from Turkey’s centuries-old ibrik to the modern-day AeroPress. Percolators inhabit a large space in this history as well, remembered as one of the most popular coffee makers in the late 1800s into the early 1900s.
The kettle-shaped device has undergone changes in style and popularity over the years but has always worked by forcing hot water up through an internal tube and then dripping the water over coffee grounds. The downside of this process is that it’s easy to overcook the coffee and get a burnt and bitter cup of joe.
While this remains a concern, it is preventable and shouldn't ward off interested customers. The items on this list offer select advantages over standard coffee makers, including their affordability, ease of use, and compact size.
Here are the best coffee percolators to buy.
Best Overall: Farberware Yosemite Coffee Percolator
Easy to use
Two sizes available
Some say handle gets hot
Can leak while pouring
This Farberware percolator looks like it would be at home in a 1950s kitchen, yet it’s not so retro that it would clash with a modern kitchen. It has a polished stainless steel exterior and a glass knob (or plastic, depending on the item size) so you can watch the coffee as it brews.
You can purchase the item in either an 8- or 12-cup model. The filter basket is designed so you don’t need paper filters, so you won’t need to buy anything but your favorite coffee beans. When you’re done brewing, this is dishwasher safe, for effortless cleaning.
Style: Stovetop | Capacity: 8 and 12 cups | Dishwasher-safe: Yes (except for knob and pump tube spring) | Dimensions: 8.5 x 7 x 9.25 inches
"This percolator comes with several great features like a large capacity and lifetime warranty; plus, it can be put in the dishwasher for easy cleaning." — Derek Rose, Coffee and Tea Expert for The Spruce Eats
Best Electric: Cuisinart Classic 12-Cup Coffee Percolator
Easy to use
Mixed reviews on coffee temperature
If you don’t want to monitor your percolator while it brews on the stove, this electric model from Cuisinart automates the process. Just add water and coffee grounds, plug it in (there's no on/off switch), and you're good to go. The item lets you know when brewing is done with an indicator light. It holds up to 12 cups of coffee, which is about as large as it gets for a percolator.
The spout is designed for elegant, mess-free pouring, so you can serve with style. And the 36-inch cord is detachable, meaning it won’t get in the way when you’re serving; plus it can save room if you want to store the percolator in a cupboard. Note that this is fairly expensive for an electric percolator, so there are cheaper options out there for those looking to save money.
Style: Electric | Capacity: 12 cups | Dishwasher-safe: No | Dimensions: 6.25 x 9.25 x 12.25 inches
Best Budget: Primula 9-Cup Coffee Percolator
Good for camping
The price is right on this 9-cup percolator. The pot, lid, screen filter, and basket are all made from aluminum, so this is lightweight yet safe to use on the stove or when you’re camping. However, it won’t work on induction cooktops. The clear top knob lets you watch the brewing process, and the plastic handle stays cool while you brew.
Style: Stovetop | Capacity: 9 cups | Dishwasher-safe: No | Dimensions: 7.8 x 4.96 x 7.48 inches
Best Stovetop: Cook N Home 8-Cup Coffee Percolator
Exterior size markings
Another affordably priced percolator, this 8-cup device will brew rich coffee cof, all while looking stylish on the stovetop. The item has a classic percolator silhouette but is updated with a few modern touches, including a large ergonomic handle and markings on the back to show the amount of liquid.
Users say the coffee takes roughly 10 minutes to brew, and you can keep track of the process by watching through the clear knob on top of the lid. Just keep in mind that, like many percolators, this one is not suited for induction cooktops. It is dishwasher safe, however, which is a big bonus considering percolators can require frequent cleaning.
Style: Stovetop | Capacity: 8 cups | Dishwasher-safe: Yes | Dimensions: 5 x 8 x 8 inches
Best Large Capacity: Capresso Perk 12-Cup Percolator
No automatic shutoff
This 12-cup coffee maker is great for families who want more than just a cup or two of coffee, or for serving a cup after a dinner party, but it can also brew as little as four cups when you don’t need a full pot. It’s made from stainless steel and has an automatic keep-warm function, so you can get the pot set up before dinner and it will wait until guests are ready for their after-dinner brew. If you need a second round of coffee, this brews a pot in less than a minute.
This makes it easy to set up, since there are markings inside for coffee and water amounts, so you don’t need to measure. When it’s time to serve, the cord is detachable, so it won’t get in the way, and the spout is designed to be drip free. This should be hand washed.
Style: Electric | Capacity: 8 and 12 cups | Dishwasher-safe: No | Dimensions: 8 x 5 x 12 inches (12-cup model)
Best for Camping: GSI Enamel 12-Cup Coffee Percolator
Easy to clean
Flimsy aluminum handle clasp
Enamel can chip
Camping trips aren't complete without a fresh cup of coffee in the morning. This percolator from GSI Outdoors not only looks the part with its rustic design, it also brews delicious coffee in minutes. The percolator is compatible for use on both stovetops and grills over open fires. It’s easy to keep clean so there’s not a lot of fuss required when you’re camping, and it's dishwasher safe should you want to clean it at home. Available in multiple sizes, the percolator is big enough for several friends or family members sitting around those late-night fires.
The item is made from a lightweight enamel that makes it easy to pack, but some customers say the coating can chip off. Another downside is a small plastic knob on top of the lid that can get hot or even melt if the flames catch it. So do be wary of that while using.
Style: Stovetop | Capacity: 8 and 12 cups | Dishwasher-safe: Yes | Dimensions: 8.7 x 7 x 10.2 inches (12-cup model)
Best Design: Medelco 8-Cup Glass Stovetop Percolator
Can see amount of coffee
Easy to clean
Some plastic parts
While a clear top knob lets you watch the brewing process, this glass percolator lets you watch the color of the coffee as it transforms from clear water to richly brewed coffee. If you prefer a lighter brew, this also lets you stop the process early, when the coffee is the color you prefer. This brews up to eight cups of coffee.
The glass is borosilicate, so it’s resistant to thermal shock and compatible to use on the stove. The handle made from phenolic plastic and is designed to stay cool during cooking. The lid is made from the same material as the handle, so it also remains cool during brewing and serving. A heat diffuser is included with this pot so it can safely be used on coil-style electric stoves. When cooking is done, this is dishwasher safe.
Style: Stovetop | Capacity: 8 cups | Dishwasher-safe: Yes (top rack only) | Dimensions: 7.44 x 5.5 x 7.31 inches
Best Small Capacity: Tops Rapid Brew Stovetop Coffee Percolator
Wood handle stays cool
Multiple sizes available
Exterior size markings
Grounds occasionally get into coffee
Great for couples, small kitchens, and for people who simply don’t have storage space for a larger pot, this makes just a few cups of coffee (about two to three) so you won’t have waste from brewing too much. This is made from stainless steel with a glass top knob and a laminated wood handle with brass rivets, while the pump and basket are aluminum. There are internal markings so you won’t have to measure the coffee, so your morning will be easy.
Style: Stovetop | Capacity: 6, 9, and 12 cups | Dishwasher-safe: Yes | Dimensions: 5.5 x 9.75 x 8.75 inches (6-cup model)
Sleek, durable, and reasonably priced, the Farberware Classic Yosemite embodies exactly what we love about coffee percolators. All you have to do is fill it up and put it on the stovetop for reliably delicious coffee every morning. If you're looking for an even more budget-friendly option, go with the Primula 9-Cup Coffee Percolator.
What to Look for in a Coffee Percolator
Stovetop vs. Electric
A good starting point when looking for a coffee percolator is deciding whether you want a stovetop or an electric model. Stovetop percolators are more common, more affordable, and typically dishwasher safe. Electric percolators, on the other hand, offer more convenience when brewing and may make more coffee at once.
One reason to buy coffee percolators is that they are quite affordable, generally even cheaper than standard drip coffee makers. The capacity of a percolator often affects its price, meaning that larger items are more expensive. Customers should also expect electric percolators to cost more than stovetop models.
Since coffee percolators don't use paper filters, they can be a little harder to clean. If this is a major issue for you, consider a percolator that is dishwasher safe. Luckily, dishwasher-safe options are easy to find. Otherwise, be prepared to rinse several little pieces by hand after each use.
What grind size should I use?
Coarse-ground beans are the best choice for coffee percolators. Brewing methods where coffee grounds and water stay in contact for long periods of time require a coarser grind so that the flavors are released more gradually. Finely ground coffee beans would diffuse too quickly and lead to an extremely bitter taste. Percolators, French presses, and cold brew coffee makers all have long contact times and subsequently work best with coarse-ground coffee. Keep in mind that there are stovetop percolators (namely moka pots) designed to brew espresso-like coffee; these devices require finely ground beans instead.
How long does it take a percolator to brew?
The recommended brew time for a stovetop percolator is six to 10 minutes. This doesn’t include the time it takes for the water to start boiling, however, so the overall process can end up closer to 15 or 20 minutes. Brew time varies a little more for electric percolators, largely because these devices heat up water at different speeds. Many electric percolators follow a one-cup-per-minute rule. This means it will take 10 minutes to brew 10 cups of coffee, 12 minutes for 12 cups, and so on. Make sure you don’t leave your percolator on for too long: they are especially finicky devices and brewing for even a couple minutes too long can lead to burnt and bitter coffee.
How do you clean a percolator?
After each use, the carafe and filter basket should be rinsed and wiped down with a dishcloth or non-abrasive brush. Those who own an electric percolator are advised to avoid getting the base of the device wet when cleaning. For a more thorough clean, fill the percolator with water, add a few tablespoons of baking soda to the filter basket, and brew like normal. The combination of baking soda and hot water will remove limescale buildup and potentially get rid of set-in coffee stains. Before performing any of these cleaning tasks, however, check if your percolator is dishwasher-safe. Many stovetop percolators can be disassembled and placed in the dishwasher for a much simpler cleaning process.
How much coffee should I use?
The general rule when using a percolator is 1 tablespoon of coarse-ground coffee for every cup of water. This simple 1:1 ratio should consistently brew a rich and delicious cup of joe. That being said, percolator owners should feel free to experiment with their own coffee-to-water measurements to find the flavor that best suits their taste.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie is a freelance food writer who specializes in product reviews and recipes. Her work has appeared on Serious Eats, Fine Cooking, and her own recipe blog, Cookistry.com. She's also the author of "Make Ahead Bread", a cookbook meant to simplify the bread-baking process.
This piece was updated by Derek Rose, the coffee and tea expert for The Spruce Eats. He researches a variety of coffee products, from measuring scoops to commercial espresso machines, and interviews field experts for their insight.