Percolators are no longer seen because they have been supplanted by coffee makers, French presses and espresso machines.
A coffee percolator is a device designed to be used in the preparation of coffee. The percolator was actually the original coffee brewing device, though not commonly seen today, having been supplanted by drip coffee makers, French presses, and espresso machines. The flavor of percolator coffee is quite characteristic, and some people consider it an acquired taste; it also takes skill to learn how to use a colander correctly, as it is easy to spoil coffee using a colander.
If used incorrectly, a colander can overextract the coffee beans and make the coffee taste bitter.
The coffee percolator contains several parts, contained within the percolator itself, which looks more like an urn. Working from top to bottom, the percolator has a spout that allows people to pour the coffee, along with a lid that is normally transparent so people can check how the coffee is coming out. Then there is a perforated chamber designed to contain coarsely ground coffee. Connected to the chamber is a tube, which goes to the bottom of the colander, making contact with a chamber that keeps the water close to a heat source.
To use a coffee percolator, the pot is placed over a heat source, such as a stove or campfire. As the water in the lower chamber heats up, it is forced up the tube, where it gushes over the ground, making a very distinctive sound. Hot water seeps or seeps into the coffee grounds, eventually dripping back into the lower chamber. When coffee is well filtered, the water never reaches the boiling point and the coffee can be quite strong.
The biggest danger for a coffee percolator is that it is easy to overextract the beans, creating a bitter coffee with an unpleasant taste and aroma. Excessive extraction occurs due to using too hot water, or because the coffee is re-brewed, running the hot coffee through the beans instead of the hot water, removing volatile coffee aromas in the second pass. When a coffee percolator is used correctly, these two problems can be avoided.
Several companies manufacture electric coffee makers with sophisticated controls, designed to extract the best coffee possible. If you use a colander on the stove or fire, however, you’ll need to watch it carefully to ensure it ferments well. It may take some experimentation to create the perfect coffee with a percolator, so be patient and plan on making a few tries before making the coffee of your dreams.