Lament for Perked Coffee

July 15, 2011

Leigh Page misses the percolator, or rather, the coffee from the old standbys that used to be the only coffee maker in everyone’s kitchen. It is the aroma of the coffee made by this method that she misses the most. She shares an interesting story of the percolator’s history and lists the pros and cons of this traditional coffee pot. Page recounts a noteworthy story of how the coffee percolator came to be. An American soldier with a dislike for tea invented perked coffee in the 1800’s. All that was needed was an open fire, which also attracted the cowboys of the “Old West”, and it soon became a staple with them. The percolator had no real competition until the 1970’s when the automatic drip coffee maker became the rage and rendered the perk less desirable. Percolators are still popular for those who need the high volume offered by the large capacity coffee urns. These are still a fixture at churches and social clubs. It might be a short-lived popularity, though, as the single-serve coffee pod/capsule machines are quickly making inroads into many institutional settings. The current gourmet coffee culture is cited by Page as she asks if any coffee shops still sell “a real cup of percolated coffee”. She states coffee lovers now are paying more attention to the taste of coffee and brewing methods, which have taken many forms. She lists the French press, drip and espresso coffee makers as examples. Even with all the cons she lists to go with the pros of percolating, she still is loyal to the values of her perked variety. Actually, Page’s facts show that the lamented percolator had a longer stretch of starring as the home coffee maker than any other system. It was virtually THE only mode of coffee making for a century or more. Technology changes so fast now; it wasn’t that long ago that the drip machines were the ones to have. Now the choices are incredibly extensive. That soldier could today choose many ways to pack a coffee maker that will brew excellent coffee on the open flame. He could choose between many models of the Moka and enjoy espresso, or he could also choose many portable versions of the French press, not to mention pour overs. Now he wouldn’t even have to have the open flame, as he could brew coffee cold and drink it iced, a whole new coffee experience. Yes, many coffee lovers born before the 60’s still recall with nostalgia the aroma and gurgling of the old perks. Many of us got hooked on coffee by these twin sensory experiences. These are still available in updated versions though, so Page’s lament may be premature. Perk on.



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