Percolators are underrated

One of the big things about working in an office, was the unlimited coffee which our employers offered us in an effort to keep us working as hard as possible during our time at the office. When COVID hit, most of us who were regulars in our corporate breakrooms began buying more coffee personally than we’d ever bought before. It quickly got expensive, particularly if you developed a taste for the fancy stuff – or even just the convenient stuff. In the office, I usually went through somewhere around 6-8 cups of black coffee over a 10 hour or so working period. More if I had a lot of meetings, because it’s easier to pay attention to the meeting if you have a cup of coffee to regularly burn your mouth on in order to maintain mental presence. Some meetings required two cups. No, I am not kidding. I really do dislike meetings that much.

Note: Links to all of the products mentioned are at the bottom. The products are affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission if you make a purchase through one of these links. The 3D printed object is hosted on my own site though, so therefore I only earn your irritation from that.

Averaging seven k-cups a day, even of the cheapest coffee, will cost around $0.36 * 7 = $2.52. This is still far cheaper than even a single cup from a coffee shop on a daily basis, but it still stacks up to almost $100/mo for a single worker. This made me think about trying to get k-cups cheaper, and I briefly considered using those reusable cups, and then I remembered what my grandfather used to do – he used a percolator. His was a majestic, stainless steel tank of a percolator with a beautiful glass knob on top, so that you could see the boiling water splashing up inside before it dripped down through the grounds and became coffee. New ones with this design feature are rare, and it’s probably because children burned their hands grabbing the neat glass knob. Well, what do you expect? It was probably built in the 50s, and no one had invented transparent asbestos to use instead of glass. Lawn darts had just been invented. Go play with those instead.

As of 5/2/24, running the percolator is cheap. Grounds are 40c/oz or so, versus Maxwell House budget k-cups at 36c each. Each 12-cup pot uses 1.8oz of grounds, for a cost of 72c for 12 cups (96 fluid ounces). With my 15oz coffee cup, that’s approximately six cups per percolator, at a normal concentration level. In terms of taste, the percolator coffee is certainly stronger, partially because I am drinking a k-cup from a 15oz cup and the machine is watering it down. If I were brewing k-cups into a smaller cup for better flavor, the price balance tips farther in the percolator’s favor because then the percolator’s 96oz capacity then replaces 12 k-cups ($4.32) and not 6 ($2.16). Either way, the percolator is costing me 72c at 40c/oz, and I did see some coffee grounds at 29c/oz. If I used that, using the percolator would only cost 52c to brew a full pot!

K-cups have a convenience point in that they’re nearly instant, but they aren’t quite instant – the machine still takes a while to produce your cup of coffee. If you have the time to wait, you can do other things like grab a snack or fiddle with something else, but you don’t always. Though the electric percolator does require an investment of time to change out the grounds (5min), and the brew time on the coffee is around 20min, it’s easy to work around it. You aren’t refilling the water reservoir at random times, and the percolator keeps your coffee hot and instantly ready to pour for the whole day. I have a k-cup machine and a percolator of course, so if I do need coffee and can’t take the time to brew a fresh pot, I can just fall back to a k-cup. I don’t hate k-cups, I simply regard them as a less cost-effective backup method.

On a side note, I drink my coffee black, which means mine has roughly 2 calories per 8oz. So my large 15oz cup contains nearly 4 calories. If you put in sugar and/or creamer, do take note of the calories because it can add up to quite a bit. This is especially true if you do get a percolator and start drinking through a pot a day of it. In other news, coffee is generally considered good for your liver, so at least I’ve got one organ likely to stay in good working order.

Keep in mind that although leaving your percolator plugged in will keep the coffee warm all day, it will also tend to burn it. After a few days, you will be drinking a very dark sludge. But you might consider this a feature, and not a bug. Personally, I tend to plug the percolator in at the start of work and unplug either when it’s empty or when I cut out for dinner. Usually I go through a percolator in about a day and a half. Once you plug it back in, it just reheats the coffee to the normal temperature and it’s ready to drink again, and it won’t have burned the coffee nearly as much as if you left it overnight.

Items in this article:

  • Presto 12-cup electric percolator:
  • Maxwell House house blend medium k-cups:
    Note that ‘house blend’ usually means ‘we use whatever random grounds are remnants from other batches we make, and after that whatever’s cheap’. If you’re looking at it, it’s because you’re trying to buy cheap coffee, so don’t be surprised why it’s cheap.
  • Bulk coffee grounds:
    Note: I see there are some grounds all the way down to $0.29/oz. This tips the winner of ‘cheap coffee’ even further towards the percolator.
  • The file for my 3D printed coffee scoop: here.
  • The food-safe resin that one uses to seal the scoop’s surface so that it doesn’t get nasty:

And below is a 3D preview of my oh-so-exciting scoop file. You can click on it and drag to scroll around if you’re so inclined.






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