Percolating Dissent

Michael Ruhlman wants people to “wake up” and smell the coffee in the percolator. That’s right—the Culinary Institute grad and author of The Making of a Chef and The Elements of Cooking prefers his coffee from an old-fashioned percolator. And he drinks Folgers:

I serve generic decaf to guests and they’re begging to know what kind of coffee I buy. Swear to God. I haul out the big green can to prove it. Coffee [snobs] will say percolated coffee is ‘over-extracted.’ I call it very strong, rich coffee that’s piping hot and stays hot without burning. [That’s] its biggest advantage—percolators keep the coffee HOT, auto-drips burn it.

So, Ruhlman asks, “Where did the percolator go?” How did the drip machine come to dominate? It’s not much more convenient, it makes coffee that’s “at best OK,” and “instead of the aromatic, enticing rush of gurgly percolation—one of the daily pleasures of this device—you get instead the sound of someone tinkling.”

Mark Prince, of CoffeeGeek.com, seriously disagrees. Posting on Boing Boing Gadgets, he says, “This article would be the equivalent of Robert Parker talking up the virtues of Mad Dog 20/20, if Ruhlman was anywhere near Parker’s stature. It’s garbage.” Perked coffee, says Prince, is boiled and reboiled, and therefore bitter, losing the subtle flavors of any good coffee bean.

The coffee fanatics at Coffeefaq.com had this discussion back in 2006, and brought up some of the same pros and cons.

Looks like this’ll be an ongoing argument. Somebody better put the Folgers on.