Espresso Machine Resources


Brewing Wars: Vacuum Brew vs. The Percolator


While there are a number of different methods used to brew coffee in today’s modern coffee world, two of the most commonly used household methods are the percolator method and the vacuum brew. Both methods vary slightly from each other in terms of when the coffee and water are introduced to each other, the temperature at which the coffee is brewed, and how the liquid is removed from the grounds.


It’s really a matter of personal taste, determining which kind of brew tastes best, and it might help to have a bit of an idea as to how each of these brewing processes work.


Percolator Coffee


Percolating is a coffee-making procedure that involves the continual brewing of coffee grounds, allowing boiling water to roll over the grounds for an extended period of time. Eventually, the boiling water turns to boiling liquid coffee, resulting in overextracted grounds.


Many coffee connoisseurs believe this coffee-making method is an insult to the precious bean, as it tends to overextract the properties of the grounds, while also using boiling water to make the coffee. Continuous boiling of the liquid then results in a somewhat bitter and thin cup of coffee, however, it may be argued that bad percolator coffee tends to be the result of a poorly made coffee making machine.


Vacuum Brew Coffee


A vacuum brew coffee maker looks a lot more elegant than most machines, and at first glance, simply doesn’t look like a coffee maker at all! Two glass globes fit together to make the vacuum brewer, and these are held together with an airtight seal. In between the globes, there is a filter that separates the coffee grounds from the liquid, with the grounds placed in the upper globe – sitting on top of the filter – and the required amount of water needed to brew the grounds is placed in the lower globe.


With the globes fitted together, the water is then heated until it reaches a boil. Pressure in the lower globe will increase as the water boils, forcing it up a tube that connects the two globes together, and releasing the water overtop the coffee grounds. After all the water has been forced through the tube and into the upper globe, the machine is taken off the heat source and the lower globe allowed to cool down. As the lower globe returns to room temperature, the pressure in the globe decreases, vacuuming the now-brewed coffee down through the filter and into the bottom globe.


When all the liquid has been sucked into the lower globe, it can then be removed and enjoyed! Of course, there are downsides to this method. While watching a vacuum brewer make a pot of coffee can be a fascinating experience, coffee connoisseurs hold reservations about some of its functional aspects. Like the percolator, boiling water is used to make the coffee, whereas water at around 195-205 F is ideal to get the best quality out of the coffee grinds. A second issue is that the water isn’t in contact with the coffee grounds for very long – it’s basically poured over once, and sucked back down immediately. This may produce weak coffee, and it also has the potential to miss out on the full force of the grinds.



Though both coffee-making methods are popular, more coffee connoisseurs would tend to choose vacuum brewed coffee over the percolator method. Why is that? Newer vacuum brew machines are getting better at regulating the time the water spends over the grounds, and a number of popular coffee franchises have even begun to sell their own versions of vacuum brewers. Though there are downsides and upsides to both kinds of coffees, at the very least, vacuum brewers are more exciting to watch! 


To learn about other types or coffee brewers, or to get one, go to Coffee Makers.


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