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Percolated vs. French Press Coffee

Differences and Similarities

When you’re trying to decide on percolated vs. French press coffee, there are a lot of things to consider. I actually enjoy both, but my preference is percolated, mainly because when I use a French press, I somehow manage to get coffee grounds in the brew.

percolator, French press, and cup of coffee

For those of us who enjoy starting the day with a cup of coffee, we tend to get rather personal with it. Part of my morning routine is flipping the switch on the coffee pot as soon as I get up. Then I choose the mug that I’m in the mood for while it brews.

Two of the popular methods are the percolator and the French press. I also like using my drip coffee maker. And in my mind, they’re all good. Read on to see the differences and similarities that will make you think about what’s important to you when you drink coffee.

I’ve found that this coffee smoothie is better when made with coffee from a French press. However, when I’m simply enjoying a cup of coffee on its own, I like either method.

Coffee Smoothie with a Cherry
Coffee Smoothie

Brewing Basics

The first thing I want to share is how each method works since that’s where the differences lie. Percolators use a process where water is heated in the bottom and then repeatedly goes up through the coffee grounds via a tube. 

As the water drips down over the coffee grounds and drips back into the bottom, it brings the flavor of the coffee with it. The process repeats several times, allowing the flavor to develop as the water keeps passing through the grounds.

silver coffee percolator

With a French press, you pour the coffee grounds into the device and add hot water over them. The water is infused by the coarsely ground coffee at the bottom of the press. Let it steep long enough to flavor the coffee as strong as you want it. 

I like to steep my coffee for around 5 minutes. When the coffee is the strength you like, press the plunger with a mesh filter down to separate the grounds from the liquid. Now the coffee is ready to pour into your mug or cup.

silver French press

Flavor and Texture

The flavor and texture of the coffee produced by these two methods can be quite different. Percolators often yield a stronger, somewhat bolder flavor. Since the water passes through the grounds multiple times, 

it can extract a lot of the coffee’s oils and flavors. However, this can sometimes lead to over-extraction, making the coffee taste a bit bitter or too strong if not watched closely.

French press coffee is known for its rich, full-bodied flavor. The direct contact between the water and coffee grounds ensures a thorough extraction of flavors. Plus, the mesh filter allows more of the coffee’s natural oils and fine particles to remain in the brew, which adds to its richness and complexity. The result is a smoother cup of coffee.

French press and cup of coffee on a saucer with a spoon

Ease of Use and Cleanup

Both methods have their issues when it comes to ease of use and cleanup. Using a percolator can be a bit of an art form. You need to keep an eye on it to prevent over-extraction and bitterness. Cleanup can also be more difficult due to the multiple parts involved.

The French press is straightforward to use but does require a bit of precision with timing and temperature to get the perfect brew. Cleanup is generally easier than a percolator since you only need to dispose of the grounds and rinse the press.


Despite their differences, percolators and French presses share some common ground. Both are manual coffee-making methods that give you control over the brewing temperature and time, unlike many automatic machines. This control can be a huge advantage for coffee lovers.

Additionally, both methods are quite traditional and have stood the test of time. They don’t require electricity, which can be excellent for off-grid situations or enjoying a cup of coffee while camping.

Electric Drip Coffee Maker

There’s another common style of coffee maker that I don’t want to leave out. A drip coffee maker heats water and pumps it upwards to drip over a basket of ground coffee. The hot water extracts flavors from the grounds, passing through a filter into a carafe below. This process brews the coffee, which collects in the carafe, ready to serve.

What to Serve with Coffee

Since I typically have 2 cups of coffee every morning, I like to have a delicious breakfast of fluffy scrambled eggs and either sausage or air fried bacon.

My husband loves this yummy French toast casserole. We both enjoy a heaping helping of cheesy grits casserole and a side of flaky buttermilk biscuits.

Occasionally I invite someone over for coffee. When I do that, I like to include a plate of some of my favorite cookies. These super easy but immensely flavorful butterscotch pecan cookies are wonderful with coffee. If you want to see more ideas, check out these cookies to serve with coffee.

Choose Your Method

Whether you prefer the bold, ongoing dance of water and grounds in a percolator or the rich steep of a French press, both methods offer a satisfying cup of coffee. They cater to different tastes and preferences, providing distinct experiences from the same beloved beans. So, next time you’re brewing a cup, whether you choose the percolator or the French press, remember to enjoy each sip.

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