French Press vs Percolator

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Last updated on December 26, 2023


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In the sea of passionate and polarizing coffee debates, both the French press and percolator hold their distinctive charm.

Many will blame it on nostalgia or trendy resurgence, but it’s clear that they draw out distinct flavors from your coffee beans that other methods can’t match.

But where does one excel while the other falls short? Understanding the strengths and quirks of each can guide you to the brew that sings to your moment.

After Reading this Article, You Will . . . 

●     Understand the different brewing processes of a French press and a percolator, and how this impacts flavor, aroma, and texture.

●     See a comparison of flavor profile, serving size, ease of use, cleanup, brew time, and price between a French press and percolator. 

●    Learn about a few of our favorite French press and percolator models. 

●     Understand the most notable steps to brewing amazing coffee in both a French press and a percolator.

●     Have the answers to our most commonly asked questions in our designated FAQ section.

French Press (Quick Summary)


The French press employs what's termed “immersion brewing.” 

Unlike most brewing techniques where the rendezvous between coffee and water is brief, in a French press, they're left to get to know each other intimately for around 5 minutes. This prolonged interaction allows for a deep extraction of the coffee's natural oils.

When it's time to separate the brew, a metal mesh filter is depressed. Because this filter has larger holes than your typical paper filter, some fine coffee sediments and oils make their way into the cup. 

This process results in a fuller-bodied coffee, rich in flavor with a slightly velvety texture and a unique mouthfeel, often described as “gritty” or “textured” due to those fine sediments.

French Press


  • Full flavored brewsSimple to use
  • Easy to finetune
  • Affordable
  • Easy maintenance
  • Portable
  • Electric options available (however, most have poor reviews)


  • More sediment in your cup (unless using the James Hoffman method)
  • More fragile (if using glass)Not great for serving large parties
  • Coffee cools rapidly (stainless steel varieties retain heat better)

Percolator (Quick Summary)


The percolator operates on a principle of cyclical brewing

In contrast to methods where water passes through coffee grounds just once, in a percolator, water continuously cycles through the grounds, boiling and re-infusing repeatedly. 

Despite the constant recycling, each interaction between the water and the coffee is relatively brief, allowing for the extraction of those nuanced flavors without over-saturating. This repetitive dance continues until your desired coffee strength is achieved. 

In contrast to a French press, many percolators offer the option of a paper filter, leading to a significantly clearer cup. 

This process gives the percolator coffee its distinctive, clear-yet-robust profile, with an emphasis on the stronger, bolder flavors while retaining some of those subtle notes.



  • Bold flavor (but you can pick up subtler notes from your coffee)
  • Less sediment in your cup
  • Coffee stays hot for longer (due to constant heating while brewing)
  • Electric options available (provide a set-it-and-forget-it experience)
  • Portable and durable
  • Has an easier option for using a paper filter
  • Ideal for serving larger parties


  • Requires more monitoring (to avoid over-extraction)
  • Inconsistent results (difficult to control brew time and temperature)
  • Limited Product Options
  • More expensive (generally)

Which Is Better: French Press or Percolator?

Like most things in life, there are no absolutes here. I have multiple French presses, a stovetop percolator, and an electric percolator that all come out for different occasions. 

The important part is understanding their role and where they’re best suited.

Flavor Profile

Naturally, flavor should come first because if you don’t like the flavor of the coffee, then the conditions really don’t matter.

French Press

The French press is known for delivering a cup of coffee that's full-bodied, rich, with a slightly velvety texture. 

This method extracts the coffee's natural oils, often resulting in a layered coffee experience with a fine sediment of coffee grounds that lays on your tongue afterward. 

The fine sediments might impart a lingering bitterness, which some people counteract using techniques like James Hoffman’s or by adding some creamer.

The French press tends to work best with dark roasts as the velvety texture tends to couple well with the strong, dark flavors. 

While many people cherish these characteristics, this type of brew can smother some of the more subtle characteristics of the coffee, especially those associated with lighter roasts. 


The percolator produces a coffee that's crisp and clean while still brimming with flavor. With its cyclical brewing, it manages to capture both the bold and some of the more subtle nuances of the coffee. 

This constant re-infusion allows for a unique extraction process that doesn’t overwhelm the palate with coffee sediments (especially when using a paper filter). As a result, there's no lingering bitterness from leftover grounds in your cup.

The percolator shines when paired with medium to dark roasts. The brief mingling of coffee and water allows the brighter notes of medium roasts to peek through while still doing justice to the dominant flavors of darker roasts. 

However, those who seek the intricate flavors present in lightly roasted beans might find them slightly muted in a percolator brew.

In Summary...

The French press produces a velvety, rich brew emphasizing the bean's dominant flavors and may leave some sediment on the tongue post-sip. Meanwhile, the percolator offers a clearer, slightly thinner cup, balancing both the coffee's boldness and its nuanced tones.

Serving Size

French Press

The French press comes in various sizes, from single-serving 12-ounce models to larger 50-ounce versions. It’s flexible, allowing you to brew just for yourself or a small group. 

However, multiple brews might be necessary for larger gatherings, or opting for one of the bigger models is advised. 

The method is also scalable: you can easily adjust the coffee-to-water ratio depending on how many cups you're looking to make, keeping the taste consistent.


The percolator, historically known for serving larger groups, often comes in sizes that can brew up to 12 cups of coffee or more. 

This makes it a go-to option for family gatherings, events, or office settings (or camping!). While there are smaller percolators available, the device's advantage shines when serving multiple people. 

In Summary...

The French press is versatile in size, catering to both individual and small group needs, while the percolator is typically the choice for brewing in bulk, especially for gatherings (However, there is a small assortment of 3-cup versions available) affiliate link.

Ease of Use

French Press

The French press is known for its simplicity. Add coffee, pour hot water, wait (usually around 4-5 minutes), then press. It doesn’t require any special skills, making it very beginner-friendly.  


With the Percolator, traditional stovetop versions require more attention to achieve the desired coffee strength. Monitoring the heat is crucial; boiling the water too vigorously can lead to over-extraction, resulting in a bitter cup. 

Modern electric percolators offer more controlled heating, reducing the risk of over-extraction. However, you can’t make brew time adjustments with electric percolators as the percolator turns off after a designated amount of time. 

In Summary...

The French press offers an uncomplicated and beginner-friendly brewing experience. In contrast, the traditional stovetop percolator demands a watchful eye on the heat, while electric models provide ease but less flexibility in brew time adjustments.


Cleanup for both the French press and the percolator is usually pretty similar (and easy).

French Press

For the French press, daily cleaning typically involves a simple rinse to remove the used coffee grounds, followed by washing the beaker. 

While the beaker cleans easily, the grounds can sometimes cling to the mesh filter. Many users don’t disassemble the plunger and mesh filter for everyday cleaning, instead opting for periodic deep cleans to ensure no residual coffee grounds or oils linger, which might impact future brews.


The percolator’s design—with the internal stem and perforated basket—can occasionally trap coffee grounds in the basket's holes or along the stem. A basic rinse usually does the trick for daily cleaning, but similar to the French press, periodic deep cleaning sessions are beneficial. 

In Summary...

Both the French press and the percolator offer straightforward daily clean-ups, with the French press requiring attention to the mesh filter and the percolator to its basket and stem. Periodic deep cleaning is recommended for both to maintain optimal brewing quality.


The time it takes to prepare coffee is a factor to consider, especially if you’re in a hurry in the mornings or if you prefer a more leisurely ritual.

French Press

  • Preparation: The process is straightforward. Add coffee grounds, pour in the hot water, wait, then press. No need to stand by or continually check on it.

  • Brew Time: Once your water is boiled, brewing in a French press typically takes around 4-5 minutes. However, some aficionados suggest waiting even longer to extract more flavor.


  • Preparation: The percolator requires a more hands-on approach. With stovetop models, you need to monitor to ensure the water doesn't boil too vigorously.

    Side Note: Electric models are more set-and-forget but still need to be watched for the first few times until you get the hang of your preferred strength.

  • Brew Time: For a stovetop percolator, the brewing process can range from 7-10 minutes, depending on the desired strength. Electric models can be a tad faster.

In Summary...

The French press generally offers a quicker brew, especially if you have an electric kettle to speed up the boiling process. The percolator, especially stovetop models, requires more attention and a slightly longer brew time.

Pssst: If you want to know how to get a fantastic brew every single time in either your French press or your percolator… check out our “Best Brews” section below. 


Price can often be a determining factor when choosing between these two brewing methods, and each has its range based on materials, brands, and additional features.

French Press

  • Glass Models: Typically, glass French presses are more affordable, with prices ranging from $15 to $30 for most models. They provide a clear view of the brewing process but can be more susceptible to breakage.

  • Stainless Steel Models: These are on the pricier side, ranging from $25 to over $100, depending on brand and design. They are more durable than their glass counterparts and often offer better heat retention, but you can't observe the brewing process as you can with glass.


  • Stovetop Models: Stovetop percolators come in various qualities. While you can find models ranging from $20 to $50, it's essential to emphasize that quality materials are crucial. The market is flooded with thin, flimsy metal percolators that might not be durable. Investing in a higher-quality, thicker metal percolator will provide better heat distribution and longevity, even if it comes at a higher price point.

  • Electric Models: Electric percolator prices vary widely from $30 to over $100 based on capacity, brand, and features. Electric percolators regulate the heat more consistently, making the brewing process more forgiving. However, they are restricted to locations with an electrical outlet.

In Summary...

Glass French presses are budget-friendly and let you watch your coffee brew but can break easily. Stainless steel ones are sturdier and keep your coffee hot longer but are pricier and don't let you see the brewing process. Stovetop percolators come in varying qualities; investing in a thicker metal one will give you better results and last longer. Electric percolators make brewing easier by controlling heat consistently but need to be used near an electrical outlet. Choose based on your needs, preferences, and how much you're willing to spend.

Recommended French Presses


The beauty of French presses lies in their straightforward technology. Given this, there's a sea of choices out there. But here are a few that we've had personal experiences with and can vouch for:


1) Bodum Classic Glass French Press (~$20)

Bodum is a French press company that has long stood the test of time. Our Bodum has been a steadfast companion for over eight years, and it’s still going strong. If longevity and reliability are what you're after, consider this one.


2) Espro (~$70)

What sets the Espro models apart is their double filter. The holes are much finer than your standard mesh, which means less silt in the cup but still that cherished velvety mouthfeel.


3) Bayka (~$25)

This one's a slightly different take on the traditional glass French press. Aesthetic and functional, it’s a worthy addition to any kitchen.

Stainless Steel

With stainless steel, you gain durability and heat retention, and there's a spectrum of options in terms of price and performance. 


1) Mueller (~$30)

This might be seen as a budget brand, but don't let the price tag fool you. A majority of their products come with rave reviews. While it's not vacuum-insulated, it beats glass in the durability department and is better at keeping your coffee warm.


2) Espro (~$100)

On the premium end of the spectrum, the Espro doesn't come cheap. Its defining feature is a double filter with exceptionally fine holes, ensuring your brew has minimal sediment.

3) Fellow Clara (~$100) & Stanley (~$70)

If maintaining your coffee's temperature is a priority, both these brands have vacuum-insulated designs. Ideal for those who take their time sipping on their brew.

Recommended Percolators 



1) Moss and Stone (~$50)

This electric option is our go-to. It brews a delicious cup and demands far less babysitting than its stovetop counterpart.


Honestly, we're not the biggest fans of our current stovetop percolator. If you're on the hunt for one, our advice is to not cut corners on the budget. A good percolator should be made of sturdy, thick metal that effectively holds and transfers heat.


1) Faberware (~$40)

Word on the street is that Faberware offers a solid stovetop percolator. We have yet to try it ourselves, but it might be worth checking out if you're leaning toward a stovetop model.

Best Brews: How to Get the Most Out of Your French Press or Percolator 

1) French Press

Standard French Press Method (simple yet timeless)

Total time: 5-7 minutes

  1. Boil: 1-3 minutes
    Heat fresh, filtered water to about 200°F (93°C).

  1. Grind: 1 minute
    While your water is boiling, grind fresh coffee until coarse.

  1. Steep: 4 minutes
    In the press, pour hot water over the coffee grounds (1:15 ratio, coffee to water) and let it steep for 4 minutes.

  1. Plunge: Press the plunger down slowly and steadily.
    Enjoy your coffee!

Remember to adjust the coffee-to-water ratio and steeping time according to your taste preference.

Better Cup, Longer Wait (James Hoffman Technique)

Total time: 11 - 18 minutes

For a more detailed guide, check out our full article on the James Hoffman method.

  1. Prep: 1-3 minutes
    Use 60-70 g of medium grind coffee per liter of water (1:15 ratio).
    Boil water (no specific temperature needed); grind and weigh coffee; preheat the French press with hot water, then discard the water.

  1. Steep: 4 minutes
    Add coffee grounds to the French press, pour water (make sure to dampen all grounds), and set a timer for 4 minutes.

  1. Stir & Scoop: 1-2 minutes
    Gently stir the crust formed on top, then scoop off the foam and remaining particles until the surface is mostly clear. Use wood or plastic spoons if using a glass French press.

  1. Wait: 5-8 minutes
    Set a timer for 5-8 minutes, depending on the roast. Lighter roasts need less time; darker roasts can sit longer.

  1. Pour: 1 minute
    Insert the plunger just above the liquid surface, and slowly pour the coffee using the plunger as a strainer.

Lastly, enjoy your coffee!

2) Percolator

Slow and Steady 

Medium or dark roast beans are usually preferred for percolator coffee because of their bold flavors.

  1. Measure: <1 minute
    A standard ratio is 1 part coffee to 15 parts water (similar to a French press). Adjust this ratio to suit your taste preference.

  1. Grind the Coffee: 1 minute
    If using a paper filter, a medium to coarse grind works great. If not using a filter, a coarse grind is best, as there is less chance of larger chunks slipping through the metal filter.

  1. Add Water: <1 minute
    Add the designated amount of water for the number of people you are going to serve. Remember, the grounds will absorb some of the liquid, so to compensate for this, add 10% more water than you need for the final volume.

  1. Assemble the Percolator
    Place your filter (if using one) and add the coffee grounds to the coffee chamber then lower the chamber into the vessel.

  1. Heat the Water: ~7 minutes
    If heating on the stove, watch carefully. You want to keep the water at the lowest boil possible. This will help to get a controlled extraction from the beans. Once the boil starts, keep an eye on the glass top to monitor color. If you don't have a glass top, this slow boil should get your coffee to a nice extraction in about 7 minutes.

  1. Serve Immediately
    Coffee will be hot, so be careful. Serve immediately.

Remember, the key to a great cup of coffee is to experiment and find out what ratios, grind size, and brewing time work best for your taste preferences. Enjoy your coffee!

Concluding Thoughts

Brewing the perfect cup of coffee is a personal journey, as varied and individual as the beans and methods themselves. 

Having delved into the contrasting worlds of the French press and percolator, it becomes clear that neither is definitively superior; rather, their merits and characteristics cater to specific tastes and situations. 

French Press: At its core, the French press champions immersion brewing, allowing for a prolonged and intimate dance between water and coffee. The result? A full-bodied, textured brew, teeming with the coffee's natural oils. This method offers a straightforward, hands-off approach, from brew to cleanup. 

Percolator: In contrast, the percolator relies on cyclical brewing, continuously recycling water through the coffee grounds. While this method demands more attentiveness, especially with stovetop variants, the reward is a clear yet flavorful coffee that balances boldness with subtle undertones.

Who’s It Best For?

A French Press is Great For...

Dark roasts that deliver bold flavor and velvety texture

Consistent, personalized brews

Those who want their coffee ready in under 5 minutes

A Percolator is Great For...

Pulling out the more subtle notes in medium roasts

Large, group-friendly batches

Those who prefer a thinner, cleaner mouthfeel

Ultimately, the choice between a French press and a percolator isn't about which is better in absolute terms but which aligns better with your preferences and brewing habits. 

Both have their merits and their devoted followers. As you contemplate your next brew, remember that the journey is as fulfilling as the destination—a perfectly crafted cup of coffee tailored to your tastes.



French Press or Percolator For Camping?

Both stainless steel French presses and percolators are great camping brewers (However, we advise against bringing glass French presses). 

While a French press necessitates a separate vessel for boiling water, the percolator can boil and brew in the same container (good for saving space).

If you're serving a group, percolators often come in larger sizes, catering to multiple cups at once. With that said, if you’re only serving 1-2 people, a percolator could be a little overkill. 

Ultimately, your choice should be based on your preferred coffee flavor and the number of people you're brewing for. If you’re interested in learning more about the coffee these two instruments make, we’ve created a section above titled “Which is Better: French Press or Percolator?”.

Percolator vs Moka Pot

The main difference between a percolator and a Moka pot is how the water interacts with the coffee grounds. In a percolator, the water is recirculated through the coffee grounds multiple times, which requires a coarser grind and results in a bolder, more robust coffee.

On the other hand, in a Moka pot, water only passes through the coffee grounds once, under pressure, requiring a fine to medium grind and resulting in a strong, espresso-like coffee.

Both methods have their own unique techniques and can yield a delicious cup of coffee when done correctly. It's all about personal preference and mastering the method that suits your taste best!

Traditional Percolator vs Italian Percolator

An "Italian Percolator" is actually just another term for a Moka Pot. Despite the name, it operates differently than a traditional percolator. 

In a traditional percolator, water is continuously cycled through coffee grounds until the desired strength is reached. This process requires a coarser grind and typically results in a bolder, more robust coffee.

On the contrary, an Italian Percolator, or Moka Pot, passes water through the coffee grounds only once, under pressure. This requires a finer to medium grind and produces a strong, espresso-like coffee.

French Press vs Italian Percolator

Both the French press and Italian percolator (Moka pot) offer unique brewing experiences:

Brew Method: French press uses immersion brewing, letting coffee grounds steep before separating them with a mesh plunger. The moka pot forces hot water through grounds using steam pressure.

Flavor: French press produces a full-bodied, rich coffee with some sediment, highlighting the bean's natural oils. Moka pot yields a strong, espresso-like coffee without the sediment.

Materials: French presses come in glass or stainless steel, while moka pots are usually made of aluminum or stainless steel.

Ease of Use: Both are straightforward, but the moka pot requires monitoring on the stove to prevent over-extraction or burning.

Cleanup: The French press involves rinsing the plunger and carafe. The moka pot requires cleaning its multiple chambers but isn't overly complex.

Ultimately, the choice between them depends on your flavor preference and desired brewing process.

French Press vs Percolator: Grind

Both the French press and percolator can use a medium to coarse grind. However, there are some nuances to note:

With a French press, a medium grind might introduce more sediment throughout your cup due to its mesh filter. This can lead to more coffee grounds on the tongue and a lingering bitterness. However, you’ll find a faster extraction with medium grinds, which can lead to a more interesting cup of coffee.

On the other hand, with a percolator, a medium grind should probably only be used with a paper filter. Without the paper filter, there’s a good chance coffee grounds will sneak into your coffee.

For those who are anti-sediment, coarser grinds will definitely leave less sediment in your cup and can offer a good extraction, provided they’re given enough time to brew. 

French Press vs Pour Over vs Percolator

French Press

Brewing Method: Immersion brewing, where coffee grounds steep in hot water.

Flavor Profile: Fuller-bodied and rich, often with a velvety texture and the presence of some fine sediments.

Summary: The French press provides a bold and textured coffee experience due to its prolonged immersion of the grounds, making it ideal for those who enjoy a rich and robust brew.

Pour Over

Brewing Method: Gravity-driven brewing where hot water is poured over coffee grounds and filters through.

Flavor Profile: Cleaner and brighter taste, accentuating the intricate flavors and aromas of the coffee beans.

Summary: Pour over is all about clarity and precision, drawing out the nuanced characteristics of the coffee beans. It's perfect for those seeking a clean and aromatic cup.


Brewing Method: Cyclical brewing, where water continuously cycles through the coffee grounds.

Flavor Profile: Clear yet robust, emphasizing stronger flavors while still capturing some subtle notes.

Summary: The percolator offers a balance between strong and subtle flavors due to its repetitive brewing process. It caters to those who appreciate a clear coffee with a pronounced flavor profile.

Percolator vs Drip Coffee Maker vs French Press


Brewing Method: Cyclical brewing, where water continuously cycles through the coffee grounds.

Flavor Profile: Clear yet robust, emphasizing stronger flavors while still capturing some subtle notes.

Summary: The Percolator offers a balance between strong and subtle flavors due to its repetitive brewing process. It's ideal for those who appreciate a clear coffee with a pronounced flavor profile.

Drip Coffee Maker

Brewing Method: Gravity-driven brewing where hot water drips over coffee grounds and filters through.

Flavor Profile: Produces a balanced cup highlighting the coffee's aromatic compounds, fruity, and floral notes, with fewer bitter compounds.

Summary: Drip Coffee Makers provide a consistent and convenient brewing method, emphasizing the aromatic and nuanced aspects of coffee. They're perfect for daily use and serving multiple people efficiently.

French Press

Brewing Method: Immersion brewing, where coffee grounds steep in hot water.

Flavor Profile: Fuller-bodied and rich, often with a velvety texture and the presence of some fine sediments.

Summary: The French Press offers a bold and textured coffee experience due to its prolonged immersion of the grounds, making it ideal for those who enjoy a rich and robust brew.

Is a French Press a Percolator?

No, a French press is not a percolator. While both are manual coffee brewing methods, a French press uses immersion brewing, where coffee grounds steep in water, whereas a percolator cycles hot water through the grounds repeatedly. The brewing mechanics and resulting flavors differ between the two.

Is French Press Coffee Better than a Percolator?

Both French press and Percolator coffee have their unique qualities and are cherished by coffee enthusiasts worldwide. The notion of "better" largely depends on individual preferences and specific situations. 

Percolators, especially the stovetop variants, need monitoring to prevent over-extraction and can cater to a larger audience with a single brew. They are particularly handy when serving a group, given their ability to produce multiple cups in one go. This makes them an excellent choice for gatherings or events.

On the other hand, a French press is straightforward in its operation but does require a separate method to heat water, unless you're using an electric version. The brewing process is more passive, essentially involving the steeping of coffee grounds in hot water. However, its serving capacity is typically limited, making it ideal for personal use or smaller gatherings.

In conclusion, neither method is definitively superior. The preference between a French press and a percolator boils down to individual taste, serving size requirements, and the desired involvement in the brewing process.


“Coffee Percolator.” Wikipedia, 6 Aug. 2023, Accessed 28 Aug. 2023.

Gloess, Alexia N., et al. “Comparison of Nine Common Coffee Extraction Methods: Instrumental and Sensory Analysis.” European Food Research and Technology, vol. 236, no. 4, 30 Jan. 2013, pp. 607–627,

Olechno, Ewa, et al. “Impact of Brewing Methods on Total Phenolic Content (TPC) in Various Types of Coffee.” Molecules, vol. 25, no. 22, 12 Nov. 2020, p. 5274,

About the author, Michael

Michael spends his days eating, drinking and studying the fascinating world of food. He received his Bachelors Degree in Food Science and Technology at the University of California, Davis and spent much of his time at the school brewery. While school proved to be an invaluable experience, his true passion lies in exposing the hidden crannies of food for the cooking laymen.