On his blog “Notes from the Food World,” writer/journalist Michael Ruhlman espouses the virtues of the humble coffee percolator, declaring “Percolator Love.” He wants to “rid the world of the ridiculous automatic drip coffee maker, a sham perpetrated on an unthinking, convenience-minded public.” I’d like to help him.
I currently own electric and stovetop percolators, and a French press. Never again will I willingly subject myself to the thin and toxic tinkle from an automatic drip coffee maker. But I do acknowledge why I once went there.
At the home of an out-of-town friend years ago, I found it charming to wake in the morning to the aroma of “fresh” coffee. Though I’d never found it particularly taxing to put together my coffee pot, setting the timer to have that first cup ready right away in the morning felt like a form of nurturing and was, well, convenient. So I got my own.
One morning too long later, I spit that coffee into the sink and headed to the attic for my camping gear. I discovered the enamelware Coleman coffee percolator works just as well atop the stove as it does on a campfire so I used it until Christmas, when I got a sleek electric Cuisinart as a gift. (Note to Ruhlman: Not ALL percolators are “awkward vessels with stubby spouts.”)
All percolators do make a strong, rich coffee that gets piping hot and stays that way. The process creates an aromatic rush of gurgling sound that quits only when the coffee is ready by electricity or when you pull it off the stove.
Taste, texture and experience of the coffee beverage aside, what about the filters? According to Coleman,
in 1908 a German woman named Melitta Bentz made the first paper coffee filter out of blotting paper borrowed from her son’s school supplies. Paper filters created an efficient disposal method for coffee and eliminated the need for cloth filters, which required frequent cleaning.
But did Melitta know that coffee grounds are good for plants? Did she know it would come to this?
The dioxin in today’s bleached coffee filter is known to leech into the coffee brewed through it—as much as 40-70 percent of the dioxin, according to studies. Not only are dioxins some of the most toxic chemicals ever, but they also are slow to break down in the environment.
If, for some reason, you still prefer the lukewarm product of a drip machine, permanent filters are called for. Metal and gold coffee filters are available at housewares stores. Unbleached cotton filters (www.ecofilter.com) and those made from unbleached pulp (grocery stores or www.ifyoucare.com) are out there too.
I am not sure how common automatic drip + paper filter is these days. Maybe not very. But I remain suspicious since in the past month alone I have been faced with this setup at 1. a rented beach condo 2. a nicely appointed Hampton Inn and 3. at my workplace in a community kitchen for young and forward-thinking marketing personnel.
And, furthermore, if this method of java delivery were phasing out, why would they sell those icky filters in packages of 250?
(Photo by 1vintage1 via flickr.com)