Whatever happened to …

… percolated coffee?

Well, it had a good run.  On our kitchen counter, there was a drip coffee maker that we paid $29.99 for a long time ago.  At the time, it was to replace a coffee maker that had all the bells and whistles.  For some reason, we decided to go very cheap with this one and it had certainly had a very long life that came to an end this week.

I’d noticed that there was water on the counter when I would clean up and just figured that was me missing the water well in the back while making my first cup of the day.  As my wife pointed out, no, it’s a leak in the machine itself.

So, off to Canadian Tire we went.

It’s been a long time since I’d been coffee maker shopping.  I remember a nice selection when last we purchased – I think at the Kmart in Waterloo.  I didn’t expect to see an entire aisle and a half devoted to coffee makers.  So many choices.

Except for the type that I remember from my parents’ house so many years ago!

The one I remember was made from steel or aluminum.  Inside there was a basket that sat on a hollow pole.  You’d put coffee in the basket; sometimes we’d put a paper towel in there to act as a filter and then fill it with water.  Then, you’d turn a burner on the stove to high and put the coffee maker in place.  Once the stove had warmed up and the element had turned that orange-y red colour, the water started to boil.  Up through the pole it went and spilled over the coffee in the basket, through the filter, and then back to meet the rest of the water, making an interesting bubbling sound.  You’d let it go for a while (I’m not sure that I ever knew how long) and then take it off the stove and it was ready.  The neat thing was that my parents would take it camping with us and the same process worked well over a campfire although it sure took a lot longer!  With modern technology, it’s now ready in a couple of minutes.

We didn’t have a great deal of choice in terms of coffee growing up.  There were two grocery stores in town (IGA and Red & White) and they both carried Maxwell House coffee. I don’t recall any other option other than take it or leave it.  As a kid, it didn’t really matter to me; I hated the stuff but it did fill the house with a nice aroma by the time it was done percolating.  I don’t ever remember when I first started to drink coffee; I suspect that it might have been in the student lounge in the Mathematics Building at the university using it to try and stay awake to solve problems.

Percolated coffee also added a piece of jargon to education – “Let that percolate in your mind for a while”.  “Let that drip in your mind for a while” just doesn’t cut it.

So, for a Sunday, your thoughts please …

  • Do you remember percolated coffee in your house?  How was it created?  I hear there were electric models …
  • Where would you find coffee percolating today?
  • Do you have a favourite brand of coffee?
  • What’s your favourite coffee shop?
  • Have your moved on from coffee to some of the more exotic drinks like Starbuck’s Venti Christmas Tree Frappuccino Blended Creme with Whole Milk?
  • Were you as surprised as I was when stores were compelled to tell you the calorie content of things only to learn that Tim Horton’s or McDonald’s coffee actually has 3-5 calories in them?  (A drop in the mug compared to the Starbuck’s offering above)
  • Whose motto was “Good to the last drop”?
  • Do you drink decaffeinated?
  • Or do you stay away from the stuff altogether?

If you’re reading this first thing on Sunday morning, make sure you’ve had your morning cuppa and then reply in the comments below.  I’d enjoy reading them.

This is part of a regular Sunday series.  You can check out all the posts here.

13 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. A post about coffee — you knew I had to comment! Strangely enough, I didn’t even drink coffee until university. A new friend of mine, who later became one of my roommates, was a big coffee drinker. He made coffee in a Botum. This became some of my favourite coffee with Second Cup Irish Cream and Starbucks Christmas Blend (now Holiday Blend) topping the list. It always had to be caffeinated, and while the coffee itself was important, it was the sharing of the coffee that also mattered. I have many great memories of university that involve late nights and good coffee. Now, I love flavoured coffee the best. Fortinos has some great flavour options, as does Second Cup. There is also this wonderful Snickerdoodle flavour from the States that I love. It’s even worth the exchange rate.

    I did use an electric percolator a few times. When I taught at Ancaster Meadow, I was in charge of the volunteer brunch. We had a percolator at school, so I used it to make the coffee. I had never used one before, and it was actually my first adult inquiry experience (I think) to figure out how it worked. I just tried to put everything where it made sense, and hope for the best. Some parents told me it was the “best percolated coffee” they ever had! Success! I made it again year after year. I miss that percolator.

    Thanks, as always Doug, for the trip down memory lane! It’s incredible how many memories I now have associated with coffee. Some of my best ones!


    P.S. I now get a major headache if I don’t have coffee each morning. My coffee love may have not started until university, but it’s here to stay! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We are not coffee drinkers! At some point my mother-in-law decided we needed a coffee maker for her visits. She bought a small French Press, & was happy. Later, my father-in-law decided we need a regular coffee maker, so he bought one. It sits on the guest room closet floor to in between visits. I usually remember to buy coffee, but not always! I actually get a headache just from the smell. Walking into Tim’s on an empty stomach is nauseating for me. Thank goodness for the drive-thru!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks for sharing your coffee stories, Aviva. I’ll confess that I’m not a fan of those new overly sweetened offerings. Give me black coffee so that I can taste and enjoy it. Since you live in the land of Tim Horton’s, I was surprised by your choices.

    I did have to smile at the oxymoron you included – “best percolated coffee”!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. And you call yourself a teacher, Lisa? I thought coffee flowed through most people’s veins. I never particularly cared for it until university when it served as a way to keep me awake. Now, it’s part of a morning routine. I wonder how many deals have been struck or school assignments have been completed at a local coffee shop. It really seems to be part of our lives, even if you don’t like coffee, there are always options. Can I assume you’re a tea drinker instead?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The funny thing is that now I have Tim Horton’s every day. It’s a convenient stop on the way to school. I do like it, but my favourites I think come with a few more memories. 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

  6. Doug!

    Almost every High School in our board has a large 50 cup or so percolator somewhere, usually on top of a fridge or on a shelf in a closet in the staff room. Made from newly fashionable ‘Stainless Steel,’ they replaced (hopefully) the aluminum ones I still remember, for some reason, sometime in the 1960s.

    There are usually two or three staff members who know how to use it, and one or two brave enough to actually try.
    (the only mistakes that ever really get made is not putting enough coffee in the filter, and not waiting for the little red ready light to come on.) In fairness, these wondrous machines are so old looking that you can be forgiven for thinking the light may have burned out.

    Although I usually ordered the big urn from Tim Horton’s, which teachers really seemed to appreciate, I would occasionally use the perker at both Forster and Walkerville. (It had the added advantage of never leaking onto the floor mat of my car, leaving a stain that never came out.)

    Thanks for bringing back some nice memories: Secretaries saying, “Oh yeah, we’ve got one of those things. Don’t know if it still works. It’s back there in the closet.” ; and staff members, usually Bill Duncan, arriving just as I was about to lug the leaky Tim Horton’s urn up the thousand steps to Forster’s auditorium and helping me carry it.



    P.S. Linda remembers some very elegant, slender stainless steel percolators.

    At a time when coffee would stunt your growth, no one gave much thought to how boiling water and coffee grounds together in aluminum percolators would contribute to Alzheimer’s

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can understand Mr. Duncan’s timing. Computer scientists live on coffee! When I would do professional development sessions for CS teachers, I”d always make sure there was extra coffee available. I don’t ever recall it going to waste. You do mention Forster and Walkerville; there has to be a coffee story to go with Western.


  7. Another nice little trip down memory lane.

    First off, I remember walking in the coffee aisle with my parents. It smelled so nice! They would choose a bag of coffee, and then take it over to this big machine and pour the beans into the top, and then we would put the bag down at the bottom. I don’t remember if I was lifted up so that I could push the button? I would imagine so. Just like I was lifted up to put the grapes into the weigh scale. Anyway, after the grinding was done, the aisle smelled even better, and we would close up the bag of coffee (it had built-in twist ties) and carry-on with the rest of the shopping.

    Back at home, I remember putting together the coffee machine after it had been washed:
    • there was a slightly elevated metal base with a hollow metal tube running up the centre that fit into the pot first;
    • a metal basket with a hole in the centre fit over the top of that;
    • I think the metal lid had some kind of glass handle that allowed you to watch the coffee spurt up — did you judge the strength of the coffee visually?
    • The ground coffee would go into the metal basket, and you would later bang the metal basket on the garbage can or compost bucket afterwards to get the grounds out.

    Which reminds me:

    “Waiter, waiter, this coffee taste like mud!”

    “Of course, sir! It was ground this morning.”

    My dad did coffee duty in the morning. He would also put on a pot of Quaker Oats that were ready for eating by the time he had finished shaving, etc.

    He would turn on the radio to get the 7 o’clock news, and that was my morning alarm clock. By the time I got down to the kitchen, it smelled like coffee, the porridge was sufficiently congealed (it was best with lots of brown sugar, and little to no milk) and my dad was cleanly shaven. Clearly he got up quietly at some point beforehand so that things could be ready punctually for the 7 AM news.

    Evenings however, saw the coffee pot go away, and the teapot came out. The tea kettle would whistle, the hot water would be poured out of the hotted pot, and the boiling water would go in, followed by two Red Rose teabags. (“Only available in Canada? Pity!)

    In the final tally, all these years later:
    • Wake to the CBC news? CHECK
    • Quaker Oats with brown sugar? WINTER ONLY
    • Tea in the evening? USED TO
    • Enjoy the smell of ground and/or roasted coffee? YES

    As a kid, I also enjoyed the smell of pipe tobacco. However, just as I never went in for tobacco, I never went in for coffee.

    Timbits, on the other hand …

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for checking in, Andy. I do know you as a tea drinker but didn’t realize that you’d tossed in the towel with respect to it. Your dad sounds awesome getting everything in order for the family. I do agree; there is something special about the aroma of coffee.


  8. Such great memory sharing…..I’m another of those odd non-coffee drinkers. My brief stretch of drinking it came during my time doing my B.Ed in Windsor. If we wanted to play cards in Little Italy’s coffee shops, I had to order something, so it was a macchiato, heavy on this milk.

    Over the years, I have been the collector of the coffee fund money, and the starter of the morning pot in the drip coffee maker, and I often start the drip pots at church, when I’m on coffee duty. At this house, my husband grinds his own beans every morning in a small hand-grinder (light enough to go on interior camping trips) and French presses the coffee. For camping, it’s either a plastic filter cup and paper filter over his cup, or, yes, if car camping, we’ll sometimes bring the perc. My mother-in-law still uses a stovetop perk like you described every morning, as did my Oma until she moved into a nursing home about 8 years ago.

    I am often grateful for my in-laws, with their stovetop perk, party line phone, and other “anachronisms”. My teenaged kids have a much better sense than most of their peers of different generations of technology.

    Thanks for the memory wander, Doug. And the most caffeinated my beverages get is the occasional hot chocolate. No coffee, no Coke, no caffeinated tea.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You represent a unique qualify, Lisa. Most non-coffee drinkers wouldn’t go the the extra mile making coffee for others from my experience. I’m pleasantly surprised that your MIL still uses one. I would have thought that most people would have moved on by now. As for the area of town that you describe, I think I know what you’re talking about. I’ve never heard it described like that. For the coffee loving university students, there most certainly are places very close and on site now.


  9. Doug, I’m sure you know exactly where I mean…and this was, of course, in the days of the Fac Ed out by the expressway….we did play chess at the grad House, but cards in a little Italian bakery café was another ritual. I was frowned upon because I was female, and afternoons in those spaces were decidedly a male preserve!

    As for the stovetop perc, I had never met one until I met my spouse. I think if you talked to anyone who frequents a hunt camp, you’d find they’re still around. My in-laws are decidedly of the don’t fix it until you need to school of thought. This does mean that they are brewing hazelnut vanilla coffee from Costco in the perc.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I am late to the morning coffee conversations, but having late afternoon tea at the moment! My coffee fix is in the morning though — always Melitta brand in my pour over glass carafe!

    I recall my mom making coffee as you described in a stainless steal, basket on a pole kind of thing, but only when company was coming over or for special occasions. It was instant coffee otherwise … Maxwell House, “good to the last drop”. Right?

    I would rather have no coffee than drink decaf 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

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