Did "percolation" become a synonym for pourover?

Coffee preparation techniques besides espresso like pourover.
rmongiovi
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#1: Post by rmongiovi »

When I was growing up my folks brewed coffee with a percolator. Coffee grounds sat in a basket at the top of the device and water at the bottom. When the water reached a boil steam pushed it up through a tube and splashed it over the grounds in the top basket. Then it dripped down through the coffee grounds and rejoined the water at the bottom of the device where it was reheated and began the cycle again. To me, that was the defining attribute of "percolation": already brewed coffee being continuously recycled through the grounds until you decided it was strong enough.

Recently I've noticed postings comparing "percolation" to immersion. I'm pretty sure they're using percolation to mean pourover (where there's no repeated exposure to the grounds). Is this because no one really uses a percolator anymore, or did I just misunderstand what the word percolation was describing all those years ago when we actually used things called percolators?

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yakster
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#2: Post by yakster »

Percolation is from the Latin percolare 'to filter, trickle through' and does not specify the recirculation of liquids as done in an old Percolator pot. Pour-over coffee brewing is one form of percolation.
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Jeff
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#3: Post by Jeff »

"Percolation" is a term that can refer to fluid flowing through a bed of particles. With that meaning, espresso and "pour-over" are percolation methods, as is the classic mid-century technique that produced the coffee of the era, at least in North America.

rmongiovi (original poster)
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#4: Post by rmongiovi (original poster) »

That seems excessively confusing to me. Aren't all forms of brewing coffee "fluid flowing through a bed of particles" at some level of definition? I'm pretty sure that definition fits immersion as well.

If "percolation" is any type of coffee brewing then what do we call the process of using an actual percolator? Is this like when they decided to code name plutonium as "copper" and then had to call copper "honest-to-god copper?"

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Jeff
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#5: Post by Jeff »

Immersion brewing, such as cupping or a French press, is mainly without flow.

You're right in that most of the things that we often think of as "coffee brewing" are more percolation than immersion.

rmongiovi (original poster)
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#6: Post by rmongiovi (original poster) »

The final step of immersion is to allow the liquid to drain through the bed of coffee into the cup. By the definition above, that's "percolation."

My point is that we have perfectly good words. When you say "french press", or "aeropress", or "siphon", or "pourover", or "immersion", or "turkish", I know exactly what you mean. Since "pourover" is a perfectly cromulent word, why use "percolate"? When you say "percolate" I have to guess if you actually mean using a percolator or if you mean whatever other brewing method you've decided to call "percolation."

Percolators are still being sold. You can find lots of them on Amazon. What's so wrong with "pourover" that we need this confusion?

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Jeff
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#7: Post by Jeff »

Maybe it is from people that are starting to look into some of the "science" behind coffee and are more accurately describing the processes rather than the pot in which the coffee is brewed. At least as I understand it, the processes involved are very different between low-flow methods where diffusion might be a dominant factor and high-flow methods where there is new solvent moving past the surfaces.

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#8: Post by ojt »

The name of the "percolator" is confusing, and people not knowing what percolation means. Espresso is percolation too. And no, the last step of immersion is not percolation... see cupping brew for example.

I too used a "percolator" way way back in the day btw. Twas nice.. different from the other percolation brewers (like Moccamaster) which could also be called percolators as they are machines that use percolation to make coffee for you.
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jpender
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#9: Post by jpender »

Percolation isn't just a coffee term. For example, percolation in soil.

The funny thing is that percolators are actually primarily immersion brewers.

mikelipino
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#10: Post by mikelipino »

I think we see percolation and immersion cited more often these days because extraction yield is calculated differently for each.
https://coffeeadastra.com/2019/02/17/me ... on-yields/

For pure percolation, fresh water is being continually added to the top of the coffee bed. This means that the concentration of coffee (meaning TDS) in the brewer is closer to zero than to the TDS of the final cup. In the EY calc, this means any water held by the bed after the brew is assumed to be 0 TDS and its term (M_ret) is removed from the equation. Pourover by this definition is closer to percolation.

For pure immersion, coffee is steeped in a brewer until roughly equilibrium. This means the TDS of the steep water is closer to the TDS of the final cup than to zero. In the EY calc, this means that the amount of coffee held by the bed cannot be ignored and the M_ret term remains. French press and cupping by this definition are closer to immersion.

With this in mind, jpender is right. Old school percolators are mechanically percolating, but they are closer to immersion than percolation in practice.