After the sunrise service at my church on Easter morning, those attending went down to the fellowship hall for doughnuts, coffee and sitting around talking. The conversation at my table eventually went from coffee to coffeemakers. When I mentioned bringing a stovetop percolator from my mom’s house the last time I went up, the 20-somethings sitting with us confessed to not knowing what that was.
For one thing, his admission is confirmation that I’m not as young as I used to be, especially after a discussion in the church kitchen a few moments earlier about feedsack clothing.
For those of you too young to remember that, either: Farm feed used to come in decorative cloth sacks. Industrious housewives used that cloth for curtains, dish towels and even clothing. I had many a feedsack dress when I was a little thing.
Back before we had drip coffee machines with filters and cups and whatever, coffee was made on the stove. The traditional way was to fill a coffeepot with water, scoop in ground coffee and set it to boiling. The first few cups were quite good; the last few cups were half grounds.
The percolator I brought back home had a pot with a round funnel thingie that sat on top of it. A glass or metal rod went through the funnel spout into the pot, grounds went into the top part and the boiling water would come up through the grounds and go back down.
It’s complicated to explain but easy to use.
So were the electric percolators that followed. I had a number of cheap percolators; my grandparents had one very moderately-priced one they used for years and years. Even after drip coffeemakers came into favor, they continued to use that old percolator.
I understand from one of the guys at the table Sunday morning that it is still possible to purchase an electric percolator. The next time I have to replace my current filter-using, water-running-through device, I may consider that.
It’s not that the coffee’s any better, because the flavor probably isn’t any different. And it’s not because it’s simpler to use since both are easy for a sleepy me when I first roll out of bed in the morning.
The sound is what I miss. Whether it’s the stovetop kind or the type you plug in, a percolator is a master of anticipation. There’s the first little hiss as the water starts to heat and the slow plop as the first of the water goes up the tube thing and back down. That builds to a rhythm of fup-fup-fup that is the sound of the water bubbling through the coffee and then the final sizzle sound as the process comes to an end.
Yep, it takes longer than the drip coffeemaker sitting on my kitchen counter. But just as the sound builds with the slow process, so does the aroma. The scent in the air serves as a timer, letting you have cup in hand just as the coffee is done so you can enjoy the perfect brew.
OK, those who know me also know I get most of my java from the coffee place/bakery by my house. But I suspect I’d spend less time there and more in my easy chair if I returned to the good old days.
CATHIE SHAFFER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.