The Pyrex Coffee Percolator is a vintage coffee maker. I thought this style of coffee maker stopped being made, but I was wrong. I found a “Medelco 8 Cup Glass Stovetop Percolator” at Amazon.com that looks a lot like it.
The Pyrex brand coffee percolator is one that isn’t made anymore. The one shown in the picture is the exact style my mother and older sisters used when I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s.
You can still find these original coffee percolators but they’re so rare, it’s easier to find pictures of them than it is to find them in person.
“Pyrex” is a word invented by Corning Incorporated in 1915. Although they sold (or licensed) the consumer products division in 1998, “Corning Incorporated” still appears at the Pyrex web portal. They no longer sell coffee makers of any kind, from what I can see.
Pyrex is a brand name that was synonymous with glass. It didn’t matter what type of glass they used although they originally used borosilicate glass. I also believe their glassware was tempered and heat-resistant. I’m relying on memory, but I never saw any Pyrex coffee percolators crack.
All of the coffee percolators that I’ve seen work the same way. I understand there’s another kind that operates a little differently, but I’ve never seen it.
With the original Pyrex coffee percolator, they placed coffee grounds in a basket at the top of long cylindrical tube and pedestal. I never saw any baskets made from anything other than aluminum. The tube and pedestal were made of glass. The only other metal part was the band that went around the pot. I don’t remember if the band served to secure the handle or not.
After the coffee finished brewing, usually when it was dark brown, they lowered the heat just enough to keep the coffee warm. I can remember many times when the coffee sat long enough to be burnt and it tasted nasty at that point. When the liquid boiled, I could see it hitting the inside knob of the lid. I think they designed the lid that way for exactly that reason.
During times of little money, my mother and siblings would re-use the coffee grounds. It took longer for the coffee to brew the second time and it usually never got as dark as the first time. A third time was out of the question. I don’t think automatic drip coffee grounds can be used in the same way, but I’ve never tested any to find out.
A cursory search image search will show coffee percolators of all kinds still in existence, though few like the image I found that matched what my mother used. There were others that I remember, like the metal coffee percolator we used during camping trips. It operated in the same way, but brewing time had to be estimated because the liquid couldn’t be seen.
A few of the images I found on Google were misleading. Some younger people might be fooled when they see an image of a coffee decanter instead of a coffee percolator. The decanters are only used to keep coffee hot for serving. They can’t be used as coffee makers in any way, shape or form. Some of them seem like metal and aren’t. They’re made of plastic that looks like metal.
Originally published in June of 2013 — I’ve updated and corrected some information.
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