5 Hacks to Improve Coffee Brewed by Electric Percolator for your Catering Service

You used a what? A percolator? (shivers)

That’s the response we imagine a coffee snob would have, had we told him we offered coffee brewed using a percolator. And a big one at that – the one sometimes called a coffee urn. 😱

Yes, Palakape served coffee in an event using just that. Let us explain.

Last August 19-23, we were tapped to serve coffee at a conference. The organizers wanted an overflowing coffee experience for the attendees, and projected a demand of 500 cups per day, split across break times. That’s a huge influx of people. The equipment and brewers Palakape had could not accommodate such demand. And so we thought deeply. Considering our finances, and also the client’s budget, the only way we could meet the demand was to use a PER👏🏽CO👏🏽LAT👏🏽OR👏🏽.

How does a percolator work? Refer to this illustration:

Coffee Percolator Cutaway Diagram.svg
By UnknownFerretOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Fill the tank with water. Then, put the vertical tube and filter basket assembly. The vertical tube is mounted on the bottom slot, while the filter basket is supported at the top of the tube. Put coarse ground coffee on the filter basket. When you turn the machine on, it will start heating water at the very bottom first. As water boils, it is pushed by bubbles through the vertical tube to the top. The top of the tube has perforations where the water comes out and gets sprayed to the coffee. (Note that for the percolator we used, there is no spreader plate that helps distributes the water evenly to the grounds, unlike the illustration above. And it is electric, which automatically stops the brewing. Refer to the photo below.) Water then extracts solubles as it makes its way through the coffee grounds. It eventually drips down the coffee chamber, mixing with the liquid at the bottom. This cycle repeats continuously until a pre-determined brewing time, where the heat is reduced at the end and the solution is kept warm.

Our percolator‘s parts

Why did we hesitate using a percolator? From experience, coffee from percolators are not (or not that) good. They usually taste flat, or sometimes degraded. You know, being still and hot for too long would result to the drink either getting more sour or bitter as components degrade. And the bigger the percolators, the longer the brewing time. Also, in the Philippines, the traditional way is to have the coffee dark-roasted. Taste is subjective, but to us, dark roasted coffee is less flavorful than lighter ones. And judging by the taste, many hotels or catering services probably use Robusta beans, which are generally inferior in flavor compared to other coffee species. It is also likely that they have their coffee stored as grounds already instead of whole beans.

The percolator set up – cheapest Palakape event package 😉

Back to the event. We were able to acquire 3 percolators, bought and borrowed. They have a capacity of 100 cups (with one cup equal to 150 ml). Without prior experience, we used them for the first time on the first day of the event itself. The first batch was the experiment, and from there we were able to come up with the formulation and method to prepare a decent cup. One thing to note: 100% capacity is only applicable for hot water preparation. Water would already touch the filter bottom at this level, so in our case, we only filled the chamber at 80% capacity. Now, here are the tips or hacks to make a decent cup of coffee using the big electric percolator or coffee urn.

  1. Stick or stay close to the SCAA recommended ratio of 10 grams of coffee to 150 ml water. The recommendation in our percolator’s user manual is 520 grams of coffee for 80% capacity. We did not follow this. At first we used 800 grams of coffee for water at 80%. But based on the capacity of the top filter, we had to lower it a bit. The coffee grounds would absorb water. So we settled for 700 grams of coffee grounds for every 80% capacity initial water fill. The resulting coffee solution at the end of brewing was at 75% capacity.
  2. Manually recycle coffee stream. What does this mean? The percolator we used was not able to wet all the coffee grounds when left as is. It could be because of the higher amount of coffee we used. So what did we do? We dispensed coffee to a cup, and poured it to the coffee grounds on top to thoroughly wet them. We did this 4 times, and it greatly improved the resulting coffee. This is a kind of chemical engineering hack 😉
  3. Do not use dark roasted coffee. This is debatable, but from personal experience, the more flavorful lighter roasts stay good for longer when left still. The Palakape norm is medium roast. Next time we may try light roast, and you should too.
  4. Use a considerable amount of Arabica, if not pure Arabica. Caterers in the Philippines may prefer to use pure Robusta due to the high availability and lower cost. But it’s just generally inferior in flavor. In events, Palakape makes use of at least 50% Arabica blend. You can also blend Arabica with other types of beans available in the country.
  5. Grind coffee beans on the spot. Coffee flavor is preserved for longer when stored as whole beans. Grinding adds to preparation time, but we opt to do this to serve as fresh a coffee as possible. It also draws wanted attention.
Suggested ratio from the percolator user manual, which we suggest you don’t follow

One other concern that we had was that the coffee might be too hot, that staying in the percolator can quickly degrade the drink. Upon checking, the temperature at the “keep warm” phase of the percolator is in acceptable range.

The temperature setting of an electric percolator is acceptable 🙂

We personally thought the resulting drink was decent. And more importantly, the conference attendees loved our coffee!

This experience changed our perspective on the percolator. It’s still one of the worst coffee brewers, when left to operate as is. But by controlling what we could, we’re now confident to offer this in events. So let this be an announcement that Palakape offers our cheapest coffee set up package, that makes use of a percolator. Contact us should you need a coffee provider in events!

In Between – a coffee travel story

Palakape Bamboo SS tumbler travel Lake Minnewanka Banff

This is the first time Palakape’s Bamboo SS Tumbler has its own travel adventure. In between states, in between countries; rest in between driving, rest in between days; These places and moments in between are special. And Palakape loves being accompanied by coffee in those spaces.

Armed with a tumbler that can also be used as a coffee infuser, one Palakape had yet another epic time road tripping. And this time, he went beyond the border of the USA.

Hours and hours of driving was spent again. Coming from the Arizona Valley, it would take five days (averaging 6 hours drive each) before reaching the first major destination. With the long drive, one interesting stop was planned on each day. Using the numbered Instagram feed attached, let’s talk about each moment.

  1. The first sightseeing stop was Hoover Dam, built on the Colorado River, in between Nevada and Arizona. It wasn’t his first time visiting it. But it’s a good scenic stop along the way. That came before spending the night in Las Vegas.
  2. From Las Vegas began the almost vertical drive northwards. In between the drive was an interesting man-made site in rural Nevada. It’s Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park, in Ely. There were 6 large beehive-shaped charcoal ovens that were used way back in 1876 to 1879 to process silver ore [1].
  3. Nevada is also quite a big state. The next sleepover stop was still in that state, at a motel in Wells. The temperature was significantly colder here coming from the flat desert of Arizona. The water inside the container is still cold. Hey, cold brew is still a good idea even if the weather’s not hot. So the Palakape prepared his cold brew for tomorrow, before getting a good night’s sleep.
  4. In between a trip’s silence, is a conversation starter. Such was that time when a tank truck had a big ad of a gasoline station and its coffee! The thought of coffee befalls… in unique ways!
  5. Wells is already near the border of Nevada and Utah. And even better, it’s just an hour drive away to one amazing site found in Utah: the Bonneville Salt Flats. This had been a place of interest for a while, and so a side trip must be made! Now that is a grand flat white! 😉
  6. Sometimes, you drive in such scenic places that when you see a sign pointing to a view point, it’s just irresistible. Such was the case in this stop in between driving, somewhere in (or near) Ellensburg, Washington.
  7. Well, the USA-Canada border had been reached. A stop at the Peace Arch Historical State Park in Blaine, Washington for some sip and photo op was made before crossing! Canada, let’s go!
  8. So the 1st major destination was reached. Whenever at an AirBNB house, it’s always a pleasure to look for a coffee spot. A coffee moment is good to insert in between travel days, whether at the end of one, or at the beginning of the next. This was in Delta, British Columbia, the base chosen for this leg of the trip.
  9. Vancouver is one of the top cities in Canada. But being a fan of nature, it’s the outskirts of the city that the Palakape explored. Lynn Canyon Park provides a simple hiking trail for nature lovers in the city. And when you say canyon, there must be a river in between. And when there’s a river, it’s always nice to sit down and refresh for a while.

A few days in Canada and the views have been good so far. Let’s move on to the next 9.

  1. Horseshoe Bay is where one could board a ferry going to some of the islands off the coast of Vancouver. In between time slots, one can make use of the waiting time as a time to spare. You can just hang out at Horseshoe Bay Park. The beach isn’t the most beautiful, but the water and mountain views are relaxing enough.
  2. Nearby Horseshoe Bay is Whytecliff Park. When the tide is low, one can walk towards Whyte Islet Park. Walk through the barnacle filled rocks and take an easy climb atop the islet. In between climbs, is a savoring of moment. Hmmmm
  3. In between legs of a trip, is planning. As the last exploring day in Vancouver, it’s time to think about what’s next. Also, what’s to eat before heading back to the AirBNB? 😀
  4. The drive towards the next destination is quite long, that it was split. The chosen stop in between was a town of boats named Sicamous. It’s a charming little town by the Mara and Shuswap Lakes. One could just imagine how fun a summer destination it is.
  5. The 2nd major destination sits inside the province of Alberta. At the AirBNB in Canmore, the Palakape settles a bit, taking the coffee break needed in between days. Plus, the amazing view of the Rockies just from the patio calls for this moment.
  6. Banff National Park not just encompass the massive Canadian Rockies. It is also full of beautiful lakes. In between the Trans-Canada Highway and Canadian Pacific Railway, just beside Banff’s town proper, are the Vermilion Lakes.
  7. The glacier-fed Lake Louise is one of the top places to see in Banff National Park. At this time, in between winter and summer, the lake is still semi-frozen.
  8. Quite literally in between Rockies is Lake Minnewanka. Another breath taking lake in Banff National Park. This one sits lower in elevation thus it’s all liquid by May.
  9. Finally, after a bit of walk around Lake Minnewanka, a spot to savor alone. Well around May, and on a Monday, there are lots of quiet spaces in the national park anyway. On the next day, it’s time to head back to the USA. This is the last moment to savor in between.

We hope you enjoyed reading the details behind the 18-day photo story on @palakape Instagram. Till the next travel footprint, and enjoy the in between.

Reference:

  1. http://parks.nv.gov/parks/ward-charcoal-ovens

Make coffee using the Palakape Bamboo SS Tumbler

About us 3 palakape bamboo tumbler in desert

So last March, we just released the very first Palakape merch everrr: the Palakape Bamboo SS Tumbler! It is a limited piece (you know, tiny company constraints) and we couldn’t be more happy to have it as the first branded item to sell. The bamboo texture just goes well with our logo! 😀

The tumbler with filter detached (left)

One thing that makes a lot of difference in this tumbler is having a detachable filter. It effectively makes the assembly an infuser! Think of putting tea leaves in there, and keeping the filter on top, you can just drink your tea without worrying about munching on leaves. So it wouldn’t be strange to think that you can do the same with coffee, right?

We already believed it’d work prior to getting hold of the items. And when they arrived, we experimented as soon as we found time. The first time it was tested was in a real-life “on-the-go” scenario, where one of the owners had to quickly prepare for a very early appointment. He thought of using the tumbler to make “take out” coffee to be sipped while driving. After finishing breakfast, he prepared the coffee as shown in the video below. That’s the first and obvious method of brewing coffee using the bamboo tumbler. The resulting drink was pretty good, and it made him happy to think that it makes the tumbler even more apt for a Palakape!

Of course we have to experiment. Another brewing method playing in the owner’s head is by drip. Because the filter is similar to the flat bottom metal filter that is the Vietnamese Phin, it could work. And in the following video, the owner tried it for the first time. Will it work? Find out in the video below!

Lastly, since the soaking method worked, then doing the same with cold water should work! In the third video, the Palakape did just that. Prepared the infusion in the evening, refrigerated the tumbler, and after 12 hours, tried the resulting cold brew. Oh, that just sealed the deal for us! This Palakape Bamboo SS Tumbler, in an uncomplicated way is a great travel companion for active coffee lovers out there!

At the time of this writing, there are only a few pieces left! Thank you to all those who ordered immediately. We appreciate your support and enthusiasm towards our tiny company! Most buyers belong to the personal network of the owners actually. But hey, we have to start somewhere! Look out for the next items from us! Have a great coffee day today!

P.S. Pardon the excessive vocal fry from the Palakape in the videos. The dry air in Arizona (where he is at the time of filming) does that!

EP 12: Semi-interrupted Coffee Mornings

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This mini series has come to the last episode! As mentioned, we are featuring the personal manual brewers of this Palakape. And since this is the last, then it’s the series’ end! We hope you enjoyed and learned from our simple effort to educate about coffee making.

In this episode, (a non-fancy) Ibrik is featured. The Palakape got it from a supermarket in Dubai. We assume it’s rightfully a brewer for Arabic coffee since we got it from the UAE, LOL.

The Ibrik is used for making coffee Turkish or Arabic style. From search, it seems like the typical way to prepare such drink is adding both sugar and coffee to the water and then heating the mixture up to the point where boiling is just starting. Fancy demos even make use of heated sand for gradual heating, and require more maneuvering from the barista. In this video though, the Palakape didn’t add sugar as he prefers black coffee. And out of curiosity, he measured the coffee-to-water ratio and the temperature by the end of heating. Typically, there’s no exact measurement in preparing this type of coffee.

Do watch the video and if you’re from Turkey or any Arabian state, let us know in the comments what we did right or wrong!

Also, do not follow the unsafe practice done in this video! Make sure your set up is stable, LOL! And finally, we apologize to the Turkish and Arabic coffee community for the possible blunder in the video.

Thank you all for the time and we hope you learned something from Palakape.

EP 11: Semi-interrupted Coffee Mornings

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When you think of manual brew, what do you imagine first? A dripper/pour over put on top of a cup would probably come to mind. This palakape didn’t have one of those yet till the recent Christmas season. In this episode, he’s testing out just for the second time his own Hario V60 Dripper. Speaking of second time, the twins were there to interrupt again. 😀

We think the Hario V60 is designed pretty well. Even with coffee at medium-fine grind, the brewing is not slowed too much thanks to the angle (60 degrees) of the funnel and the grooves that assist flow of water thru the coffee bed. Finer grind allow for faster extraction of coffee, so too much contact time might result to a bitter-tasting drink – perhaps due to over extraction and/or degradation of acids occurring while still brewing.

As a side note, this episode is filled with Hario products! The weighing scale used by the Palakape is actually the one paired to the brewer used and is called a Hario V60 Drip Scale. And the grinder is also a Hario.

EP 10: Semi-interrupted Coffee Mornings

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So we are adding a few more episodes in this mini series as there are a couple of coffee brewers that aren’t featured. And with the timing comes a couple of possible interruptions, like the twins in this case! 😀

In this episode, the Hario Filter-in Coffee Bottle cold brewer is featured. It’s a gift received by the Palakape from last year’s Christmas. The design of this brewer is just classy, don’t you think?

The good thing about cold brew is that it can give you a flavorful drink that’s not bitter or sour. The cooler temperature slows down the degradation and oxidation that can occur to some of the components of the coffee. Oxidation of oils leads to coffee tasting sour, while degradation of acids add to the bitter flavor. But the dissolution also occurs slowly, so you have to compensate with time, which is much longer! And of course, if you want a stronger flavor, you have to add more coffee.

There would come a point of equilibrium in terms of dissolution. One can only extract so much from coffee at a certain temperature. So even if you leave the coffee soaked for more than you intend, it won’t make much difference in flavor once the equilibrium is reached. In our opinion, you search for the sweet spot, by identifying the brew time in which the saturation is reached and then deciding if you want to saturate or under extract the coffee. Have you ever tried the Cold Brew? What can you say about it? Do you think it’s worth your time? Because we do!

EP 9: Semi-interrupted Coffee Mornings

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Who loves camping? In this episode, we feature the Moka Pot; another classic coffee maker that is an Italian icon. From experience, it is a good camping companion too! And that is illustrated in the video with the use of a portable gas stove. With the slightly more interesting set up, the little invader who showed up midway thru the recording, was extra active. 😀

Note a couple of mistakes here: when filling the heating vessel with water, the level should be below the valve. This valve regulates the pressure of the vessel for safety, and is better exposed to the vapor space. The coffee was ground to medium coarse. While this can be a subjective choice, most recommendations we saw upon a quick look up is use of finer grind.

Another topic that’s worth expounding is the temperature of water. Since the water from the heating vessel is pushed because of expanding steam, we assume that the temperature is close to the boiling point. This can be confirmed by the resultant taste of coffee, since usually, it is a bit burnt. In this video for example, some of the fruity or floral notes tasted from other brewing methods disappeared, and only a nutty flavor was evident.

This could just be a psychological effect of (wrong) expectation, but it seems like coffee brewed via Moka Pot at higher elevations tastes better. That is from the logic that lower atmospheric pressure corresponds to lower boiling temperature of water. Now this could be true for the first moments of evaporation, as the air/vapor space in the heating vessel is initially equal to the atmospheric pressure. But if the pressure needs to build up for longer than the first expansion of steam to be able to push the water up, then succeeding water should boil at a temperature corresponding to the set pressure of the valve – which is higher than atmospheric. So one could say that no matter what the atmospheric pressure is, the conditions for the Moka Pot would eventually be the same.

Whew! Let us know your thoughts!

EP 8: Semi-interrupted Coffee Mornings

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In this episode, the Palakape shows how he makes Chemex coffee, without weighing and reading temperature. Based on experience, the size of Aeropress’ scoop is good for his taste. So he normally uses that.

Another thing that could be done for manual brew is wetting the filter paper first. In the Chemex procedure, this is optional. One possible reason for that is to avoid some of the solutes to cling to your filter. That’s what’s mentioned in this video. However, this could just be speculation. We recommend testing it to see any difference in coffee flavor.

But one thing it does is allowing the filtration to occur a bit faster. This is because wet filter paper has already “made way” for the water. Through capillary action, the water and coffee solution already has a path to take in the filter, to make its way down the cup or carafe. Also, as in chemistry lab, it is done so the filter adheres to the funnel.

And if you watched the video completely, yes, he was screaming inside after THAT mistake. LOL.

EP 7: Semi-interrupted Coffee Mornings

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The Chemex was invented by a chemist named Peter Schlumbohm. When this brewer came under the Palakape’s radar, he just had to buy it! First, this glass hour-glass shape carafe with a wooden handle just speaks beauty and class. It also struck a nerdy chord in him, recognizing the chemistry lab inspired design.

Using this brewing method produces a very smooth and clean cup of coffee, thanks to the Chemex bonded filters. It significantly reduces the bitter flavor of coffee no matter how strong your drink is. In our opinion, it’s the best for dark-roasted coffee. For medium or light roast, it may not be, as the thick filter paper seem to reduce even flavors that you could still enjoy. That was the case in this episode, when the brew ratio of 1 g coffee to 18 g water was used. But remember, you can always increase the amount of coffee to your liking.

EP 6: Semi-interrupted Coffee Mornings

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The Phin, these days a mark of Vietnamese coffee tradition, is a simple metal filter assembly. This was the first brewing apparatus that the Palakape owned, after a trip to Vietnam in 2016. So it gives him good memories of coffee discovery every time he uses it.

In this episode, we showed how to make use of the Phin. 10 g of coffee was used, even though the amount of water would be less than 180 g. That amount is also checked out of curiosity, hence, the use of weighing scale.

The Palakape brewed a bit too fast though. It could be that the grind of coffee is a bit coarser than recommended, or, the amount of coffee is less. Vietnamese coffee is characteristically bold and strong. (Though boldness would be less due to medium roast coffee instead of dark.)

So, what do you think he did wrong?