Friday, July 17, 2009

Coffee Talk – The CorningWare "Drip-o-Lator"

Coffee – a dessert time beverage for some, a ritual of friendship for others, and a morning necessity for almost everyone else. It’s one of the hottest commodities on the planet, only shadowed by crude oil. I was originally preparing an exposé on Coffee, but once I started looking around the net I realized this approach has been done a million times already and there really isn’t anything of value I could add to the superfluity of information available. SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…… Let’s get a little more specific…

I am going to talk about brewing methods… I have several available to me, for I am one of the people who fall into all three categories… It is a dessert essential, a joy when congregating with friends and the necessary catalyst for my morning transformation from “swamp thing” to a human being.

For this first method, we are going to have to travel back in time to a dark point in American coffee culture… the 1960s…. a time when the sinister percolator ruled the household and mud was served daily… and even worse… people liked it. (shudder) It truly was a bleak time in American history. The percolator is the worst possible way to make coffee for several reasons.

  • The water is actually boiling – This is too hot for proper extraction and makes for acidic highly caffeinated coffee.
  • Once the extraction begins, the water saturated with “coffee” is heavier and falls to the bottom of the percolator, reheated to a boil and in effect burnt… then it ends up being shoved back up through the tube, to run back through the grounds again… Blech! (shudder)

Repeat after me…. Percolator is BAD…..

But dawn was breaking in the mid 60s… It was not the messiah of coffee brewing, but it was a step in the right direction… for the theory is similar to that of espresso… In 1965 Corningware released a new gizmo for coffee preparation…. The Drip-o-Lator. Now this is not to say they were responsible for a “Star Turn” in the saga of coffee extraction methods. That was already the province of Italy where Espresso was already being pulled from beautifully crafted machines. But, America was “waking up” to the realization of what coffee could be…

What the heck is a Drip-o-Lator you ask? Well, it’s basically a manual version of what most people set every night before going to bed.

It comes in several parts… So Lets begin and I’ll walk ya through it.

First, water must be heated in the kettle on the stove to between 200 and 205 degrees. NEVER use boiling water for coffee… not even with a French Press (Future post)

Now place coffee in the bottom receptacle (I use about 1.5 TB per cup for drip)

The glass bowl screws down onto the bottom receptacle.

Now this little plunger thing prevents the water from flowing from the glass bowl into the coffee ground receptacle.

Once the water is ready, carefully pour the hot water into the glass bowl.

Place the whole assembly into the pot.

Pull the plunger to allow the water to drip through the grounds

and into the pot below.

After about 4 minutes, (I usually whistle a little tune while I am waiting)

you have yourself a pot full of coffee.

Ah…

with just a little half & half to create a “Paper Bag Brown” color…

Awesome!!!

In case you are curious... The particular pattern (the Wheat) on my tea/coffee pot was originally planned as the standard design for Corningware, but in the company's haste to get the product to market, the cornflower was used instead and it eventually became the brand symbol of Corningware. Later, the wheat pattern was revisited and released on a limited number of pieces (I have seen a pie plate on eBay and I have a 4 quart roaster)

Cin Cin!!
~~

15 comments:

Danielle said...

that was really interesting! I cant wait to see what you write about the french press. I have one in my cupboard that I rarely use. not sure why....

Dajana said...

It's the first time I see this, very interesting.

girlichef said...

Cool! What a great post. I've never seen a drip-o-lator before. I used to have a French Press, but it broke and I never bought a replacement...so I just use a regular coffeemaker. :/

Bob said...

Oh man, I have a friend who swears by percolators. I can't stand the coffee it makes. I wonder if I should send him an anonymous link to this post... And ruin it by posting a comment about it. Heh.

Patti T. said...

I had never seen a drip-o-lator before either. My husbands grandfather swore by his percolator coffee, in his own special cup, used only for very strong black coffee, the cup rinsed but never touched by soap, yuck and double yuck. I am looking forward to what you think of the French press.

Anonymous said...

I found the drip o lator today in a thrift shop and have been searching the web all afternoon on how to use it, thank you for posting this what a help, I am going to make coffee now...
Thanks Roger

Anonymous said...

I've finally realized I have a Drip-o-lator bought at an estate sale last year. Unfortunately, it's missing the little silver receptacle that the coffee grinds go into. Any thoughts on something that could substitute for the receptacle or is my Drip-o-lator doomed?

Culinary Alchemist said...

You might be able to set a cone filter of coffee in the top of the pot and set the water bowl over the top. The cone filter should be big enough to overlap the top of the pot. That is only a guess though. If I had some cone filters I would try it first just to see if it works properly. Good Luck!

Dave said...

Percolators are only "bad" if you're doing it wrong. Being a collector of coffee-brewing devices, one of my nicest pieces is a Pyrex Flameware 4-cup perc. (BTW...Drip-o-lators are in abundance on Ebay...I have, so far, four such pots of various sizes, with a 6-cup Blue Cornflower version your Corning pot on its way, a couple of Napoletanas, several stove-top "espresso" makers, pour-overs, a vac pot...well, you get the idea. Point is, it's not the method of brewing that's bad, it's the person *brewing* that screws up the pot.)

Shane Wingerd said...

Dave - I have been curious about the "all glass" Pyrex percolation device over the last 3 1/2 years since this post was published. Since I usually use a Chemex or Cory vacuum pot for my brewing purposes, I have wondered if the glass construction may hold the key to redemption of the unpleasant percolated brew I have imbibed in the past.

I shall have to scope out eBay a little closer and see if I can pick one up and give it a try.

Anonymous said...

Found a 18 cup alluminum drip o later for 7 bucks the other day, makes the best coffee I ever drank. I didn't have a clue on how to use it. I poured cold water into it and let it heat on the stove while it dripped through. Tried it again with hot tap water,can't tell the difference between the two,but the taste is to die for,went through two pots in one morning when guests were here.

Dave said...

Shane: the only *real* secret s not letting the water come to a boil. There's an excellent YouTube video by David Hansen
( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6t5_9KnQzw ), where he demonstrates a 6-cup Flameware percolator. He's got a really cool stove, too :) .

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Matt Nelko said...

Thank you very much for this post! I just obtained a brand-new "Dripolator" from eBay and had no idea how to use it.

By the way, I swear by my coffee from my 1965 Hoover electric percolator. And I can't tell you how many people I've had over who've raved about my coffee (we're talking hard-core Manhattan coffee snobs) -- many of whom were absolutely *horrified* after peeking into the kitchen to see where the coffee came from, only to ask me later where they themselves could procure such an appliance for themselves.

The trick, actually, is the water. I use the best filter device on the market for the purest, cleanest, healthiest water. I don't care how expensive your high-tech coffeemaker is, if you start out by putting swimming pool water into it, it's going to taste like crap.

Shane Wingerd said...

I am glad this post was able to help. :-)

Thanks for the information on the water, that may be the final key. I have been experimenting with a couple of percolators and still have not been satisfied with the results, but it could be the water... I usually use a Brita, maybe I need to move to a Zero or something. Still can't seem to get the mix right... Either way to muddy or too weak.

I still mostly rely on my old Cory vacuum pot with the glass rod filer.