Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Guest Post: Faberware Stainless Steel Percolator

by George Groot
George is a member of our Facebook Group and has written for us before.

Coffee isn't a necessity for preppers (although I think it is an excellent trade item), but it is often the difference between low morale and high in a disaster scenario.When you are without municipal services like water and electricity, there are still plenty of ways to get your coffee.

Instant coffee is easy, but I've never found good instant coffee in America the way it is readily available in Europe. Instant coffee works, but you still need a way to get hot water, which means you'll want something to boil water in for sterilization. Odds are good that you have pots & pans that can do this chore already, but most household versions are too large for most camp stoves to heat effectively, let alone bring to boil. Camp stoves are made to work with camp cookware, which generally holds smaller quantities, has thinner construction, and is lighter weight.

Percolators are great for a "shelter in place" solution because they are low tech, and because they boil the coffee they provide their own sterilization solution. If you have a two-burner Coleman camp stove (the green one that folds up), or even a single burner stove sturdy enough to hold several pounds, a coffee percolator will work well with your alternative energy source. If you make your own "hobo stove" you can size it to fit a stove-top percolator quite easily, which brings us quite handily to the subject of today's blog post.

Faberware 8-cup stainless coffee percolator
This product nicely fills the niche between "lightweight camping" and "serious base camp" products.

The base is broader than the body, and has a nice design feature of indented rings along the outside of the base which are great for open flame stoves. The grooves "trap the heat" from flames a little better than a flat bottom solution, which would be better for a glass top range.

The Good
At $23 dollars and Prime delivery, with all-stainless construction including basket and stem (save for the glass percolator top and plastic handle), it's a great buy. Replacement parts are also available on Amazon, and because it is essentially a stainless steel pot it can do double duty boiling water or cooking soups on a camp stove or hobo stove where a larger pot would tip over or just be too big.

The Bad
If you want something truly lightweight for a bug-out solution, this is probably not the product for you as it comes in at 2.4 lbs (just over one kilogram for our metric friends). The pour spout looks like a traditional wedge, but is actually a drilled hole inside the wedge, which meant the first time I used mine it didn't pour the way I thought it would. I over-tipped the pot, which can get annoying if a lot of people are passing the pot around to fill cups. Finally , the handle is plastic, which means you have to be careful not to expose it to open flames.

How to use it:
  1. Fill the percolator basket half full with a standard coarse ground coffee.
  2. Fill the pot with 8 cups of clear, cold, palatable water.
  3. Put the stem and basket assembly into the pot and push down on the lid until it snaps into place. 
  4. Place over a heat source and wait. 
    • The percolator concept works because the stem assembly, being close to the heat, gets hot and the pressure of the colder water above makes "going up the stem" to the top of the pot a lower resistance pathway than going up the sides. So as your pot starts to boil, you'll see the characteristic "burps and splatters" in the percolator top, and they will get more and more brown as the process continues. 
  5. When a lot of steam comes out of the pour spout, and the sound of a constant boil is heard, your pot is ready after one minute of this rolling boil. 
    • Why one minute? That comes from the EPA recommendations on sterilizing water in an emergency. They also recommend 3 minutes of boiling above 5,000 feet (Denver residents take note).
    • The EPA also says "To improve the flat taste of boiled water, add one pinch of salt to each quart or liter of water, or pour the water from one clean container to another several times." 
    • The pinch of salt is actually an old trick to make coffee taste better. A soldier I knew always added a pinch to my cup whenever he was trying to sober me up (but that's another story involving one of the many uses of ethanol in a non-survival scenario). 
If you want to filter your coffee, you can either purchase disk coffee filters or simply punch a hole in the middle of regular basket filters. There are plenty of YouTubevideos to show how to use paper filters with percolators in case you want use filters. Filters have many uses, some culinary and some not, and so have a place in a prepper pantry.

Other Thoughts
There are other ways to make coffee, and other ways to sterilize water. This one is great for "glamping", "bug out by vehicle", or "shelter in place" scenarios where the size and weight of the unit aren't huge drawbacks to routine use. It's also cheap enough to stash at a bug out location or cache site without feeling too bad about wasting money on preps you might never use.

Protip: if you add fresh grounds to your once-used grounds you'll be able to make a can of ground coffee go longer. If you're like me and need a few stiff cups of black life water to keep you going through the day, this will help you wean yourself of a caffeine dependency over time.

While this percolator won't make a perfect cup of top-end dark roast, it will make a strong black brew that will taste a tad different from standard drip coffee makers. I recommend a French Press setup for "gourmet" in grubby times if you want a luxurious cup of coffee to start your day, but the percolator will make more coffee (often faster) and will be able to service more people than other solutions, which is important if you have neighbors or a work crew helping out. Never underestimate the goodwill that offering someone a warm drink on a cold morning will buy you! And even if it is hotter and muggier than the third ring of hell in your disaster, you can bet there is at least someone jonesing for their caffeine fix.

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