I recently happened upon one of these at the local thrift store at the bargain price of $3.98, and it was barely used. I've got lots of different machines and methods of brewing coffee, but the good ole' percolator ranks as one of my favorites, probably my very favorite of all the automatic methods. I have reviewed many coffee makers here, most as a result of testing different models to determine what is the best machine to sell; I do not like putting junk into the marketplace. The Presto is most definitely not junk.
Recommend this product?
During winter months, it gets plenty cold here in the midwest. And nothing warms a guy or gal up better than a hot cup of coffee, especially when brewed up with a percolator. Just the glub-glub sound of the coffee percolating away is enough to bring warmth creeping back into your toes and fingers. So when it's cold, I put away my Chemex and presspot, and store my 35 year old Melitta 132 Deluxe out in the garage, and break out the percolator.
I will admit that I really am more a fan of Farberware's 8 cup percolator; it brews just barely the right amount, but it does it fast. However, the 12 cup Presto does a really great job, too. And it looks a heck of a lot better than Farberware's chubby, stubby, little fellow.
And though this Presto is most likely going to get listed on ebay, I will probably regret the decision. I just simply do not need a 12 cup percolator, though.
Now, to get to the heart of this review. First of all, country of origin for these things is now the PRC (China). However, since all brands of percolators are now made there, I cannot see any reason to hold this against any particular model. It is a mere 800 watts in comparison to Farberware's percolators, but this seems to be enough. The finished coffee, though not as hot as what I'm used to out of the Farb, is still hot enough. And, it does brew the coffee within the proper 190-210 degree range, though closer to the bottom of this at just over 195 degrees (the Farberwares brew at 200-205). The slightly cooler temp. actually makes this percolator more ideal for single variety beans, as getting much over 200 degrees can mute some of the more subtle flavors. I'm drinking a cup of Guatemala Antigua as I type this, and it has retained the subtle mild chocolate tones (freshly ground whole beans).
As for the durability of this percolator, I really can only relate my own observations, and not speak from long ownership experience of this machine. The stainless steel construction is only slightly lighter than on the older USA made Prestos. I do not see this as a problem, except that the spout, being two halves of steel brazed together, does look a little fragile. I have actually seen one other of these new Presto percs that had the spout slightly bent and split open from what looked like a fall. I would definitely be careful not to drop this thing off the counter.
The basket design is also a little more flimsy than past models, and definitely lighter weight than what you see in other brands of percolators. Now, granted that the filter basket doesn't really have to be super heavy. But, the light weight steel basket and cover just make the thing seem a little 'cheaper' than necessary. And for what these things cost brand new, you'd think they could afford to put just a little more steel in the thing. I doubt that this effects the operation of the percolator to the degree it would make any difference in the coffee.
Another weird (at least in my book) thing about the design of this coffee maker is the fact that the filter basket has tiny holes in the bottom for the coffee to drip through. Nearly all percolators today use the standard design pioneered by Farberware; a series of multiple parellel slots cut through the metal, and then the center punched down slightly. The lid for Presto's filter basket is made like this, but the basket itself still uses the standard holes. I'm a little torn over this one. Farberware's design allows for a more uniform flow, and so a slightly fuller flavored brew, but is also a little more difficult to keep clean than Presto's. But, Presto's design is more likely to clog, causing grinds to float up through the top of the basket, and down into the coffee.
All in all, I would say that the Presto is still a winning design to go with. It's certainly much more elegant than any of the other percolators currently on the market. And I do not believe most people would be able to distinguish between the coffee brewed in the Presto, and coffee brewed in a Farberware or, for that matter, an older American made Presto. Personally, I prefer the Farberware, and I would still recommend it over a Presto (a 12 cup Farberware, that is). But if you can lay your hands on a Presto during a sale event, then it is certainly well worth picking up.