Russell Hobbs Vintage Coffee Percolator

One of the things that has kept me sane so far in lockdown has been working on improving the quality of time just spent at home. I’ve fixed things that were long needing done, tidied (it’s ongoing…), sorted, found, filed and also discovered a whole new world in the kitchen.
I used to cook years back rather than just heat stuff up as I seem to have been doing, but now I’ve really found a new home by the hob and although not everything I do is from scratch, I’m enjoying the creative process and enjoying actually eating the food, because it doesn’t taste like I made it, if that makes sense.

Part of all that has been the addition of a vintage coffee percolator, from I think ’84 at the absolute latest. It’s a weekend morning ritual and it’s a sign of a meal well cooked and much enjoyed if someone says “Will I stick the pot on?”.

My folks bought one of these back in ’79 or so and it’s actually still going now, having been repaired several times over the years. I always associated it with faff, too much cleaning and prep for a cuppa, but the taste could not be denied.

It’s a nice simple and clean looking bit of kit and the one I got on ebay last year for a handsome sum (it turns out these are collectible and surprisingly popular) is probably the best version to get.

This design was discontinued in the early 80s as tastes literally changed. The coffee is recirculated inside which thickens up the flavour and adds richness, I’ve read some saying it adds a burnt flavour rather than depth. Not being a cork sniffer, just being a plain enjoyer of a tasty cuppa I don’t see any of that as a problem. But the world moved onto drips into jugs and few percolators of this type remain in production to still buy new today.

This version has a plastic base rather than an aluminum one which they had a for a good while before they changed it, and there was Bakelite before that. This isn’t just an aesthetic thing, this base takes a regular current kettle lead for power rather than one of the earlier half round or twice as long variants. Sometime it’s good to standardize things, this plug and socket is one clear example.

It sits on its own molded base too, the aluminium one had a foam ring glued on so the metal base didn’t touch your kitchen surface. Every one I saw online was manky and torn or missing altogether. So, look for the plastic base.

The coffee making process is very clever and delightful to listen too. Inside the pot there’s a shaped metal pressing that’s heated by the element inside the plastic base. The stainless steel disc with the tube fits snugly over this and as the water heats, it boils and sends steam bubbles and boiling water up the tube where they hit the spreader plate and then drip through the holes into the basket with your ground coffee in it.
This becomes a cycle with coffee soon being boiled and sent up the tube to pull more flavour from the grounds in the basket.

I can see how this could overcook your coffee if left on for too long but the timer on this old Russell Hobbs gets it right. You can hear it boiling and bubbling away, the lid even rattles a little and them there’s a big exhale and a click as the little red light goes on at the base.
This turns the heat down and after a few minutes to let any ground coffee that got through the holes in the basket settle, you are good to go.

There are three levels in the basket and on the tube which respectively correspond to coffee and water fill points for solo, date night and family amounts.
I don’t know why I thought this was a faff, must have just been teenage angst.
Cleaning is easy enough too, the lid and metal parts wash as normal and I fill the pot with boiling water and wipe it down. It’s darkening a little already, the original owners obviously didn’t use it. It’ll eventually go black, just like my folks did and that’s fine. It means it’s been much enjoyed.

It really does bring a wee sparkle to the day filling this up and sitting there with our wee cups and saucers and cream in a jug.

Hmm, I fancy a cuppa now.

6 thoughts on “Russell Hobbs Vintage Coffee Percolator”

  1. I think my folks also had one of these. I seem to remember it being rolled out on a Sunday as a post lunch treat for my mum + dad.

  2. Hi,

    I’ve just been given one like this by my Mum who’s been having a ‘clear out’. It’s a stainless steel model but all the gubbings look the same. I’ve ordered a new cable as the original looked like it would blow our house up but really want to use it! How much coffee do you put in/person? Any tips gratefully received!

    1. Hi Helen.
      Happy to hear you’re going to get it up and running!

      We usually use regular ish, actually maybe small ish how I think about it coffee cups and if I fill the coffee basket and pot to the highest notch we can get 8 cups easy from it.
      For breakfast for two I do the middle marks and get 4 to 6 cups.
      I tried the lowest markings but it seems to get more bits in it from the basket but you can get 3 it 4 small cups.

      To stop grit getting into your cup you can take out the basket and pipe once you’ve poured a few cups out, the extra tilt as you get less coffee sees more bits getting through the spout.
      It’s hot metal though, watch your fingers!

      Be gentle with the cleaning too, I always worry about the old seals and electrics. I love this old pot, I’m trying to make it last.

      We love the coffee from it and the quirks of using it. I hope you do too.

      Let me know how you get on!

  3. I owned one in the 70’s and because of a busy life it only got used occasionally. It had a poppy on it I think. Anyway I retired this year and am looking to purchase one and enjoy.

    1. I hope you found one and are enjoying it!
      We’ve still got ours on every weekend if we’re at home for breakfast, such a lovely wee thing and the coffee is always great.

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