How to Use a Percolator

How to Use a Percolator

Coffee is an essential part of just about everyone’s day. Its preparation can be an equally rewarding endeavor, from determining the blend to frothing the milk. 

The variety of methods to brew one’s coffee may seem endless- drips, Keurigs, French press, etc. While the percolator is considered archaic by some (the first patent for the device was issued in 1865), the handy appliance has recently made a trendy comeback, for a good reason. Here, you will learn how to use a percolator in no time.

What Is a Percolator?

Pouring coffee from a percolator

The percolator is a stovetop kettle that brews coffee by cycling grounds and water continuously. The actual device consists of two separate chambers for boiling water and grounds respectively. The upper compartment contains a basket for ground coffee, while the lower part of the pot is used to heat water. There is also a tube that runs throughout the device. Two types of percolators exist: electric and stovetop. Both work relatively the same, save for the difference in heat source. 

Percolation Process 

Once the water is heated, it is pushed up through the tube due to steam and is sprinkled over the grounds before returning to the bottom to be heated once again. This process repeats until the coffee is adequately heated and brewed. Percolators differ from other brewers as the same water is circulated through coffee beans several times. 

Why Use a Percolator?

Because the percolator has been around so long, one may not fully understand its appeal as compared to newer methods such as drip or french press. However, those familiar with percolators praise the tool for being affordable, quick, and even portable. Popular among campers, the percolator can be used both fireside and on the stove. Percolators also tend to produce a unique brew of coffee, often much stronger than your average joe. As it is brewed at higher temperatures, the flavor of the coffee produced by percolation is also different. Percolated coffee has a strong aroma, and the devices allow you to brew more than one cup at a time, useful if you have company. 

Materials Needed 

  • Whole coffee beans (Your blend of choice)**
  • Coffee grinder
  • Water
  • Coffee scale (or measuring cup)
  • Stovetop percolator

What Kind of Coffee Should be Used?

While the decision is ultimately up to the drinker, lighter roasts are typically recommended as their low acidity does not interfere with the re-brewing process. Darker roasts have proven to be too overpowering to some percolator drinkers. 

Grind Your Coffee Beans

Close up of ground coffee

Try to grind your coffee beans as close as possible to actually brewing them. For every 250 milliliters of water, measure out 15 grams of coffee, or use the go-to measurement of one tablespoon of ground coffee to one cup of water. For less strong coffee, only use a teaspoon of grounds. Similar to a french press, the beans must be ground coarsely to extract as much flavor as possible while brewing. This is because the percolator does not have a filter. A coarse ground also prevents the beans from falling through the basket into the coffee. 

Prepare Your Percolator 

Be sure to rinse and clean your percolator before brewing, as leftover batches can affect the flavor of the new pot. Check the bottom of this guide for Add your cold water to the reservoir of your device, place the funnel filter on top, and pack in your grounds gently. Make sure the lid is in place before heating.  

Brewing Your Coffee

The most vital part of the percolation process lies in the heating of the drink. Placing the percolator on the stovetop, turn up the heat to medium-low. It should be hot, but not hot enough where there is steam or it is boiling. Adjust your heat anytime you see a bubble or “perk” forming. Ideally, you will see one bubble every couple of seconds. It is recommended during this process to stay close to the percolator to ensure no boiling occurs. Percolation typically takes five to ten minutes. This is a rough estimate as it is truly up to personal preference. The longer your coffee is percolated, the stronger it will taste.

**Because over-extraction is a possibility, your attention is key- be sure to watch your pot carefully, and brew slowly. Most percolators have a glass top to make monitoring that much easier.

Empty Basket and Let Coffee Sit 

While you remove the percolator device from your heat source, be sure to use oven mitts or a towel as percolators are known for their extreme heat. Remove the top chamber containing the grounds basket and discard unused coffee. It is recommended to let the coffee sit for a few minutes to avoid burning your mouth. 

Pour and Enjoy

Pour into your favorite cup or mug and enjoy! Because percolators produce a more robust, almost bitter flavor, you may want to splash in your favorite cream, milk, and/or sugar. 

Cleaning Your Percolator 

Be sure to clean your percolator right after brewing a pot to avoid dense, hard-to-clean grounds which can dry into the basket and form a cakey substance. Using warm water with a splash of dish soap, scrub the water chamber and stem gently with a sponge or old cloth, while simply allowing the basket to soak. For a deeper clean, use baking soda or vinegar. After filling the chamber with water as if brewing a pot of coffee, load the basket with two tablespoons of either substance and heat the mixture for ten minutes. If using vinegar, add clean water after discarding the substance and heat the pot again to get rid of the unwanted vinegar smell. 

How to Use a Percolator: Conclusion

The percolator is a tried and tested method of brewing that many coffee drinkers swear by. While it can require more attention than other brewing processes, percolation produces top-quality coffee in little time. 

Written by Brittany Rogers

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