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How To Use a Percolator – Understanding the Process

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Ever wondered how to use a percolator in order to get a perfect, flavorful cup of coffee? To some it might seem easy while others might find it hard to use it the right way – Well, we are here to take your hassle away!

As far as its history is concerned, the first coffee percolator was invented in 1880 by Hanson Goodrich who used percolation instead of infusion. Ever since, coffee percolators have been used by coffee enthusiasts all around the world.

Whether you are on an outdoor trip with your loved ones or planning a backyard barbecue at your place – coffee percolators come in quite handy to serve your coffee needs.

In this guide, we will tell you all you need to know about coffee percolation – what it is, the various types of percolators, and how to use these devices. So let’s get on with it.

What is a Coffee Percolator?

In order to understand the way a percolator works and how to get the best taste into your coffee cup, you need to first understand what a percolator really is.

In the simplest of definitions, a coffee percolator is a device that is used for brewing coffee and the mechanism it follows includes continuous cycling the boiling brew via grounds until the desired strength and texture is achieved.

The word ‘percolate’ means filtering of a substance or a liquid through a porous-surfaced area within a device. The whole percolation process is based on three elements – hot water, kettle and coffee beans.

Various Types of Coffee Percolators

Coffee percolators are usually more like old school coffee makers that you might have already seen a lot of times. These devices are generally made of a pot, chamber and a tube. There is a separate section that contains the coffee beans.

The basic mechanism of any type of coffee percolator more or less remains the same – pour hot water in the pot, the central tube will let it pass through the upper section and that’s about it.

Coffee percolators are generally divided into two main categories:

  1. Pressure Percolator
  2. Gravity Percolator

Pressure Percolator

Pressure percolator is the mechanism that is followed by a Moka Pot. Steam is allowed to pass through the central brewing chamber that forces the water through the grounds.

Gravity Percolator

Majority of coffee percolators are gravity percolators. These devices have a mechanism that includes water boiling up via the central tube and then falls down through the grinds using nothing but gravitational force.

Further Coffee Percolator Classification

There is some further classification in the coffee percolator niche, let us have a look at these:

  • Electric Percolator
  • Stovetop Percolator
  • Moka Brewing
  • Siphon Brewer
  • Filter Drip Brewing

Electric Percolator

The modern-day coffee machines that you see all around you, are categorized under electric percolators. These devices are capable of making countless cups of coffee using a boiler, motors, other heating sources that run on electricity.

Combining all these electric components, these machines can serve your home, office or commercial coffee needs quite well.

Stovetop Percolator

These are the common, more traditional, coffee percolators that are used by coffee enthusiasts all around the globe. The basic working mechanism of these devices is by passing hot water through ground coffee that leads to extraction.

Due to this process, you get a thick espresso in its chamber section. This device makes a stronger and bitter coffee – perfect for those who do love the bitterness and the strong aroma in their cup of Joe.

Moka Pot

The first Moka Pot was created back in 1933 by the Bialetti company. The mechanism in Moka brewing is based on heated water vapor that comes from the bottom of the coffee device and takes coffee instance with it.

There is a pressure chamber through which the water vapor rises from the bottom all the way up and eventually gives you a strong and full-bodied cup of coffee with a bitter taste.

Siphon Brewer

Siphon brewer is a mix of percolation and infusion. The process for this type of coffee percolator is based on steam forcing up hot water through the stem of the coffee grounds and allowing it to mix with ground coffee.

Water vapor is then risen up through the chamber and then it is cooled down – giving you a full-textured and rich cup of coffee with just the right aroma.

Filter Drip Brewing

This is one of the lesser common type of coffee percolator. Filter-drip brewing process is when water doesn’t need any boiling in order to rise to the brew chamber.

Instead, there is a filter that prevents coffee grounds to pass through the filtrate and then gravity plays the final role.

How to Get a Delightful Cup of Coffee with a Stovetop Percolator

So far, you are aware of what a coffee percolator is and what are the various types of percolators that you can get your hands on these days.

In this section, we will tell you how to use a stovetop percolator in order to get a perfect, delicious cup of coffee each time you use it.

First things first, before starting with your stovetop coffee percolation, you need to keep this in mind:

Grind Size

Coffee experts suggest to have a medium-sized grind. If its on the ‘finer’ side, it will get washed into your cup and if it’s too much on the ‘coarse’ side, a lot of coffee could be wasted.

Water Temperature Control

It is imperative to know that maintaining the right water temperature will have a huge impact in the final taste of your beverage. However, do not overdo it either, as you might over-brew your drink and end up with a very bitter taste.

What Items Do You Need

In order to percolate coffee, you will be needing the following items:

  • Grinder
  • Stovetop Percolator
  • Water
  • Coffee Beans
  • Spoon

The Steps for Perfect Coffee Percolation

So what does it take to make the perfect cup of Joe using a coffee percolator? Here are the steps that you need to follow:

The Right Coffee Quantity

Although it will take some time for you to know your right water-to-coffee ratio, as we all have our own individual preferences when it comes to the final taste, texture, mouthfeel and aroma of a cup of coffee.

However, it is advised to use 30 grams of coffee beans for every 0.5 liters of water. If you feel that this is not the right combination for you, slightly alter these volumes the next time you decide to use your coffee percolator.

Grind Your Coffee Beans

Using a coffee grinder, grind your coffee beans to be able to move to the next step in your coffee percolation. Make sure you do have the right sort of coffee grinder.

If it is too small, your final drink will taste more bitter than you would normally expect, and if it is too big, a lot of coffee flavor could be wasted, hence increasing your overall coffee expenses.

Addition of Water

In accordance with the level of your ground coffee, the next step would be fill up your coffee percolator tank with water and allow it to be heater once it fills up.

Addition of Coffee Grounds

Next step would be to add coffee grounds into the basket. You should know that coffee percolators are generally known to brew stronger coffee, hence, you would want to keep things nice and simple initially.

The Heating Process

Once all set, place your percolator on the stove and set the burner to low heat. We set it on low heat due to the fact that by doing this, uniform heat is provided throughout the process.

Do Not Leave it Unattended

Unlike the modern-day automatic coffee brewers, this method of coffee brewing requires you to be there and keep an eye during the whole percolation process.

There is usually a glass knob at the top of the coffee percolator that lets you view when the water has reached the boiling temperature. As soon as you notice the air bubbles in between, that is an indication for you to maintain this specific water temperature for the ideal brew.

If you see the bubbles being too frequent and consistent, it means that the heat needs to be lowered down to avoid any unwanted bitterness in your cup of Joe. On the other hand, if there are no bubbles at all, it means the water is quite cold and heating needs to be increased.

Watch out for the color of the water to change to coffee-brown. This is happens, it is a sign that the process is being carried out in the right way.

How Long to Percolate Coffee?

This is the tricky part as far as coffee percolation is concerned. Although you will only learn it after doing it a few times, however, even if you are new to this, you can make a perfect cup of coffee using a percolator.

According to most coffee experts, once you see the bubbles at regular instances, that is the moment when you need to set your timer there onwards. Initially, you can start with ten minutes.

This will give you a full-bodied and rich texture to your coffee using a stovetop percolator. If this feels too light or mild, you can increase this timer on your next brew.

Stop the Heating

Once your timer is up (ten minutes in our case), stop the heating using a towel or an oven glove as the coffee maker will be quite hot at this stage. You don’t want an avoidable accident even before you have had you first sip!

Remove the Coffee Grounds

Once you have completed the aforementioned steps, now is the time to get rid of the unwanted coffee grounds before you start enjoying your cup of Joe. You can use a coffee filter to remove the grounds when pouring coffee into your cup.

For those who love the added bitterness in their cup of coffee, they might skip this step and let the coffee grounds in the compost for that extra bitter taste to the beverage.

It’s All Done!

Your coffee using the stovetop percolator is all ready to be sipped!

Even though the process seems easy and simple – trust me, you would still need a few attempts at it before you have actually mastered the art of coffee percolating.

There is a lot of room for improvisation in terms of your coffee-to-water ratio, the heating temperature and the time you let it percolate.

The Positives and the Negatives of Coffee Percolation

Coffee percolators, like any other coffee brewer type, does come with its own pros and cons. This is the reason why some absolutely love these devices while others have replaced them with modern-day coffee makers.

The Pros

Let us have a look at the positive elements first:

Lightweight and Compact – Perfect for Traveling and Camping

One of the many benefits of having a coffee percolator is its portability and compact design that is just about perfect to take it with you during your camping, hiking or any other outdoor expedition trip with your loved ones, or even if you are going solo.

These devices are absolutely hassle-free and easy to use, particularly under conditions where you might not have a lot of options available otherwise.

Percolators Last Long

When it comes to durability, coffee percolators will always be somewhere on the top of the list compared to other coffee brewer types. The old-school, stainless steel percolators are known to be a lot more durable than other coffee makers.

In addition to this, the modern digital coffee makers do require regular maintenance and cleaning that adds up to the cost of owning those machines. On the other hand, coffee percolators are quite easy and cheap when it comes to maintenance and clean up.

No Filters Means Environment-friendliness

Coffee percolators do not require paper filters or other plastic cups for single-use, which makes them an environment-friendly product.

The Cons

Here are some of the negative aspects of coffee percolators:

Requires Physical Presence while Operational

We live in a fast-paced competitive era these days. Most of us are usually in a hurry in the morning to make sure we reach work on time. Keeping this into mind, it is not feasible for a lot of people to spend their valuable time attending to the device during the percolation process.

We like things to be automated these days – this is something where coffee percolators lack as compared to other modern coffee brewers that do not require you to be standing by the machine at all.

The Bitter Taste

Well, yes there are a lot of traditional and old-school coffee aficionados who do like the added bitterness to their cup of coffee, however, not all enjoy that bitter mouthfeel – specially if you are already consuming a lot of cups during a day and want to keep things light and mild.

Best Coffee Percolator to Buy in 2021

Now that you know what coffee percolation is all about, why not go ahead and try out this methodology of coffee brewing with the best coffee percolator available in the market today?

Here are some of the good percolators that you can get your hands on these days:

Farberware 47053 12-Cup Coffee Percolator

One of the most renowned stovetop coffee percolators available in the market today, this heavy-duty, stainless steel, convenient and durable coffee maker will give you flavorful and aromatic 12 cups of coffee each time.

It is dishwasher safe and 100% mess-free due to its permanent filter basket which requires no paper filter. Whether you are going out for a camping trip or planning a family barbecue in your backyard – this coffee maker will serve your coffee needs quite well.

Coleman Stainless Steel 12-Cup Coffee Percolator

Coleman coffee percolators have been long loved and used by coffee lovers all around the world. A brand that started off manufacturing lanterns more than a 100 years ago, is now one of the best sellers of coffee percolators worldwide.

With a 12-cup capacity, this stainless steel device has a base, a tube, basket and a basket lid. This lightweight and convenient coffee percolator takes your hassle away when it comes to coffee brewing, specially for outdoor trips where you need easy-to-operate and easy-to-clean devices.


How does a coffee percolator work?

The basic mechanism of a coffee percolator revolves around the utilization of rising bubbles that are created by boiling water at the bottom of the pot. The central tube allows these bubbles to gather inside, forcing the water in an upward direction through the central tube.

How to make coffee using a coffee percolator?

Pour water in the bottom section of the percolator, then start with the heating. When boiling starts, add the ground coffee in the filter basket and enjoy your cup of Joe!

How long should the coffee be percolated?

Being a newbie, you can start with the 10-minute timer. Once you get more familiar with it, you can alter this time as per your preferences and personal taste. More time for percolation means stronger coffee, and vice versa.

Is percolator coffee the best?

If you are a strong, bitter taste coffee enthusiast, then you would certainly love coffee brewed with a coffee percolator. If that is not the case, then you might not want to go ahead with it.

Our Final Word on Using a Coffee Percolator

A lot of people might argue against using a product that seems quite old-fashioned, with little-to-none digitization or automation involved in the whole process.

Having said that, if you do know how to use a percolator in order to get the perfect cup of coffee – these devices can still amaze you in terms of coffee strength and bold taste. For those who love their drink to have the bitter effect – they should certainly try out coffee made in a coffee percolator.

In addition to this, when it comes to outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, kayaking, etc., stovetop percolators perform really well as they give you the same strong, full-bodied cup of coffee with minimal device maintenance and clean up.

To wrap up, being a coffee lover, you should at least once own a decent coffee percolator – learn the art of coffee percolation – and experience the taste and aroma of your drink. I wasn’t disappointed, I am quite sure you won’t be either! 🙂

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