11 TOPICS TO LEARN
Coffee Percolator Brewing Guide
A percolator is a coffee brewing device. It operates by repeatedly passing hot water through coffee grounds.
Percolators are very easy to assemble and use. They are usually made of steel and look like small kettles.
While some modern coffee machines are powered by electricity, traditional percolators require a stove or fire to brew coffee, making them a great choice for practical coffee drinkers such as campers. Next, let's take a closer look at what a percolator is and how it differs from Moka pot.
What Is a Percolator?
A percolator resembles a simple kettle, with a cylindrical body, a lid, and a long spout.
Inside the percolator, there's a filter basket for coffee grounds and a tube that brings hot water up from the base of the device and pours it over the coffee grounds, and a spreader plate that distributes the water evenly over the grounds.
Some percolators have an electric heating element attached to the bottom, while others are designed to be heated on the stove.
A percolator is a closed system. That is, the heat from the heating element or stove pushes the water upward, where it passes through the spreader plate. The plate distributes the water evenly throughout the coffee grounds. Then the water filters down into the body of the percolator and the process repeats.
How it works:
- Pour water into the main body of the percolator.
- Pour ground coffee into the filter basket.
- Plug in and turn on the percolator (if electric) or place on stove.
- As it boils, water rises up the tube, seeps through the coffee and flows back into the large tank.
As soon as the drink acquires the desired color, the device must be turned off. Otherwise, re-distillation will start.
What's the Difference Between a Percolator And a Moka Pot?
A percolator is very similar in design to the Moka pot, but their differences greatly influence the taste of the coffee.
In a Moka pot, hot water flows upward under steam pressure through a tablet of ground coffee. The water flows upward only once; brewing ends when all the water has been used up.
In a percolator, hot water passes through the coffee many times. So the first time the water passes through the coffee, it's pure water; the next time, it's weakly-brewed coffee; and so on. Brewing lasts until you turn off the heat source. This re-heating and re-brewing gives percolator coffee a sharp, bitter, flat taste.
Moka pots produce a thick, dark, concentrated coffee that looks much like an espresso. Percolator coffee is more similar to regular drip coffee.
Moka pots are easier to use because you don't have to monitor the brewing process. When using a percolator, you must carefully monitor your coffee the whole time and remove the coffee from the heat as soon as it reaches your desired color. There's a high risk of overheating and over-extracting the coffee if you don't pay close attention.
How to Make Coffee In a Percolator
Percolator brewing can be a bit frustrating, but with experience and patience, you can master it. Just remember to trust your intuition.
Here's what you'll need:
- Stove (if your percolator isn't electric)
- Coffee beans of your choice
- Coffee grinder
- Coffee measuring spoon
When brewing in a percolator, use a medium-coarse grind. We recommend that you use a burr grinder for a good, even grind. If the grind is too fine, coffee particles can pass through the filter and end up in your cup; if the grind is too coarse, the coffee won't have a good aroma.
Also, because of the risk of over-extraction when using a percolator, you should choose less bitter coffee beans, for example Colombian and Ethiopian varieties. This will give you a more delicious, balanced drink.
To start, we recommend that you use a 1:17 ratio of coffee to water.
That is, 0.95 oz (27.8 grams) of ground coffee for every 16 oz (472 grams) of water. Once you get the hang of the percolator, start experimenting with the ratio of coffee and water to match your tastes.
If the coffee seems too strong and bitter, reduce the amount of coffee and increase the volume of water for a softer taste. For example, if your percolator holds 20 oz (570 grams) of water, try using 1 oz (28 grams) of coffee—a ratio of 1:20.
Serving (Brewed Coffee)
Regular Coffee 1:17
Strong Coffee 1:13
Preparation and Recommendations
Brew Time: 3 Min
Yield: 2 Cups
What You Need
• Freshly Roasted Coffee Beans
1. Add water to the percolator.
2. Add the filter and tube assembly.
3. Add ground coffee to the filter basket.
4. Place your percolator over a medium heat source, or turn the percolator's heating element on if it's electric.
5. Watch the clear handle to monitor the brewing process.
6. Allow your coffee to percolate for about 10 minutes, or until the coffee is the color you want.
7. Remove your percolator from the heat source.
- Grind the beans (use a medium-coarse grind). Some percolators may have too large of filter holes. This is normal. If some of the coffee grounds get into the finished drink, you can strain it at the end of the brewing process.
- Add cold water to the tank to match the coffee-to-water ratio. Your goal is to let the water heat up slowly, so always start with cold water
- Fill the filter basket to match the coffee-to-water ratio.
- Place the percolator on the stove and set the stove to low or medium heat. If you have an electric percolator, turn it on. The secret to making great coffee in a percolator is to heat the water slowly and not let it boil.
- Maintain the correct water temperature. Most percolator models have a clear glass or plastic handle at the top - once the water is hot enough, you will see it begin to bubble. This means that it will soon boil. Maintain the heat just below a boil; if the water starts to boil, reduce the heat. If the water isn't bubbling at all, increase the heat. As brewing progresses, the water will change from clear to coffee-colored.
- Once bubbles begin to appear regularly, set the timer to a maximum of ten minutes. Some people recommend 6-8 minutes, but it's up to your preferences. Your first time, start with 10 minutes, then experiment based on how much you like the results. Remember, a longer brewing time means stronger coffee.
- As brewing progresses, the water will change from clear to coffee-colored. This is not a set-and-forget brewing method. Once the coffee reaches your desired strength/color, remove it from the heat.
- When the timer goes off, or when you're happy with the color of your coffee, turn off the heat and carefully remove the percolator from the stove. The device will be very hot, so be sure to use an oven mitt or towel to protect your hands and a stand to avoid ruining the countertop.
Drinking Your Percolator Coffee
Before drinking your freshly brewed coffee, you need to remove any grounds that found their way into your cup. Many percolators do not have strong seals to separate the basket from the reservoir, so grounds can get into the coffee pretty easily. The first cup you pour may contain more grounds than coffee itself.
Remove the basket and discard or compost the contents. If a small amount of grounds does get into the cup, that's okay—the drink will just be more bitter. If you prefer coffee with no grounds, then strain the coffee through a fine mesh filter before drinking.
What to Look for When Choosing a Percolator
Select your percolator based on how much coffee you want to be able to brew at once. To extend your percolator's life, it's best to get a slightly bigger one than you think you'll need.
The cost of a percolator is determined by materials, brand, whether it's electric or stovetop, and additional features (drip tray, overheating protection, temperature controller, etc.).
It's rare to find a percolator for sale these days—mass production stopped many years ago. But don't worry: even percolators from the 1900s usually still work well. Plus, small batches of percolators appear on the market every once in a while, usually in the form of souvenirs or trial batches. There are many devotees of the percolator niche.
The main reason you may not like making coffee with a percolator is that you can't just turn on the device and leave, as is the case with other coffee makers. But some people enjoy the process of brewing with a percolator. It forces you to slow down in the morning instead of rushing out of bed and off to work. We think you should give the percolator a try!