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How To Use A Percolator In Making Coffee

Dave Carter

May 25, 2020

Sticking to traditional methods may make a person take a step backward, but some things are just better when done without modern devices. Making coffee is one of them. Brewing a cup of joe using a coffee percolator was a fad back in the day, though now, most people have become accustomed to using electric drip coffee machines and all manner of modern brewing techniques, and the use of a percolator to get a hot cup of coffee has fallen by the wayside.

Percolators produce strong and bitter brews with the help of fine grounds of coffee that our grandparents love and remember, but with modern innovations taking over, this coffee-making tradition, long forgotten. But we're here to bring light to tradition and guide you in creating strong and rich coffee brews through the use of a percolator that the older generation once practiced and loved.

How to use a percolator to Serve Plenty of Coffee​

If you plan on hosting an event where you want to serve percolator coffee to more than 30 people you should use a large electric coffee percolator, like most modern drip machines the best instructions to follow when using a percolator comes with the product here are directions that will get you up and brewing large batches of percolated coffee in no time.

  1. Pour water in the main pot, they usually have markings on the side to help you measure.
  2. A percolator typically has a built-in filter, but if this is not the case, place a  coffee filter in the basket.
  3. Pour coffee grounds to the filter basket.
  4. Replace the lid of the device.
  5. Plug the percolator in an outlet.
  6. Wait for it to brew for 40 to 60 seconds.
  7. Pour in a cup and serve immediately.

Though a conventional stovetop percolator can also be used to serve plenty of coffee it's best to utilize a large coffee percolator for less hassle when brewing coffee for large events, you should estimate that each guest will get a serving of  1 1/2 cups of coffee (5 ounces). Though it takes a longer time to brew large batches, electric percolators are the best choice for serving plenty of coffee in one sitting.

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The basics of using a percolator​

The stovetop and electric percolator were enormously popular back in the day. They were considered the preferred and common method for brewing coffee until the modern automatic coffee maker supplanted them.


There are two main parts to this unit, the main pot that provides space for water and the base which sits above the heat source. The other parts consist of the filter basket, it is located on the tube of the unit and is a perforated chamber that has a lid, all these are seen inside the pot. These parts are what holds the coffee grounds; the function of the tube is to carry water from the base of the main pot to the top.

Gravity vs Pressure​

There are two types of this unit, these are the pressure and the gravity percolator, the most common is the latter and it is the utilized method of percolating in both stovetop and electric percolator.

Tips in using a percolator​

Percolators can be used over an external heat source or have built-in electrical heating elements in it, like modern drip coffee machines. Before making yourself a cup of hot coffee, you should always keep these basic brewing tips in mind.

Water and Coffee ratio​

Make sure to always use fresh and filtered water, keep in mind to instill the correct water to coffee ratio of your percolator, like modern coffee makers, 1 tsp. for weak coffee and 1 tbsp. per cup of water for strong coffee.

Increasing or decreasing the number of grounds used in making the coffee will determine the intensity of the finished product. Divide the amount of water you want to pour in the unit by 5 to easily determine the number of servings. For instance, 25 ounces of coffee equals 5 servings.

Correct coffee grind​

Use the appropriate grind of coffee beans to suit your percolators, the most recommended type of grounds for percolated coffee is a coarse grind. A medium-roast is the best since a darker roast tends to have a burnt and bitter flavor.

The finer the beans are, the faster they implement their flavor into the water and the stronger the drink is, the grounds interact with liquid slower.

Correct coffee grind​

Use the appropriate grind of coffee beans to suit your percolators, the most recommended type of grounds for percolated coffee is a coarse grind. A medium-roast is the best since a darker roast tends to have a burnt and bitter flavor.

The finer the beans are, the faster they implement their flavor into the water and the stronger the drink is, the grounds interact with liquid slower.

Keep it short​

Another tip to remember when percolating coffee is to make the process short, to avoid getting the unusually strong product that results in the other methods mentioned. It's recommended to cut the indicated brew time a few minutes short to get results of more palatable coffee.


Water that's too cold and too hot can result in tampered coffee, which no one wants. When it comes to percolating, the temperature is key, for optimal brewing keep the liquid temperature between 195°F to 200°F (90.6°C to 93.30°C) for the whole duration of the percolating process.

Let it settle​

Aside from being strong and bitter, the coffee that percolating produces tends to be cloudy and muddy, allowing the coffee to settle to get rid of the cloudiness, giving suspended sediment and particles time to settle, giving you a more clear drink.

Percolators are compact and lightweight, making it the perfect companion for traveling and camping. Giving you access to fresh cups of coffee anywhere and anytime.

How to make coffee in a conventional percolator​

  1. Fill the bottom of the device with water and place it over a heat source.
  2. When the water starts boiling add the coarse grounds of coffee in the filter basket of the percolator.
  3. Lower the heat and let gravity do its job, wait for 6 to 7 minutes.
  4. Remove the percolator from the heat source and let it settle for 1 minute.
  5. Let the drink settle down and serve.

How to use an electric percolator​

For this type of percolator, you should never use more than one unit of the device on the same circuit (use only one per outlet, 110-120 volt AC).

  1. Remove the basket, stem, and cover.
  2. Fill the device with cold water to desired the level, utilize the markings on the side of the unit for guidance.
  3. Insert a coffee basket inside the main pot.
  4. Dab the bottom of the basket with water and grounds of coffee of your choice.
  5. Plug in a grounded outlet.
  6. Wait for an allotted time and serve.

For the chamber of an electrical percolator, allow them to cool off before cleaning and moving them, never immerse these parts in water.

Determine if the strength and flavor of the brew suit your tastes, make necessary adjustments if needed, percolators are versatile and you can make french press coffee and more. Percolator coffee has a higher temperature, let it cool down for a few minutes before consumption.

Aside from knowing how to use the device to make coffee, you should allocate your time in learning how to clean it properly too.

  • Used pots can be washed with warm soapy water, you may use a pipe cleaner to clean the spout thoroughly. Never immerse the device in the water.
  • Scour the base of the device with a pad, drain, and rinse thoroughly.
  • Remove the filter basket, cover, and stem and wash it with soapy water and rinse and leave to dry.
  • For all types of percolators, to remove mineral deposits, you should clean the main pot once a month by filling it halfway with vinegar and completely filling it with water. Let it stand for 15 minutes, drain and cool.

How to percolate coffee​

You can perk grounds of coffee using a stovetop percolator or electric percolator. We all want the best brews for our morning dose of coffee, using percolators can produce strong coffee for avid coffee lovers or it can help you fine-tune the flavor of the drink through the use of the coffee maker.

In the topic of brewing the best coffee, the home cappuccino machine can be used for creating a delicious and simple cup of coffee at the comfort of your home. Try to learn how to program Cuisinart coffee maker for the best brews around.

How to make coffee in a percolator​

Pour filtered water into the main pot of the percolator, add coffee grounds of your choice in the filter of the pot every cup of water.

Since percolators tend to produce bitter brews, the right type of coffee to use is one that has low acidity is recommended. This is because coffee brewed using this unit can produce strong and bitter drinks because percolating continuously recirculates water through the coarse coffee grounds.

You can create different types of brews in a percolator, like an espresso and standard coffee,  but for those who are caffeine conscious, they may wonder, does espresso have more caffeine than coffee? If you want to create the best espresso, other great products such as the Delonghi esam3300 Magnifica super-automatic espresso coffee machine can also help you control the taste and produce the best hot brews at the comfort of your home in a short time.

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How do you use a stovetop percolator?​

Representing simplicity and function in one, a tip for making delicious and hot cups of coffee through this unit is by slowly raising the temperature of the water through the heat source, once it starts percolating you reduce the heat.

A stovetop percolator is a conventional method used for percolating coffee, these coffee makers are easier to clean than their electric counterparts. This type of percolator has stronger durability compared to electric ones and since this device makes use of the top of a stove, it can produce steaming hot cups of coffee. Below is the process of how to use a stovetop percolator.

  1. Clean the stovetop, you may use plain water.
  2. Fill the boiler of the percolator with water to the desired level using the side markings of the coffee pot as a guide.
  3. Place the coffee pot basket in the pump stem and place it in the percolator.
  4. If your percolator has no built-in filter, use a paper filter and place it in the filter before adding the grounds of coffee.
  5. Add one tablespoon coffee grounds per cup of coffee into the filter and press it down a little.
  6. Place the filter basket cover on top of it and place the percolator on top and ensure that it is closed securely.
  7. Turn the stove on.
  8. Set the stove on medium heat and set the percolator on top of the stove.
  9. During the process of percolating, keep track of the color of the brew through the glass top of the device.
  10. To determine the strength of the coffee, look at how dark it has become and if bubbles have started to form inside the pot.
  11. Remove it from the heat source.
  12. Pour in a cup and enjoy.

Using a percolator is not as complicated as it sounds. Like most coffee makers, percolators come with a small instruction booklet, showing you how to assemble the stovetop percolator, get specific instructions for timing and measurement. Still, this traditional percolator is preferred by most coffee enthusiasts since it takes less time to make coffee with it.

Just like modern electric coffee maker machines, a stovetop percolator can get clogged up over time due to the left-over residue from past brewing of coffee, it can easily be cleaned with vinegar and water.

How long does it take to percolate/perk coffee?​

Over boiling coffee can make a huge difference in percolated coffee, get yourself a timer, and monitor your percolators, as the water begins to boil you will notice bubbling in its globe, the faster the bubbling, the hotter the water is. If you aim for a subtle medium heat, bubbles should be present occasionally.

For a stovetop, percolator brewing should last up to 5 minutes making it a faster method than its electric counterpart. For an electrical percolator, brewing ranges from a time of 7 to 10 minutes. This time estimate is for all types of brews, from espresso to cappuccino.

How do you know when a percolator is done?​

Aside from tracking the time, you should listen for the percolator's sounds, the coffee should be erratically "jumping" up and down, and once you hear it "perk" between 3-second intervals, leave it for 5 to 10 minutes and the coffee should be done by that time for the stovetop units.

For electric units, when plugging in the device, the coffee should begin brewing immediately, the process can take 5 to 6 minutes to finish the coffee making cycle, though some electric units come with a light feature that lets you know when it is done making the drink.

But in general, the darker the water is, the more "done" your drink is and with each perk, you will see the darkening process. If you see visible residue at the base of the pot, it means that the beans are being ground too finely.

Do you need to use a filter with a percolator?​

Yes, but it depends on your coffee preference because filtering grounds of coffee can affect the drink's overall taste, but it can reduce cafestol, which reduces the cholesterol content of the drink since it is proven to elevate cholesterol levels drastically.

A percolator usually has built-in filters that come in the form of coffee pot baskets, during the perking cycle, the grounds go through the holes in the built-in filter and into the final product. If a built-in filter is not available, you may utilize a paper filter, these filters are readily available in local stores and online stores, the size of 3 1/2 inch can fit most types of percolators.

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Conclusion: The old school coffee maker​

Though considered as old-fashioned it is still loved and practiced by many, remember that some things go out of fashion for no good reasons, newer things simply outshine them. Utilizing a percolator was once the preferred and primary way of making coffee for the masses around the world. These units were ubiquitous before the introduction of its modern counterparts.

Using these units to create brews is like wine, the older it gets, the better it tastes, and as more people are becoming more interested in the art of coffee, more are opting in making these drinks at home thus, bringing back the older methods of brewing coffee to light. They are readily available in online stores such as Amazon and eBay. Making this product one more piece of fantastic equipment for your coffee endeavors.

Brew to perfection​

Now that you have the proper guide of using a percolator, making coffee from the comfort of your homes has never been easier. Always utilize coarsely ground coffee and medium roast to get the best tasting brew out of this product.


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