Brewing Methods Part 3: How to Use a Percolator

How to Use a PercolatorWe’ve all had our moments where we can be a bit of a flavor snob, particularly when it comes to the best way to brew coffee. If you’re a taste perfectionist like us, it takes a little trial and error to craft a great cup to carry the flavor. That’s why we’re laying the groundwork for all sorts of ways to create a cup of perfection—starting with how to use a percolator.

The percolator coffee pot was invented more than 200 years ago by Sir Benjamin Thompson—an American-born British soldier and physicist—with the idea of keeping our military brothers and sisters perked up in the field.

Coffee percolators work by continuously cycling boiling water through the grounds until the desired strength is reached. Percolators rely on gravity to cycle their brew and use no electricity, making them perfect for soldiers like Thompson, as well as campers and outdoorsmen. Their ease-of-use, however, makes them a favorite in the household as well.

Because percolators brew at such a high temperature, coffee is prone to over-extraction, which results in a bitter brew. Centuries after its invention, percolator pots still have a loyal following of coffee enthusiasts who swear by the rich flavor of coffee they produce, as long as you carefully control the process:

  1. Pour the desired amount of water into the chamber at the bottom of the percolator pot.
  2. Add about one tablespoon of coarse-ground coffee in the top chamber of the pot per every one cup of water. Choosing a coffee with low acidity is recommended, as the percolator brings out the bitterness in your brew.
  3. Place the percolator on your stove-top at a medium temperature and heat until just before boiling (boiling can lead to over-extraction).
  4. Let your coffee percolate for about ten minutes. When the pot begins “perking” (making the characteristic sputtering noise), the coffee is ready to drink.

Pro Tip: Flavor up your coffee with classics like Caramel, Vanilla or Chocolate.

Knowing how to use a percolator the right way means you can enjoy delicious coffee at home or in the great outdoors whenever you want. What’s your favorite brewing method? Do you prefer a Chemex, Aeropress or French Press? Share in the comments below!

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  • Patrick

    Ridiculous ! Go back to your machine !

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  • Alan

    "When the pot begins “perking” (making the characteristic sputtering noise), the coffee is ready to drink." I'm, no, that could not possibly be less correct. Or more important. Timing is everything, and you botched it! You got one thing right: bring the temp up slowly, and just to the point of percolating. Then when it start to perk, let it bubble for 5-7 minutes on a stove or camp fire. Electric percolators have self timers, but tend to run a little longer.

  • Asa

    Superb site you have here but I was wanting to know if you knew of any discussion boards that cover the same topics discussed here? I'd really love to be a part of community where I can get feedback from other experienced individuals that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Thanks a lot!

  • Anne Graham

    I have a 1960/70 SON A peculator bought at a boot sale in the 80s, it is suburb, always makes a good cuppa and if the coffee gets cold I just add ice, WOW try it

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  • Eric Williamsone

    Thanks for the information. I am more curious about to know how to use it. After read your article now i can know this how to use it.

  • Juan Miguel @Best Coffee Percolators

    Thanks for sharing this quick 'how to use a coffee percolator' article. Some of my friends are indifferent to my percolator just because they don't know how to use it.