Are you starting to get bored with your regular mundane morning coffee brewing routine? Maybe you need to shake things up? Step out of your comfort zone? Try something different? Maybe brewing in a Percolator coffee pot will brighten up your bleary-eyed mornings.
Yes, this retro on stove coffee percolator is a sure way to shake things up. You’ve probably heard that this brews some barely drinkable coffee, but hear me out. The stovetop percolator has come a long way from its gloomy past and they can now churn out some fairly decent tasting coffee. A lot of that has to do with the design and better quality materials and not forgetting better quality coffee beans, which as we all now really makes the difference to your final brew.
Mark, have you lost your mind?
Seriously, don’t mock that stovetop percolator until you’ve tried it. If you’re still on the fence I’m hoping that I can change your mind or at the very least I have given you something to think about.
In this lengthy article, I’m going to lift the lid off the percolator coffee pot. I’m going to dust off its morbid past and I will bring this retro coffee maker to the modern-day. Believe me, the best percolator can actually brew better-tasting coffee than many of those expensive push-button auto-drip coffee makers.
Just What is a Percolator?
If you’ve never heard of percolator it’s probably a good idea to bring you up to speed on the ins-and-outs of this forgotten coffee maker. In simple terms, the actual word “percolate” (1) is the process of passing steam through coffee grounds to produce drinkable coffee.
The stovetop coffee percolator has touched the hands of many inventors throughout the years and from the mid 17th century to the late 18th century it has had many forms. However, the percolator as we know it today was first patented (2) in 1889 by Hanson Goodrich (subsequent patents have added very little to the original design).
Back then coffee wasn’t as pleasurable to drink as it is today (think brown sludge) and one of Hanson Goodrich’s main objectives by creating the percolator was to remove “grounds and impurities” from coffee thus making coffee drinking a far more enjoyable experience for the masses.
Over the years the original Hanson Goodrich design has hardly changed. But, in 1952 the world’s first electric coffee percolator was eventually invented by the British company Russell Hobbs (3).
From the outside, the Percolator looks like a simple tall tea kettle, but looks can be deceiving. Hidden on the inside is a complex steam-powered, coffee brewing vacuum. In fact, the percolator operates in a very similar way to a siphon coffee maker.
Unlike other popular coffee brewing methods where hot water is poured over coffee grounds and then filtered, the on stove coffee percolator creates a vacuum environment where the steam completely saturates your coffee grounds before filtering.
…Let’s take a closer look
How Does a Percolator Work?
I’ll try and keep this as simple as possible.
Boiling water rises up through a metal tube in the center of the percolator and then sprays over the coffee grounds which are sitting at the top of a metal screen filter. The boiling water then passes through the grounds and then drops back to the bottom of the percolator again.
The process repeats for up six to eight times and the end result is a very strong bitter tasting syrup-like coffee. The coffee percolator pot actually breaks one of the cardinal rules of coffee brewing – “avoid using boiling water so that you don’t burn the delicate coffee grounds”.
This is most probably why this retro style of coffee brewing has been pushed to the sidelines in favor of auto-drip coffee makers, manual pour-over and espresso machines.
…But there is hope.
In recent years the old-fashioned percolator pot has had a few changes made “under the hood” and today it’s not uncommon the find some of the best coffee percolators that are fully automatic and come with temperature and timing controls.
The percolators of today don’t boil your water repeatedly over and over again. Yes, they produce a strong bitter coffee but it is more in tune with espresso rather than the 18th-century chewy caffeine syrup!
And let’s not forget the coffee beans, they do, after all, play a big role in how your final cup of coffee is going to taste.
When choosing the best coffee for a percolator I recommend that you pick whole beans that are low in acidity and very smooth and allow it to perk for no more than 3-minutes.
How to Make Stovetop Percolator Coffee?
I couldn’t write a guide on the percolator without telling how to use it, so here you go. To be honest, the hardest part of the whole brewing process is keeping a close watch on the water, remember, heat is coffees enemy so timing is everything.
1. Measure Your Whole Bean Coffee
The difference between an overly bitter tasting brew and one that is perfectly balanced depends on the correct ratios of water and coffee and NOT over boiling.
I’ve experimented with my percolator and have found that 30 grams (about 1 ounce) of whole bean coffee for every 500 grams (about 17 ounces) of water makes for a great-tasting brew. But as we all know the taste of coffee is subjective so I encourage you the play around with the numbers until you find the sweet spot for your taste buds.
2. Grind Your Whole Coffee Beans
Always start off with good quality whole coffee beans and if possible use a burr coffee grinder. You’ll want to aim for a medium to coarse grind, anything similar to a French Press grind is going to work well and isn’t going brew an overly bitter tasting cup.
If you grind your coffee to fine you run the risk of adding more bitterness to your final brew, plus your grinds could slip through and end up in your coffee cup (yuk!).
3. Fill the Percolator
The next step is to add water to the reservoir of the percolator. The amount of water you add will depend on your coffee to water ratio, so for me, I will add 500 grams (about 17 ounces) of water.
4. Assemble Your Percolator Pot
The assembly of the percolator should be pretty simple but there are slight variations depending on the pot your using. So, at this stage, I would recommend that you quickly take a look at the manual that came with your stovetop percolator.
For my percolator coffee pot, I place the stem and the coffee basket inside the water-filled pot and then tighten the basket on top of the stem and leave the lid for the basket to one side.
5. Add Your Ground Coffee
Next, you need to fill the basket with your freshly ground coffee. Again, depending on your ratios your amount may vary, but for me, I add 30 grams (about 1 ounce). Never overfill the basket not only are you going to waste coffee but your also not going to form a good seal.
Remember, percolator coffee brewers naturally make strong coffee, so less coffee is probably going to be better than too much coffee. At this stage, if your percolator has a lid now is the time to place it on the coffee filled basket.
6. Start To Heat
Once you’re happy that your coffee and water ratios are spot on (or as close as they can be) now it’s time to place your percolator on the stovetop. Obviously, if you have an electric percolator plug it in and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Set the burner to a low heat and slowly increase to a medium heat as it starts to warm up. The trick here is to try and heat the water as slowly as possible to prevent overboiling which will burn your coffee grounds and can produce bitter-tasting brew.
7. Keep A Close Eye On It!
I’m sure I’ve emphasized this enough but you really need to ensure that your percolator doesn’t over boil. Luckily, most of the best coffee percolators come with a clear glass knob on the top that allows you to easily see when your water is just starting to boil.
When you see bubbling that means that you’re producing steam and your water is just about to boil. You will want to maintain this temperature, so when you start to see bubbles remove your percolator from the heat for a few seconds and then place back on the heat so that your water doesn’t become too hot.
Continue this process until you start to see the water change from clear to brown.
8. Set Your Timer
Once you start to see the color of the water change its time to start your timer. This really boils down (no pun intended) to personal taste but I recommend that you set your timer from anywhere between 8 to 10 minutes, any longer than that and you’re going to run the risk of a bitter-tasting cup of coffee.
As your timer is counting down you still need to pay close attention to your percolator and adjust the temperature as needed so that it doesn’t over boil.
9. Remove The Percolator from the Heat
Once your timer has come to an end you can remove your percolator from the heat. A word of caution, the percolator pot is going to be extremely hot so make sure you use a cloth or an oven mitt to safely remove the pot from your stovetop.
10. Remove the Coffee Grounds
Finally, you need to remove the used coffee ground from the basket, replace the lid, and pour yourself a cup of coffee. You may notice that a few coffee grounds have slipped through, this is perfectly normal but to help avoid this in the future try adjusting your coffee grind. You could, of course, use percolator coffee filters if your pot is able to use them.
Best Percolator (Some Excellent Options For 2020)
So by now, you know a bit about the history of the percolator and how to use one, so it’s only fitting that next I should suggest some of the best coffee percolators to buy.
All of the below pots have been handpicked by me, they’re almost foolproof which makes them perfect for novices who’re just trying this brewing method for the first time.
Bialetti Musa Stovetop Percolator
Number one on my list of recommendations is the Bialetti Musa Stovetop Percolator. I own this exact same pot and it’s a workhorse in my kitchen. This is a sleek looking, brushed stainless steel Italian coffee maker that produces the same type of coffee as a traditional-looking Moka pot.
The Musa features a durable and modern design with heat-resistant handles and a rubber grip that makes opening the flip-top lid really easy. It comes in various sizes from 6 to 4 cup pots.
An excellent choice and super easy to use for those of you just “getting your feet wet” in the world of stovetop coffee making. Highly recommended!
Coletti “Bozeman” Percolator Coffee Pot
If you’re looking for a durable well made percolator for your next camping trip I strongly recommend that you take a closer look at the Coletti “Bozeman”. Whether camping in the outback or brewing coffee on the stovetop at home, this percolator is made to last.
Aptly named after the rugged city of Bozeman, this pot has been carefully crafted from stainless steel, features a hard-wearing permawood handle, and the glass knob takes the guesswork out from trying to determine if your coffee is just as the right temperature.
Included with this coffee pot are detailed instructions to make sure your up and brewing in no time at all. Also, there are some free paper filters included, even though they aren’t really required it’s good to know you have some on hand if you decide to use a finer coffee grind.
Let’s be honest, there’s something intriguing about brewing coffee in the same way as our grandparents did and this coffee pot brings those memories flooding back.
Cuisinart PRC-12 Classic 12-Cup Stainless-Steel Percolator
Cuisinart have made their mark in the world of kitchen appliances and cookware. However, many individuals don’t necessarily connect the brand name with coffee makers. It’s a bit of a shame because they do make some great coffee brewers for the home and the Cuisinart Stainless-Steel Percolator is a great example.
Unlike the other coffee makers on my list, the Cuisinart PRC-12 is powered by electricity rather than a naked flame on the stovetop. This brings the percolator to the modern-day and the built-in features also take a lot of the guesswork out of brewing.
A smart feature of the Cuisinart PRC-12 is the long tapered pouring spout that ensures your coffee ends up in your cup and not on the kitchen countertop. The detachable power cord also allows you to take the pot to any location so pouring coffee on the dining room table isn’t an issue.
Coleman 14-Cup Stovetop Coffee Percolator
For over a century, the Coleman company has been manufacturing well made and durable products which have already proven that they can withstand the test of time. One of their tried and tested offerings is the Coleman on stove coffee percolator. This coffee brewer can churn out up to 14-cups of bittersweet coffee, making it a great option for large camping trips or BBQs with friends and family.
The Coleman has been made from a double-coated enamel that resists chips and cracks. The stainless steel rim of the pot also gives that extra peace of mind that nothing is going to chip or break, especially during cleaning and filling. The extra-wide base is also a much need feature for extra stability especially with a pot as big as this.
Best Coffee For Percolator
Not all coffee is well suited for the percolator but I have learned that beans which are low in acidity and smooth often do very well in this type of coffee maker. Arabica beans are going to be your best friend when it comes to percolator coffee brewing, I wouldn’t recommend using just Robusta, but a blend could be palatable.
In all honesty, the best coffee brand for percolator is really a matter of personal preference, what I love you might dislike, so I encourage you to sample and try various brands until you find the beans you love (… and that’s all part of the fun, right?).
So bearing that in mind I have picked out a few of my personal favorites that I know taste great – you won’t go far wrong with these!
Verena Street 12 Ounce Whole Bean Coffee
The Verena Street whole beans have been expertly roasted in small batches at Dubuque, Iowa to a medium level with just the right amount of acidity for using in the percolator.
Once brewed these beans offer a smooth warm body with a slight creamy complexity that’s sure to send your taste buds into overdrive.
Koffee Kult Medium Roast Artisan Blend Coffee Beans
Koffee Kult’s whole beans have been artisan roasted to perfection in small manageable batches. The blend of Brazil and Colombian Arabica beans are among some of the best gourmet coffee beans you can get your hands on.
These are some of the smoothest coffee beans I’ve tried and they serve up a bold flavor that’s not bitter and with low acidity making them a great option for using in the percolator pot.
Don Francisco’s 100% Colombia Supremo
My final best coffee for the percolator recommendation is Don Francisco’s 100% Colombia Supremo. Don Francisco’s family has a long history in coffee spanning back to the summer of 1870
Made with 100% Colombian arabica coffee and carefully medium roasted with just the right amount of acidity for brewing up in the percolator. Don Francisco’s serves up a sweet floral aroma with winey notes that some of you may or may not like.
Percolator Coffee Filters
Most of the best percolators don’t use coffee filters and to be honest you don’t even need to use one. But, if you are finding that your coffee grounds are constantly slipping through into your coffee or you simply what an easier cleanup, you can use a paper coffee filter inside of your percolator without an issue.
Personally, I don’t use filters as I don’t see a real need for them as long as you make sure your coffee grind size is adequate. However, I’m sure some of you reading this would prefer to use a filter so I have done a quick search and found this great little video.
Percolator Coffee Grind
Most percolators utilize a wire mesh basket to hold your coffee grounds. If you pot as this type of basket you will need to use a fairly coarse grind closely resembling what you would use in a French Press. This coarseness will aid in keeping the grounds in the basket and not in your cup!
If you decide to use a paper filter inside of your percolator you can adjust your grind to a finer grind (a few notches up from an espresso grind on your grinder).