The Beginner’s Guide to Using a Coffee Percolator

How to use a Percolator

Coffee percolators have been around for over a century, but in recent years they have been making a comeback among coffee enthusiasts. These simple and durable coffee makers offer a traditional and unique way to brew coffee. A coffee percolator works by heating water to boiling point and then forcing it through a chamber containing ground coffee, resulting in the coffee being infused with the hot water. The brewed liquid then rises back up through a tube and percolates, or filters through, the ground coffee again. This process is repeated, creating a strong and flavorful brew.

Equipment and Ingredients:

To get started with using a coffee percolator, you will need the following basic equipment:

Optional equipment that can enhance your brewing experience include:

  • A coffee grinder: To grind your own coffee beans just before brewing, which can improve the taste and aroma of the final product.
  • A scale: To measure the coffee and water for more accurate and consistent brewing.

When it comes to choosing the type of coffee beans for your percolator, it’s important to keep in mind that a darker roast will generally produce a stronger, more robust brew. However, a light roast will have more delicate and nuanced flavors. You can experiment with different roasts to find your own personal preference. It’s also important to look for freshly roasted coffee beans, as stale beans can affect the taste of your brew. When choosing your coffee, you should look for:

  • 100% Arabica beans or a blend of Arabica and Robusta
  • coffee with a roast date on it, or as close as possible to the roasting date
  • whole bean coffee, if you have a grinder, to retain freshness and taste
You can adjust the amount of coffee beans used to your personal taste, the more coffee used, the stronger the brew. However, using too much coffee can make the coffee bitter.

Preparing the Percolator:

Proper cleaning and maintenance of your coffee percolator is important to ensure that it continues to function properly and make delicious coffee. Here are some tips for preparing your percolator for brewing:

  1. Cleaning: Before using your percolator for the first time or after a period of non-use, it’s a good idea to clean it thoroughly. Start by disassembling the percolator and removing any loose grounds or debris. Then wash all the parts, including the pot, stem, basket, and lid, in warm soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and dry all the parts with a soft cloth.
  2. Assembling: To assemble the percolator, place the stem with the basket and filter screen into the pot. Make sure the stem is securely in place, then fill the pot with the desired amount of water. Add the desired amount of coffee beans to the filter basket and place the lid on the pot.
  3. Before Brewing: Make sure that the pot and all parts are completely dry before brewing. check that the filter basket is securely in place and that there are no cracks in the pot or lid, this can cause leaks or spills.
  4. Regular maintenance: Regularly check that there are no clogs or debris in the filter basket, stem, or spout. If found remove it. Periodically descale your percolator if you live in a hard water area. You may also consider using a paper filter in the filter basket to make cleaning and maintenance easier.

By following these simple steps, you’ll be sure that your percolator is in good condition and ready to make great coffee.

Brewing Techniques: Step-by-Step Guide:

  • Fill the percolator with the desired amount of cold filtered water and make sure that the water level is below the level of the spout.
  • Place the percolator on the stovetop or a heat source and turn the heat on to high.
  • Once the water reaches boiling point, the coffee will begin to percolate through the filter basket and back into the pot.
  • brew until it reaches the desired strength, this will take about 5-10 minutes depending on the percolator and the desired strength of your coffee.
  • Turn off the heat and carefully remove the percolator from the stovetop.
  • Serve the coffee and enjoy!

Tips and Tricks:

  • Use freshly roasted, high-quality coffee beans for the best flavor.
  • Use filtered water for better tasting coffee.
  • Experiment with the amount of coffee beans used to find your perfect brew strength.
  • Keep an eye on the water level, if it gets too low it can cause the coffee to taste burnt.
  • To brew a stronger cup of coffee, you can use a finer grind or add more coffee beans.
  • To brew a weaker cup of coffee, use a coarser grind or use less coffee beans.

Adjusting the Strength: To adjust the strength of your coffee, you can use different ratios of coffee to water. A general guideline is 2 tablespoons of ground coffee per 6 ounces of water, but you can experiment with different ratios to find your personal preference. You can also adjust the strength by using different roast levels of coffee beans, the darker the roast the stronger the coffee will be.

By following these tips and techniques, you’ll be able to brew a delicious and satisfying cup of coffee using your percolator. Remember that brewing coffee is an art, and that with practice and experimentation, you’ll be able to perfect your brewing technique and create your own signature cup of coffee. 

Troubleshooting and Tips: Common Problems and Solutions:

  • Coffee not hot enough: Make sure to heat the percolator on high heat. Alternatively, you can preheat the percolator with hot water before adding the coffee.
  • Coffee too weak: Use more coffee or grind the coffee finer. Experiment with the coffee-to-water ratio to achieve your desired strength.
  • Coffee too strong: Use less coffee or grind the coffee coarser. Experiment with the coffee-to-water ratio to achieve your desired strength.
  • Coffee tastes bitter: Make sure to use freshly roasted coffee beans and check that the water temperature is not too hot (should be around 200-205F)
  • Water leaking from the bottom of the percolator: Make sure that the percolator is assembled correctly, the parts are securely in place and not damaged.

Pro Tips: Storing and Reusing Leftover Coffee: If you have leftover coffee, it’s best to store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator as soon as it has cooled to room temperature. Reheating coffee can cause it to lose flavor and aroma, so it’s best to consume it within a day or two. If you have a lot of leftover coffee, you can freeze it in ice cube trays and use the frozen coffee cubes to make iced coffee.

Additional tips:

  • Decant the coffee as soon as it’s done brewing to avoid over-brewing.
  • Always use fresh and cold water.
  • Clean your percolator regularly for better tasting coffee.
  • Do not leave coffee in the percolator for more than 30 minutes as it can cause a burnt taste.
By being mindful of these tips and troubleshooting any issues that may arise, you’ll be able to enjoy delicious and satisfying coffee using your percolator. Remember that brewing coffee is a personal experience and that everyone has their own preferences and techniques. Don’t be afraid to experiment and adjust your brewing methods as needed to achieve your perfect cup of coffee.


In this guide, we’ve covered the basics of using a coffee percolator, from understanding how it works to preparing, brewing and troubleshooting common issues. We’ve also discussed the importance of using quality ingredients and equipment, as well as tips and tricks for achieving the perfect brew. In summary, the key points covered in this guide include:

  • The basics of how a coffee percolator works and why they are making a comeback
  • The equipment and ingredients you need to get started
  • How to properly clean and maintain your percolator
  • Step-by-step guide for brewing coffee using a percolator
  • Tips and tricks for achieving the perfect brew
  • Troubleshooting common issues and how to store and reuse leftover coffee

While following these guidelines and tips can help you make a great cup of coffee, it’s important to remember that brewing coffee is a personal experience, and that everyone has their own preferences. The only way to find your perfect cup of coffee is by experimenting with different brewing methods and ingredients. Don’t be afraid to try new things and adjust your technique as needed until you find your personal preference. Happy brewing!  

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