Do you want to learn how to brew a delicious cup of coffee using a tried and true old-fashioned method that should work just about anywhere? Try a coffee percolator, it might be a bit of an old fashioned method for making coffee, but does provide an interesting and robust coffee making alternative worth trying.
If you are anything like me, then your day starts with a cup of coffee. Don’t approach me until after I’ve had my morning dose of joe. Percolator coffee presents an option for brewing this magic potion, one that is unfortunately disliked by many.
Still, the percolator is more or less the ultimate survival coffee maker. With it you can make coffee pretty much anywhere, all you need is a heat source; which doesn’t even need to be that hot since you never want to boil the water in a percolator. The percolator’s ability to function in all conditions, combined with its entirely self-contained nature, and virtual indestructibility make it a popular choice among campers and other outdoor enthusiasts, despite some of its drawbacks.
You see, percolator coffee has a reputation for being extremely bold, bitter, and dry in the mouth. Qualities which many, myself included, don’t really enjoy. Another downside of the percolator is the fact that it requires constant babysitting. You can’t just set it and forget it. You have to constantly watch it to ensure it doesn’t get too hot, or perk too vigorously, or else your coffee might be ruined. However, if done well, percolator coffee can present a very interesting alternative to traditional drip coffee makers (and it can taste pretty good as well, with practice).
mI’m not really selling percolator coffee am I? Trust me, give it a try, it can actually make a very delicious cup of coffee.
How to Make Percolator Coffee
- 1 Tablespoon Ground Coffee
- 12 Ounces Cold Water
(multiply the amounts as needed to make more coffee, this is enough for one large mug)
- Fill the percolator with water.
- Place the coffee grounds in the basket at the top of the percolator. Heat the Percolator slowly over medium heat.
- You’ll know your coffee has begun to perk when you can either see water splashing unto the lid of the grounds basket through the glass top of percolator, or when you start to hear a faint puffing/popping sound coming form the percolator. This is called perking (in case you didn’t know, I didn’t when I first made coffee this way).
- Allow the coffee to perk regularly but not vigorously for 5-7 minutes, adjust for desired strength. Adjust heat to control the perking. If it perks to fast the coffee is too hot and will burn and go bitter very quickly.
The trick to making percolator coffee that tastes nice is in how you brew it (with this coffee making method it’s called perking…, but you get the idea). However, the ratio of ground coffee to water that you choose will significantly impact the flavour of your coffee. I’ve seen all sorts of different recommendations, but t really comes down to personal taste. I suggest that you start with 1 Tablespoon for every 12 Ounces of water as I have written in these direction.. This is the combination I used and seems to be a nice balance between a solid amount of flavour without being overly bold. Of course tweak as you see fit.
A few notes on making percolator coffee:
First, to perk the coffee effectively it’s best to use cold water and heat it slowly. Don’t heat it over high to avoid the water boiling or heating too quickly which will lead to strong, even burned, tasting coffee.
Second, if you are using fine ground coffee you can use a paper filter in the basket to keep grounds from getting into your water.
Third, another key to making great tasting percolator coffee is to keep the perk under control. You don’t want to allow the coffee to perk too vigorously, or to come to a boil. The harder the coffee perks the quicker it brews, potentially leading to super strong/bitter coffee. It’s best to allow it to perk calmly and regularly, adjusting heat to a lower temperature if it starts to perk very quickly, and vice versa if it perks very slowly or irregularly.
Finally, once you have made percolator coffee a few times you’ll be able to experiment around with the perking time and water-coffee ratio until you get your desired strength and flavour. Percolator coffee can be fussy, but once you’ve mastered it it can be a really great tasting alternative.
How Does a Coffee Percolator Work?
In case you are curious, a coffee percolator brews coffee by splashing heated water over coffee grinds (perking) continuously for a directed amount of time; how long will depend on personal taste.
Coleman 9 Cup Coffee Percolator
This is the percolator that I use & the one featured in the video. It is a very robust and sturdily constructed old-fashioned percolator with a decent capacity. The stainless steel ring around the opening at the top is a welcome feature that protects against chipping. If you are looking for a solid coffee percolator this is a great option.
To percolate, scientifically speaking, means to pass a solvent (water in this case) through a semi-permeable substance (coffee in this case).
More basically, coffee percolators are usually make up of four parts. The main pot, or body of the percolator in which the water is placed and eventually where finished coffee is stored. The siphon/stand which holds the grounds basket up and serves as a means for heated water to travel to the top of the percolator. And the basket, in which the ground coffee is placed.
The percolator will begin to brew coffee once it has been placed on a heat source and the water inside has heated sufficiently. It uses basic physics to brew the coffee, since heated water naturally wants to rise. As the water gets hot it will travel up the siphon/stand tube until it splashes out the top and falls down through the grated lid of the basket onto the coffee grounds, seeping through before falling back into the main pot. Thus coffee is made.
Actually when brewing coffee this way you brew it dozens of times rather than just once. The water will pass through the grounds over and over again until you remove the percolator from the heat source you have chosen. This technique differs from most methods of making coffee, like drip coffee makers, presses, or pour over affairs, all of which once pass the water through the grounds once.
The continuous passing of water through the grounds is what makes percolator coffee so bold & aromatic, and so easy to screw up. Perk too hard and you’ll be over brewing the coffee, perk to slowly and you won’t be brewing it hardly at all. However, if you can get your temperatures just right, and maintain a constant and even perk, percolator coffee can be extremely delicious, and pretty much always smells great, if a bit strong.
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