How to Use a Percolator

From K-cups to the Starbucks drive-thru window, there are plenty of quick, convenient ways to get a cup of coffee. But fast coffee isn’t always the best coffee. Coffee shortcuts can result in a weak, bitter, or otherwise unpleasant morning pick-me-up.

Knowing how to use a percolator pot can make a world of difference to your coffee experience. It takes a few extra minutes in the morning, but the end result is worth the time and effort. Percolator pots come in two types: stovetop and electric. The basic operation is the same for both.

Choose Your Coffee
The first thing you want to do is choose the right coffee for your percolator. Most coffee that is sold already ground is too fine for the percolator basket. Instead, aim for a whole bean version of your favorite coffee and grind it at the store, choosing the coarser grind setting meant for percolators. If you can only find coffee grounds, a standard coffee filter may be inserted into the percolator pot’s basket to minimize grit.

Set It Up
Once you have your coffee, you’re set to brew.
• Fill the percolator pot with a little more than the desired amount of liquid, since some will boil off in the perk process.
• Place the basket inside the pot and add the desired amount of coffee to the basket, using a filter if necessary. Note that percolated coffee is often stronger than pod or drip coffee, so you may want to start with fewer grounds than you’re used to.
• Place the cover on the basket and the cover on the pot, making sure it’s a tight fit.
• If your pot is electric, all you have to do now is plug it in. If you have a stovetop pot, place it on a burner set to high heat.
• With either type of pot, the next step is to wait for the coffee to perk.

Test & Taste
It’s important to do a test of your percolated coffee before drinking it, especially if you’re not used to perked coffee. With a stovetop pot, it’s easy to cross the line from weak to strong if the coffee is left too long. Electric pots may need to percolate more than one cycle to achieve the best flavor. If you prefer a lighter coffee, aim for a brew with a color somewhere between honey and maple syrup. For a stronger brew, look for color ranging from auburn to deep brown.

Until you’re more comfortable using color as a guide, you may want to taste test your percolated coffee. Be very careful, as it will be much hotter than drip coffee. Note the color that best matches the flavor you want and aim for that the next time you use a percolator.

Tips & Tricks
• Try not to leave your stovetop percolator unattended. Letting it perk too long may result in a messy overflow or undrinkable coffee.
• Remember to unplug your electric percolator when not in use. Leaving an empty pot plugged in may damage the inside of the pot.
• Allow both stovetop and electric pots to cool completely before removing the lid or basket.
• Be careful when pouring from a percolator pot, as the lid will be extremely hot and steam may escape. A hot pad can be used to hold the lid in place and shield your hands.
• Be sure to follow any special instructions when washing an electric percolator to avoid damage to the pot.

Percolated coffee is well worth a little extra time and effort in the morning. With practice, you’ll find that you’re able to brew a rich, full-bodied pot of coffee with little or no bitterness. Once you’ve tasted the difference, you may never go back to convenience coffee again.