Coffee is a pretty essential beverage in most households and many of us cannot go a day without our morning cup. It might not be as automatic as some of the more modern coffee makers, but we love to use a stovetop percolator for that authentic coffee-making experience.
While it can all come down to personal preference, stovetop percolators are a quick and handy tool for coffee drinkers who want to get their caffeine fix.
What is a Stovetop Percolator?
These old fashioned tall kettle-like pots work by pushing boiling water, heated by the stove and pressurized by steam, through your ground coffee. Basically becoming a coffee-brewing vacuum.
These devices might bring to mind seasoned campers or cowboys from days gone by sipping coffee around a fire, but they are a popular choice in many homes around the world and can be used on gas or electric stovetops.
Using a stove top percolator will give you the perfect brew in about 10 minutes and they are perfect for anyone on the go or anyone on a budget.
They are a popular choice for those who don’t want to invest in a costly or bulky coffee maker, and since they are small and compact, they can be taken on holiday or camping with ease.
They’re also cost-effective and environmentally friendly for those who do not want to use coffee pods.
Let’s jump into how to make coffee in a percolator.
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What you will need to follow this tutorial
- A stovetop percolator. They are made of three parts: The bottom chamber, the filter, and the top chamber. Explore some of our favorite picks here.
- Whole coffee beans, or pre-ground coffee
- A coffee grinder if you’re using beans, preferably set to a coarser grind
- A measuring spoon
- Filtered water
- Heat: Electric or gas stovetop or even a fire if you are camping
- A can-do, enthusiastic mindset!
How to Make Coffee with a Stovetop Percolator
Below we’ve listed the steps to make coffee using a stovetop percolator coffee. Use a stovetop percolator for a delicious authentic coffee experience.
Step 1: Prepare the percolator
The first thing you need to do is prepare your stovetop percolator. Take your percolator apart, ensuring that all parts are properly washed to avoid any congestion which may impact the quality of your brew.
Separate these three parts:
- The bottom chamber for your water
- The filter section for the ground coffee
- The upper chamber for the finished brew
Step 2: Grind those beans
Now you need to grind your coffee beans. It is best to grind them on a relatively coarse setting since stovetop percolators do not have a super fine filtration system and this can cause leaking.
A coarser grind will minimize the possibility of floating coffee granules, known by coffee fundis as ‘floaters’. These will certainly destroy a great cup of coffee and should be avoided.
Quantity of coffee
The size of your coffee percolator will guide you on how much coffee to grind. As a rule of thumb, one tablespoon of coffee will work for one cup of strong coffee. So, if you’re using a six-cup percolator you’ll need to grind six tablespoons of coffee.
Unused, coffee grounds can be stored in an airtight container and used for the next brew.
What coffee beans are best?
A medium, whole-bean roast is always a great choice for making coffee in a stovetop percolator. While you can opt for pre-ground coffee, beans will give you a richer flavor. A medium roast won’t be too bitter or strong and is a fantastic crowd-pleaser.
Check out some amazing manual grinders
Here are some of our best manual coffee grinders for anyone wanting to grind their own coffee beans.
Step 3: Add water to the bottom chamber
Now it is time to get the show on the road. Add water slowly, preferably filtered, to the bottom chamber of the percolator. Be sure to not fill the water past the safety valve on your percolator as this can lead to overspill and possible leaking.
The valve is there to ensure that there isn’t too much pressure in the device. It’s important to clean your stovetop percolator well after every use so that the valve doesn’t get clogged with old coffee grounds. This will impact your coffee quality and can lead to brewing problems.
NB: Check if your percolator is dishwasher safe before cleaning it. This information will be readily available in your user manual.
Step 4: Put the coffee grounds in the filter section
Put your coarse coffee grounds into the filter basket section of the percolator, which is the middle part that slots into the bottom chamber.
You will need to make sure that the basket is filled to the brim with coffee as too little coffee can cause problems with brewing. Use a spoon to push down the coffee and ensure that it is compact and snug.
Step 5: Put the percolator back together
Once you have added the filtered water and coffee grounds to the relevant chambers and middle filter, you need to reassemble your percolator device.
Put the filter section, filled with the ground coffee, into the water chamber and securely screw the top chamber to the bottom chamber.
NB: Make sure that it is securely fastened but do not over-tighten it. Most stainless steel or metal threaded percolators do not need too much force and you will feel an effortless click or slotting together when it is properly fastened.
Step 6: Put your percolator on your heat source
Now it’s time for the magic to happen. Put your pot of coffee on a heat source, like a gas or electric stovetop or a fire if you are camping. Start with medium heat as very high temperatures can burn the coffee and result in bitterness.
Once your water starts boiling it will push through to the filtration compartment and push freshly ground coffee into the upper chamber. This is the moment when you’re brew starts to take shape.
This process takes a few minutes, and it is important to watch your pot while it boils. Although the age-old saying ‘a watched pot never boils’ might be true when it comes to cooking, this is certainly not the case for stovetop percolators and expert coffee making.
You need to ensure that the water doesn’t boil over as this is going to make a mess and possibly burn your coffee grounds and result in bitter tasting coffee.
Pro Percolating Tip
Start with medium or high heat until our water starts to boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat to medium or low heat. This is of course only possible on a stovetop and not when you’re using fire outdoors. If you see a lot of steam, it might be too hot and you will need to turn the temperature down. Set a timer for best results.
When your coffee is ready and the water is bubbling, you will hear a gurgling type of sound. Your coffee is now ready and you will want to get it off the heat source as soon as possible.
Step 7: Take the coffee off the stovetop
Once your coffee has brewed, it is time to swiftly take it off the heat source and turn the stovetop plate off. This prevents bitterness or burning. Your coffee is now ready.
Striking the perfect balance between making a piping cuppa and burning the coffee grounds can take some practice, so don’t be hard on yourself if your first few brews are a little bitter. You will get there in time!
Step 8: Enjoy your cup of coffee
After all your hard work, it is time to enjoy that scrumptious brew.
Pour your coffee into your favorite mug and revel in that first sip of morning coffee.
Whether you are sharing a pot with friends or enjoying a few cups before work, following these tips is sure to result in a winning cups of coffee.
Pros and Cons of Stovetop Percolators
There is a range of impressive advantages when it comes to brewing coffee in a percolator. They’re durable, can brew many cups of coffee, and requires very little maintenance.
There are also a few disadvantages if you are into more complex coffee drinks.
Some of these pros and cons include:
Since they do not require coffee pods, stovetop percolators are also an affordable option for many who want to grind their own coffee rather than buying pricey coffee pods.
They are also brilliant if you love grinding your own coffee grounds. The devices are also much cheaper than complex coffee machines.
They also have the added bonus of being more environmentally friendly than coffee machines.
You do not have to use plastic coffee pods and you can use the leftover ground coffee in your compost.
Stovetop percolators are simply devices that do not require you to navigate complex buttons and functions.
As such, they are easy to use and do not require specialized skills.
Compact and easy to store
Since they are so small, these are perfect for apartment dwellings or to take on holiday.
Pop them in the cupboard when not in use or throw them in your camping bag. They are also light enough to take on hikes.
They make one type of coffee
Unlike complex coffee machines, which can make luxurious lattes and mouth-watering Macchiato’s, these devices make a simple, espresso-style coffee.
They aren’t well suited to those who want to make more sophisticated coffees.
Can result in burnt coffee
If you leave the percolator on the stovetop for too long or boil the water, the coffee can taste bitter. This is one of the reasons that using a percolator is not as popular as other brewing methods.
They require a little practice and some temperature regulation.
We put our love of coffee to the test and tried out a range of the best Delonghi Espresso Machines. There are a variety of options on the market differing in price, style, and functionality. You are bound to find a model that will suit your kitchen and your budget.Learn More
Although they might be seen as ‘old fashioned’ by some or accused of making bitter coffee by others when done right these stovetop percolators can make a delicious brew and they can do so with ease. For our coffee connoisseurs, we recommend giving this method a chance.
If you are an outdoor enthusiast who loves coffee, they’re also a fitting choice if you’re adventuring on the road less traveled. Simply use a percolator on a fire or gas cooker, and a delicious brew will be ready in a few minutes.
You really cannot go wrong with a classic percolated coffee. They boast user-ease and are a cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution for any coffee lover. They are also compact and super easy to store. This makes them a winner in our books.
We hope you enjoyed this guide and feel a bit more confident when it comes to using a stovetop percolator. Like anything in life, practice makes perfect, and in no time you’re bound to be a pro! You might be surprised and even decide that this is your favorite coffee-making method.
If you found this article useful or have any comments, we’d love to hear from you! Have you tried this method? Do you have any expert brewing tips you would love to share with us? We are keen to hear what works for you or if you have tried out our guide.