Traditionally, people used to take pride in coffee preparation. It was a ‘job’ for them – measuring an accurate amount of coffee beans, brewing at a precise temperature and carefully straining the coffee grounds. Only a handful do it today.
While automated machines have simplified the human effort exerted on making coffee, it has “siphoned out” the true essence and emotion people had with it in the old times. Stovetop percolator seems to revive that!
So What is Stovetop Percolator
It is a device that performs the old-fashioned method of coffee brewing. This involves sending streams of boiling water upwards and making it rain over coffee grounds. The coffee grounds rest on a sieve and water drains through them to fall back into the pool of boiling water again.
This process is repeated multiple times which extracts the ‘true’ flavor out of the coffee beans. It can also be called as over-extraction because coffee grounds are oversaturated with boiling water several times.
Types of Stovetop Percolators
Primarily, there are two types of stovetop percolators: Gravity percolator and pressure percolator.
Gravity percolator follows the same mechanism we have been discussing previously; the water is circulated up the tube and falls on the coffee grounds through gravity.
Pressure percolator is more commonly known as the Moka pot. It has a spraying method. The boiling water is transferred to the central tube in a similar manner. But it’s steam now that is pressurized on the coffee grounds.
How to Make Coffee In A Percolator
Yes! The moment you all have been waiting for – the actual method of preparing coffee on a stovetop percolator. It’s not that much a rocket science but we would try to present a comprehensive account of the ingredients needed and how to use them effectively.
You see; the time, method and amount of ingredient addition is the deciding factor as to what kind of end product will you receive.
Here is a list of required items.
- Medium Roast Coffee beans
- Measuring Spoon
1. Measure the beans
The only thing that needs to be measured is the amount of beans and water. Now, we dug up a little and found a suitable coffee-to-water calculator for you. This prompts you to select the intensity of the coffee first. A general recommendation is of using 30 gm of coffee with every 500 grams of water.
After this, you can change the amount of water and coffee beans in the spaces and get the amount of brewed coffee as a result. Easy and uncomplicated! Now, keep in mind that 1 teaspoon is equal to 4.93 milliliters and one tablespoon is equal to 14.79 milliliters.
While we are on it, one ounce of water will be equal to 29.6 milliliters. We are only stating this because people if different countries measure differently.
Let’s discuss a general example to simplify things. Generally, a tablespoon holds about 5g of coffee. If you have a 10-ounce coffee mug, that means it can hold about 300g or ml of water. That’s the water you need.
Suppose we are working on a 1:15 ratio, which is considered to be the sweet coffee-to-water ratio. Divide 300 by 15 to get the amount of coffee you require. It’s a 20 gm. Now for the tablespoons; divide 20 gm by 5 gm and you get 4 tablespoons of coffee.
Work out the size of your coffee mug and then set out to work.
2. Grind The Coffee
That’s one of the two most significant factors while preparing the perfect cup. Every stovetop percolator has a different diameter of holes in the filter basket and that decides the grind size for your coffee beans.
You don’t want any coffee grain to be going through these holes into the water because that will eventually become part of your drinkable coffee. The filters of the percolator are not as fine as ones in a drip coffeemaker so you would need medium-coarse grind size.
You can even place a filter paper of some sort to make it fine.
3. Fill the Percolator
Now heading over to the actual actions. Pour in the amount of water as per requirement. We have already discussed the general volumes you can use. There is a series of holes on the inner side adjacent to the spout location.
Always keep water at least an inch below it otherwise the coffee will splutter out and create a mess.
4. Assemble the Assembly
If your percolator has an assembly where the stem and coffee basket are separate; first attach the stem securely to the bottom of the pot and then tighten up the basket on top of the stem.
If your stem and basket are attached, simply secure the whole assembly on to the bottom of the pot. Some percolators have a separate lid for the basket and separate one for the percolator itself. Be sure to put them in the right places.
All percolators carry this type of assembly, more or less. Only the method of fastening may be different. Some might feature a clip-on fastener, others a nut and bolt system while many get secured by interlocking threads method.
5. Add coffee grounds
Now fill the basket with coffee grounds. Be sure to add the amount according to the measurement narrated above. Ensure that none of the ground enters the hole of the stem or you will get grains in your cup.
Place the basket lid on if it has any and then the lid of the percolator. You should not just place it ‘on’ but airtight it by closing it safely as there will be a lot of pressure build-up that can launch a loose lid upwards in the air.
6. Start Heating
Now when everything is “secured”, put the stovetop percolator at stove and turn on the heat. You can switch to high heat at the start but not for too long.
‘Temperature’ is one of the very important factor to consider in brewing coffee. How do you decide when the water has reached the correct temperature to be taken off the stove? That’s an art you need to master.
This is the reason why percolator is associated with bitter coffee cups – the heat causes the brewed coffee to be recirculated many times ending up in an acidic taste.
That’s why you should always be on the check of the top lid viewfinder that shows the color of the water each time it gets ‘perked’. As you see the first perk, turn down the heat after a few seconds as gentle heating will give a better taste.
Continue looking at the viewfinder until you start seeing the customary reddish-black hue of a perfectly brewed coffee. This would surely take some doing until you master the ideal time but generally, after 5 minutes since the first ‘perk’ appears, you should turn off the stove.
7. Set the Timer and watch it carefully
This is the stage that will define the strength of your coffee. The longer you let it boil, the stronger your coffee will be. There is a glass knob on the top of the lid where you will see the sign of the first “perk” in the form of bubbles. Congrats, the water has neared boiling but don’t be too excited. The real work has just begun. Set your timer to 5 minutes, as a general rule, and maintain this heat for a few seconds until you see the bubbles appearing continuously.
After this, turn down the heat and notice the color change in the glass knob. The sizzling sound at this point must be occurring every 4-5 seconds which indicates you are going really well.
After the timer dings, see if the water has changed to coffee-colored. If it hasn’t, give it about half a minute or more. The stated time varies massively for different people. Play with it each time you brew coffee to decipher the “sweet” time for yourself.
8. Stop the Heating and remove Coffee Grounds
Now stop the heating process and remove the percolator from the stove. It will be scorching so you have to either use oven mitts or kitchen gloves to hold it. We also recommend letting the coffee sit for a minute.
Take a mug and pour your freshly brewed coffee in it – but wait! You are forgetting something. Coffee grounds resting peacefully on the basket can easily become part of your poured beverage if you don’t remove them first.
Some percolators might have strong barriers separating the basket from the reservoir but not all of them are equipped with them so why take the risk? Carefully remove the basket and throw away or better use the coffee grounds as your garden compost.
There might still be some grains left in the coffee as a result of the percolating process so those who are very particular about having a grain-free coffee should strain it while pouring them in the mug.
9. Sip And Enjoy
You have received the gift of your morning hard work. Add milk or sugar to it or just have it raw on side of bread or cake. Take pleasure from it now by sipping it slowly.
10. Clean up
You might remember what we discussed in the ‘Advantages’ section above: stovetop percolators are very easy to clean. Unsecure the basket assembly and rinse it with dishwasher before doing the same for the rest of the pot.
If there are some spilled coffee beans on the kitchen counter, wipe it off with a cloth and get ready for your office or school. It’s already been so late!
Here is a video if you are among the visual seekers!
Percolator vs Drip Coffee
Percolators were patented by Jason Mason in 1865 and added to stove-tops by Hanson Goodrich in 1889. It was the only method of coffee brewing then but in 1970, drip coffee took over it. So what’s the difference between the two?
It’s quite simple; The heated water will be filtered through the coffee grounds once in case of a drip coffee while in a percolator, this cycle is repeated several times.
As a result, you would get a much stronger, even bitter sometimes, coffee with a stovetop percolator. Already brewed coffee water will also seep through the coffee grounds sucking up all of their taste.
Because of the possibility of this bitterness, one needs to be careful while preparing his morning coffee on a percolator. Instead of infusing your body with a fresh commitment to face a hard day ahead, it can aggrieve you with a biting taste.
The Advantages of Percolators
It’s entirely personal as to which type of coffee one likes but as we are talking about percolators here, we would discuss the pros it provides over drip brewers.
- It provides a fuller and stronger taste which many coffee drinkers want. Nothing is more cheerful than a sizzling mug of strong coffee in the morning for them. It prepares them for a demanding day, full of daunting tasks ahead.
- It’s uncomplicated. Unlike some electric drip brewers and Espresso machines, it doesn’t require you to undergo complex settings and press different buttons. You can simply add water, coffee beans and you are good to go.
- The construction is simple with only the filter basket and coffee reservoir section, so it can be easily cleaned. It doesn’t have to be de-scaled from hot water neither does it need a particular cleaning brush.
- They are quite inexpensive comparative to drip brewers or Espresso machines. Why spend handsomely on a coffee pot when you can get a stronger taste with something that is way cheaper than it!
Even if it malfunctions after the warranty period, you won’t have a heavy heart throwing it up.
- One big advantage of a percolator is the ability to brew tiny portions of coffee. Instead of buying a costly Ninja to prepare one cup for you every day, it’s smarter you go with these.
- It’s the perfect coffee maker when you go on trips and camping. Even if you don’t have a portable stove, you can always fire up twigs/wood and put the percolator on flames to prepare a mouth-watering, night-awakening pot of coffee.
Just imagine you decided to camp on side of a cascading waterfall where there is no sign of electricity. What use will be your expensive electric percolator or coffee machine then be?
The percolator works by sending boiling water upwards through a central stem before being poured over the coffee grounds which extracts the flavor out of them. This cycle continues for several times depending on the strength of coffee you desire.
It differs according to each person. Although percolators are associated with brewing stronger coffee than other brewing methods but still, if you need it strong, let it “perk” for 6-8 minutes after the first bubbles start to appear. Take the time down successively according to the desired bitterness.
That is a skill that will come with practice. You may get a perfectly brewed coffee on the first attempt but a bitter one on the second. Generally, the coffee is ready when the color of water shifts from clear to reddish-brown in the glass knob.
It depends largely on the type of coffee grounds, the amount of coffee beans and the time of brewing.
The total time taken by a stovetop percolator will be somewhere between 8-12 minutes from preparation to the clean up.
This is an open-ended question. Every single person likes a different kind of coffee so while percolator coffee will be ideal for some, it will also be undrinkable for others. An ideal percolated coffee will be stronger, cloudier and hotter than others.
It is surely better if you can afford to stand next to a percolator the entire time. The only advantage an electric percolator has on the stovetop one is the automatic feature of being turned off when properly brewed.
Otherwise, a stovetop percolator is cheaper, simpler to use and easier to wash.
As for the roasting intensity, use medium roast coffee beans because the process will snatch all the flavor from it and if it is dark roasted, chances of getting a bitter, acidic beverage enhance greatly.
The most suitable choices for coffee beans are Ethiopian coffee, Sumatran coffee, and Colombian coffee.
“Old is gold” is a common saying and quite true often. Although stovetop percolator is a traditional method of coffee brewing, it is also the simplest and purest of all.
While other modern machines have so many controls and buttons on them and need electricity to power up, this can easily be taken to camping trips and need nothing more than a stove or a source of fire; merely woods would do.
It emotionally attaches you with your daily cup of coffee. Don’t let this connection break!