Percolated coffee is a classic coffee brew that’s been around for a very long time. It’s a bit more hands-on than other kinds of brews, but the end result is a strong and bold cup. Since you’re going to be hands on, how long do you percolate coffee?
The optimum time for percolating coffee is about 5 minutes. If you prefer a stronger cup, you can push this to 8 minutes or anything in between, but if you go above 8 minutes, you’ll end up with a cup that’s just too bitter to enjoy.
Keep in mind that these are 5 minutes as you are percolating coffee that you’ll have to pay close attention to the stove to make sure the temperature does not get too high since you don’t want to end up boiling the water!
How to perk coffee on the stovetop
A stovetop percolator has two chambers: a bottom chamber and a top chamber. The bottom chamber is filled with water. Measure the exact amount of water you need for the number of coffee cups you want. You have no control over limiting the water once the process starts.
If you’re wondering what fineness of ground coffee you need, go for a medium grind like the kind you’d use for drip coffee.
Next, place the filter on top of the bottom chamber and add your coffee grounds. One tablespoon (roughly 8-10 grams) of coffee grounds should be enough for a nice single cup, but you can adjust the amount up and down to your personal preference.
Use a spoon to level the coffee but don’t tamp it like you would an espresso.
Screw on the upper chamber and place the percolator on a hot stove.
The idea is that as the water heats up and begins to evaporate, it will percolate through the coffee grounds and be forced through the small tube in the top chamber.
You don’t need a rolling boil to get the water to evaporate! The most you want is a really mild simmer. Be careful that the water does not start to boil. For this, you’ll need to monitor the percolator and make sure the bubbles and sputtering sound is very gradual.
Continue maintaining low heat to keep the temperature stable and let the entirety of the water evaporate and percolate into the top chamber.
How do you know when percolator coffee is done?
Once the water has fully brewed into coffee, you’re done. You’ll be able to tell when the sputtering and bubbling subsides.
Remove from the stove, but be careful – the handle can get a little hot too. Pour into a cup and enjoy.
How does percolation work?
Percolation is a cousin of espresso and Aeropress in that it uses pressure to make brewed coffee. In other traditional methods like drip or pour, gravity pulls water down through the coffee grounds and as the water goes through the coffee, it absorbs the flavors and compounds.
The heated water generates steam, which is forced through the coffee grounds, into the small tube in the top chamber, where it bubbles out as brewed coffee.
Coffee can be percolated or “perked” in a stovetop percolator or an electric percolator.
Stovetop percolators are rather hands-on since you need to monitor the water temperature and make sure it does not boil!
You need to keep the temperature just below boiling, where water will still evaporate, but at the ideal coffee brewing temperature of 90 to 95 degrees C.
This ensures a good cup of coffee that does not taste bitter or burnt.
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Electric percolators, on the other hand, are much easier to use. They’re more set and forget than stovetop percolators.
For good electric perk coffee, you just need to be using fresh beans, ground to the correct consistency, and you’ll end up with an awesome cup of coffee every time.
Most electric percolators have sensors built in that ensure the temperature does not rise beyond a certain point.
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Advantages of perked coffee
Perked coffee is a classical way to make coffee. It’s how they used to do it in the olden days, and it’s no surprise that this way to make coffee has lasted so long.
Percolator coffee is one of the easiest ways to brew coffee when you are camping. Camping coffee makers are small and you can easily place them on a camping stove.
In fact, a friend of mine prefers a percolator for all of her travel coffee needs, not just for camping. It’s small enough to throw into a suitcase and just take it everywhere. No matter where you go, you should have access to a stove or a heat source, so you’ll never be short of coffee with a stovetop coffee maker.
Additionally, a coffee percolator is usually made of metal and can last a lifetime if you take care of it properly. Some other coffee brewing methods generate some kind of waste(like paper filters from drip coffee, or worse, the pods from single serve coffee makers).
Percolators generate no waste aside from the coffee grounds, which are actually really good as fertilizer, among other things.
Disadvantages of percolator coffee
I think the main reasons percolator coffee has gone out of fashion except amongst a select few is that it’s more hands on than other brewing methods.
Additionally, no matter the kind of coffee grounds you use, percolator coffee will always be much bolder and more bitter than say drip or french press coffee, which is usually a much more mellow brew.
Still, there’s definitely a time and place for this cup of coffee, and for a true coffee connoisseur, there is no shortage of the kinds of brewing methods they use!
For example, my go-to coffee is an espresso or a lungo, but that does not mean I don’t enjoy an occasional french press, aeropress, or a cold brew!
How to get good percolator coffee every time
The keys to making good percolated coffee every time are quite simple:
- Clean your coffee pot every time. A dirty pot results in a murky brew.
- Use freshly ground coffee beans, from freshly roasted beans. This holds true for good coffee no matter what kind of brewing process you are using.
- Try to use filtered water. The more minerals there are in your water, the more unwanted flavors will end up in your coffee.