How To Use A Coffee Percolator?


Chris Clark

Chris Clark is the co-founder and chief content editor of With a passion for all things java, Chris has been a coffee blogger for the past 3 years and shares his expertise in coffee brewing with the readers. He's a hands-on expert, loves testing coffee equipment, and has written most of the in-depth reviews featured on the site. When he's not whipping up delicious drinks or experimenting with the latest coffee gadgets, Chris is exploring the local cafe. You can reach him at [email protected].

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A coffee percolator is a way to brew coffee by circulating boiling water through the grounds. Indeed, this brewing method tends to make over-extracted coffee. Many coffee connoisseurs don’t like the bitter coffee made by coffee percolators. However, it’s still the favorite brewing method of many coffee drinkers who enjoy strong and low acidity coffee.

Read on to find out how to use a coffee percolator to make the perfect cup of coffee.

How Does a Coffee Percolator Work?

A percolator coffee maker is a kettle with an internal system separating the coffee grounds from the water. As the water boils, it flows up the kettle and into the upper basket of coffee grounds. The hot coffee drips back down into the kettle and continues boiling until you’re ready to serve it. Everything stays hot because of the stovetop.

Because the brewed coffee goes back into the kettle and can repeatedly wash over the coffee grounds, percolator coffee often has a richer taste than a drip machine. With a drip coffee maker, boiling water washes over the coffee grounds once before dripping into the carafe.

Initially, traditional percolators brew coffee on a stovetop. Some people worry that this continued exposure to water will over-extract coffee from the beans, so you have to keep an eye on the brewing process. However, it’s still a good option for beginners, we explained it at Porch’s coffee tips, you can also find lots of useful home coffee brewing tips from experts there.

Over time, manufacturers made electric coffee percolators with an independent heat source, and you plugged them into an outlet and they make the coffee for you.

For a deeper dive into the world of percolators, including our top picks, check out our guide on the best coffee percolators.

How To Make Coffee in a Percolator?

Find out how to perk coffee by first gathering the necessary ingredients and supplies, then following these step-by-step instructions.

Things You Need:

  • Coffee beans
  • Coffee grinder
  • Room temperature water
  • Heat source
  • Coffee percolator (Can be stovetop percolators or electric percolators)

Making Coffee With a Stovetop Percolator – Step by Step Instructions:

Once you have your supplies on hand, you’re ready to make a delicious cup of coffee.

Step 1: Grind and Measure the Coffee

Just as with a French press, there’s no paper filter used in the percolator. Using fine grinds means you risk finding them floating in your finished cup of coffee!


Two tablespoons of coarse coffee grounds for every cup of water is a good starting point. Keep in mind this is a measuring cup of water, so if you’re used to drinking a big mug of coffee every morning, you might want to see how many cups of water you’ll truly need.

After you perk your first cup of coffee, you can refine the ratio of coffee to water to suit your tastes. Since percolated coffee is often stronger than that from a drip machine, it’s best to follow standard measurements first before you play around with it.

Step 2: Prepare the Percolator

Add the cold water to the percolator. You can use tap water or filtered water without making a big difference in the taste. The way the water boils and continually washes over the grounds, you’re going to get a stronger coffee flavor regardless of water type.

Once you’ve put the water in the reservoir, you’ll put the coffee basket on top. Pour in the coffee grounds, shake to level the bed, and tamp them down slightly in the basket.


Step 3: Heat the Percolator

It’s tempting to turn up the heat and get your coffee brewing quickly, but when you use a percolator coffee pot, you need to heat the water slowly. Otherwise, you might burn the coffee and give it a bitter taste.

Set the burner on medium-low heat and keep an eye on the percolator. You should see one bubble every few seconds. A steady stream of bubbles means the water is boiling and might have a bitter flavor. A lack of bubbles means the water isn’t heated enough, then you can switch to medium heat.

Step 4: Let It Brew

Once you hear the bubble perking, you should wait about five minutes for the water and coffee to continue circulating over the grounds. If you prefer strong coffee, keep percolating coffee for 10 minutes to get more flavor. When you reach your desired timeline, remove the stovetop percolator from the burner.

Step 5: Dump the Grounds

Take out the coffee basket before you pour your first cup of coffee.

Step 6: Enjoy Your Java

With the grounds out of the way, nothing stands between you and your coffee. Pour it into a mug and give it a try. You can add cream or sugar just as you would to drip coffee.

Making Coffee With An Electric Coffee Percolator?

An electric percolator saves you lots of hassles by handling the heating process and brew time for you. Some electric percolators also maintain the optimal water temperature, reducing the risk of burning your coffee. So you can focus on the brew ratio and grind size and just wait. The percolating process usually takes the same amount of time.

Tips for Making Great Percolated Coffee?

The steps above help you understand how to make percolated coffee, but that’s just a baseline guide. If you want to make a great cup of percolated coffee, check out these tips to level up your brewing game.

Best Coffee for Percolator

Regardless of your brewing method, the best type of coffee to use is the freshest. Many beans have the roasting date marked on the bag so you can see how fresh they are. 

It’s recommended to buy whole-bean coffee if you can. The whole beans keep more flavors inside. When you grind them right before brewing, you’re ensuring they’re as fresh as can be. Buying ground coffee means the grounds have already had exposure to air and light, decreasing their aroma and flavor. However, if you don’t have a grinder, you can choose coarsely ground coffee for the percolator.

Medium roast beans are best for percolator coffee because the brewing method is so strong.

If you use dark roasts, you might find that the flavor is overpowering or even bitter. People who usually brew dark roast in drip coffee makers still enjoy the taste of medium roast in a percolator because the flavors even out.

medium roast beans

Light roast isn’t quite strong enough to use in a percolator. Since the brewing process lasts several minutes, the water over extracts the beans. As a result, you don’t get a chance to taste all the undertones in a light roast. Generally speaking, it’s not one of the best brewing methods for making premium specialty coffee.

How Much Coffee for the Percolator?

Start by using two tablespoons of coffee for eight ounces of water. Once you brew a pot of coffee this way, you can determine if you need more grounds or water to better suit your tastes. Because the coffee percolates repeatedly, you don’t want to overdo it with too much coffee at first. You can always use less coffee per cup of water to make a weaker coffee with a more palatable taste.

How To Grind Coffee for Percolator?

Coffee percolators usually don’t use paper filters like drip coffee makers do. Instead, they have a metal filter that has larger holes than you’d expect. If you use a finely ground coffee, the grinds will slip through the filter and end up in your mug. Fine grounds are also more susceptible to over-extraction, leading to a bitter brew.

Using a coarse grind for your beans will ensure they don’t slip through the percolator’s filter basket. Coarse ground coffee also has less surface area for the hot water to touch, so it will reduce the bitterness in the finished coffee.

It’s always best to grind the coffee beans right before you intend to use them. Freshly ground beans stay fresh and pack more flavor than grinding them ahead of time and storing them in a container.

Using a burr grinder gives your coffee the best flavor. This type of grinder consistently grinds beans, providing a more even particle size for the water to touch. It extracts a richer coffee taste during the brewing process.

How Long to Percolate Coffee

Slow and steady is the key to delicious percolated coffee. Put the burner on medium-low heat and keep an eye on the kettle. You want to ensure it perks—or bubbles—every few seconds. Steady bubbles mean the water is boiling, and your coffee will taste bitter.

Five to 10 minutes over medium-low heat will give you a great pot of coffee, with five minutes as standard and 10 minutes more towards the strong side.

Regardless of how long you let your coffee brew, keep an eye on it or set a timer. Since a stovetop percolator is directly on the heat source, it could burn before you realize it.

Coffee Filter for Percolator

You can buy special disc coffee filters to fit on the bottom of your percolator basket. It keeps smaller coffee grounds from getting into your coffee.

If you’re using finer ground coffee beans, You can use a cupcake-style paper filter, cut a hole, and fit it in the basket to reduce the residue.

Final Words

Coffee percolators are a retro method of brewing coffee, but they produce a strong, delicious cup.

In this article, we covered all you need to know about how to use a percolator and gave you the best tips for exquisite brewing.

Keep in mind that when it comes to this method, using the most appropriate type of beans (fresh, medium roast whole beans) and being patient with the process is key.

So, if you like trying new brewing styles and having control over your coffee process, try a coffee percolator. You’ll surely love it!

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Chris Clark

Chris Clark is the co-founder and chief content editor of With a passion for all things java, Chris has been a coffee blogger for the past 3 years and shares his expertise in coffee brewing with the readers. He's a hands-on expert, loves testing coffee equipment, and has written most of the in-depth reviews featured on the site. When he's not whipping up delicious drinks or experimenting with the latest coffee gadgets, Chris is exploring the local cafe.