How to Use a Coffee Percolator

At times, the ease of use provided by contemporary pod and espresso machines can cause us to overlook the traditional coffee percolator. Even so, its portability is a benefit that makes it possible for you to carry it anywhere you go, ensuring that you never need to be without your favorite freshly brewed coffee.

From camping, to a holiday abroad, your trustee stove percolator is easily portable, which is the big advantage of knowing how to make coffee this way. While it might not be the best way to make coffee every day, it’s certainly good to know how to use a coffee percolator.

How does a percolator work?

There are two main types of percolator, a stove percolator and an electric version, but they both brew coffee in basically the same way, no matter which type you choose. The stove version is the one which is more portable. 

They work by boiling water, which is then passed through coffee grounds to create the end result – a perfect cup of coffee. 

To use a percolator you need to understand how the two chambers work. You need to put the water into the bottom chamber and then it sits on a heat source. For a stove percolator, you sit it on one of the cooking rings, where an electric one will have its own source. 

The heat source will heat up the water which will begin to boil in the bottom chamber. You then add the coffee which normally sits inside a metal filter or basket, to contain the coffee grounds. After around six minutes you will have perfect coffee. 

You need to remove the pot carefully from the heat and let it settle, before pouring out your perfect cup. You don’t want to tip the percolator too much when you pour or the coffee grounds will spring up from the bottom of the pot and you will get a very unpleasant mouthful. 

How much coffee do you need?

To use a percolator successfully and avoid having a mouthful of coffee grinds at the end of the process, it’s best to use course coffee grinds which will stay inside the metal filter basket. Finer grounds will seep through the holes. 

In terms of the amount of coffee, a general rule is to use a tablespoon of coffee for each cup you want to make, so it will really depend on the size of the percolator you are using. More grounds will make stronger coffee so a little practice will help you achieve the right flavor. 

Different types of coffee percolator

There are two different coffee percolators and they each present their own unique challenges and advantages so here are few key tips for when to use each one, and how to use them to their best capability: 

How to use a stove percolator

These are fairly simple, manual coffee makers which can be used by anyone. A key to success with one of these is to increase the water temperature slowly, and then lower it down again as the pot starts its magic. It will take longer than a normal drip coffee brewer but it’s incredibly easy to use.

How to use an electric percolator

Electric coffee percolators remove any manual requirement from the process, by controlling the water temperature and the time of the brew automatically. They are perfect for creating strong black coffee too. 

There are a few tips to keeping the percolator in perfect working order. The first thing is to take it apart and clean it thoroughly after every use, using washing up liquid, otherwise any left over coffee grounds or debris will appear in your next cup. 

Make sure to only use coarsely ground coffee in the percolator. Make sure you check the bottom of the pot each time as if you are finding residue, you need to use a coarser grind next time you make a brew. 

Most percolators come with a light which switches off once the coffee is ready, so that you will know when the percolating process has been completed, without having to stand and watch over the pot with a timer. 

At the end of the brewing process, unplug the machine and leave it to cool down before making any attempt to take it apart or wash it. Never put the whole thing in water to wash it because it’s electric, just wash the parts which can be removed. 


In this day and age of instant coffee pod machines, it might seem like a percolator is now obsolete but it still has its role to play in the kitchen and when you are out and about or on holiday. A stove top percolator is the perfect item to take for your caravan or camping holiday so you can have fresh coffee no matter where you wake up in the morning. 

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