Percolators work by running or pushing water through coffee until it reaches a boiling or near boiling temperature. Some percolators use gravity to run water through coffee grounds, while others employ steam pressure. Percolators, because they often recycle coffee during the brewing process, produce a strongly flavored beverage.
To percolate coffee, start with a coarse grind. All percolators have a basket with fine holes, which allows the water and coffee to pass through. Using too fine a grind will cause the holes to clog, or the coffee grounds could escape the basket, creating a grainy brew. You can also wet your basket to prevent coffee grounds from slipping through. Fill your percolator with the desired amount of coffee, depending on how many cups you would like to make. A 1-tablespoon serving of ground coffee per cup is sufficient. Don’t pack down the coffee. Pour the correct amount of water into the water container, and plug in the machine or heat it on a stove top. Your coffee is ready when it reaches a near boiling or boiling temperature.
Different Types of Percolators
Percolators can be automatic or manual and can also be electric or stove top designed. A stove top espresso maker — with a bottom chamber for the water, a center chamber for the coffee grounds and a top chamber for the finished coffee — is also a type of percolator, even though the water does not cycle through the coffee grounds. Automatic percolators, which you can plug in, will stop when the temperature is close to boiling. For manual or stove top percolators, pay close attention to the liquid, watching for the boiling point, which indicates that your coffee is ready. While percolators can be made from glass, they are most commonly made of metal.
References and ResourcesHamilton Beach: Percolator Coffee Maker User Manual
Home Depot: One All 8 Cup Glass Stovetop Percolator
Serious Eats: Coffee Maker History -- The Moka Pot