Brew Guide: Coffee Percolator


The percolator was invented by an American soldier and scientist named Count Rumford, was patented in the U.S. by James Mason in 1865, and was eventually adopted for stove top use in 1889 by a farmer named Hanson Goodrich. The percolator is not to be confused with the drip coffee maker, though the process of making coffee is similar, because the percolator was on the scene well over a century before drip coffee makers arrived. What differs a percolator from a drip coffee maker is that the water passes through the grounds multiple times. This is often referred to as over-exertion and results in a strong, robust, but slightly bitter tasting coffee. In fact, the term percolation means to move and filter fluid simultaneously, which is what happens when you use a percolator. The percolator extracts coffee from the ground up beans by moving water between them.  

Supplies and Equipment Needed

To percolate coffee, you need a percolator, coffee grounds and water. Typically, percolator is a metal pot that is usually made of aluminum that has a metal basket for holding raw material (coffee grounds) and a pump stem (a tube that stays in the middle of the pot that supports the whole structure). However, there are different types of percolators, the structures of which have changed over time. There are electric percolators. These obviously run on electricity, and the boiler stays within the machine. Some other types are a siphon brewer, filter drip brewing and moka brewing. However, for the purpose of this article, we’re going to focus on the traditional stove top percolator. 


This is a versatile coffee brewer; you can use it at home on the stove or you can take it camping. Plus, it is easier to clean than most electric coffee makers and you don’t have to worry about electronics wearing out on them. Additionally, they are so simple to use. 

1. There are measurement marks on the inside of the percolator. Use these as a guide and fill the body of the percolator with your desired amount of water. 
2. Place the pump tube in the water and slide the basket for grounds into the pump tube. 
3. You can choose whether you want to use a filter, but at this step you put the desired amount of coffee grounds into the grounds basket. 
4. Put the “spreader” on top of the grounds basket, and then put the lid on the percolator. 
5. Boil the water, then turn the temperature down to low while the coffee percolates for several minutes (this step can take a bit of trial and error to brew the coffee to your desired strength without it being overly bitter). 
6. Viola! You have fresh, hot coffee. Pour and enjoy! 

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