How to make good coffee with a percolator

Percolated coffee is some of the richest, best tasting and strongest coffee you will ever taste.  Just like Gran made it in the old days, the smell of a brew percolating in the kitchen is hard to beat.  Some people will only use a percolator, some have tried drip machines and gone back to using a percolator.

PercolatorPercolators have received a bit of bad press in recent years, with people complaining that they burn the coffee.  This certainly can happen, especially with stove top models, if you are impatient.  However, once you have got the technique right, and don’t apply too much heat, you can make a perfect brew every time.  Here’s how:

1. Fresh coffee in a clean pot with filtered, cool water.

These three in combination are so basic to any good brew that they hardly need elaboration here.  Keep your pot clean of any coffee residue.  Use freshly ground coffee.  Use clean, filtered water.  As the percolation process adds plenty of oxygen, you do not need to oxygenate the water, and so bottled water is fine to use.

2. Place sufficient quantity of coffee in the filter basket.

You should use one heaped spoon of coffee for each cup of water in the pot.  Because of the size of the percolator (several models are quite large), it is easy to underestimate the quantity of coffee required for a good brew.   Some people prefer to use filter paper in the filter basket, and you can easily buy 3.5″ filter disks for the purpose.   This prevents the finer grounds from escaping the basket into the coffee.  Make sure that you use good quality filter paper that is acid free and will not affect the flavor of the coffee.

3. Add water

Add water to the pot before placing the stem and filter basket inside.  The water level should not reach the filter basket.

4. Turn on the heat!

If you have an electric model, then simply turn it on and wait for the magic to happen.  If you have a stove top percolator, put it on a low to medium heat.  As soon as the first burble hits the glass bubble, turn the heat down.  You should aim to have no more than 1 “perc” every three to five seconds.   Any more than this will boil the coffee, and result in a burnt flavour.  You need to keep the water in the pot at about 95 deg Cel or 200 deg F, and allow the steam pressure to build up in the stem and bubble over gently.  Keep this going for about four minutes, or one minute per cup of water.

5. Remove from the heat once done

When you have finished the brew, remove the pot from the heat.  Open the pot and take out the filter basket and stem (do not scald yourself!).  This is so that the steam does not condense inside the pot lid and continue dripping through the used coffee.   If you have an electric model, resist the temptation to use the “keep warm” feature – it is far better to decant the coffee into a clean, pre-warmed thermo flask.  The “keep warm” option on any coffee maker always has an effect on the flavour.

6. Enjoy a good, rich, strong brew!

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