Hello everyone,

Yesterday, I was talking with a friend about percolator coffee maker and I realized that he had never heard about it before! That’s why I decided to dedicate my next article to answer this question: what is a percolator coffee maker?



A little bit of history and definition…

Percolator coffee pot is an old-fashioned way of brewing coffee which once enjoyed great popularity. Even though it has been supplanted by automatic drip coffee machine, there are still some people who use it today when they go camping!

It was James Nason (an Illinois farmer) of Massachusetts who patented an early design of the percolator in 1865. But it was Hanson Goodrich who was credited with patenting the modern percolator on August 16, 1889. And the most amazing part is that his patent description is really similar to the percolator sold today!


The main constituents of this great, carriageable coffee maker

First of all, you should know that most of the time there are 4 distinguished parts inside a percolator coffee maker.

  • The pot: it’s the main part which contains the water at the beginning. After a while, the coffee and the water will mix together (To be precise after the first cycle, more on this on the next part).


  • The pump stem: It’s this tiny part which allows the water to flow at the top of the coffee maker!

  • The basket: This is where you will put your coffee ;).

  • The spreader: It’s the thin perforated plate that you put above the basket of coffee which allow the water to be spread.

Admit it, you want to know how it works!

I made a small figure to help you understand the infinite brewing process at work here…

  1. Pour the water into percolator cup
  2. Heat the water
  3. Add the pump stem
  4. Add the basket (it’s the part which holds the coffee)
  5. Cover the basket with the spreader cover
  6. The water kept warming up until it flows up to the top of the spreader
  7. It reached the top of the spreader. Thanks to the spreader, the water spread evenly over the coffee grounds below.
  8. After the water finished passing through the coffee, it flows to the bottom of the coffee maker and it mixed with the existing hot water.

And this cycle continues permanently until you stop it!


Are you sure you know how to use it?


  • Try to control the heat source! 

If you are using your percolator while camping, there are high chances you will heat it on a fire camp ( Or you are using battery or fuel burner: in that case, you should get a pretty good control of your heat source which is great ). However, it might be difficult to keep the heat as low as possible ( It’s recommended to brew a good coffee) at a fire camp.

First,  try to start with a small fire, it’s easier to handle. Secondly, you can use water or remove wood (piece by piece) from the pit to adapt the temperature of the water. Thirdly, it might be good to use an adjustable campfire grill rack, you will be able to properly adjust the height.

In any case, the key is to keep the heat under control. 


  • Coffee …

    Photo by David Bares from Pexels

Even if coffee is a matter of personal taste, percolator coffee maker tends to brew strong, dark coffee. That is why it’s recommended to use a medium roast coffee ( Dark roast coffee will produce a bitter coffee and light roast coffee subtleties won’t survive the percolator process).

Moreover, it is better to brew a coarse grind coffee so you avoid grounds in your cup! The filtering basket in a percolator is not fine…

Always follow the markers of your basket while filling it! Do not add coffee until reaching the top of the basket or you will end up with a coffee too strong.

One ratio which usually works, you can definitely adapt it according to your taste, is to consider 1 cups of coffee for 1 or 2 teaspoons of your coffee ground. Fresh grounds is always preferred (if you can! )


  • Water …

One good habit to take is to use a standard cup to make all water measurements ( Ex: a regular cup which is around 7 ounces ( 207 mL) would be perfect ).

A good ratio you can use is 1 standard size mug = 2 cups of water. Then you can adapt to the number of drinkers, 4 mugs would be equivalent of 8 cups of water, you get the idea ;)!


  • Brewing time

The first rule is to follow the instructions on your model (you can adapt it when you will be more experienced at it). Otherwise, you roughly need 14 to 15 minutes while making coffee with a used percolator or you can wait until the lid starts to vibrate.


  • Tips
  1. Sometimes, you might need to use a strainer to restrain the coffee before serving it. It will prevent the residual grounds to finish in your cup!
  2. If you want to add condiment (like milk or sugar, if you are not a big fan of black coffee), do it in your cup!


Damn, what if there are different types?


  • Automatic or manual

Nowadays, there are two types of percolator coffee maker available on the market. You will find an automatic one or a manual one. The only difference between the first one and the last one is the following: manual percolator coffee maker doesn’t need electricity to work. You have to heat your water with a fire or another source of energy.

Automatic percolator need to be connected to an outlet and will automatically heat the water!


  • The different materials available

The material of you percolator matters because it defines how smooth your coffee will be! Most of the time, you will find percolators made out of metal. It’s a pretty good choice since this material can handle high temperature for a long time. Best percolators are made out of titanium and iron, so they can endure extreme temperatures!

It’s possible to find some percolators made out of aluminum and chrome, which is a great solution to make a good coffee! Be careful though, the percolators made out of aluminum with a thin thickness should be avoided!  


  • The size

With a regular percolator coffee maker, you can brew 32 ounces (around 945 mL) of coffee. It’s usually enough for 6 or 8 servings. If there is a lot of coffee amateurs with you, you can definitely purchase one which will allow brewing 64 ounces ( 1893 mL) of coffee. But keep in mind, it might be more difficult to transport!


You want to know, right? Pros/cons…


Pros: Manual percolator coffee maker is most of the time used while you are camping or during outdoor activity. It’s easy to transport, easy to heat on a fire. Don’t forget to bring a timer or something to use as a timer (watch, cell phone, whatever…)



Cons: Because the brewing cycle is infinite, I strongly recommend you watch out for how long you let your coffee brew. Otherwise, you might end up with an over extracted coffee or burned one. In that case, your taste experience is not going to be fantastic… I believe, you also need to practice brewing coffee with your percolator before getting results, but it’s definitely worth it.



Well I hope, this article helped you understand better percolator coffee maker, if you have any comments on this article, please feel free to share it below;)!

Have a good day guys!

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