I’ve got a big, fancy coffee machine. But a few years ago I found a dusty old stovetop percolator in the barn and decided to clean it up and give it a try, I was instantly hooked. I’ve since upgraded to a shiny, new stainless perc – but the old fashioned feel and flavor is all the same.
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Coffee rocks. If you’re reading this you agree. There are many ways to brew it. And I don’t claim to be a coffee connoisseur by any means. I simply enjoy a good cup…pot, actually – in the early, quiet hours of the morning as the little ones are waking.
When we first moved to the farm in 2017, I found an old enamelware percolator that belonged to Big John’s grandma, collecting dust in one of the outbuildings. I gave it a good wash and tried it out. It was love. Percolated coffee has a unique taste, and there’s just something about the simplicity of it.
A fresh cup of percolated coffee with some mason jar creamer and a slice of raw buttered sourdough boule. SAY NO MORE. This is living.
Let’s walk through the basics of switching to a stovetop percolator for your everyday coffee brewing.
What is a percolator & how does it work?
A percolator looks a lot like a kettle, but it’s got a steam powered vacuum system inside that creates a strong, bitter brew free of impurities.
Percolating is a method of brewing coffee by continuously cycling the steaming brew through the coffee grounds.
Inside a percolator, steam saturates the coffee grounds before the coffee is filtered, unlike other methods. The rising steam from the water in the reservoir soaks the grounds in the basket, then the brew drips back into the reservoir. It continues to re-cycle and steep over an 8-10 minute period for a saturated, strong, & bitter brew.
Freshly ground whole beans
Now. This isn’t a rule. But its a strong suggestion because freshly ground coffee is simply more delicious, the smell is unbeatable, and I’ve read that whole beans are harvested from a superior crop and roasted more recently than pre-ground. So if I read it, must be true right?? Just kidding. But it does make sense.
I’ve always used my NutriBullet to grind beans, I’ve had this thing for longer than I’ve been a mom and it’s a beast. A kitchen essential in my book.
Most percolators have four parts.
- Reservoir, or “pot”
- Stem (tall part)
- Basket Lid
First, fill the reservoir with cold water. The point of percolated coffee is to heat the water slowly, so starting with cold water is best. I almost always make a full, 9-cup pot. But there are markers for fewer cups as well.
Next, place the stem in the reservoir and fit the basket over top
You’ll need a filter, too
Add coffee grounds to the basket, about 1T grounds per 8oz. water. So when making a full 9-cup pot of coffee, add about 1/3 cup grounds. Add less for mild, and more for stronger brew.
Place the basket lid on top of the basket
Close the lid and you’re ready to brew!
P.S. Black and white photos are my favorite. I usually always pick out my favorite photos from what I shoot and edit B&W versions to keep for me. Sometimes I hide them deep in a blog post, too – just because 😉
How to Brew
As I mentioned, the trick with stovetop percolator coffee is to heat the water slowly, and keep it from boiling.
Heat on low. After a few moments, you’ll start to see bubbles rising through the glass knob on the lid. Set a timer for 8-10 minutes when you first see bubbles through the knob. 8 minutes for milder, 10 for stronger brew.
The bubbles will be clear at first.
The trick is to not let the bubbles come to closely together, which would indicate a boil and that the heat needs to be turned down.
They should just be intermittently popping up, visible through the knob. Which is really hard to catch on camera fyi
After a few moments the bubbles will start to turn brown
When the timer is up. Turn off the heat. Then, remove the basket and stem before pouring, otherwise you may end up with grounds in your coffee.
After removing the stem & basket, just close the lid and pour a delicious, old fashioned cup of coffee!coffee creamer.
And on a perfect day, I enjoy it in peace – sprinkled with some cinnamon and nutmeg, with a slice buttered, salted sourdough on the side and a good book in front of the fire. And of course, the noise of the most precious all around, my children.
Stovetop Percolator Coffee
- cold water
- 1 T coarse coffee grounds to every 8oz. water (For a full 9 cup pot of coffee, add about ⅓ cup grounds)
Fill the reservoir with cold water, using the hash marks to measure how many cups you'd like to make
Place the stem in the reservoir, and fit the basket over the stem
Place a filter in the basket
Add coarse coffee grounds to the basket. A general rule is 1T grounds per 8oz. water
Fit the basket lid over the basket and close the lid on the percolator
Slowly heat the perc over low heat until clear bubbles begin to rise and are visible through the knob, do not boil
Start the timer for 8-10 minutes at the sight of the first bubbles rising
Watch the percolator while it brews to make sure it never boils. If it does just turn down the heat a bit. A boil will be very loud, with bubbles rolling constantly. A steam will simply produce intermittent visible bubbles that turn brown as the coffee brews.
After the coffee is brewed, remove the percolator from heat and remove the stem and basket before pouring.