If you’re a coffee lover, you know that nothing beats a good cup of coffee. A delicious, steaming cup of joe is your favorite way of saying “good morning”, and the day truly begins only once you’ve relished at least one of those.
But have you ever truly wanted to change how you brew your coffee? Ever wanted to try the older methods of brewing coffee and see how you like them?
Coffee-holics often seek variety in their brews, and learning how to make good coffee in an electric percolator could prove to be a blessing. Using a percolator to make coffee could be tricky, but this guide will help you achieve the best results.
What is an Electric Percolator?
An electric percolator is a type of coffee brewing device that was invented in the 1950s. Electric ers are much easier to use than traditional stovetop or French press percolators – there’s no need for timing skills, and they have an automatic shut-off function if you’re in danger of over brewing your coffee.
Plus, this is one appliance where it really doesn’t matter how good your water tastes! All the heating takes place inside the pot itself, so anything with heat will work; fresh tap water from a filter jug will do just as well as mineral-rich spring water straight out of a mountain stream.
What is Percolation?
Percolation is a process wherein a medium (which is steam, in this case) passes through a porous material (or coffee grounds, here). A percolator is somewhat like a drip coffee-maker, with a kettle-like pot and a chamber connected by a pump tube that creates a powerful coffee brew using a vacuum.
How Do Electric Percolators Work?
Coffee grounds are placed in the top chamber, and water is filled in the bottom of the pot. As the water boils, air bubbles form in the bottom chamber, rise through the pump tube, carrying water up along into the coffee grounds. The oils released from coffee grounds travel back down into the pot.
The resulting infusion, known as “perked coffee”, will travel up the stem and then filter downwards from the coffee grounds back into the pot repeatedly, strengthening the filter every time. Too many rounds, back and forth into the pot can result in a burnt-tasting or bitter coffee, whereas too less time spent on the stove can leave you with a weak batch of coffee.
How Much Coffee to Use in a Percolator
It is of paramount importance that you know just how long you should brew coffee in a percolator to get an output of your liking – something that can happen only after a few rounds of practice.
A percolator pot can make about 12 cups of coffee, so a standard measuring scoop will be roughly five tablespoons.
For those who live in countries that measure their scoops with teaspoons, one should use three heaping teaspoons to make around six cups
Electric Percolator vs Stove top Percolator
The earliest design of a percolator dates back to the year 1814, and multiple additions and improvements were made to it throughout the nineteenth century. In the year 1889, a physicist named Hanson Goodrich was awarded a patent for what we now know as the modern variant of stovetop percolator.
While this device and its electronic cousin made a strong cup of coffee a convenient option for every household for decades, it did have its share of drawbacks, and later was replaced by their automated version, namely drip coffee machine.
However, some people still savor the strong essence of a percolator coffee. For others, it’s a matter of holding on to nostalgic memories, like the waft of freshly-brewed coffee drifting from a loving grandma’s kitchen, or staying true to their roots.
As explained above, it is important to know how long to perk the filter and when to stop the brewing process, to prevent the coffee from turning too bitter. Electric percolators are better for this precise reason – they have a set brew time which enables you to get the perfect cuppa – not too bitter, just the right strength.
How to Make Coffee in an Electric Percolator
Percolating your coffee might seem like a complicated process, but in reality it’s fairly easy – more so if you’re using an electric percolator. By following these steps, you will be able to fix yourself an invigorating perked coffee in under 10-15 minutes.
What you’ll Need:
- Coffee beans
- Burr coffee grinder
- Kitchen scale or tablespoon, for weighing
- Electric percolator
- Cold filtered water
- Warm mug
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- Grind the coffee beans in the burr grinder to a coarse grind consistency.
- Fill filtered water in the percolator pot, to the required level using markings on the walls.
- Place the basket on top of the pump stem, and ensure that the base of the pump stem sits properly into the percolator tube.
- Place a paper filter in the basket and rinse it with water to remove the papery smell.
- Add coarsely ground coffee to the basket. 2 tablespoons of coffee grounds will provide you a mighty strong cup of perked coffee.
- Lay the spreader cover securely over the basket, and close the pot.
- Plug the electric percolator in, and adjust the coffee strength and brew time settings, if any. Most electric percolators feature a preset brewing time, after which they just keep the coffee warm.
- Serve once brewed.
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How to Ensure Best-tasting Coffee Using Electric Percolator
A strong cup of coffee that’s perked just right is very much possible using a percolator, as long as you get the basics right. Here are the components of a perfectly perked coffee:
Good Quality Coffee Beans
As with any coffee-brewing method, this is the first rule of responsible coffee-making – using the best grade of coffee beans will reward you with a gorgeous cuppa. Using cheaper quality beans will end up ruining your coffee, resulting in wastage of time and effort behind brewing.
Proper Grind Consistency
Coffee beans should ideally be ground to medium coarse consistency for a great brew. A finer grind consistency will pose the risk of grinds washing down into the brewed coffee, making it unpleasant to drink. On the other hand, too coarse a grind will make it difficult for the steam to extract the aromatic oils from the grounds in a given amount of time, thus rendering a weak batch of coffee.
Right Coffee Grounds to Water Ratio
It is important to mind the amount of coffee packed into the basket in comparison to the water filled in the percolator pot. If packed too tightly, the steam might not extract the coffee essence efficiently. Likewise, packing too a smaller amount of coffee than required may result in washed off coffee grounds or a weak filter. Ideally, 8 ounces of water warrants about 1 tablespoon of ground coffee for a perfect cup.
Right Water Temperature
Water that’s nearly at boiling temperature (about 198– 204.8°F) produces best results when it comes to extraction of coffee filter in a percolator. Using extremely hot water can render a bitter and burnt flavor to the brew.
Monitoring the water temperature could be the trickiest part of brewing coffee in this method. However, using an electronic percolator instead of stovetop one can help prevent this problem, as it cuts off heat supply to water at the right temperature, allowing for a gentler brew.
Appropriate Duration of Coffee Percolation
If left unattended for too long, over-circulation of perked coffee in the percolator can result in a bitter and acrid cup of coffee. Relax – most electric percolators feature a set duration for percolation of steam through coffee grounds, thus ensuring a delicious pot of coffee.
Making a good cup of coffee in an electric percolator isn’t rocket science, but you do need to experiment with these parameters a few times, until you get it right.
5 Misconceptions About Percolated Coffee
If you plan to walk into a store or browse through online stores’ reviews, chances are you’ll be dissuaded from purchasing a percolator, on account of the following incorrect notions about percolated coffee:
- Too strong brew – This is something we hardly ever see coffee lovers complain about! If a robust cup of coffee that kicks the blues right off you is what you seek, this is the right method for you. Those who like their coffee mild should ideally look for another coffee-making method.
- Too watered-down brew – This is a commonly-heard complaint by people who haven’t quite gotten the hang of the coffee grounds-to-water ratio or the brewing duration and hence are waging a war with weak brews. In fact, an accurately perked coffee is known to be very strong and rich indeed.
- Too hot brew – Because percolated coffee is extracted at higher temperatures and re-circulated few times, it might be hot. In reality, coffee experts recommend the ideal water temperature to be somewhere near the boiling point but not much higher, so if your brew is extremely hot and somewhat acrid and bitter-tasting too, chances are you need to watch the water temperature during perking.
- Too long a brewing process – To be fair, this one is true. But then, no coffee-making method – with the exception of instant coffee – gives instant results. Percolating is a skill that does require precision and some practice, but that’s a reasonable price that coffee-enthusiasts will willingly pay.
- “Drip coffee is better any day” – Now, this is very subjective. Each coffee-lover has their own favorite and no one can reason out their preference for them. However, if you love your coffee strong and rich, then you should definitely try percolating your coffee.
How to Clean Your Electric Percolator
After every brew, you’ll want to thoroughly clean your electric percolator in order to maintain a fresh-tasting coffee. It’s best to avoid abrasive cleaners such as baking soda or dish soap, especially when the machine is still hot or plugged in; they can cause discoloration and corrosion that may be difficult to remove.
Instead, start by emptying any liquid from both chambers of your percolator and then use a damp paper towel or cloth on the outside surfaces only. You can also soak them for 30 minutes without water followed by an air dry if you have time before brewing again next time. If the inside surface has built up stains over time, pour some white vinegar into each chamber about halfway full with cold water before scrubbing gently using a non-abrasive sponge. Rinse and air dry before use.
Sure, making coffee in a percolator may sound outdated, but we did our best to show you the primary method once used by almost all of the United States to brew their morning coffee.
We believe that understanding how a percolator works and learning its mechanism can help you enjoy a strong cuppa, and what’s more, you can take pride in having mastered a time-honored coffee making technique.
In this guide we also explained how electric percolators help immensely in eliminating any guesswork regarding water temperature, brew duration etc, thus guaranteeing you a rich cup of coffee, time and again.
We also attempted to debunk some of the common misconceptions people usually have about percolate coffee, and how to avoid some common percolator mistakes.