How Does a Percolator Coffee Maker Work?

Parts and Pieces

Body: The body of a percolator coffee maker houses all the action. Frequently constructed of stainless steel, you can also find enamelware, and even glass models. The body serves as both the brewing chamber and the decanter.

Heating Element: Electric percolators have an integrated heating element. Others must rely on an external heat source - stovetop, or even campfire.

perc pot

Basket Assembly: sits inside the percolator body. The base sits in hot water while the basket is elevated above the water level. The basket is perforated. Ground coffee goes in the basket. The center tubing carries hot water.

Lid: covers body and basket assembly. Frequently fitted with a clear knob for viewing percolation.

Brewing in a Percolator

Water is placed in the lower part of the body (A) and coffee grounds are placed in the basket assembly (B).

Unless your coffee is ground very coarsely, it is best to use a filter. Standard percolator filters are circular in shape and have a hole in the center for the tube. They are widely available.

Once setup is complete, a heat source is applied (C). In electric percolators, the heat source is built right into the appliance. Non-electric percolators can be placed right on top of the stove, campfire, or other source of heat.

When the water temperature nears the boiling point, water is forced up the central tube (D), over the top of the basket assembly, and out over the ground coffee.

The hot water passes through the coffee grounds and filter, the perforations in the basket allow water to re-enter the lower chamber as brewed coffee.

Brewing Tip

For best taste, remove the basket and pump assembly after brewing. This will prevent bitter dripping from the used coffee grounds. But use caution, as parts will be very hot!

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