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How Long to Percolate Coffee: The Secret to This Method

Percolating is one of the many ways you can brew your coffee. One of the reasons North Americans use this method is because it is a quick and easy way to brew large amounts of coffee. It makes it ideal for offices or functions where you would need lots of coffee and when trying to get your java on in a campsite or any place where you have no access to electric appliances. 

On the other hand, coffee percolators can have a few drawbacks, such as producing an over-extracted brew that tastes bitter. It is one reason why most people are replacing their percolators with other methods that brew a more balanced coffee. However, if you are a coffee enthusiast, we are giving you a few tips on how you can brew great coffee with your percolator below. 

What is a Coffee Percolator?

A coffee percolator is a type of brewing kettle that features a lower water chamber and a top perforated chamber where you put your ground coffee, and a vertical tube connecting the two parts. 

The water rises through the pipe when heated up and drips over the ground coffee at the top chamber. The water seeps through the grounds extracting flavors and drips back into the bottom water chamber. The brewing process repeats itself continuously until it perks, and the coffee is ready for drinking.

If you are using the stovetop model, you will need a stove or range to boil the water. The downside of this is that you would need to balance over extracting the coffee by keeping the heat down while still maintaining the drinking temperature. Electric percolators feature an internal heating element that automatically reduces the heat when the coffee is ready while still keeping it hot for drinking with a heating plate. 

How Long to Percolate Coffee

The maximum time to percolate coffee is 10 minutes.

Coffee brewed with a percolator tends to be more potent than other brewing methods, such as the automatic drip coffeemaker that is quite common in our kitchens and pour-over coffee brewing. The French press coffee produces a brew that is almost as strong as percolated coffee but has a lighter aroma.

Using an electric percolator is far easier than the stovetop model because most of the brewing is automated. However, both methods take about 5 to 10 minutes to brew with a percolator, and you need to monitor the whole process to avoid burning your coffee. If your first brew turns out too strong, you may want to consider reducing the brewing time to five or six minutes.

How to Percolate Coffee

One of the main reasons that stovetop percolators are less popular with users is the bitter brew produced. You can overcome this by ensuring that you brew with the correct technique described below. 

Another reason is that, unlike the electric models, stovetop percolators require your active attention when brewing. However, they are ideal for brewing coffee while camping, and when you get the hang of it, the process can be a rewarding experience. 

To start with, get your ingredients together, which includes your clean coffee percolator pot, ground coffee beans, and filtered water.

Step 1: Measure out the water

Producing an excellent brew depends on how you achieve your water to coffee ratio. Standard-sized percolators typically have a volume of about 1.5 liters, which can give you approximately four mugs of coffee. As you add water into the percolator, ensure that the level does reach the coffee chamber at the top. 

Step 2: Measure out the coffee 

The next step is to measure out the coffee, and you can either use freshly ground beans or pre-ground coffee beans, for which you may require a filter. Generally, you can measure one tablespoon or 15ml for every mug of coffee or 250ml of water. However, if you prefer your coffee light, you can reduce the amount of coffee to about a teaspoon for every 250ml measure of water. 

Step 3: Put it on the stove

percolator on the stove

Considering that percolated coffee is typically more full-bodied than other brews, you may want to consider using coffee roasts with low acidity and caffeine content and a medium-coarse grind to reduce the bitterness. 

You are now ready to brew your coffee. Place the percolator on the stove or range and turn on the heat to medium or low heat to prevent it from boiling and making the coffee bitter. That means you have to keep watch of the heat to ensure that the water is hot enough to steam the ground coffee. However, it should also remain just below boiling point to avoid burning the coffee. It will brew like this for 5 - 10 minutes, depending on how strong you want it. 

If you are using a campfire or a camping stove to make your coffee, regulating the heat might be a little more tricky, and you will have to keep a watchful eye all the time. However, when you notice that the water is getting too hot, you could reduce the fire or remove the percolator from direct heat. 

Step 4: Monitor your brew

For an electric percolator, the brewing process is automated, and not much effort is required. Most stovetop percolators feature a clear glass or plastic knob on the cover to help you monitor how the coffee is brewing. At the ideal temperature, the water will steam and form bubbles inside the knob every couple of seconds. It is the stage where the coffee begins to perk, and you should set your timer to no more than ten minutes. 

If the bubbles become a constant stream, it means the water is too hot, and it will begin to boil, thus producing a burnt taste. Therefore you should reduce the heat. On the other hand, if the bubbling takes longer to form, it means the water is not hot enough, and you should turn up the heat a little bit more.

As the brewing progresses, you will notice the bubbles getting colored. Ideally, it should take anywhere between five to ten minutes to perk the coffee. However, we recommend ten minutes for your first brew, after which you can adjust the time downwards and reduce or add the amount of coffee to suit your taste. 

But remember that the longer you perk, the stronger your coffee will be. If you percolate for more than ten minutes, the coffee will taste bitter because the grounds will be over-extracted. 

Step 5: Enjoy your percolated coffee

When your coffee finishes brewing, remove the percolator from the heat source. Also, remove the coffee grounds from the percolator immediately. If you leave the coffee ground in the pot, the steam will continue to seep through the coffee to make it stronger. 

If you have the electric model, you may want to decant the coffee into a flask to maintain the taste rather than keeping it warm with the heating plate.

2 Helpful Tips for Using a Percolator

Although the technique for percolating coffee seems pretty straightforward if you monitor the brewing process, here are some tips that will help you make excellent coffee. 

Tip #1: Use high-quality medium ground coffee 

Medium ground coffee beans offer the best balance of flavors for percolating coffee. Finely ground coffee is easier to brew, while coarsely ground coffee is harder to brew and may result in a light and flavorless coffee. 

Tip #2: Use mild roasted coffee beans

coffee beans

In the same way, you should consider using high-quality coffee beans with low acidity and caffeine content to reduce the bitterness. Other characteristics you can look out for include mild or smooth roasts that will produce a brew that is not as potent. 

Percolated Coffee vs Moka Brewing

After the invention of the coffee percolator in 1880, other brewing methods came up, and one of these is the Moka pot brewing invented in 1933. This method uses a stovetop or electric Moka pot to brew the coffee by passing pressurized steam through the ground coffee and produces a thick textured coffee similar to espresso. 

Moka coffee brewing is different from percolation in that the water does not pass through the ground coffee several times in the brewing process. However, it is similar in that if the water reaches boiling point, it may cause over-extraction and result in bitter coffee. Although the brewing processes are different, Moka pots are often mistaken for percolators in the North American market.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, percolating coffee is a technique that any coffee connoisseur would be interested in to get a wholesome experience of brewing coffee. It is also quite convenient for making coffee while you are on your outdoor adventure somewhere in the wild. 

It can be a simple process if you follow the tips and recommendations shared above and you can enjoy wonderfully percolated coffee in ten minutes or less. The process is also easily customizable, and you can experiment with different coffee beans and roasts and adjust the percolating time to produce a brew according to your taste. 

Hopefully, we have inspired you to try out making coffee with a percolator, and we would love to hear how it turned out in the comments section below.


Born in Italy but currently brewing from the UK, Giada is a highly-caffeinated coffee expert with a soft spot for espressos. She worked in cafés for years and has recently fallen in love with the practical Kalita Wave (just don’t tell her Italian moka pot!).

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