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    Percolators and Moka pots are two terms which are usually interchanged quite a lot, but in actual fact, they are two very different items which work in slightly varying ways.

    The big differences are that percolators have one chamber and an additional filter rather than three separate compartments, usually produce hotter and stronger coffee and offer larger quantities of coffee.

    They saw a big decline in popularity in the latter part of last century and still aren’t too widely available, but are now on the rise again thanks to the recent trends in both shunning coffee shops for more personalised homemade brews and people preferring ‘staycations’ rather than holidays abroad.

    You can choose from either stove top/range models which need to be sat on a hob or open flame, or an electric model. The former is the most traditional, but the latter offers more safety features.

    If you have read our guide on the differences and know a percolator coffee pot is the appliance for you, then take a look at our best picks of those available.

    Our Top Picks

    The Best Percolators

    Percolator Buying Guide

    What Is A Coffee Percolator?

    A percolator is a method of preparing coffee, which requires either electricity or a heat source to work.

    They are mostly used among campers and those wanting to prepare coffee outdoors because most do not require electricity and can offer a stronger, more intense flavour due to the continuous circulation method.

    With the rise of the electric percolator came a fanbase of home-based users, too. A lot of people prefer them to other forms of coffee machine because the stronger taste is achievable, and they don’t require paper filters or and additional parts to work.

    However, the invention of electric drip coffee machines did see their popularity decline in the 1980’s, and they aren’t as widely available today. But we love how they are a traditional nod to coffee making and are pretty easy to use too.

    How To Use A Percolator

    Before you buy, you’re going to want to know whether it is right for you.

    Think of it as a combination of a Moka pot and a drip coffee maker. There is only one internal chamber as opposed to the three separate compartments in a Moka pot, plus a fitting which holds the coffee grounds and allows water to travel upwards through a vertical central straw/tube.

    You fill the basket of the filter with the ground coffee of your choice, and then fill the main compartment with the required amount of water. Attach them both together and close the lid.

    As the percolator starts to heat, the water begins to boil. This water, once at a particular point, rises up through the straw/tube and emerges through the top to spread over the lid.

    This then ‘drips’ and percolates back down to the water chamber, passing through the coffee granules, where it heats again and repeatedly rises until you are happy with the strength of the coffee. The longer you keep it on the heat, the more cycles it will go through and the stronger the coffee will get.

    Then, all you do is remove the basket filter, and it is ready to pour. The overall process usually takes around 5-10 minutes depending on your preferred tastes.

    Electric or Stovetop?

    Stovetop percolators were invented in the early 1800’s, and have been modified over the years to become the design we know today with rising boiling water rather than stewing the coffee.

    Electrical percolators date back only to 1952 when Russell Hobbs invented the first model.

    It all depends on what you’ll be using it for. Camping will obviously require a non-electric model, but if you want it solely for home use, we would actually recommend an electrical version. They have features like auto-cut off, keep warm and also let you know when the coffee is pretty much ready which takes out a lot of the guessing and observational work out of the equation.


    Non-electric models generally sit between £25 and £50, with electrical models often reaching closer to about £80.


    What coffee should I use with a percolator?

    As with filter, drip and French Press style makers, it is necessary to use ground coffee.

    The level of grind is important though, as unlike filter and most other coffee machines, a percolator just uses fine holes to pass the water and coffee through the filter basket, rather than fabric, mesh or paper. With too fine a blend, the grounds could just pass through the basket, so a coarse option is best.

    Do percolators make weak/bitter coffee?

    This is a long-held idea, but it is all in the technique.

    A weak coffee suggests you aren’t giving the coffee enough cycles to brew. The longer it boils and passes through the grounds, the stronger it will get.

    A bitter one, on the other hand, suggests you are passing it through too much and overboiling it. Bitter flavour compounds emerge and dissolve with longer time, so getting a good cup of coffee with a percolator is a fine balance.

    The key is to not over-boil or under-boil, but the granules can sometimes make a big difference too so you may wish to change to another brand or consistency to see how the change makes a difference.

    Watch out for the bubbles emerging (the ‘percs’). Once the first one arrives, the water is boiling so turn down the heat and aim for one perc every 3-5 seconds. Try to keep the pot at around 95°C, and keep it going for approximately one minute per cup being made.

    These are general tips, but the truth is percolator coffee requires a lot of experimentation to get just right, so is not necessarily for those who want a quick cup of standard coffee in the morning.


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