How does a coffee percolator actually work? Before one can answer this question, it is necessary to first know what a percolator actually is.
A percolator can be defined as a pot that is used for brewing coffee by repeatedly cycling near-boiling water through coffee grounds until a desirable coffee beverage strength is achieved.
The main advantage of brewing coffee using percolators is that they normally expose the coffee ground to temperatures that are higher compared to other brewing methods. Furthermore, they recirculate coffee that is already brewed through the beans.
Despite the inability of percolation to remove some volatile compounds that make up the beans, many percolator enthusiasts praise the percolation for a hotter and heartier coffee.
What Makes Up a Percolator?
The percolator is made up of a variety of parts. Firstly it has a heat source at the bottom either and external source such as an element or fire or an internal source powered from an electrical outlet.
The pot which is placed on the heat source also has two or more chambers, which caters for the water tube and a grate. The percolator works in very simple but efficient way during the brewing process. Below, is a simple illustration on how a coffee percolator works.
What is the Percolating Process?
To begin with the ingredients must be added, namely the water and coffee grounds. The water is poured into the bottom chamber and the grounds of coffee are loaded above in the upper section. Now the heat is applied.
As the heated water boils, it rises through the water tube into upper chamber that contains the coffee grounds. The more the heating process continues, the more the rising water builds up on top, this eventually increases the pressure.
When the pressure gets high, the water again, is pushed upwards as it seeps through the grounds of coffee. As it trickles through, it gets infused with the grounds. This process takes a few minutes, however it is necessary for the infusion process to completely take place.
After that, the cooling brew travels back down to the point where the process started in the water chamber, and this will be repeated a number of times until the required brewing strength is achieved.
There are types of percolators that will eventually turn off automatically, to ensure a quality brew however taste is a subjective experience in our book
However, the majority of percolators are manual and needs constant checking to get the perfect brew. It is not recommended for brewed coffee to be left on a high heat for long, since this will make the coffee bitter to the taste buds
It goes without saying that electric percolators should not be used on a stove or fire. Old school manual percolators are very desirable to outdoorsmen and campers because of their ability to brew coffee without the use of electricity.
The time-lapse video below gives you a real view of the percolator in action!