A percolator is a tool that is normally used to take your coffee-making process to the next level.
Taken from the word percolate, which means to make a solvent pass through a permeable substance, percolators produce steam (the solvent) that passes through the coffee grounds (permeable substance) to create some pretty fantastic quality coffee.
They look a lot like tall kettles – but there’s a lot more going on inside it than what it looks like on the outside – which is a steam-powered, coffee-brewing vacuum that reliably produces cup after cup of great-tasting coffee.
If a percolator can make coffee, surely it’s able to make other hot drinks as well, right? For those who are looking to get the most value out of your percolator, this might be a common question. Let’s find the answer to that below.
How does a percolator work?
The magic of the coffee percolator lies in the heat and steam processes that are happening inside it while it runs. The lower chamber, which contains the water, heats up when it is plugged into an electricity source or heated on the stovetop, and this heat turns the water into steam.
Subsequently, because hot air rises, this steam rises up to the basket containing coffee grounds, which is placed in between the lower and upper chambers.
The steam mixes with the coffee grounds to produce a hot coffee liquid, which pushes up via steam pressure through the small hole in a vertical rod and exits into a vacuum flask located in the upper chamber.
This liquid is coffee. The rod and basket are removed, the coffee grounds are thrown away, and the lid is put back on. It then sits inside the vacuum flask to stay at optimum temperature and freshness.
Can I use a percolator to make hot chocolate?
Because of the number of different manual steps required to make hot chocolate, there is no real way you can actually produce a good mug of hot chocolate using a percolator.
Hot chocolate requires constant stirring, adding hot water, and supervision, while coffee (what the percolator is best used for) just needs steam pressure and the presence of coffee grounds in order to produce a brew.
So the answer unfortunately is no, you can’t use a percolator to make hot chocolate – but you can use it to store your hot chocolate, as the vacuum flask interior keeps your drink hot for a prolonged period of time.
Can a percolator be used to make tea?
As mentioned above, percolators are normally used to make coffee. But if you’re more of a tea drinker, and you don’t own a proper teapot, you’re probably making tea by the cup each time – and sick of it, too.
If for some reason, you find yourself with an unused percolator and a bunch of tea bags – then you’re in luck! This is how you can brew an entire pot of tea with a percolator.
First, pour cold water as per normal up to the specified eight-cup fill line. Second, place two or three tea bags into the basket – up to your preference. Then insert the rod and close it up.
The more bags you use, the stronger the tea will be. This also means more caffeine. If you looking for ways to reduce your caffeine consumption check out our sister site here.
Plug it in or put it on the stove, fire it up and let it run until the cycle is finished.
Take out the basket and rod, and dispose of the tea bags, then use the percolator lid to keep your tea always piping hot and ready to serve.
If you’re using loose tea instead of teabags, the process is the same – just line the basket with a tea or coffee filter and let it run as per usual, then dispose of the tea and filter as you would for teabags.
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Can I use a percolator to boil water?
Percolators, by nature, are designed to heat water. After all, this water-turning-into-steam scenario is what produces the coffee that is made in a percolator.
This means that if you can make a large amount of coffee or tea in a percolator, this means you can definitely make boiled water using it too.
The percolator’s enclosed heating element also means that you are able to boil your water in a shorter time than you would get out of a conventional kettle.
One thing to remember is to not put the basket in the middle of the two chambers while boiling just water, as the basket is only to be used when making hot coffee or tea.
One trick I like to do after I boil water, I to pour it into a Yeti Rambler. The water stays hot for up to 5 to 6 hours. In a recent article, I wrote I discuss all the benefits of using a Yeti Rambler to keep drinks hot.
How to get the most out of your percolator
1. Always clean your equipment before and after
Percolators are designed to get dirty, especially when it’s producing a liquid that is notorious for leaving stains on all kinds of surfaces.
More often than not, an uncleaned percolator contains residue and oil from your previous brew that might make your current one taste a little funky.
Use mild dish soap and a sponge, and clean all of its parts, from the chambers to the rods, to the lid and the basket.
2. Grind your coffee (or tea) coarsely
Because a percolator uses steam pressure to make your hot drink, you may run the risk of over extracting your ground coffee or tea through the basket and into the vacuum flask if they are grounded too fine.
When using a percolator, always choose the coarse grind setting on your grinder so that you won’t end up with a drink that is too strong.
More often than not, finely ground beans or tea will result in loads of residue being left at the bottom after brewing.
3. Don’t overfill the water
The more water you use, the weaker your drink gets. If you’re just boiling water, you won’t get a good boil at the right temperature either.
Always follow the cup lines and don’t go above the maximum capacity that is written on the bottom chamber.