Perk up, pals—it's coffee time
retro percolators
Credit: Photo by GraphicaArtis via Getty Images

So you've mastered the espresso pull, the pod, the pour-over, and even making funny little flowers in your espresso foam. But can you make coffee in a percolator? Your grandparents likely did, but with the advent of the electric drip machine and all manner of brewing tech, use of the stovetop or electric percolator has fallen by the wayside. According to a deeply unscientific Twitter poll I conducted this week, out of 138 participants, 65 percent say that they have used a percolator in the past, but only 6 percent still do. They claim it's extra-hot, super rich, and just plain preferable.

Several who answered in the affirmative noted that their primary exposure has come via an older relative, or on a camping trip (plus one shoutout for caterers and AA meetings) so it seems worthwhile to at least have a working knowledge of the practice in case we're ever in a situation where it's that or go coffeeless.

The way a percolator works is that boiling or near-boiling water is circulated through the coffee grounds until the drinker's desired strength is achieved. Some percolator models offer an entertaining view of the works with a clear knob on the top above the tube that draws the coffee up from the bottom, and some make a cheery little blup blup noise as the brew heats. Water from the bottom of the pot gets hot first, then is drawn up the tube to drip over the grounds inside.

To make coffee in a percolator, pour water in the bottom chamber of the percolator, then place it over the heat source. When it begins to boil, add the coarsely-ground coffee—ideally in the internal metal filter basket. Reduce the heat, and let gravity work its magic for about six or seven minutes, then remove it from the heat for a minute to let everything settle down, and pour yourself a cup to see if it's the correct strength. Be careful while you pour, because a too-deep tip will bring the grounds up from the bottom. If the brew is too weak, go for longer next time, and shorter if it feels as if the coffee will strip the enamel from your teeth.

The greatest perk of this? You'll always know how to make a fresh cup, no matter where your coffee travels take you.