How Does a Percolator Know When To Stop? (How They Really Work?)

Percolator with coffee cup

Electric percolators make preparing the perfect cup of coffee easy.

Unlike stovetop percolators that need monitoring throughout the process, these devices shut down automatically when the coffee is ready. So…

How Does a Percolator Know When To Stop?

Stovetop percolators don’t shut down automatically. However, electric percolators automatically shut down when the coffee is ready.

In these devices, water circulates through a tube running the entire length of the pot.

Slowly, the internal temperature builds up, and the water gets hot.

When it reaches a certain temperature, the internal circuitry automatically shuts off.

Some percolators switch to a “Keep Warm” mode when they reach this temperature.

A Closer Look at How Percolators Work

There are two types of percolators—stovetop percolators and electric percolators.

Both devices work on the same principle. However, they use different heat sources.

Another difference is that stovetop percolators need manual supervision, whereas electric percolators are automated.

Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

How Do Stovetop Percolators Work?

The original coffee percolators were stovetop models. They look like kettles from the outside.

However, they have two internal chambers: a lower chamber for the water and an upper chamber with a basket holding the coffee beans.

A long thin tube leads from the lower chamber to the top.

To use the coffee percolator, you must fill the lower chamber with the desired quantity of water.

Then heat it on the stovetop.

When the water boils, it produces bubbles that rise into the tube.

These water bubbles create a continuous flow of water through the tube.

Thus, the water rises and flows through the upper chamber containing the coffee beans.

It seeps through the coffee and makes its way back to the lower chamber.

The entire process repeats several times, with the water again rising through the tube and flowing across the coffee beans.

As it circulates through the chambers, the water extracts flavors from the coffee beans and changes color.

It becomes brown.

The longer the cycle takes, the deeper color the liquid takes on.

As the percolator brews, it will produce a distinct “perking” sound.

This sound increases from a small popping sound to a gurgle.

When the gurgling is continuous, it means the coffee is ready.

However, you may be unable to identify when the coffee is ready if you are using a percolator for the first time.

In this case, it’s better to rely on a timer to avoid over-extracting the coffee.

A manual percolator typically needs six to eight minutes from the time the water starts boiling to produce a good brew of coffee.

The brew will be light but aromatic at six minutes. It will turn deep and rich in eight minutes.

With a stovetop percolator, you should be around when the brewing occurs.

If you leave the percolator on for too long, it can cause over-extraction and result in a bitter brew.

Hence, the timing is crucial.

If you can’t stick around to monitor the percolator, an electric percolator might be better suited for your needs.

How Do Electric Percolators Work?

Electric percolators are just like stovetop percolators.

The structure is the same, with a lower chamber to hold water and an upper chamber to house the coffee beans.

It also has a vertical tube that passes through the chambers.

However, they use different heat sources.

An electric percolator uses electricity, while a stovetop percolator depends on the heat of a stove.

There are two main advantages of an electric percolator over a stovetop model.

Firstly, you will always end up with a consistent brew.

The device automatically shuts down after the required time when the water reaches the right temperature.

So there is no risk of over-extraction. Another advantage is that you can just leave it to do its job.

Meanwhile, you must monitor a stovetop model closely and take it off the heat at the right time.

Some electric percolators have an additional keep warm feature that further ensures the coffee remains warm even if you can’t use it immediately.

Now, let’s look at how these appliances work.

The loading process remains the same.

You must fill the lower chamber with water while adding the coffee beans to the upper basket.

Then, plug in the device, and it will start heating.

The water boils and rises through the tube, finding its way into the coffee chamber.

It spreads through the coffee beans and extracts their flavor and color.

The water then falls back to the lower chamber. As the process continues, the brew becomes richer and darker.

In a stovetop percolator, this process would continue indefinitely till you take it off the heat.

However, an electric percolator saves you from this trouble.

The internal circuitry is built to monitor the water temperature and time.

It can recognize when the brew is ready and automatically stops operation.

Main Benefits of Using a Percolator for Making Coffee

Percolator making coffee

There are numerous ways in which you can make coffee, from using a French Press or espresso machine to a percolator or even instant coffee powder.

Each of these methods produces different outcomes.

It’s difficult to label one of these methods as the best as everyone has a different idea about the perfect cup of coffee.

It’s a personal choice.

Nevertheless, let’s understand some of the ways in which percolators are better than other coffee-making devices and methods.

1. Delivers Rich Flavors

Percolation is a slow and intense process.

During the six to eight minutes of operation, hot water runs through the coffee beans several times.

Hence, it extracts maximum flavor from the coffee beans.

Since water passes through the coffee multiple times, the brew ends up being rich and intensely delicious.

Hot water brewing is one of the best ways to extract full-bodied coffee.

Since percolators use this process, the coffee made in these devices is rich, creamy, and full of flavor.

2. The Process Is Simple

Percolators are relatively simple appliances. With a bit of practice, you can get the hang of using a stovetop percolator.

An electric percolator is even easier to use since it does everything without any manual intervention.

There are no complicated knobs or settings, which makes it the perfect coffee-making device for anyone.

3. Easy to Clean and Re-Assemble

There are very few working parts in both manual and electric percolators.

Hence, they are easy to take apart and clean.

You can easily remove the lid and chamber of a stovetop and electric percolator for cleaning and re-assemble them after washing and drying them.

You don’t have to perform any elaborate scrubbing or deep cleaning.

By regular rinsing and stain removal, you can enjoy hygienic and delicious cups of coffee every time.

4. It Makes the Entire Space Smell Fragrant

Percolators celebrate the entire coffee-making process by spreading the aroma of a fresh brew far and wide.

The smell of freshly brewed coffee is irresistibly delicious.

This is a delicious olfactory experience that every coffee lover enjoys.

Just watching the percolator do its job is another treat.

It can be very relaxing to watch the water change to brown while the smell of freshly percolated coffee perks up the entire space.

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