How to Grind Coffee for Percolators: A Beginner’s Guide

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Coffee lovers know that there are many options in terms of coffee-making techniques and appliances.

Using a percolator is a traditional but popular way to make coffee, so you’re not alone if you just bought one.

Right now, you are probably wondering how to grind coffee for percolators.

Some people are fine with using pre-ground beans for their coffee, which is understandable since taking this route is more convenient.

However, every self-respecting, die-hard coffee enthusiast knows that freshly ground coffee is the way to go.

So what is the best grinding process for this particular brewing method?

Let’s find out and look at why it’s better to grind your beans and why you should get it right.

Why You Should Use Freshly Ground Coffee

True coffee lovers live by a few golden rules, and one of them is to use freshly ground coffee at all times.

There are many reasons you should adopt this way of thinking.

Let’s start with what makes coffee great: flavor and aroma.

These are non-volatile compounds, but exposure to air oxidizes them, which leaves you with a stale drink.

However, you minimize their interaction with oxygen by storing your coffee as whole beans. 

As a result, you lock the important substances in and keep your coffee fresh for a longer time.

What is more, roasted beans have carbon dioxide, which counteracts the oxidation process.

You would not want to disrupt this state too early and release these substances.

Now you might wonder, why not load the whole beans straight into your percolator?

When brewing, the hot water needs to make contact with the coffee to extract the flavor.

So if the beans are whole, their surface area is not maximized.

You won’t be able to get all the oils, alkaloids, and other good things that make coffee great. 

In other words, the best route to a perfect cup of coffee is to store whole beans and grind them before brewing.

Why Grind Size Is Important in Brewing

As mentioned in the previous section, a big part of the brewing process is the surface area of your coffee grounds.

It determines how much of the non-volatile compounds get extracted given a set amount of time.

Breaking the whole beans into smaller pieces increases the total contact surface.

It shows that the size of your grounds is important and can make or break your brewing process.

The required contact time varies from one brewing method to another, so each one requires a specific grind size.

For instance, the hot water only passes through the coffee grounds in an espresso maker. 

Since the contact time is less than a minute, it needs fine coffee grounds for the process to work.

Using a percolator requires several minutes, so you should go with coarse coffee grounds.

Aside from the grind size, you need to consider its consistency.

If the coffee particles vary greatly in size, you won’t be able to achieve an even extraction.

Some parts of your coffee will be weak, while other parts will be too bitter.

That is why it is very important to find a grinder with the right size and grind quality, especially for percolators.

tips on how to grind coffee for percolator

How a Percolator Works

The word “percolate” literally means to filter through a porous surface, so this should give you a good idea of how it works.

In a coffee percolator, boiling water passes through the coffee grounds in a continuous cycle until the desired strength is achieved.

The pot consists of a bottom chamber where the water goes and a perforated top chamber where the grounds are placed.

A hollow vertical tube runs in the center, connecting the two chambers to each other. 

A heat source beneath the pot heats the water at the bottom chamber to boiling point.

As the water starts to boil, the bubbles push hot water into the vertical tube and up to the perforated chamber.

Next, gravity does its work—all the water that goes up must go down.

It flows through the perforated chamber where the grounds are, bringing with it the soluble substances from the coffee.

It then goes to the bottom chamber, at which point the process can be repeated.  

This cycle of bubbling up, seeping through the grounds, and flowing back down continues until the coffee is ready for drinking.

At this point, it is important to reduce the heat to prevent over-extraction.

For some electric percolators, this step is automatic.

The integrated heating element keeps the coffee at the ideal drinking temperature without boiling it further. 

In manual models where the heat source is a stove or gas range, you need to remove or reduce the heat yourself.

One way to check if you have reached the endpoint of the brewing process is if the spurting sound stops.

Alternatively, you could check the color of the coffee, but you can only do this if the lid is transparent.

How to Grind Coffee for Percolator

Now that we have covered all the bases, we can discuss how to grind coffee for percolators.

By now, you probably have an idea that preparing coffee with a percolator is a long process.

You also know that the grounds rest on a perforated chamber as hot water repeatedly seeps through it. 

Based on these two conditions, it is best to use coarse ground coffee.

If you use fine grounds, the extensive contact time will lead to over-extraction, which will leave a bitter taste in your coffee.

The small particles of fine-ground coffee could also pass through the holes of the perforated chamber.

When this happens, you get a lot of sediments and floaters in your drink, which is not good either.

On the other end of the spectrum, you would not want the grounds to be extra coarse.

If the coffee particles are too big, you won’t be able to draw enough of the oils and other substances.

You would end up with a weak-tasting cup of coffee.

For best results, set your coffee grinder to coarse when using a percolator.

You would know that the setting is right if the grounds are around one millimeter in size.

To give you a better idea, your grounds should be as big as coarse sea salt.

Using Burr Grinders Over Blade Grinders

Whatever brewing method you prefer, you need to use coffee grounds with an even consistency.

It is especially true for percolators where the brewing time lasts several minutes.

One way to ensure that you get good grind quality every time is by using burr grinders.

Unlike blade grinders that chop or slice the beans, burr grinders crush them.

This method is less violent, more predictable, and easier to control.

Granted, burr grinders are a bit more expensive than their bladed cousins.

They can also be slower and louder, so this is something for you to consider.

Nevertheless, if you are looking for the best coffee experience possible, you should invest in this equipment.

Enjoying the Perfect Cup of Coffee

It’s no secret that it takes a lot of work to prepare the perfect cup of coffee, whether you do it at home or let a barista do it for you.

That said, every caffeine enthusiast will agree that it is worth all the effort and waiting time.

So if you want to enjoy a great cup of joe using a percolator, do not take shortcuts.

Take the time to grind the beans the right way before brewing.

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