Percolator: The principle simply explained

A coffee maker with percolator principle is cheap and easy to handle. Above all, it can even be used on the go, such as to be used in camping. The principle is amazingly simple and effective. Below, read how the percolator principle works.


The first coffee percolator was probably invented between 1810 and 1814 by the English inventor and experimental physicist Benjamin Thomson. The first coffee pot with inner cylinder is said to have been built by a Parisian tinsmith in 1819. Since then, the principle has been changed, refined and varied several times. Therefore, today there are many different versions, but all go back to the same principle.

How does a percolator work?

The most important element of the percolator, which has all the variations in common, is the water pipe, which transports the water from the bottom upwards, where it is passed through a filter with coffee (either up or down). All percolators are filled with water and have a filter that contains the coffee powder. Then the percolator is exposed to a heat source: A gas stove, an electric cooker or a camping stove are suitable for this purpose. The heat causes the water in the tube to rise, pass through the coffee powder, and then either fall back into the lower container or into a separate part. When the water falls back into the lower part of the pot, the strength of the coffee can be varied as desired: the longer the coffee boils, the more often the water is passed through the coffee powder and the stronger the coffee becomes.
More widespread is the second principle, which is also known as an espresso pot.

The espresso pot

The espresso pot is divided into three parts, which can be taken apart: The lower part is filled with water, then comes the metal filter, which is filled with coffee powder and, finally, the upper part is screwed in can form on it. When the pot is heated, the water flows up through the tube, through the coffee powder and then bubbles into the upper part of the pot. When all the water has passed, the jug must be taken off the stove.

Tips & Tricks

Clean the pot with a soft cloth and without detergent, so as not to spoil the coffee flavor. Especially an aluminum espresso maker should be washed carefully so as not to scratch the material.

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