Percolator Problems: How to Keep Coffee Grounds Out of Your Coffee

Best Coffee Grinder for Percolator

In modern times there are countless ways to brew a cup of coffee. Each way has their advantages and their drawbacks, and each one has their quirks. Before the invention of drip coffee machines, percolators were commonly used to brew coffee. Though it is an old fashion way of brewing coffee, percolators still have an avid fan base and are still commonly used.

Like any other coffee maker, percolators have their challenges. One common problem people face when using percolators is keeping coffee grounds out of their coffee.

How to Reduce Coffee Grounds in Your Coffee

Fortunately it is very possible to reduce the amount of coffee grounds that make it out of the percolator and into your coffee. In fact there are several different things you can try to reduce the amount of coffee grounds in your coffee when using a percolator. 

First and foremost, it is strongly suggested that you use coarse ground coffee. This is actually suggested for several reasons. When you use coarse ground coffee, it is less likely to be able to slip through the filter in your percolator.

Additionally, the coarse ground coffee will produce a better flavor than a finely ground coffee.Most other coffee makers, other than drip coffee makers, also benefit from using coarse grounds so buying a coffee grinder than perform a coarse grind will be usable for several different coffee makers.

Another thing worth trying is the use of extra coffee filters. Percolators do come with a built in filter, but for some people that is not sufficient for keeping coffee grounds out of their coffee. So, what some people suggest is using a paper coffee filter in addition to the built-in coffee filter.

Now, there is nothing wrong with the built in filter that comes with a percolator. They are metal, reusable, and generally last the life of your percolator. But if you are having issues with coffee grounds sneaking through it, paper coffee filters can be used with your built-in filter to bolster it.

One more trick that some people have found effective is wetting the coffee basket before using it. This should be done when you are using a paper filter in conjunction with your built-in filter. By wetting the paper filter over the built-in filter, the goal is to ensure the paper filter sticks completely to the built-in filter, leaving no space for any grounds to get through.

Finally, one more thing you can do is make sure your percolator is clean after each use. A big reason that coffee grounds do end up getting into your coffee when using a percolator is the use of poorly maintained equipment.

What Even is a Percolator?

A percolator is a classic device used to brew coffee. It is shaped like a kettle and comes in two forms, stovetop and electric. While it predates the drip coffee makers found in most kitchens, it is far from obsolete. 

Percolators still have a cult following because of the quality cup of coffee they brew. While there are certainly easier to use coffee makers out there, percolators tend to make a stronger cup of coffee than drip coffee makers. The reason for this is how the percolator functions.

How Do Percolators Work?

Percolators are very simple and do not have many parts. They are shaped like a pitcher and on the inside there is a hollow tube that goes through the center of the coffee basket to the bottom of the pitcher. There is also a lid that goes over the top, a spout on the front, and a handle on the back.

The percolator works by having the water in the bottom heated. Hot water then travels up the tube and is sprinkled over the coffee grounds, then the water goes through the grounds and the basket back into the pitcher. The hot water will continue to travel up the tube and over the coffee grounds as long as you have your percolator over a heat source. The longer you brew your coffee, the stronger your cup of coffee will be.

One thing you’re absolutely going to need to be careful of is over-extracting your coffee. The hotter the water you use, the faster caffeine is extracted from your coffee grounds. Because of the nature of percolators, they need to use hotter water than other coffee makers. As such they are particularly susceptible to over-extracting if you are not careful.

Comparisons to Moka Pots

Percolators are often compared to moka pots, which are beloved in Italy. While they may feel similar at a quick glance, they couldn’t be more different in function. Percolators use gravity to brew coffee while moka pots use steam pressure. Percolators also continuously spray hot water over the coffee grounds as long as you leave it over a heat source while moka pots only spread water over its coffee grounds once.

One more difference is the way your coffee comes out between the two devices. Moka pots make more of an espresso type coffee while percolators tend to taste more like drip coffee with a deeper, stronger flavor.


There are several options for reducing the amount of coffee grounds that get into your coffee while using a percolator. While using coarse ground coffee is your best option, you can also do things like use a paper filter along with the built-in filter, wet the paper filter so it sticks to the built-in filter, and make sure your percolator is completely clean before use.

While it does take a little more work than a more modern drip coffee filter, there is a reason the traditional percolator has such a cult following.