How to Use a Camping Percolator

How to Use a Camping Percolator

Percolators have been around since 1880, and they were one of the earliest coffee brewing devices that used percolation instead of infusion or decoction. They are quite incredible, and are perfect for camping and hiking.

No one should have to miss out on coffee because they are going on a camping trip.

In this article, we’ll go over the parts that make up a percolator, how to assemble them, and how to actually use the percolator coffee pot to brew.

How to Use a Camping Percolator


At first, percolators can seem confusing, especially since they don’t come with any instructions. There are several parts that make up a percolator. It’s basically a pot and a vertical tube with a stand that sits at the bottom of the percolator and reaches the top. There’s a basket at the top of the tube, which is a perforated chamber, with a lid.

When you’re putting your percolator together, make sure the top of the tube and lines up with where the boiling fluid will rise through the tube and splash inside – this is how you know the pot is brewing.

How Does it Work?

The word ‘percolate’ means the process where fluid gradually passes through a permeable substance, with the inference that a liquid emerges from the union with a different quality than before the percolation process. Like adding water to a pot that then mixes with grounds and becomes coffee.

Water gets pushed upwards because of the natural rising of bubbles as it boils, going through the hallow tube as it does, causing it to go into the coffee basket and then back down where the rest of the water is, and repeat.

The water gets sprayed into the basket through the tube, dispersing the water over the ground coffee and saturating it. Most baskets have various sized holes to evenly saturate the coffee.


Now that you’ve assembled your camping percolator, we’re just a few steps closer to making some perfectly roasted coffee. The brewing itself is quite easy and straight-forward.

Start by filling up the pot, just make sure that you don’t overfill. My coffee percolator has a handy ‘fill line’ on the inside, and most percolators do so look out for this.

Next, add the coffee. For regular ground coffee, you are going to need filters that fit inside the percolator’s basket. If you’re using fresh coarsely ground coffee instead, then you shouldn’t need a filter.

Testing out your percolator at home before your camping trip is recommended, so while doing that you can also check if you do need a filter for the coffee or not.

Once you’ve added your desired amount of coffee (I usually add two tablespoons per cup), place the lid on the basket and put the whole thing inside the pot.

Now, you just need to place the percolator on a stove or grate over a fire and watch as it boils. Keep the flame at medium strength if you are using a camping stove.

Even though it does take a while over a fire, you still need to monitor the process throughout. You will know when it has started boiling when the water starts to percolate at the top. At that point, you should move it off the center of the fire or adjust and lower the flame on the stove.

Let it keep percolating for another 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, you’ll see the water continue to darken through the top.

Once the coffee is ready, open it up and discard any leftover grounds from the basket.

That’s all there is to it. By now you can probably smell the coffee – take it in and enjoy it as your pour yourself a cup.

How to Clean a Percolator

After a while, your percolator will get quite dirty. I use mine very often, so it needs a good clean every few months at least.

Start off by filling up the percolator until the maximum fill line with water. You are going to need about a quarter cup of regular baking soda. Remove the lid of the pot and basket inside and pour some baking soda in there, then remove the basket to pour the rest in the pot. Put it back together with the lid on and everything, and simply boil the water.

Once it’s percolated, empty out the water in a sink and you’ll see that the water is no longer clear. Make sure to take the basket out to completely empty out all the water.

Just by looking inside the percolator you can already see a difference, now it should be nice and shiny.

Give everything a good rinse and fill the percolator up again with clean water to the maximum capacity once more.

For the next step you are going to need half a cup of white distilled vinegar. Pour that in, and repeat the same process as with the baking soda.

Lastly, empty out the water after it has percolated and give everything a good rinse and you are good to go.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you use a camping coffee percolator?

Camping coffee percolators have a basic construct. The outer part is designed similarly to regular coffee pots, and inside there’s a basket for coffee grounds. The coffee is usually placed inside a filter in the basket, depending on the type of coffee.

Water is poured inside the pot, and the basket with coffee is at the center. As the water boils, the coffee gradually blends with the water.

How long do you percolate coffee on a camp stove?

Depending on your personal tastes, it should take anywhere from six to eight minutes for coffee to percolate on a camp stove. The longer you let the coffee percolate for, the stronger it will be.

How long do you percolate coffee on a campfire?

First of all, make sure that you move the percolator away from the center of the fire when it starts to boil and place it by the edge. Let the coffee percolate for five to ten minutes, depending how strong you want the coffee to be, but no longer than ten otherwise it’ll burn and taste bad.

How long do you let coffee percolate for?

Anything over ten minutes will burn your brew, making it taste bitter and dry. Depending how strong you like your coffee, six to eight minutes is the average.

How does a percolator work?

Percolators work by utilizing the natural rising of bubbles created by boiling water at the bottom of a pot. There’s a hallow pump stem tube inside which ensures a concentration of those bubbles that crown together, forcing the water upward through the tube.

Can I use a filter in a percolator?

Technically, percolators don’t need filters because they have a filter basket. However, it is recommended to use one anyway inside of that basket, if you are brewing regular ground coffee because grounds can find their way through the holes of the basket.

How do you keep coffee grounds out of a percolator?

Use a filter for the coffee inside the filter basket. Wetting the basket before adding the coffee grounds helps a lot with preventing the small grinds from getting through the holes.

Another tip is to avoid rapid boiling, because this causes the grounds to overflow out of the basket.

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How to Boil Water While Camping

Best Camping Percolators

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