Despite the popularity of automatic coffee makers, percolators provide more than a few families with their wake-up cup.
A percolator works on a simple principle. As the water is heated in the bottom of the pot, it rises up the perk tube and out over a spreader plate. From there, the water drips over the coffee grounds and back into the pot.
As the cycle is repeated, the brew eventually reaches the desired strength. A thermostat then turns off the main heating element and turns on a warming element to keep the coffee at a moderate temperature.
Some do's and don'ts:
* Never put the body of a non-immersible percolator in water.
* Clean the percolator body with a damp cloth, not steel wool or abrasive cleaners.
* Don't plug in an empty percolator. Heating an empty pot will damage it.
* When pouring ground coffee into the basket, keep granules out of the perk tube by covering its top opening with your finger.
* Make sure the ground coffee doesn't sift through the holes in the basket by using the proper grind recommended by the manufacturer, or a paper filter.
* Clean a percolator regularly by percolating a solution of 2 teaspoons of baking soda and 8 cups of water for one complete cycle or using a commercial cleaning product. In hard-water areas, repeat with a 50-50 mixture of water and white vinegar.
Repairs to most percolators are best made by an appliance service center. Return an immersible percolator to the manufacturer.
Here are some trouble-shooting tips that may be helpful:
* Always unplug the coffee maker after use.
* If the percolator doesn't heat, check to see that there is power at the outlet. Then examine the power cord; make sure it's not frayed or broken. Other likely causes are a broken fuse link or heating element or a faulty thermostat, which are best repaired by a service center.
* If water heats but does not percolate, the perk tube may be clogged. If the perk tube is OK, its washer will rattle when you shake the tube. If it doesn't rattle, check and clean the perk tube.
Examine the perk tube. Poke out any lodged grounds with a pipe cleaner. If the perk tube is bent, replace it.
To clean the tube, use a thin-bladed knife to carefully scrape out coffee residue trapped in the space between the washer and the perk-tube flange. Remove debris from the holes in the flanges with a needle or toothpick.
If the coffee is too weak, ask yourself:
* Was the percolator filled with warm water? Percolators should be filled with cold water (between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit) to work properly.
* Did you use too much coffee? If the basket contains an excess of grounds, water won't pass through them properly. Check the owner's manual for the right amount.
* Is the basket clogged? Hold the basket up to a light. If the holes are clogged, poke out any residue with a needle or toothpick. Then rinse the basket before using it again.
If the percolator won't brew to your taste even after you adjust the brew selector (if there is one), the thermostat is probably out of adjustment and should be replaced. A percolator thermostat can't be readjusted.