Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Who Likes Vacuuming?

I know, I know, it's a loaded question. But we're not talking about vacuuming the apartment here (or, if you're lucky enough to have one, vacuuming the house). Actually, just the other day, Significant Eater was complaining to me about having to vacuum the apartment down in DC. She was mentioning that she had to take the vacuum out of the closet, plug it in, turn it on...etc., etc. Basically complaining about all the things you do - when you vacuum! See, she really likes it when I do the vacuuming, but that's another story. So let's talk about this kind of vacuuming instead...

Now THAT'S a vacuum - although some call it a syphon pot, it's more well-known name is a vacuum pot. For some reason, I seem to remember seeing this type of coffee maker in my grandmother's house, when we lived upstairs in a semi-detached two-family house in Queens. Though her main method of brewing was the percolator, I have her to thank for my life-long coffee habit - I know she started me on coffee with lots of milk or heavy cream when I was just a year old (hey, at least she wasn't giving me drags on her Marlboro reds). It might even be why I'm so mellow and calm right to this day.

Back to vacuuming - I've been kinda wanting one of these for a long time, so I sprang for it a week ago - under $40, delivered in perfect condition, ready to brew. And guess what? It makes a damn good cup of coffee.

There's no need to go back through all the basic steps involved in making a great cup of coffee, is there? Because I did that back in this post. All about fresh coffee, good water, yada, yada, yada. Read that one and you'll be caught right up to date.

Here's how the vacuum pot works, in a nutshell. Oh, there are various nuances involved, but let's just go basic here. You put the water in the bottom half of the pot, you put the filter and the proper amount of freshly ground coffee in the top half of the pot, put the pots together (they go together nice and easy and there's a high-quality rubber seal that holds them that way) and then place the whole unit on the heat. Bring the water up to a boil, the water expands, flows up into the top half and looks like this...

Keeping it on the lowest heat, give the brewing coffee a few stirs and let it brew for your desired amount of time...I've been working on 2 minutes though your brew time can be anything you want (well, less than 5 minutes, please), depending on how strong you like your joe. The brew will be lightly sputtering and bubbling, but it's not boiling up there, so don't worry about over extracting. Once the brewing is completed to your liking, turn off the heat. A vacuum is created in the lower chamber (maybe that's where the name comes from?) and the coffee gets sucked back down, through the filter that you see in the first photo, ending up like this...

Gently remove the top half of the pot, place it in the stand that comes with the pot, and pour yourself one heckuva delicious cup of coffee. And that's the truth - this cup falls somewhere between French press and drip coffee in body, without any of the muddiness I sometimes associate with French press. You know how with the French press you end up with grounds at the bottom of the cup? Not happening with the vac pot. The filter is cloth and reusable, and filters out even the finest of the coffee grounds. Bringing the flavor profile of a French pressed cup, this vac pot will be replacing the pour over drip method for my daily go-to coffee.

Now...I gotta go vacuum.


  1. Works on the same principle as my Cuban coffee pot that I have every morning....

  2. Most likely the air expands increasing the pressure in the bottom half and pushes the water up the pipe into the top chamber. As the air cools it decreases in pressure and the greater outside air pressure pushes the coffee back down through the filter.

  3. We had one of those when I was a kid. I remember it exploding when it was left on the burner too long after the water was in the top.

    Don't recall tasting the coffee from it. My folks got an aluminum percolator as a replacement, and it made the worst coffee in the world.

  4. @Charles - yep, that's one of the reasons that a bit of water remains in the bottom half.

    Someone must have forgotten they were making coffee!

  5. Mitch,
    I am a huge fan of edamame, those fresh chick peas sound incredible. Do you know any sources in the NYC area that may sell these things? I have never seen them for sale anywhere and if you didn't post the pic of 'em I might have guessed that chick peas grew on trees, underground or in a bog of some sort :)