The Vacuum Brewing Method
Okay, I like to try new things, but this? I mean, this concept is nothing new, and it seems like a giant leap backwards. Where's the electronic gizmo and gadgetry? And what's so good about brewing downside up rather than upside down? It appears at first blush that this is a big waste of my time. But this functional piece of art is becoming such the fad, that I figured there had to be more to it. So, I dove in. And I'm glad I did! First, then let me explain how it works. Heat: The heat source for a vacuum brewer is electrical, stovetop, or flame (or electric range).
A globe sits on the heat source and attaches to another globe via a tube. A filter (normally reusable) sits in or on the top globe's bottom opening. Each model includes a handle which is in some fashion connected to the bottom globe, some include a heating pad (or strategically placed candle), while others also include a structure which holds the top globe after it is removed. Pressure: As the water-filled bottom globe heats up (depending on size, about five minutes), steam forms, and the pressure from the expanding air pushes steam through the tube into the top globe, where slightly coarse to drip grind coffee sits on a filter.
Once the heat source is removed from the bottom globe, the air contracts back, and a vacuum is formed. This vacuum in the bottom globe forces the water (now coffee) from the top globe back into the bottom globe.
And that's it. Many units come with a lid for the top of the bottom globe. Caution: contents hot!
Disadvantages / Advantages:
The disadvantages are, I think, plain to see. First, using this device, while not terribly difficult, has a precarious place on the learning curve. The globes are often difficult to handle, and finding a place to put the top globe with a tube protruding from its bottom isn't convenient. There are no thermal options here! That's not such a problem for some folks, and true connoisseurs won't have their coffee sit for hours. Another issue with the original rustic pots is that they are not for the on-the-go crowd; there is no timer. A timer is standard with even super-store brand coffee makers. Finally, many of these units that are priced under $100.00 do not have a very good vacuum system. So, a little water may still remain at the bottom of the bottom globe immediately after the heating element shuts off and the coffee starts streaming back in; the consequence can be noticeably weak coffee.
The advantages are just as numerous. First, the unit is a functional bit of art, and aesthetic appeal goes a long way in the world of over-processed plastic material goods. Second, none of the water comes into contact with metal parts, which means that taste alteration by steel, brass, or any other metallic substance is not an issue. Also, with good vacuum units, the taste can be quite exquisite. Bitterness is a non-issue and maximal oil extraction occurs in every brew. You don't run the risk of briny or tart coffee that can be a problem with some cheaper electronic models. Finally, there are now electric models available which adds significant convenience.
Overall, it turns out that I like this hour glass of a coffee maker. If I had to choose between a top of the line vacuum brewer and a top of the line French press, I'd take the vacuum brewer, because I'd rather the flawless laws of nature get my cup just right than my clumsy hands and internal clock.