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Vacuum Coffee Maker: Frequently Asked Questions

It’s simple: Vacuum brewers make delicious full-bodied coffee.

Using these coffeemakers, though?

A little less straightforward.

What once was an obscure alternative way to brew coffee is now a trend growing in worldwide popularity.

Find the answers you need to buy and use the increasingly admired Vacuum Pot in today’s list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

1. What is a Vacuum/Siphon Brewer?

Vacuum brewers use suction to extract coffee from coffee grounds.

Vacuum brewers generally have four main components when purchased from the store or online:

1. Top container

2. Bottom container

3. Syphon tube

4. Filter

In addition to these four main pieces, you will need a source of heat, such as a Bunsen burner.

Additional accessories that come in handy include a thermometer and stirrer.

2. Why should I use a vacuum brewer?

Vacuum brewers have a strong reputation for brewing exceptional coffee.

The full-immersion process, which refers to the coffee beans and water staying in contact throughout brewing, combines with rapid extraction to result in superior taste.

As a bonus, vacuum brewing is widely considered both aesthetically pleasing and highly entertaining.

Making vacuum-brewed coffee is much like an exciting high school lab experiment.

The classic appearance of the cylindrical device is alluring, as is the magical vapor-vacuum process, which can be readily watched from start to finish through the clear glass globes that the water and coffee grinds travel between.

3. How does a vacuum brewer work?

Incidentally, the process of vacuum brewing coffee begins with vapor, not vacuuming.

First, the top container is filled with coarsely-ground coffee beans, the bottom container is filled with water, and the heat is placed underneath everything.

As the water warms, vapor builds and expands. The only place for the gas-water mixture to go is up, through the syphon tube, past the filter, into the top container.

Along the way?

Vapor carries water upwards with it, pushing liquid into the top container.

A small amount of water remains in the bottom container producing vapor that will continue expand. This keeps most the water in the perfect top-container position, at the perfect temperature.

The last step:

After the coffee and water have mixed and mingled in the top container, usually for about one-to-three minutes, the heat is turned off.

Very quickly, the now coffee-water mixture will pour through the syphon tube. The filter will catch loose grounds along the way.

Delicious, drinkable coffee will pour into the bottom container.

4. What type of heat source should I use?

Heat is an essential component of making vacuum-brewed coffee.

When the coffee maker was originally invented, a very simple wick burner was used. Today’s slightly-upgraded equivalent is the Butane burner.

You don’t have to be a portable-burner expert to find the perfect model for your vacuum coffeemaker.

Companies that specialize in vacuum brewers regularly sell Butane’s specifically for siphons.

Though the Butane burner is perhaps the most timeless pick, it’s not the only option:

Some vacuum brewers come equipped with electric hot plates, others with built-in temperature-controlled heaters, and still other models are designed to work over your stovetop.

Although each option has its pros and cons, if reliability is your number one concern, the Butane burner has a longstanding reputation for lasting results.

5. Should I preheat the water?

It depends on your specific vacuum brewer.

Electric models tend to heat very quickly. It’s likely you won’t see a need to preheat your water, as it will be at the correct temperature before you finish grinding your coffee beans.

Butane burners and similar alcohol-based options will take longer. It can take nearly 15 minutes for a smaller three-cup model to heat to the proper temperature.

If this feels like an eternity for your busy schedule or waiting guests, preheating your water is an easy way to skip the wait.

6. How concerned about my water quality should I be?

The better the water, the better the coffee. That’s the golden rule of coffee purists.

Whether you buy into this philosophy is up to you and your taste buds.

7. What type of coffee should I use?

You can experiment using different types of coffee beans.

Also read: Our guide to the top coffee beans

Looking for the freshest flavor?

Start with your local coffee roasters before trying global brands.

Light roasts are usually considered superior if you want to taste all the flavors and notes unique to your favorite brew.

Use seven grams, or one heaping tablespoon, per four ounces of water. Adjust this ratio to find the perfect-strength coffee for your palate.

8. How coarse should I grind coffee beans for vacuum brewing?

Whenever you are first experimenting with a new type of coffee brewer, common knowledge is to start by grinding your beans as though making traditional drip coffee.

This serves as your starting point.

Now, note the following and adjust your grind accordingly from this level of coarseness.

Problem

Adjustment

Grit in your coffee cup

Grind coarser     

Coffee clogs in filter as it falls into bottom container, not a smooth pour

Grind coarser

Coffee tastes weak

Grind finer

Coffee pours very, very quickly from top into bottom container, not a steady pour

Grind finer

9. After brewing, how do I clean my vacuum brewer?

Thorough cleaning guarantees great-tasting coffee every time that you use your syphon brewer.

Some devices can be cleaned in the dishwasher, but only if the instruction manual permits. All devices should be carefully handled to avoid scratching or breaking.

For cleaning:

  • Use dish soap and a scrub to clean the top container.
  • Invest in a nylon bottle brush for the hard-to-reach bottom container.
  • Rinse the syphon.

Let all components air dry.

10. What are different names for vacuum brewers?

If you hear different names for similar-looking devices, don’t be confused. Vacuum brewers go by a long list of names:

  • VacPot
  • Siphon or Syphon Brewer/Coffee Maker
  • Glass Brewer
  • Balance Brewer

11. Do all VacPots work the same?

Most vacuum brewers use a vertical method in which two containers are connected vertically by a syphon tube.

The Balance Brewer is an obvious exception.

This device has a suction similar process but the water moves from side-to-side instead of up and down.

12. What are the different sizes of vacuum brewers?

Take your pick!

Vacuum brewers come in all different sizes, so you can choose if you want a gigantic machine that will make enough coffee for guests or a personal-sized device that will fit in your apartment.

The most popular VacPot sizes include three-cup, five-cup and eight cup makers.

13. What is the history of vacuum brewing?

There are three names that have been accredited to the early development of the vacuum brewer:

1. Marie Fanny Amelne Massot of Lyons

2. Loeff of Berlin

3. Robert Napier of Scotland

All three trace back to Europe in the mid 1800s. All three were trying to create the perfect device that would rapidly pull water through the finest grounds possible.

It wasn’t until the mid 1930s that Achille Gaggia would master what these early inventors were going for: the espresso machine.

14. How has time changed the VacPot?

Get this:

The original VacPot is remarkably like its early 1800s prototype.

Simple improvements, such as heat-safe glass, Pyrex, incorporated first by American companies in the early 1900s, has made the coffee brewer more durable and safe.

Additionally, electric heat sources sped up the process.

Over all, the device works and looks like how it did decades ago.

15. Why aren’t vacuum brewers everywhere?

Despite the excellent coffee that vacuum brewers make, they are only first regaining popularity.

At one point in time, they were common household items.

Then:

The drip coffee machine arrived. In the 1950s and 60s, the fad was fast and easy. The VacPot lost popularity in homes across the United States.

Only has the high-end coffee market reemerged to become the norm has this brewing method made a comeback.

16. Where can I buy a vacuum brewer?

The quickest and easiest option is to head online; Amazon boasts an impressive spread of models, at varying prices.

Otherwise, opt for a specialty coffee store.

17. What are some of the best VacPot models?

Some of the top choices include…

Yama Glass 8 Cup Stovetop
  • Capacity: 40-ounce / 8-cup
  • Material: Heat resistant borosilicate glass
  • Burner: Not included
View on Amazon →
HARIO Technica
  • Capacity: 3 cup/360 ml
  • Material: Heat resistant borosilicate glass
  • Burner: Included
View on Amazon →
Bodum Pebo
  • Capacity: 8-cup/ 34 ounces
  • Material: Heat resistant borosilicate glass
  • Burner: Not included
View on Amazon →
Yama Glass Tabletop
  • Capacity: 5-cup/ 20 ounces
  • Material: Heat resistant borosilicate glass
  • Burner: Included
View on Amazon →
KitchenAid KCM0812OB
  • Capacity: 8-cup
  • Glass construction with stainless steel accents
  • Burner: Included
View on Amazon →

18. Can I buy my VacPot off Ebay?

Like Amazon but perhaps more so, prices range dramatically on EBay.

With some digging, you should be able to score a great second-tier model, which includes brands like Sunbeam and Silex, for under $50.

For more designer options, such as a Yama and Hairo, you will pay a pretty penny.

Advice to the first-time buyer:

Start on a fixed-price site, such as Amazon, to avoid overpaying for your first model.

19. What kind of filter should I buy?

There are many different types of filters for vacuum brewers:

  • Cloth
  • Metal with mesh
  • Metal without mesh
  • Paper
  • Glass

The most recommended kinds are cloth and paper.

Purists believe that cloth allows the most oils and from the grounds to pass through without absorption.

If you decide to use this filter type, scrub clean thoroughly after every use. Store cloth filters in water inside your refrigerator.

20. Does my choice of filter effect other coffee making variables?

Filters mainly affect the coarseness or fineness of your grinds.

As recommended above, starting at an auto-drip coarseness, make the following adjustments based on your choice of filter:

  • Slightly finer for cloth filters
  • No adjustment for metal or paper filters
  • Slightly coarser for glass filters and filters with both metal and mesh

21. Is vacuum brewing feasible for everyday coffee drinkers?

The simple answer?

Yes.

Though some attention to detail is certainly required, with a little practice vacuum brewing coffee can be readily mastered.

The entire process should take roughly 12 minutes.

Though not as speedy, perhaps, as drip coffee machines, the high-quality taste is sure to make up for minutes lost.

22. Are VacPots the new trend?

It’s clear that the VacPot is regaining popularity.

However:

Most coffee connoisseurs agree that it hasn’t reached fad-status yet.

Basically:

Invest in a siphon brewer and you can be a part of a new and growing movement.

We hope your questions on VacPot are clear now. Happy Brewing!


Dennies is the founder and editor-in-chief of Dripped Coffee. He is a trained barista who knows coffee like the back of his hand. When he's not brewing coffee, you can find him fishing or swimming.

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