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|Here's some Imporant Points to be aware of if you go shopping for a vac pot. This is just the short version, for more information do check out Coffeekid's Vac Pot FAQ.|
Size matters!Every brewer has its pros & cons & its own particularities.
The biggest pro of a vac pot is the excellent coffee it makes - clear, bright & rich. The second biggest pro is that it's cool to watch it make that brew.
The biggest con is that you won't get the best brew if you don't use it at full capacity. Fill her up with only half the amount of water & coffee & you'll end up with a watery brew that isn't satisfying at all. Better then to find one of the size that you'll use most often. Best 'course, though certainly not cheapest, is to have a few in different sizes…
Grinder!Before you go out & buy yourself a vac pot, do note that a good burr grinder will probably be a prerequisite. The reason is that most vac pots have filters that are to some degree sensitive to fine particles.
I've found that cloth filters & metal mesh filters are the most tolerant to grind distribution, although these will let some fines pass through, yielding a "muddy" brew. Other filters, such as the infamous, finicky Bodum disc will probably clog. Even the Cona rod will have trouble with a dusty grind & may even stall.
Shopping: old, or new?This is a difficult decision. Sometimes an old vac pot can be had for peanuts, sometimes just a few dollars, whereas a new one will set you back for at least US$30. That said, the choice isn't easy.
For one thing, it takes some time to find a good used vac pot. For another, even if you do luck into a sexy, yet cheap old brewer one day, chances are its vulnerable glass will at some point in time break. Since the old ones aren't made anymore, it'll be very difficult finding replacement parts.
With a new vac pot, at least you can be sure spares are still easily available.
If you decide to look for an old vac pot, do pay attention to what you're buying. First of all, you'd prefer a vac pot in excellent shape & the glass is certainly the main point. Carefully examine the funnel, I've found it's the most common part to be damaged - especially the lower end of the siphon tube. Also check the bottom of the lower bowl; each scratch indicates a weakness in the glass, a point where it may break under thermal stress. I won't bother you with the details, suffice to say I know all about it. Cleaning up the mess will be the least of your trouble.
Secondly, check the gasket. If the rubber is brittle, porous, stiff, or unpliable, chances are that it won't seal well. While you can alleviate it to some extent by boiling it in dilluted ammoniac, don't count on the vac pot ever making the trip up north if the gasket is in poor condition.
Third point to note is the filter. If it's missing, you'll need to improvise. Usually the worn cloth filters can be replaced by a coarse woven muslin (or even an old t-shirt, if you're desperate), but do make sure all the parts of the filter assembly are still there. Unfortunately, these little bits are often the first to go missing.
Last point is the condition of things such as the handle, or the stand etc. These can be time worn, rusty, or damaged due to transport etc. Again, you'll have to improvise.
If you go hunting at fleamarkets, or in thriftstores such problems are easily visible, but you're taking a risk when doing business at online auctions. Most important is to always *ask* & make sure you know what you're getting.
Curious? Want to know more? Ask!