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Topic: Vacuum Pot Lessons Learned (14 msgs / 315 lines)
1) From: John Grubbs
As a relative novice at vac pot brewing, I want to pass on a couple of
things I've found recently. Here's hoping my experience will help someone
else avoid similar problems...
For several months now, I've struggled to brew a consistently good pot of
vacuum coffee (using a 5-cup Yama from SM). After reading so many glowing
reviews that almost universally praise vac pot coffee, I've been mostly
disappointed with my own efforts. At first, I thought the taste I was
getting was that of weak coffee. I tried finer grinds and longer brew times,
but kept getting a taste that just wasn't "right". I didn't know what the
taste meant, but I knew it didn't come close to measuring up to the cups I
was able to get consistently with other methods, e.g., Aeropress and manual
pour over.
It was time for some more research. During the course of reading everything
I could find on the internet, I followed a few links to YouTube videos and
studied examples of the vac brewing process in the videos. The thing that
gradquickly became obvious was how "active" was the heating process in those
videos. This caused me to wonder if maybe I had been approaching the brewing
too cautiously and failing to reach proper brewing temperatures. (I had been
deliberately trying to avoid a roiling boil in the lower pot, lowering the
gas flame to heat the water only enough to get it to rise into the upper pot
and then hold it there for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes.)
I began measuring the temp of the water once it got into the upper pot.
Using my original method, I found that the water in the upper pot was only
175-180 deg. after the rise completed. Maybe I was onto something.
Time to revise my process: I allowed the water to rise completely into the
upper pot before adding any coffee. I measured the temp of that water and
waited until it reached at least 195 deg. before I added the ground coffee.
Eye-opening! Much improved tastes followed this change in my process. The
lesson in all this is that with overly cautious heat control, it is possible
to make the vacuum/siphon process "work" at much lower than optimal
temperatures. In my case at least, being a little more aggressive with the
heat gave me much better results. Now that I have begun to realize the
potential in vac pot coffee, I can start to experiment with grinds and
timings to fine tune the process.
The second thing I've discovered is particular to the Yama 5-cup pot. The
plastic handle of the lower pot is a thermoplastic material. That is, it
will M-E-L-T!  I use the Yama on a very small gas simmer burner -- with the
flames much smaller than the diameter of the pot. The handle has melted to
the point of deforming and dripping liquid plastic onto the surface of the
burner. Since discovering this, I've tried to keep the flames as far away
from the handle as possible. If you are using a similar pot, keep an eye on
the handle!
Cheers and Happy Holidays!
John, in Birmingham
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2) From: raymanowen
"...keep an eye on the handle!"
You might try setting the pot on a heat pad to moderate the open flame heat,
Heat the water to boiling in a tea kettle first,
Then add the hot water to a depth of an inch to the lower pot,
Assemble the whole thing with coffee grounds and set it on the pad over
medium flame.
When the water has risen as much as it will, add 200 - 205F water to =
the
top to flood the grounds up to the normal level or whatever you want to
brew.
Keep it on low heat to keep the coffee up and brewing as long as you like,
Shut off the heat when you're done brewing.
If you added a half portion of grounds and half the water volume to the top,
that's all that can go south. If the top is overfilled, set it in the sink
when you disassemble. The lower pot will be ready to spill because the water
vapor permeates every nook and cranny, replaced by coffee when it condenses.
Can't wait to get back to it with my own vac pot, after a half century.
Don't M-E-L-T any more handles!
Cheers, Mabuhay and Magandang Gabi -RayO, aka Opa!
Got Grinder?
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3) From: John Grubbs
Thanks, Rayo. What I've been doing since realizing the potential for damage
is set the pot slightly off-center so the flame is biased away from the
handle -- but still totally within the pot bottom circumference. So far,
that seems to be helping.
On Fri, Dec 19, 2008 at 11:32 PM,  wrote:
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4) From: raymanowen
Sounds like you got it, John. I started out knowing nothing at all. With
practice roasting and brewing, now I know 10 times as much!
Cheers, Mabuhay and Magandang Hapon -RayO, aka Opa!
On Sat, Dec 20, 2008 at 9:01 AM, John Grubbs  wrote:
<Snip>
-- 
"When the theme hits the bass, I dance the Jig!" - -Virgil Fox at the Mighty
Wichita (ex- NYC Paramount) WurliTzer- 1976
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5) From: Bob Hazen
Thanks John, great thinking!
I tried this just this morning and the difference is considerable.  What was 
lack luster coffee is now quite tasty.  I had put my Yama to the back shelf 
since I wasn't getting what I wanted.
The peculiar thing, though, is that it's not a clean cup anymore.  A lot of 
fines ended up as sludge in the bottom of the pot.  I suspect the agitation 
"up top" rattled the Cona rod enough to let the mud into the bottom.  I will 
try this again with a little less heat.
Bob

6) From: John Grubbs
Bob,
I use the original Yama cloth filter, and the fines remain a non-issue. I
can see where the amount of agitation could make a difference in fines with
a glass rod.
John
On Mon, Dec 22, 2008 at 4:59 PM, Bob Hazen  wrote:
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7) From: Bob Hazen
I need to experiment some more.  When using the glass rod before, I'd put 
the coffee in the top, let the water warm and move upward.  Just when it 
would start to gurgle, I'd turn the heat down, let it go for a while and 
then take the pot off the burner.  It was much less vigorous than my first 
attempt today.  I think I need to aim for the same gentle gurgling, but wait 
to put coffee in until the water's moved up-top.  Probably tomorrow....
Bob
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8) From: Bonnie Polkinghorn
John,
Another thing that I found with the Yama and the cloth filter is the grind.
Before I got my new grinder, I had a Solis Maestro just plain - not Plus.
The grind had too many fines.  Once I took a food strainer and strained out
the fines, my vac pot brews greatly improved.  I had to grind 70g of beans
to end up with 56g for the vac pot and 14g of powder.  I used those 14g of
powder to make a 1 minute press pot.  Talk about sludge on the bottom,
but the coffee actually tasted quite good.
I always heat the water in the tea kettle and then pour the hot water into
the base, then put the top on with the grounds in it.  My gas stove is on
the lowest setting.  Like Tom's instructions, once all the water from the
bottom is at the top, I time one minute and take it off the heat.
Happy Holidays,
Bonnie P.
On Fri, Dec 19, 2008 at 7:26 PM, John Grubbs  wrote:
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9) From: Jon Rosen
Bonnie,
What type of food strainer do you use? I'm curious about how to find a  
strainer that traps the fines, but allows the grind to pass freely.
Jon
On Dec 23, 2008, at 11:42 AM, Bonnie Polkinghorn wrote:
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10) From: Bonnie Polkinghorn
Jon,
LOL, it was vice versa, or did you know that?
I have one of those flexible plastic cutting boards.
All the fines would go thru to that cutting board.  Into the french press
they would go.  I'm quite anal and I would weigh them every time and it was
so consistent.
Then, I would knock out the large grind onto the same cutting board and
slide them into the Yama.
-Bonnie
On Tue, Dec 23, 2008 at 8:55 AM, Jon Rosen  wrote:
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11) From: Jon Rosen
Bonnie,
Yes, I did :) But I really do want to know what kind of strainer you  
use that will trap the grounds and allow the fines to pass through. My  
KitchenAid Proline grinder produces more fines than I would like (I  
would prefer none) and believe that eliminating them would improve the  
flavor of my morning drip.
Jon
On Dec 23, 2008, at 3:43 PM, Bonnie Polkinghorn wrote:
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12) From: Bonnie Polkinghorn
Mine are similar to the the ones from All-Clad, but I don't think I paid
that much, but I'm sure I did get them at a finer gourmet cooking store, not
Target or Walmart, because I think their strainers are a courser mesh.
 These are a very fine mesh.  They are all stainless, they do not have a
plastic rim.
Good luck,
Bonnie
On Tue, Dec 23, 2008 at 12:58 PM, Jon Rosen  wrote:
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13) From: Paul LaGorce
Hi,
Thanks for your tip.  I don't use drip, I use French press but I'm also a
newby and I only get good coffee by accident. On reading what you wrote, I
put my thermo in the French press while brewing and I find that it quickly
goes down to 180 or so.  I'm going to experiment with putting the French
press in boiling water while brewing to see if the average higher temp
helps.  Thanks, again.
Paul
On Fri, Dec 19, 2008 at 8:26 PM, John Grubbs  wrote:
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14) From: Brian Kamnetz
Paul,
I hope you will report back to us after you experiment with temp controls.
Brian
On Tue, Dec 23, 2008 at 6:57 PM, Paul LaGorce  wrote:
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