Using a Vacpot
A customer recently asked for advice on how to best use a vacpot. In that we wish to be a resource to you on all matters related to greens and coffee, let’s tackle that. I know of no other prep that showcases a great single origin quite as well. Warning, long blog coming!
I use the Yama 5- and 8 cup stovetop models. The 5-cup will give you 20-22 oz of finished coffee while the 8-cup model offers you 34-36 ounces of brew. (Note: Table top versions – heat your water in a kettle and pour into the Yama when you hit 205*. Save you a ton of time compared to the alcohol or butane burners).
How to describe the set-up? There are two parts to the glass unit. First is the standard base pot. Then there is an upper globe with a descending glass tube that may well invite a granite counter to come knocking. Careful with it, mate. When assembled, the upper globe sits comfortably positioned in and on the lower base pot, resting on a substantial rubber gasket. So you are not alarmed, the tube does not reach the bottom of the pot and you are left during the steeping process with about 2 oz <?> of water in the base at all times on the 5-cup unit. Don’t worry about it; it is designed that way. The 8-cup design leaves proportionately less water in the base when water has migrated north.
OK, let’s get started. Remember, I said this was a putsy way to make coffee. If you are in a rush, put the unit away and come back Saturday or pre-boil your water. Keep in mind that opinions on the ideal ‘prep’ work for a vacpot vary. My approach is one of many. Don’t get rigid or anal about this. This is coffee-making, not a physics problem to be solved. Experiment and find what works well with you and stick with it. This is a pot worth mastering.
1) Take the filter and drop it into the upper globe. Make sure that the chain that descends from the filter leads down the globe’s tube, out the bottom. Pull on that spring-loaded hook at the end of the filter and secure it over the lip of the tube. Then, rest the upper dome in the plastic dome stand, well out of the way.
2) Fill your coffee pot with water to the fill line (again, I only prepare full pots as most owners struggle with partial pots). Wipe off the bottom of the pot to ensure that no moisture remains. Place the heat diffuser on the burner and turn the burner to about med-hi, about a 6.8 out of 10. You will need about 10 minutes of an initial water heat up, so now turn your attention to the beans.
3) Coffee grinding. I use a grind just a tad finer than drip grind. Quantity? I use 42g of coffee with the 5-cupper and 70g with the 8 cupper. Do not add the coffee to the upper globe at this time. Use the amounts above as a starting point and adjust to your tastes.
4) When the water begins to steam, adjust the burner down to about 5. When small bubbles are being rising from several places within the pot, you are at 195 degrees. Now, put the upper globe on top of the pot. Gently snug it down so the upper globe is sitting securely on top of the pot. It should be even and level. Water will begin migrating north into the upper globe. Until you get comfortable with the settings, use a thermometer to measure your temp in the upper globe. I like to add the coffee at 200-201.*
5) Now add the coffee. When the first coffee hits the water, start your 1:45-2:00 minute steep. Play with steeping time to find the cup you enjoy.
6) Once you have added all the coffee, use the provided (or rice paddle – buy one) to push down the coffee from the center, toward the side and down the edge of the globe. Do this a second time, just before pulling the coffee off the burner. Avoid stirring the coffee; it leads to stalls if you are using a glass rod filter; an event that occurs when water no longer migrates back south. I use a rice paddle (about 3.5 inches wide) as it immerses the coffee more quickly. You are trying to make sure that all the coffee is moist and available for the best extraction of acids, proteins, and oils. Again, don’t stir but rather push the coffee down the side of the upper globe.
7) At the 1:50 minute mark (2:00 with the 8-cupper), turn off the burner and pull the unit off the burner. Let it cool on the stovetop, away from the heat source. Within about 15-20 seconds, the coffee will begin to migrate back south, as the vacuum draws the coffee down. There is a wonderful ‘whoosh’ when the last of the 60-120 second migration and vacuum concludes. Ah, get ready.
8) Use a pot holder to lift the upper globe out of the lower pot and place it gently into the plastic globe holder. Move the resting globe to a place well out of the way. Now, pour and enjoy.
Matters to arm-wrestle over:
1) Scrubbing the cotton filter. If you use the provided cotton filter, an old toothbrush or a grouphead brush and very hot water clean it well. No soap. Make sure your filter is dry before putting away or keep it in a cup of water in the frdige (to avoid rancidity/bacteria growth). Some suggest that the brushing wears down the filter too quickly. They are a buck each and last 3-5 months. Find them on eBay or anywhere on the net.
2) Boiling water before hand. Some are in a rush and will boil the water in a water kettle and then pour it into the lower pot. This speeds up the entire process. If that is your approach, great. For me, this step merely intrudes into a very tactile, Zen-like process that I have no desire to complicate. I have the rest of my life to make a pot of coffee and am seeking ways to slow down, not rush through it. A Yama plays well with my philosophy.
3) Do not, repeat, do not put coffee into the upper globe until all the water has migrated north. Why not? Water begins migrating at about 145 degrees. The lower temp water will begin extracting the coffee, far below ideal temps. You will end up with a poorly extracted cup.