Makes the best cup of coffee this side of espresso - and far more entertaining, too.
Positive Product Points
Ultimately makes my favorite cup of coffee, excluding espresso. Particularly outstanding with brighter, lighter island roasts. It's a chemistry lab conversation piece for guests. Only glass comes in contact with the coffee: no plastic.
Negative Product Points
Very pricey. The setup can seem unstable at times: the glass funnel will roll around in the assembly, etc. Like most vac pots, it's less effective at darker roasts, it's best to use pre-boiled water, and the timing isn't always easy to control at first.
If I'm not making espresso, this is hands-down my favorite way to brew coffee. It particularly excels at brighter coffees with lighter roasts -- such as a purebred estate Kona -- when it brings out all sorts of floral and other bright elements that are muted with most other brewing methods. It produces the "cleanest" coffee flavor I've had, which is the best way to describe it. The key with the Kona is that the coffee only comes in contact with glass, including the filter. While some have reported problems with the system getting clogged, I've not once had that problem -- using my Mazzer Mini grinder with a rather fine setting (though far less fine than espresso).
My first experience underscored the importance of getting the fuel source right. The instructions noted "camping fuel" for the lamp, among other descriptions, and I learned the (not that) hard way that the white gas from my MSR camper stove did *not* qualify: flames shot out extra high and hot, scorched the bottom of the pot with black soot, etc. A search online and I switched to basic denatured alcohol from Ace Hardware did the job.
With a full pot, the lamp would take forever to heat the water. So it's best to pre-boil it. Even so, there is a bit of initial timing I needed to learn. What looked like boiling really wasn't boiling enough, etc. The key is that you want the pressurized water and steam to enter the top funnel/chamber quickly so that you get a fairly even extraction. If it takes too long, you'll overextract the coffee nearest the filter.
But once you get the variables right with experience, and particularly when you use coffee best suited for it, it makes a tremendous cup. Just plan for a little time and fuss to make it, and you'll get a free "show" every time.
Sweet Maria's is Sweet Maria's. You can't go wrong.