Everything was included and ready to go with this vac pot, except the alcohol.
I bought this Hario vac pot despite its higher price simply because it looks … soooo good. Just sheer artistical elegance! There is a nice look, touch, and feel to the product. It‘s Japanese design; so, you do expect elegancy to come with it (for a price), not just a usable product. The design flows so smoothly, very nice contour of the upper bowl, lid, flowing down to the lower bowl handle and stand. The handle stands sharply and rigidly out in 90-degree angle, contrasts with all the curls on the rest of the vac pot. It has the appearance of a crane’s beak, and the crane is a very popular symbol representing elegancy and longevity in Japanese culture. The glass bowls feel thicker than it looks because of the clear and higher quality glass (Hario = King of Glass), thus give the owner a more sure and secure feeling while handling them.
The design of the upper bowl not only looks good, but also provides a nice smooth curl/slope through out the whole bottom, enables the coffee ground to agitate freely within the upper bowl as the hot bubbles rise. This vac pot is good even for making fewer cups than the maximum capacity, and there are markers on the lower bowl for 3 to 5 cups (4oz each). I would recommend the 5-cup model for this reason.
The plastic handle tapers toward the end; so, it needs a firmer grip while handling the hot lower bowl. The handle was designed to hook into the neck of the stand, not just rest on it. You have to tilt the handle up 45 degree to remove the lower bowl; so, there should be no fear of the lower bowl falls off accidentally by someone knocking on it. The lower bowl was totally round without any support other than the handle: It can‘t stand on its own like other Hario models, and thus cleaning requires careful handling/resting around the washing basin. The neck of the lower bowl has a fairly good opening; so, cleaning should be easy. The alcohol burner requires no wick, but non-adjustable; so, you can‘t really up-the-flame to speed up the heating process, even though the current default flame level setting is good. The vac pot’s weight felt “medium” compared to other Hario products. The base looks like black plastic, but it was actually made with all metal construction.
The operation is easy enough, just like any standard vac pot.
Pour hot water into the lower bow to the desired level.
Lit the alcohol burner, and wait till there was signs of boiling (lots of steam / some bubbles).
Mean time, while waiting for water to boil, install the paper filter, add fine coffee ground.
When water boiled, install the upper bowl.
When most water rises up to the top, stir lightly once.
After all water made it to the top, wait 40 seconds, then extinguish the flame.
Coffee will be drawn back down to the lower bowl.
Remove the upper bowl with concentric circular movements from the center out while lifting.
Remove the lower bowl from the stand and coffee is ready to serve.
I saw the original promotional/instructional video at the store (not available for purchase), and they add an interesting step to the final sequence: As coffee starts to make its trip back down to the lower bowl, hold a piece of lightly damp and cool cloth on the upper part of the lower low not only speed up coffee going down the process, but somehow creates lots of agitated bubbles that results in a layer of foam/crema on top of the coffee in the lower bowl. Hario calls this “espresso” style coffee – not true espresso, but interesting on how it was done and its effect.
As said, since the upper bowl was tall and smooth, full agitation of the coffee ground is possible even when making only 3 cups. But for the “purists” who want no paper/cloth contact with the coffee (meaning, don’t want lost of coffee oil from absorption), the best replacement is the black flat round plastic filter disc from the Bodum Santos. I’ll explain the reason why in the review of the Bodum Santos. The paper filter disc is interchangeable with the cloth filter disc in most Hario models, so those prefer one type over the other can have either or both. I guess that the paper filter remove less coffee oil than cloth, since it was a thinner material with a smaller diameter.
Other all, I am very happy with this purchase. I bought most of the Hario vac pot product line, and they stand gleaming side by side (on my formal dinning table for now), that made the older Silex/Cory vac pots look old, out of style, and out of class (well, they are just old products … not that they did not perform well, especially if you need more than 5 cups at a time).
As a personal thought, I thought many people were carried away with eBay auctions on vac pots such that the prices on certain pieces can easily exceeded $35-$50 range. Plus shipping, it may even come close to the price of a Hario (may be not the Nouveau). To me, after I purchased these vac pots, what I got for the difference of $20-$30 in price compared to eBay auctions really worth it. So, do I bid on vac pots on eBay anymore? rarely, unless it was either very unique or very cheap (under $25). So, think twice (or more) before you bid more than $30 for an item on eBay, since you can easily get a brand new and better product that you WILL be VERY HAPPY with for a long time at (Hario’s product or the Bodum’s Santos).
This is no doubt that this is the best and most elegant piece of all Hario’s vac pot products.
Worth the ticket price for those who are willing to try it.
This alcohol lamp produces a less intense flame than the regular alcohol burner that came with the rest of the Hario models. Since the flame height was fixed in size, it produces only adequately hot water for the brew, generating smaller hot bubbles that rose from the lower pot when water was at near boiling temperature. The advantage of this draw back is that the rising bubbles were never too large to cause the possible “exploding hot water” problem as with other models (see the detail in the Super Technica additional review). Nevertheless, to avoid this possibly dangerous mishap, water should not be filled passed the 5-cup mark.
To generate more heat to boil the lower pot hotter, one can buys and uses the regular Hario alcohol burner ($6) with this vac pot instead, but don’t let the wick up too high (more than 3mm) since it may cause “exploding hot water” due to much larger hot bubbles generated from the added heat.
Also, I observed that in colder days (60 degree F), even though water in the lower pot was at boiling temperature (212 degree F), after all the hot water moved up into upper pot (upper pot was not pre-heated), the water temperature dropped down to 170-175 degree F, and stayed around this range till it came back down to the lower pot: This is not hot enough for an optimum coffee extract. So, in colder days, I held the upper pot in the stream of rising hot steam from the pot I used to boil the water on the kitchen stove, to warm it up first before installing it into the lower bowl; thus, minimize the temperature drop problem. It’s an added step; but there should be enough hot water left in the cooking pot for this purpose; so, it’s not too much of a trouble, and the result was definitely worth the extra effort.