The quality of the coffee made by this brewer is excellent, in quantities as small as 500 mL. And it's as beautiful as it is functional. The glass components are relatively sturdy and not easy to break relative to other glass vac pots.
Negative Product Points
Occassionally , the spirit lamp lid does not completely extinguish the flame. I would feel more comfortable if the spirit lamp was secured to the base. I would also like to see the wooden parts, which are oak, (base and spigot handle) offered in other materials, such as maple or granite, to better match kitchen decor. It would also be nice to be able to open the copper vessel for cleaning.
What a wonderful product!
It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that the best feature of this product is its appearance. It does look great. But the best part is the coffee it makes. It is easily the best vac pot coffee I've tasted. The most noticable differences are clarity of the brew, and the temperature. It's hot! And it stays hot, thanks to the heat retention of the copper plated pot. And the design of the system is such that all the ground coffee is engaged without stirring, and is a very short brew cycle.
I also like the fact that the system does a good job with any quantity from as little as 500 mL up to the maximum capacity of about 1 L. When brewing less than 500 mL, too much water is left in the glass mixing vessel. I find that this system benefits from a grind that's finer than I use in most of my other vac pots - about midway between an espresso and a press pot grind.
On the negative side... well, there is the cost. Although I think that given the robust design, it should last a lifetime and then some, so on a cost-per-year basis it's probably a bargain. Another negative is the spirit lamp; there are three things about it I don't like. First of all, I would like to be able to fill it without using a funnel, which I'm not comfortable doing now. Second, there have been three occassions (out of probably a couple dozen) when the flame continued to lick out around the lid after it closed on the wick. One time I didn't catch it right away, and it boiled away at the brew that have been syphoned back, destroying the coffee. Third thing about the lamp - I would feel more comfortable if it locked into the base. Even though I would not move the system with the lamp lit, it's possible a fuel-loaded lamp could fall and break while moving it.
Other "negatives" are really matters of personal preference, or are inherent given materials of construction and design. I'm not fond of oak, the wood used for the base and spigot handle. I would prefer materials that better match my kitchen. The copper vessel and lid require occassional polishing. The system is a bit difficult to clean, and the whole thing is a bit involved for daily use, but I do use it several times in a week. It's also a bit small for more than a few coffee drinkers - if your dinner party is more than two couples, you may need to brew two pots or move to an alternative method.
One usage note - it is really necessary to heat the water to almost a boil before pouring it into the copper vessel, otherwise it takes forever to heat enough to brew.
Bought from Patrick on eBay. Email communication after the auction was excellent, although the credit card transaction via two emails was a bit tedious. Paypal would have been easier. The system was delivered quickly from a warehouse in San Francisco. Packaging was excellent - a custom foam insert.
Three Month Followup
This is one purchase that pleases me more and more with every passing day. I thought this was going to be more in the category of home decor than utilitarian, but it turns out I use it frequently (every weekend). It's still not quite user-friendly enough for daily use - for that, <insert favorite diety here> invented the French Press - but it does produce about the best coffee I've ever had. I'm not quite sure I would spend the suggested retail of $595, but it was well worth $300, and I'd probably go just over $400 if necessary. This machine is a timeless classic that will be handed down to my kids 40 years from now. And it will still be an excellent, functional brewer.