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Yama Vacuum Brewers - Dave Borton's Review
Posted: January 2, 2009, 5:54pm
review rating: 9.6
feedback: (7) comments | read | write
Yama Vacuum Brewers
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More About This Product
Arrow The Yama Vacuum Brewers has 30 Reviews
Arrow The Yama Vacuum Brewers has been rated 8.67 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since November 30, 2001.
Arrow Yama Vacuum Brewers reviews have been viewed 182,512 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Dave Borton 9.60
Anthony C 9.00
Donald Varona 9.00
Jerry T 8.71
Jeremy Maclennan 8.42

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 8.8
Product Reviewed: 5- and 8-cup stovetop
Manufacturer: Yama Quality: 8
Average Price: Varies Usability: 7
Price Paid: $38.94 Cost vs. Value 10
Where Bought: Northwestglass.com Aesthetics 9
Owned for: 6 months Overall 10
Writer's Expertise: I love coffee Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned: 8-cup Yama stovetop
Bottom Line: The Yama vacpot has me hook, line, and sinker.  It has become my daily brew.  Putzing reigns.
Positive Product Points

After six months of daily use, I can say this: No other coffee preparation showcases the individual characteristics and properties of a coffee as well as does a vacpot. Of course, your mileage may vary.

Negative Product Points

Handle-collar works loose (tighten screw ~ every 3 months, gently). Very putsy, time-consuming approach to coffee making for those in a rush on Mon-Fri schedules. Doesn't make partial pots. The 5-cup pot design (with a narrow neck) makes for difficult cleaning, but more on that later. Eight-cup seems a bit top heavy in design and requires wrist strength and attention.

Detailed Commentary

This review will cover both the 5- and the 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 200*.  Save you a ton of time compared to the alcohol or butane burners).

What comes with it?  Inside the well packed box is a heat diffuser for those who use electric (gas stoves require no diffuser).  Dig more deeply and you will find a plastic stand that holds the upper globe, as well as a plastic spoon/stirrer.  Also included is the standard metal filter, covered with a cotton cloth and an extra cloth filter cover as well.  Throw out the spoon because stirring is a cardinal sin.  (See below).

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. Turn the water down again to 4.0 (out of 10). Water will begin migrating north into the upper globe. Set your kitchen timer on the microwave for 3 minutes.  
   (NB):  When I began with vacpots, I used a thermometer to learn at what stove setting the water would rise, what it took to get to 196, what is took to hold it there, etc. You can practice with plain water. No need to work out a science project on good coffee. Experiment with plain water until you have a feel for it.

5)  When virtually all the water migrates north (remember, an ounce or so always remains), now add the coffee.  When the first coffee hits the water, start your 2:00 minute steep (3:00 time setting helps monitor the length of time of the down-draft) .

6)  Once you have added all the coffee, use the provided stirring rod (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 50-80 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.  

Note:  If you have a successful partial-pot routine, please respond via the 'write' at the bottom -- few have succeeded with less than a full pot.  Thanks.

Tips:

1) I prefer to use a Cory or a Corning glass filter, available on eBay. You can grab one for about $9-12 shipped.  Watch out of chipped tops (aka bumped heads) and sharp edges. You can generally see those on the eBay enhanced photos.  Ask questions of the seller if you have them. Many of these were made in the 40's and 50's and are literally worn down from years of use. They work fine. Here is an easy search to help you {http://xrl.us/CoryRodforYama (Link to shop.ebay.com)}  Don't worry about which one you get; they all work well (Cory, New Cory, and Corning.  For me, Silex Lox-In's always release a bit of brewed coffee into the base).

2) Don't be in a rush to get a perfect cup. Getting a good pot out of a Yama takes time to learn but once you've got it, it is like riding a bicycle.

3)  If you have an inexpensive grinder, stick with the provided metal/cotton filter.  The use of a Cory or Corning filter requires a uniform grind from a decent grinder that produces a uniform grind.  If you are using a Cory filter, make doubly sure not to bump the Cory rod with the stick/paddle when pushing the grounds down.  Do not stir; push the grounds down to saturate them.  Stirring invites stalls.

4)  If the 'down draft' takes longer than 90 seconds, grind just a tad smaller (counter intuitive, I know). If it takes less than 30 seconds, you may experience too weak of a cup and might want to grind just a bit finer. Stick with it; you'll get it.

5)  If you are not consuming the entire pot at one time, preheat water in a thermos and pour the remainder of the pot into the thermos until you are ready.

6)  Store the upper globe out of the way.  I have an imported woven basket on the coffee shelf, with the globes laying on their sides, along with the glass rod collection I have started (Corys, Cornings, Silex-Lox In, Polan Fire Glass, and more.  Heavens, getting compulsive about these glass rods).

7)  Clean-up:

   *  Let the grinds air-dry a bit.  They come out more easily. I use the same rice spatula to work out the grinds from the pot that I used to immerse the coffee for extraction.  You can find one in an Asia grocery store in your area or grab one like this: http://xrl.us/RicePaddle (Link to www.simply-natural.biz) .  

    *  Next step on the 5-cup (with a thin throat) is to put the dish cloth entirely into the globe, immerse it into the dish water, and shake the globe (very securely in your hands), using the force and impact of the cloth to get the remaining oils.  I use a soap product from our co-op called Dishmate.  It really goes after  oils in the vacpot but rinses very cleanly, without a trace of soap residue (http://www.ecos.com/DishmateFC.html).   Rinse with very hot water a minimum of three times to ensure all soap traces are removed.

   *  Others have recommended the curved brush to clean the 8-cup, though I have no experience with it.  I will have Sweetmaria's toss it in the next time I order some greens to roast.  Here it is:  (at the bottom of the page) http://www.sweetmarias.com/prod.coffeecleaner.shtml.

Final Thoughts:  I haven't used the Bodum, Hario or the Cona so I am unable to make comparisons.   If there is anything I forgot in the review or you have a questions, please contact me via my public email address on my profile page.

Buying Experience

Easy, simple, straightforward.  Vacpot was shipped quickly and well packed.

Three Month Followup

Yamas reign in this household.

One Year Followup

This set-up gets put through its paces at least once a week.  At times, I will use if for a week straight, depending upon the coffee.  Vacpots shine.

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review rating: 9.6
Posted: January 2, 2009, 5:54pm
feedback: (7) comments | read | write
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