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BEYOND LATTE / ADVANCED GEEKDOM

Enjoy the show, and then a great cup

October 25, 2006|Russ Parsons

MECHANICALLY, most coffee makers are about as exciting as watching a wheel go around. But if you want to add a little drama to your production, check out a vacuum pot. It's like Mr. Coffee meets Mr. Science.

Essentially, a vacuum pot is two glass globes that fasten together. You put water in the bottom and coffee in the top, with a filter and siphon in between. When you heat the water in the bottom, it is forced up through the siphon into the grounds.

Then, when almost all of the water has been pulled into the top (you'll hear a wet little gurgle), you remove the contraption from the heat and as it cools, a vacuum forms in the bottom that draws the brewed coffee through the strainer back into the base.

Coffee brewed this way is very, very good -- like the best of press and drip, aromatic and clean but with surprisingly good body.

Still, that can hardly explain the obsession some coffee geeks have for the vacuum pot. If you want to know what I'm talking about, visit Brian Harris' website: baharris.org/coffee/VacuumCoffeePots.htm, which includes the history of the vacuum pot, instructions for how to use it and photographs and notes on his collection, which numbers more than 50 pots.

Vacuum pots can be a little hard to find, Harris' collection notwithstanding. Occasionally you can find them at well-stocked coffee stores. There are many models available, but the most popular seems to be the Bodum Santos, which is carried at Sur La Table (www.surlatable.com), Amazon (www.amazon.com) and Whole Latte Love (www.wholelattelove.com), about $80 to $130 depending on size and accessories. You can also find inexpensive models, such as the Yama shown above, available at coffee shops and at Our Coffee Barn (www.ourcoffeebarn.com) for about $35. Espresso Zone (www.espressozone.com) and Sweet Maria's (www.sweetmarias.com) have electric and manual bodums (starting at about $50 for the manual) and also the Cona, which takes Mr. Science to the next level by coming with its own space-age armature and spirit lamp (about $175).

-- Russ Parsons

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