Tinkering with the Vacuum

At my day job, we have a Bodum Santos electric vacuum coffee maker. It's a lovely device, and given the choice between an automatic drip pot and this, I would always choose this. It's more automatic than a press, but more work than an automatic drip. The only thing that would stop me from recommending it wholeheartedly is that, out of the box, it does not make that great of a pot of coffee. Still better than drip, but not in the same league as a press.

The problem is that the brewing time on the pot is too short. It's completely automatic, so you put the coffee in one chamber, the water in another, assemble, and hit a button. A little while later, and you have a pot of coffee. (for those who haven't read Coffee Time 2, here's a quick overview: coffee goes in the top chamber, water in the bottom, connected by a filtered tube. Heat the water until pressure from expanded vapor pushes the water into the top chamber where it mingles with the coffee, let it cool, and the water drops through the filter to reveal proper coffee). It knows when to stop brewing because it can sense how much water is in the bottom chamber, and as soon as it runs out, it cuts the heat on the element. It needs more time. The ability to modify the time between running out of water and cutting the heat would let me use far less coffee and get better results, but that's not something they let you do, unless it's in a double-secret control mode (which seems unlikely).

There is something you can do, though. If you don't fully seat the top chamber, it raises the tube just a bit, and that allows a small pool of water to stay in the bottom chamber longer than it would have had the tube been as far down as it could have been. This lets it brew longer, thus making better coffee. I'm considering gluing some spacers onto the top of the bottom chamber once I have an ideal spacing down, but it would have been such a nice addition to allow a "plus 1 minute" option to the brewing cycle.

Of course, all of this would be unnecessary with a manual unit, but that would remove some of the nice features like unattended operation and being able to set a timer for use overnight. More importantly, though, I have no way of using a manual unit at work, what with needing either a stovetop or an open flame. So, if you're using the Bodum Santos and want some stronger coffee, try not pushing the top chamber down all the way. Don't rest it loosely, otherwise you'll make a mess, but leave around a 1/8 inch gap.