Vintage Beanistry

Those who know me, know I’m a coffee fiend. My kitchen contains a major caffeine workstation with almost all the major ways of preparing coffee represented: stovetop Pyrex percolator, Bialetti, electric espresso, pourover, French press, and drip (never used but there in case of emergency). Still missing is the cold drip (aka cold toddy) system. Not on the list at all is the over-priced and over-rated Keurig — we have them at work, and using a refillable cup only leads to water spraying everywhere and a weak cuppa anyway.

Recently added to the list, however, is a vintage Silex vacuum pot had from eBay for about $30 after tacking on shipping.

Wow. Barring a home-built operation made from lab glass and brass fittings, this is a delightfully mad science way to make your morning brew, and it looks great while doing it, and it makes a wonderfully smyoooooth cup at that.

Of course, it’s not for everyone. You can’t set it and forget it like an electric drip; you have to pay attention to the process. Since the process is fun to watch, I haven’t found this to be a problem.

I’m not giving up my percolator, pourover or French press — they all serve their purposes, and now I can work on figuring out which system makes the best cup out of which kind of grounds. But none of them are as much fun to watch as the Silex, and possibly none are as educational: your daily dose of C8H10N4O2 prepared via the equation PV=nRT.

As a side note, I’m a huge fan of vintage appliances, at least where appropriate. Sure, I’d rather have a recent model casement A/C unit for my place than a monster from the 50s or 60s, or a plasma flatscreen TV than an old portable B&W set for the few times I bother watching TV (although I do perfectly well with a 26″ set from 1994 or thereabouts — I don’t watch enough TV to justify buying a new set). There’s no reason, however, not to get a piece of equipment that may be 50 or 60 or 70 years old, since more often than not those were built to last. I don’t mind that my percolator and vacuum systems are my age or older; they work. There are no little impossible to repair fuses or wires to randomly go kablooie; they only stop working when they’re physically broken. And more often than not, these are home appliances that were designed not only to be functional, but to look good while doing it. Let’s face it, a Pyrex percolator with a glass basket and syphon is a lot more interesting to watch than a Mr. Coffee.

I’m also enjoying slowly adding more and more glass equipment to my kitchen. Since I don’t have kids or pets or earthquakes to worry about, I can indulge myself. Glass doesn’t impart flavors to whatever you’re preparing, and again, it looks cool. And if it gets broken, well, that’s my own damn fault and I should be more careful anyway.

Anyone know how to brass-plate the metal fittings on them, though? :)


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