| The jet action of the wickless burner works really well with the 3 cup model |
Though the 5 cup model might suffer from inadequate heat in the wickless burner, I had no such problems with the 3 cup model. In 8 individual time tests, the alcohol lamp took an average of 7.5 minutes to get from cold water to 180 F, when the kick up would start. Kickup is relatively smooth and fast - about 2 to 3 minutes on average. At this point it is up to the user to decide how long to keep the flame on while most of the liquid is up top (or up north, as I like to say). I usually give it a minute. The agitation is constant and lively, doing exactly what I want - extracting as much goodness from the grinds as possible.
Once the heat is removed (by capping the burner), Kickdown occurs in about 10 seconds, and doesn't take long to complete - a full 3 cup brew takes less than a minute to fully kick down.
HarioUSA sort of advertises a trick to get faux crema on your coffee - as soon as you turn off the burner by capping it, wrap a cold wet towel around the top globe. The kickdown will occur about twice as fast, AND it will leave a lot of golden cream on the top of the coffee. I tried it a few times and maybe I was doing it wrong, but while the kickdown was faster (and I could actually hear more noise), it didn't leave much fake crema on top. I guess I have to check out the video that's floating around on this trick, but I am also weary of stressing the glass too much, and I certainly don't recommend this trick. Since HarioUSA doesn't apparently have much of a warranty on broken globes, do this at your own risk.
Removing the top assembly is extremely easy - by far the easiest to remove of all my vac pots. Place the syphon on its stand, and your done with that part. Lift the handle of the bottom globe 20 to 30 degrees or so, and it removes easily from the stand. Because of the paper filter, the coffee is extremely clear - as clear as any auto filter drip machine, but with a vac pot, your coffee is much more saturated from the grinds, resulting in a darker, fuller cup (in appearances as least). There is zero sediment in the bottom globe.
What's In the Cup
In the cup, the coffee is damned fine. Not as good as some vac pot coffee I've had (I've turned out some excellent, excellent coffee from my Silex Jr. model with the ceramic / cloth filter), but really mellow, really full, and very satisfying. And, it is much better than what you can get from any auto drip device (at least the ones I've tried). At the top of this review, I gave the coffee taste an 8 out of 10. That was using the supplied paper filters. When used with the Tayli ceramic / cloth filter assembly I own, I give it a 10 out of 10 compared to all my vac pots.
To detail the coffee a bit more, the serving temperatures were, on average, about 180F, peaking at 185F when I was particularly fast in pouring and measuring. You'll lose your initial temps fast, but pouring into a preheated cup (doesn't everyone do this?) helps. The coffee was pretty full bodied, but I seemed to like the Full City roasts I used more than than the darker ones. I didn't detect ANY bitterness, except for the one time I let this unit stew for about 2 minutes while all the water was up north - over extraction. You can usually tell by the smell during brewing if you've overextracted - it's hard to describe, but you can.
The cup was full because of excellent extraction, but by the same token, not as strong as it could have been because of the paper filter. I hate to keep harping on this, but perhaps using the new Melitta Flavorpore filter will help. You rob your cup of some really aromatic and fragile oils by using a paper filter. Nuff said.
Cleanup and Maintenance
Cleanup is about the same as other vac pots - a bit of a chore compared to auto drip, but it only takes a minute or two. With paper filters, I usually just drop the filter assembly into the sink, run water down the syphon tube which rinses out most of the grounds, give it quick scrub with a scotchbrite non scratching pad, and rinse. The bottom globe gets some soapy water, a few quick twirls, then rinse and let dry. I don't know if they are dishwasher safe (the instructions are in Japanese), but handwashing is no big deal, and you should handwash this cool device anyway - after all, the lettering might come off in a dishwasher.
The airtight design of the alcohol lamp means less refilling compared to other vac pots with alcohol stoves. I found on average I could brew 4 or 5 batches before needing to refill (meaning an average burn time of about 45 minutes per refill). Not bad, and if you consider the cost of denatured alcohol (about $2 for a litre, enough to fill that burner dozens and dozens and dozens of times), this thing is very economical to use, until you factor in the cost of the coffee.
Once cleaned, this device is good looking enough that it can be put on a display shelf as an art or conversation piece. Of course, that is my opinion and probably a skewed one at that, but Jean, not normally impressed with my vac pot collection, thinks this one is so cool, she's been showing it to all her friends and students. One remark we got is that this is a definite candidate for the Met Museum in New York.
One Year Followup
A year (and more) later, and I now own 3 Hario Nouveau vac pots. 2 of the 5 cupper models for my office, and the 3 cupper for the home. My 3 cupper is on it's second bottom globe, and it's second top "globe". The top glass part was broken by accident by my wife when she knocked it over onto the kitchen floor. The bottom globe was my fault - I let the thing boil dry (and it doesn't take long to do - about 3 mins or so) when I was preoccupied.
In fact, one thing I want to bring up here... there's a reason why most cloth and paper filters for vac pots have that little metal chain at the bottom of them (with the bearings as "links"). Yes, so you can pull the spring on the filter, but also to provide a conductive area for water to boil in the bottom globe. water when it touches the metal will boil. Apparently when you don't use these kinds of filters and don't have those little metal balls in the bottom, you can effectively "superheat" the water without it converting in a timely manner into gas, and literally blow out your vac pot when the "flash boil" occurs. It was explained with much greater detail in the newsgroup alt.coffee, and chem labs have similar problems - often the culprit is a "too clean" vessel that won't induce boiling at its normal temperatures for your elevation. Chem labs use boiling stones. We use those little metal balls.
Users of glass rods can alleviate this by buying a few steel ball bearings, cleaning them with a boil/bleach/boil combination, and putting them in the glass bowl everytime they brew.
With those warnings aside, how do I feel about the Hario a year later? If anything, my estimation has gone up for the brewer. I now use a Micro Torch burner with it, which vastly improves the heat up times. I've used several other vac pots in the meantime, including (finally) a Cona Model "C", and I keep going back to the Nouveau. Why? Because it's the best day to day vac pot I own. Combined with the Cona glass filter rod, it does a fantastic job of brewing near-clear coffee (the glass rod does let sediment pass), is easy to clean up, and produces brilliant coffee almost always.
And to this day, I still get a kick out of seeing the kickup.