For good or ill, this makes a pretty good pot of coffee and despite fears, it has performed well for me under light and heavy use.
Positive Product Points
Produces good quality coffee - no muddied flavors that seem to come with drip coffee
Allows for easy experimentation, especially if you're interested in flavoring your coffee with real spices.
Automatic shutoff eliminates the need to check the clock for timing your brew
Negative Product Points
Plastic manufacture is very sturdy, but still plastic
Automatic shutoff eliminates the ability to adjust coffee strength by timing your brew
Cleanup is a bit messy, but I guess that's how it goes with all vacpots compared to a drip.
Aesthetics are very much of the love it or hate it sort.
The Utopia produces very good coffee and in an entertaining fashion. It has been a fascinating conversation piece at several functions to which I brought it (I was assigned the task of making coffee). A lot of people thought it was a really new invention and I had fun relating some of the history I've learned from this site and others.
Brewing is dead simple and I've adjusted to the fixed brew time by stirring the coffee early in the brew and adding both more grounds and more finely ground coffee. It's a wonderful experience and much better tasting than the drip machines I've used.
I can very clearly taste the qualities of the coffee and it's roasting process using this machine. It was extremely startling to taste the burnt flavors of my families favorite french roast so clearly and then compare it to my own lighter (just into 2nd crack) home roasting attempts.
Another great feature that I like is that I can mix in spices with the grounds and I get better results than when I do this in drip machines (more saturation time I believe).
Also, after I turn on the pot and water just barely begins to move up pipe I can add syrups, quality liquers, or other liquid flavorings and they stay in the upper chamber and mix with the brewing coffee.
I know many people don't like flavored coffee, and while it's not my typical drink, I do prepare many variations like this at times and far prefer quality coffee with custom fresh flavorings. The flavor using this pot remains clear and unmuddied.
Unlike other reviewers, I've had no problems making 4 cups amounts (which seems to make just enough coffee for my morning) and I was able to use it non-stop through at least pound or so of beans at a memorial service where I was asked to make the coffee.
I've been both leery and nervous concerning the quality of the product after reading the reviews here and looking at the plastic construction, and nearly returned it (I bought it on major sale without researching it). But thus far, I have used it pretty heavily and thoroughly without any problem. I don't know if usage affects the quality, but here are some comments about how I've used it.
I virtually always turn it off immediately after the brew is complete, transferring the pot to another serving pot if needed.
To clean it, I rinse top and bottom thoroughly and I often run a pot through the full cycle with water only (I intend to use Urnex or vinegar at times as well).
I brew all amounts from the min (4 cups) to the max (10-12 cups?). I usually brew on the smaller end at around 6 cups.
I use more than the typical 2 tbsp coffee grounds per cup. I usually always stir the grounds as they get saturated with water and I use fresh grounds ground and fine as I can without too many slipping through the filter. This also slows the downward journey at the end of the brewing cycle, giving the coffee a little more saturation time.
A new brewing tip is to use coins or something similar to level out the angled bottom of the base unit a little bit while brewing. This extends the time spent up top collecting flavor from the coffee.
Starbucks almost always offers high end service, even if I don't much like their straight coffee. They offered me a free pound of coffee (I asked if they had a lighter roast) and gave me a great demo of the machine. They weigh their coffee when prepping, something I really can't do right now.
Three Month Followup
This is more like an 18 month follow up. I do not use this device very regularly any more since I mostly prefer espresso style drinks, but I still pull it out often enough.
I used it for a very large gathering (my Grandmother's memorial) where I was basically churning out coffee nonstop with it and it did fine despite not being intended for catering style usage.
An improvement in technique learned from this board is to place a coin or more under the edge of the base opposite the high end in order to level out the base a little. This allows you extend the brewing time slightly since the temprature sensor in the bottom detects when the base unit is dry in order to shut off. This addresses a common complaint (brews too quickly).
I am still on the first filter, but I am very careful with it and can see that it will need replacing soon.
Despite all the horror stories, I have had no problems with this brewer. I still brew small as well as large amounts of coffee without issue and expect to get years more usage from this device.
I am VERY conscientious about caring for it though. I wash it by running it through a cycle with Urnex and then just plain water. and carefully clean everything by hand.
Ultimately, this is a fun and tasty way to make coffee and some coffee just comes out better this way than in an espresso machine.