Sunbeam vacuum pots - not bang for the buck, KABOOM for the buck.
Positive Product Points
Excellent coffee, as good as my Melitta Clarity. Very fast - about 5 minutes from plugging it in until coffee is ready. Built like a tank; stainless steel with a steel filter mechanism. Reasonably easy to clean. Accidentally left it on over night, coffee dried up but no burning and no other problem.
Negative Product Points
When coffee is finished, you have to separate the top and the bottom. On mine this takes a bit of effort and you're dealing with two hot pieces of metal. But I've never had a major problem with this. Mine brews about 6 cups, but larger models were made.
No on/off switch; to turn it off you have to pull the plug.
Having read a glowing consumer review of a Sunbeam Coffeemaster (a.k.a. Sunbeam vacuum pot), I decided to try to get one on eBay (they're no longer made for those of you unaware of them, as I was). I lucked out and got one for $18 including postage. I was very lucky in this regard; they normally go for $30-40.
It's excellent. I also have a Melitta Clarity, which I'll keep because it will brew a larger quantity of coffee than this. But that will be the only time I use the Melitta; I don't like using glass coffee pots, which the Melitta has. It's also one reason i don't use my Yama vacuum set up more often.
I have the Sunbeam Coffeemaster C30A. I even got the cloth filter and filter road mechanism with it, which I don't use since I found to my surprise that a Cory rod works fine for half a pot and is easier to clean.
Here's the drill - put water in the bottom (I think the marks on mine are for 2/4/6 cups). Press the top down onto the bottom. This requires a little effort because at least on mine the rubber gasket is fairly large and forms a very tight seal. Then I put in the Cory rod and dump in the coffee (I grind mine pretty fine; just about espresso). Put the lid on. Move the High/Low switch to High and plug it in. It's quiet for about a minute and a half, then there's a large "bloop" sound as the first water gets hurled into the top (more comments about this below), followed by more, similar sounds though quieter. Then you'll hear a click after about another 2 minutes as the pot shifts into warming mode. I then wait another minute or so to let the coffee finish returning to the bottom pot. Then you separate the top and the bottom and pour out the first of your cups of coffee. Yum yum eat um up.
A few comments: Sunbeam vs Japanese bunsen burner type vacuum pots/Cory rod - For those of you like me who have used the Japanese bunsen burner vacuum pots, please note that the water shoots up into the upper chamber quite dramatically, in contrast to the gradual filling process for the Japanese pots. Mine is rated at 1000 watts, so once the boiling starts the water shoots up quickly. So be warned of two things. If you use a Cory rod, you may not want to brew a full pot. The filter mechanism that comes with the pot secures to the bottom of the spout through which the water flows. I think this was designed in part to slow the velocity at which the water surges into the top. A Cory rod is not secured and gets thrown up together with the water. I have found this doesn't matter in terms of sludge because the water is coming up so fast that nothing flows back down until the first part of the brewing is finished, at which time the Cory rod is back in place. My fear is that a full pot of water might yield a much larger spurt of water that the Cory rod would not slow down; the lid fits loosely on the top section of the pot, though it's snug when you put it on the carafe, and I think the top could get blown off and boiling water shoot out of the pot. That said, Sunbeam never intended for people to use Cory rods, on the one hand, and on the other I like the taste of the coffee better with the Cory rod than with the original filter, and just brew smaller quantities. When I've used the original filter mechanism I substitute a wire filter circle from a French press. Low cycle - As soon as the coffee has filtered back down, I pull the plug (no on/off switch) so I can't comment on how suitable the temperature is of the warming cycle. As noted above, however, I once left the pot on over night and, unlike the mess I found when i did the same with the Melitta Clarity (pretty well baked on coffee), I had no trouble cleaning the pot. Gasket - I will echo the previous reviewers in saying that you need to make certain that the gasket is in good shape because I don't think it could be replaced. Read the eBay description carefully, or if you're buying it in a second hand shop make sure the gasket still has life in it. Mine looks as if it were brand new, so I guess they can last well if not heavily used.
Before bidding on anything on eBay, I always check the seller's favorable ratings. I had no problems.
Three Month Followup
I am still very impressed with these coffee makers. I've bought more of them off eBay and given them to relatives/friends. I now find the Aeropress more convenient for my non-espresso drinking since my wife doesn't really drink coffee. But if you need more than a couple of cups of coffee, it's still an excellent way to go.
One Year Followup
I started using aeropresses for my non-espresso coffee, so I haven't used these in some time. If I needed more than one cup at a time, however, I would go back to the vacuum pots.