Seems everyone is doing vac pot these days or at least giving it lip service. Getting a first read on a signed edition of a fantastic and thoughtfully written new coffee book (to be shortly reviewed) brought one thought though.
We don't know vac pot in North America. In fact, we largely have forgotten or overlooked most of the manual brew methods with the exception of the largely inferior french press method. Someone offered this thought to us recently and I dare say it has some truth, 'If you don't know your manual methods, what understanding do your really have of your automated ones?'
Scary thought that knowing a better hand pour method translates to a better drip brew.
Our own jump into vac pot (syphon) and our exploration of hand pour methods came thanks to a Taiwanese contact who helped us along with inputs and pointers on how to brew his coffees.
It led to a thought, 'let's do vac pot in the shop.'
Oh yeah, many other people have had the same thought. That thought began to morph and fade as we realized it wasn't quite as simple as throwing a bar together and offering it up. How do you keep it constant and consistent? how do you charge people given the amount of coffee and prep needed? How do you keep your staff well trained enough to prepare it correctly for each and every different coffee?
The roast. You would have to roast for vac pot and make sure the brew parameters were largely fixed so your barista would only make slight adjustments. Fix your brew parameters and alter your roast profile to fit. Strange concept but darned if we hadn't heard the same thought before from our Taiwanese friend.
So here's a bit of advice before anyone goes out and buys a case of vac pots and a halogen setup, learn more about it. The Japanese are having true culinary competitions while we still noodle around with it not quite understanding the physics. It may be the hip thing to do vac pot but a little research and thought may be in order before burning yourself and your customers with a bad brew.
Vac pot has a lot of potential to bring out amazing origin flavors but it's much more technical than many of us realize. The old light it up and steam the coffee to death method just won't cut it compared to a precisely technical approach, so get to learning about your manual methods and your more automated ones will improve also.