If the design of the VacOne sounds familiar, it’s because the same company sold an almost identical product in 2019 and 2020 called the FrankOne. I also tested this brewer and found it to have a few quirks: the circular filter came off too often and the ring seal didn’t always form an airtight seal inside the carafe. These issues were resolved in a redesign, and the machine was relaunched under this new brand. It’s available directly on the Vac Coffee website starting this week and will be available at other online retailers in June.
The company’s lead designer and founder, Eduardo Umaña, has been on WIRED’s radar for some time. He designed nice analog watches that we have already featured, and he invented a cute and fun table lamp that lights up when you whistle. Umaña is Colombian and her co-founder Otto Becker comes from a Guatemalan family that has cultivated coffee for five generations. The duo have also teamed up with the former world barista champion Raul rhodes, also from Guatemala, to start a mail order coffee subscription service for premium roasts that will launch later this year.
I asked Umaña to give me the recipe he uses to brew coffee in the VacOne so I can try it for myself: 20 grams of coffee grounds, 250 milliliters of water heated to 203 degrees Fahrenheit , soaked for 75 seconds.
He also recommends using a very fine grind setting for the beans: setting number 6 on the Orchard Still crusher (WIRED’s Favorite Grinder), which is very close to what you put in an espresso machine. If you don’t grind your own beans, or have a grinder that doesn’t allow you to adjust the grind size, you can use any bagged or canned “espresso grinder” on the VacOne, which works well.
Oddly enough, using a finer grind really cleans up the brew. I had used a larger grind (setting number 20 on my Encore) as the size you would typically use in a pour-on dripper, and noticed the coffee coming out of the VacOne was a bit cloudy with sediment. I was surprised to see that switching to a smaller grind resulted in a perfectly clear cup of coffee that – more importantly – tasted better.
The machine also produces a cold brew. I struggled to get a satisfying cold glass of beer from the VacOne, but after playing around with the grind / water ratio and steeping time (again, with Umaña’s advice) I came to a best drink. I tried 30 grams of coffee with 200ml of water and let it steep for about six minutes. It came out light and shiny; several notches of the type of syrupy blasting agent you get from a night cold brewer, but still delicious and ready in minutes.
My biggest complaint about the VacOne is the cleaning involved. After a brew cycle, there are two parts to wash, and one of them (the VacOne main unit) has a cake-shaped ring shaped like a finely ground coffee cake at the bottom. You can turn it over to the compost bucket and gently tap the sides until the clods of earth come out, but you have enough residue left to require a few wipes with a paper towel and a run under the faucet. Your hands will get dirty no matter what. A less significant complaint is that the maximum amount of coffee you can brew in one brew cycle is 14 ounces. This is not a problem for me, since it is my daily limit. But if you have two or three coffee drinkers in your house, you will have to work overtime.
At $ 89, the price seems fair, especially with a generous 16-month warranty against defects. If the carafe breaks or the filter tears, you can purchase spare parts ($ 25 for a carafe and $ 8 for a filter), which is a friendly touch.
Any coffee enthusiast with a brewing setup – especially a fancy coffee grinder and a beautiful kettle with temperature control – should consider adding a VacOne to their arsenal. It’s smart, it’s easy to use, and it makes a hell of a great cup.