What is this?

This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever picked up. I found it at a local flea market, having no idea what it was except that it looked like a coffee pot. It turns out that it’s a vintage percolator that uses a vacuum system to suck the water up from the lower pot, perk it through the grounds in the top pot, and then drop the water back into the lower part, which you can detach and use for serving.

(The photo doesn’t show the lid, but I have that, too. Also love the art deco design on the front of the bottom pot).

It’s called a Sunbeam Coffeemaster, and mine is a model C30A. The copyright dates show that this was made sometime after 1944. I Googled the name and discovered that these are prized among coffee snobs, and selling anywhere from a few bucks to more than $60 on eBay. I think I paid $6 for mine, but it does have a few issues.

The main issue with these is that they are often found stuck together because the rubber seal has hardened over time. It took me a long time to discover that the way to get the thing apart is actually just to run a cycle of water through it. The steam seems to soften the rubber and then it comes right apart. You also have to do this to get it back together. One YouTube video said that you can sand down the rubber, and I might try that.

Actually, you should watch the whole video because it shows you how the thing works.

Mine is also missing its original filter, but I just made a new one out of a piece of muslin. There’s a chunk of the decorative ring around the top that has broken off, too. Overall, though, I think this thing is so cool. And I did actually get it to work a couple of times.