Thread Number: 70214  /  Tag: Small Appliances
Great Sunbeam find from 1953 percolator/vacuum coffee maker
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Post# 931332   4/8/2017 at 23:03 by abcomatic (Bradford, Illinois)        

We went to an antique store that I haven't been in for years! We found a 1953 Sunbeam coffee percolator. It made excellent coffee, the light worked, it did all that it was supposed to do, and is in great shape with the instruction manual in it. I also found a chrome cocktail shaker with all of the parts and is in great shape. I made a martini and it was wonderful.
There was a Sunbeam vacuum coffee maker. What should we look for so that we can use this coffee maker? I was thinking about going back for that?
Any words of wisdom would be a great help. Thanks, Gary

Post# 931336 , Reply# 1   4/8/2017 at 23:21 by ea56 (So. Sonoma Co.,CA)        

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if the Sunbeam Vac pot doesn't have a filter then you will need to get one before you can use it to make coffee. Sunbeam made two different types of filters for their Coffeemasters. One type is a stainless steel frame with a hooked ended rod that is spring loaded and accepts a cloth filter. The other type has the same rod setup but has a fine mesh stainless steel filter instead of the cloth filter. You can find these on ebay. You can also use a Cory Glass Rod filter, also available on ebay. When I use my Coffeemaster's I personally prefer the Cory Glass rod. It's much easier to clean and maintain, but many others prefer the cloth or steel mesh filters. I would suggest trying both kinds and you make the decision which you prefer. Here's a link for a Cory Glass rod. Right now I don't see any of the other type of filter'son ebay, but keep looking.



Post# 931342 , Reply# 2   4/8/2017 at 23:36 by MattL (Flushing, MI)        

The glass rod looks interesting,  Do you just drop it in the upper chamber and add coffee?  I assume it lifts as the bowl fills then drops.  How does the coffee return to the lower pot?  I might want to try one as I use my sunbeam double bubble daily and hate cleaning the filter.

Post# 931347 , Reply# 3   4/8/2017 at 23:50 by ea56 (So. Sonoma Co.,CA)        

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Matt, you just place the glass rod into the upper pot and add the coffee, do this after you've already attached the upper pot to the lower pot. Set the control to brew and let her rip. The rod does rise in the process, but the rise is so rapid and the upward force keeps any of the grounds from getting into the lower pot. After the water has risen to the upper pot and the lower pot has switched to low, gently stir the coffee in the upper pot. When the lower pot has cooled sufficiently to create a vacuum the coffee will very rapidly descend into the lower pot and you should find very little loss of volume. The rough surface of the glass bulb and the coffee itself act as the filter, and really works very well. I think it's ingenious .The finished brew is like french press, only I think clearer and better filtered.

To clean up just remove the upper pot and take to your sink, run cold water into it and pull out the rod. I always just flush the grounds down the drain, never had a problem with a clog doing this, but I know some people are adverse to doing this. It's really up to you, but sure is easy to clean this way. Of course you'll want to wash the pot and rod with detergent and water and rinse. Never use any abrasive products in a Coffeemaster, they will ruin the lining.

BTW, I think the Silex glass rod filters with the spring let too much sediment through into the lower pot on the pull down. I think it's because of the hex shaped, whereas the Cory Rod bulb is rounded and fits the hole in the upper pot better. Whenever I use any of my vac pots I always use a Cory Glass rod filter. They are worth their weight in gold for the convenience.

This post was last edited 04/09/2017 at 00:24
Post# 931367 , Reply# 4   4/9/2017 at 05:06 by kb0nes (Burnsville, MN)        

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Gary, If you go back for the Vacuum pot remember that Sunbeam basically had 3 models. There was a C20, C30 and C50. There are a few things to look out for.

The C20 used a cloth filter with a stem that threaded into the bottom bowl. It was the filter stem that held the top bowl in place and effected a seal. The rubber seal in these is generally serviceable even if hardened since the bowls are physically clamped together. For one of these you MUST use the original filter.

The C30 is likely the most common model. This one had a stainless filter that snaps in place and is retained by a spring loaded hook. The rubber doughnut seal ring in these is what holds the top and bottom bowls together. Today these seals are often very hard and it can be difficult to separate the bowls on some units. Pouring some water into the unit and heating it for a bit will make the rubber pliable enough to get it apart. You can get a replacement seal from a company called Dayseal, but these lack an internal spring the original ones had. The new seals aren't ideal but they work better then a rock hard original one. There was a C30 variant that had a glass upper bowl also, these aren't all that common.

The C50 is the newest model and it had two levers on the top bowl that compress a large O-ring style seal. This is probably the best design overall and you can get replacement seal rings from Dayseal that work perfectly. The C50 is also slightly larger in capacity and the base is semi-sealed from water ingress. You shouldn't immerse it but it could be held under running water. The C50 also used a stainless mesh filter that clips in place.

The glass filter rod wins easily on a simplicity of design basis and is easy to clean. I have never tried one in a Coffeemaster though. Since they have very little filter area they can plug easily and cause a stuck brew. They likely work best if you don't grind the coffee beans at all lol, you do need a uniform VERY coarse grind with a glass rod. They are amazingly effective though since the filter is effectively the grounds themselves. One of the things that drew me to the Coffeemaster is that wonderful stainless filter, I'd seek one out before I used anything else. They are more effort to clean though (as is the entire vacuum pot experience), Vacuum pot coffee isn't a daily driver experience for me.

The bowls on the Coffeemasters are spun from solid copper then chrome plated and polished. The chrome is fairly thick but is often ruined internally by people that allowed coffee to stand in the lower bowl. Inspect the bottom bowl and check that the plating looks to be intact. The chrome is very hard so I won't say you can't use abrasives on it, but they should be very fine. Flitz or Wenol polish is certainly acceptable but I wouldn't recommend Scotchbrite!

Overall the C50 is the most usable followed by a C30 with still pliable seal. I seldom use my C20 as I don't love the cloth filter hassles. You can cut paper discs from standard coffee filters to use in the C20 but you need at 2 or 3 layers or it will pull through.

Post# 931405 , Reply# 5   4/9/2017 at 11:16 by ea56 (So. Sonoma Co.,CA)        

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Thanks Phil for bringing up the C-20 and C-50 Coffeemasters I forgot to mention them because I've only had experience with the C-30's. And you are correct about using too finely ground coffee with a glass rod filter, this can cause a "stall" or clog. But I've always just used either commercially ground coffee or ground my own coffee courser to allow for this when using a glass rod.

I did however forget to mention one other type cloth filter that in my opinion is the very best cloth filter you can use with any vac pot, and they are readily available. The Yama filter, see link below. They also make a stainless steel mesh version. I have both, but I much prefer the cloth version. Also, if you are really going to get into vac pot coffee, the Yama 5 or 8 cup vac pots in my opinion are the very best. Much better than any of the vintage pots I have. And again the are readily available online and on ebay. They are a little more work, but really worth it. And I also use my Cory Glass rod filters in my Yama when I use it. Vac pot coffee is very good and its really fun getting to know all the in's and out's of making it.

I've become disinchanted with the the Coffeemasters because of the 4 different C-30's I've owned over the last last 12 years they've all eventually had problems with the thermostats getting out of adjustment. I can adjust them, but without the proper tools I can't get the adjustments tight enough so that it will hold the adjustment. But I've had a lot of fun playing with them over the years. If I were going to go back to using a Coffeemaster I would look for a C-50 for all the reasons Phil outlined in his post.


This post was last edited 04/09/2017 at 12:17
Post# 931417 , Reply# 6   4/9/2017 at 12:47 by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        

Check the chrome plating in the lower bowl. If any copper tint shows through or any copper is exposed, it will give the coffee an off flavor. If the oils are burned black on the inside bottom, it's a gamble. As Phil said, the chrome plating is delicate. The lower bowl should only be cleaned with a soft dish cloth. If oils build up and cook on, fill the lower bowl with water, assemble the upper and lower bowls, add dishwasher detergent to the upper bowl, and run it through a cycle. Rinse and dry.






Post# 931438 , Reply# 7   4/9/2017 at 16:11 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

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Were probably the best of the Sunbeam Coffeemaster auto vacuum pots. This however includes the fact by this stage of the game vacuum pot coffee brewing was fast losing market share to auto percolator and drip coffee makers.

The plating inside the C-50's is thinner than previous models (cost cutting). However the seal system is better as is the thermostat. Like call Sunbeam Coffeemaster brewers the same problem exists; the things get very hot and are quite heavy. All that mass means it takes some time for the lower chamber to cool enough to cause a vacuum. Thus it can be difficult to not get a brew that is over extracted.

Have given up on glass vacuum coffee makers after breaking so many upper or lower pots (still have a huge collection of gaskets and other bits), and moved onto stainless steel "Nicro" type pots. Apparently much of the world seems to think the same as prices for said units are quite high. Years ago vac pot "pros" distained metal and stated glass was the only proper material for brewing. Well today as am sure back in the day it is more than worth some housewife's or whomever's bother to deal with a glass coffee pot first thing in morning.

As for filters; have used glass (Cory) rods in all sorts of vac brewers. If you get the grind down proper it can result in a very clear brew that drains down easily/well. OTOH if the grind is not what it should be prepared for "stuck" coffee and or a brew filled with bits or fine powder.

Have gone back to using the cloth Silex filters. Nabbed a huge supply off eBay ages ago and never really bothered since used glass rods. However when using already ground coffee and or my grinder set to finer settings, the cloth filters give a clearer brew with no worries about "stuck" coffee.

Post# 931448 , Reply# 8   4/9/2017 at 17:48 by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        

The chrome plating on the inside of the C-50 was much thinner than in previous models.

Post# 931450 , Reply# 9   4/9/2017 at 18:11 by ea56 (So. Sonoma Co.,CA)        

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I have a Nicro Pot that I used as our daily driver for several months. It is really the only practical vac pot for daily use. They are indestructible, and you really have the best of control on brew time and never have overextracted coffee because the lower bowl cools quickly, creating excellent vacuum. You don't need a trivit on an electric coil top and they come to the boil rapidly on high heat. I'll eventually pull this Nicro back into service again. I like to rotate my pots and brewing methods to mix it up. Makes having a collection practical.

Post# 931517 , Reply# 10   4/10/2017 at 00:34 by MattL (Flushing, MI)        

Eddie, thanks for the lesson on glass rod filters, informative.  I may pick one up and give it a try someday.


AS to cleaning my C30, I use a little Bar Keeper's Friend, I'd use Bon Ami but it seems to have disappeared from the market, at least around here.  Been doing that for years after a bit of coffee build up and has not worn the plating noticeably.


I guess I'm either lazy in the morning or spoiled, but I want my coffee waiting for me when I get up.  I always set the pot up the night before and have a nice hot pot of coffee ready when I am.  My schedule changes a number of times over the week, and my computer controlled outlet manages that nicely.

Post# 931519 , Reply# 11   4/10/2017 at 01:17 by ea56 (So. Sonoma Co.,CA)        

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I hear you Matt, I'm lazy in the morning too and set my pot up the night before, ready to plug it in. Instead of Barkeepers Friend give the dishwasher detergent method that Tom suggested a try next time. I've been using this method for years and it really works very well. The inside of your Coffeemaster will gleam just like new.

Post# 931538 , Reply# 12   4/10/2017 at 03:58 by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        

You should not use anything abrasive on the chrome interior or exterior, but it's yours.

Post# 931646 , Reply# 13   4/10/2017 at 15:18 by kb0nes (Burnsville, MN)        

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As long as the abrasive doesn't leave visible scratches I wouldn't fear judicious use. Chrome is a very hard metal, it would take a LONG time rubbing Flitz or Wenol to wear through it. I would be hesitant to use anything more abrasive though.

The biggest fear is if the plating has started to pit and fail. At this point the adhesion of the chrome to the copper may be an issue. Go after the inside of a failing lower bowl with something abrasive then big chunks of chrome may come off.

I'm curious about the chrome thickness variations in the different models. If I get a chance I will take one of each of the models to my plating shop. They can do an ultrasonic or eddycurrent test and measure the chrome thickness in microns. I wonder how it compares with modern day plating. I've always thought the chrome on the Coffeemaster bowls looked pretty darned thick.

Post# 931648 , Reply# 14   4/10/2017 at 15:26 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
No, I shouldn't use anything abrasive on Sunbeam C-50

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Pots, neither the upper or lower chamber.

Had one previous to my NIB find on eBay that even with careful use of a nylon scrubbie or dish brush wore through the plating for lower chamber. That and it was obviously also scrubbed well by previous owner which started the process. Could also see where "stirring" the coffee in upper chamber had caused marks made by the metal utensil (spoon or whatever) which also showed the plating wearing away.

For the lower pot in particular because it got so hot causing coffee to be held in upper chamber so long, the first several drops/ounces tended to "burn" onto the bottom of pot. That and or people used the thing with the "keep warm" function until the pot was empty or near. Either way there was often a residue which built up that needed removing.

It isn't just telling tales out of school when we say the plating is "thinner" in the C-50 as compared to earlier Sunbeam Coffeemaster models. It is true, and if you put them side by side after a the same period of usage you'll notice difference.

Again by the time Sunbeam worked out the issues with Coffeemaster pots and brought out the C-50, vac pot brewing was dying out. To keep the cost of production and cost down short cuts were taken.

Post# 931723 , Reply# 15   4/10/2017 at 21:50 by kb0nes (Burnsville, MN)        

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Launderess, Please don't take my thought of measuring thickness of the plating as questioning that the C50 indeed does have thinner chrome. I can see it in the way the chrome fills in the the markings and the edges. I'm simply curious how thick the plating is on different models. I send metal out for electroplating daily and I'd just like to know how the vintage stuff stacks up against what we do today.

As for abrasives, all of my Coffeemaster's have survived a good rubbing with Wenol polish and they all look better for it. The idea that NO abrasive is safe is ludicrous. I have never used abrasives inside the bowls though, it is never needed there...

Post# 931729 , Reply# 16   4/10/2017 at 22:22 by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        

Phil, You can look at the difference in the interior finish of the lower bowl. The models before the C50 have a smooth finish. The C-50's finish is rougher and not only does not look to be a durable finish, but in use, is not. The durability of the chrome finish is also related to the difference in the heating elements down through the models. The early models had nichrome resistance wires arranged in between sheets of mica. These heated and cooled faster. The C50 and perhaps later C30 models, but I have not seen those disassembled, has a sealed rod element which goes around the base of the bowl in a circle of greater circumference than the early models with the bare wires centered more closely to the area where that last tablespoon of water boils away. It also has far greater mass which keeps the pot hotter longer, further stressing the finish. When I used any of my Coffeemasters, I manually flipped the heat switch to warm as soon as the water went up, de energizing the heating element earlier. It still produced good coffee, but the lower bowl did not get as excessively hot during the boil dry. 


Phil, inside the bowls is what I was talking about. People who try to scrub away the cooked on oils kill the plating.

Post# 931747 , Reply# 17   4/11/2017 at 00:18 by abcomatic (Bradford, Illinois)        

Thank you all for be so gracious for the wealth of information in regard to these vacuum pots.
We will have to go and see what happens. I shall keep you all informed. Thanks again, Gary

Post# 932611 , Reply# 18   4/15/2017 at 20:15 by abcomatic (Bradford, Illinois)        

HI Everyone, We went back and got the Vacuum Sunbeam today. I have been looking on ebay and from what I gather, it should have a cloth filter. We have the rod that has a spring on the top of it an a hook at the bottom that hooks into the steel stem. No filters with this though. We cleaned it up and put water in it to see if it would work. It boiled and sent the water into the top chamber. Is this supposed to boil in the top chamber and for how long does this boil until the machine turns itself to low?
Can we just use a paper coffee filter and cut it down to size? If there is no filter in it but the stem, will it continue to boil and not shut itself to low?
Thanks for your help.
This Coffee maker looks like it has had very low usage. Thanks again for your help, we really want to use this coffee maker. Gary

Post# 932614 , Reply# 19   4/15/2017 at 20:25 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
Yes, you can use paper filters

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Did so all the time when got fed up with cleaning the cloth (have a small stash of them somewhere, came with my first C50).

Just use the upper metal piece (not the lower screen) part of filter as a template.

I just purchased a box of drip coffee filters, took the above top part of filter and drew a circle around. Then took as many filters as one could cut comfortably and using the original with circle drawn at top proceeded to cut around. Since the filters are two ply each will give a "two fer", as only one is needed at a time.

Only thing with using an extra filter (paper or cloth) is having to dissemble the filter apparatus to insert between layers of metal filters.

The cloth filters were originally designed for earlier Sunbeam Coffeemasters. In theory when Sunbeam came out with the redesigned C50 need for cloth filters was eliminated as the two layers of metal (screen and mesh) were to be a permanent filter system. However the owner's manual for C50 states if one wishes to use the cloth filters by all means do so. This is because with certain grinds of coffee even the fine screen filter of C50 does not produce a clear brew.

Post# 932616 , Reply# 20   4/15/2017 at 20:35 by abcomatic (Bradford, Illinois)        

Thanks Laundress, another question. All we have with this is just the metal wheel that has a spring on the top. the metal wheel comes apart. Do you put the filter between both parts so that the filter (we are doing what you said to)is a bit larger than the circle or must it be the exact size? Thanks so much, this is so much fun.

Post# 932619 , Reply# 21   4/15/2017 at 20:45 by ea56 (So. Sonoma Co.,CA)        

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Gary, if your filter is just the frame and doesn't have the metal screens you will need either a mesh filter or cloth filter to place into the frame. I have used unbleached, cotton flannel, cut into circles and just punched a hole in the center to put the frame rod through. I also once cut out the gold mesh from a drip permanent filter, using a razor blade and cut it into a circle that fit the frame and punched the necessary hole in the center. This set up really worked better that the wire mesh that Sunbeam provided with their later model Coffeemasters. If you try to just use paper filters with the frame you'll need to use 2 or 3 to keep them from being sucked down with the return to the lower pot. I've also used the mesh filters from a french press pot. Necessity is the mother of invention. Play with it and see what you like best.

Post# 932672 , Reply# 22   4/16/2017 at 02:33 by abcomatic (Bradford, Illinois)        

Thanks guys, Eddie, I'll try that. Thanks Laundress, I'll try what you suggest too. you guys are of great help.

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