I always get that same feeling when I order a Siphon brewed coffee in a coffee-shop. As if the Barista wants to say: “Welcome to Cirque du Siphon!”
Next to the Hario V60 and the Chemex, Siphon brewed coffee is probably the most popular filter-coffee around. Not only does it taste awesome, a Siphon brewed coffee is fun to look at as well. But what is Siphon coffee exactly and, more importantly, how does it work?
Siphon Review: the history
Siphon coffee might seem like a new invention to you, but it is not. Siphon coffee brewers were invented somewhere around the 1850’s in Europe. It was during those years that people started to realise that boiling coffee messed up the overall quality of their beloved drink. People started experimenting with vacuums, steam and vapour pressurized equipment. Around 1830 a German inventor called Loef, deposited its first patent for a Siphon-ish brewer. In the 1840’s a Scottish engineer, James R. Napier, created the Napier Coffee Pot, which somewhat resembles the modern day Siphon brewer. Lacking the extra funds to patent the design, the Napier family never saw a dime for this invention. The rise in popularity, however, didn’t come from Loeff or the Napier Coffee Pot at all. It was a French woman called Marie Fanny Amelne Massot who takes credit for that.
Marie Fanny Amelne Massot came from Lyon, France, and designed the first commercially attractive Siphon brewer. She made a frame in which two alchemist-like bowls where held together and thus created the Siphon design as we know it. Her design was luxurious and suited for home-use. The rich and famous soon started to host parties to show off their trendy way of brewing coffee to their guests. In 1842 a new Siphon brewing method was invented: the balance-brewer. This machine was a lot bigger and had the potential to brew even better coffee. Alas, the balance brewer is not seen a lot these days, unlike the Siphon brewer.
Siphon Review: How does it work?
The Siphon brewer doesn’t only look like a physics set-up, in a way it is. The set-up uses heat, vacuum, gravity and water vapours to brew a tea-like coffee. The Siphon brewer consists out of two glass balls that are connected by a small tube and a filter. Heating water in the lower ball, will make the water expand and create water vapour as the water boils. Because of this process, pressure will rise in the lower ball and thus force the vapours to go through the tube into the upper ball. In the upper ball, the vapours condensate and soak the ground coffee. Meanwhile there is a small amount of boiling water that remains in the lower ball. This boiling water keeps the upward pressure on a constant so that the water in the upper ball cannot escape.
After a certain amount of time, the coffee is ready to be extracted and the heat is turned off. This causes the water in the lower ball to cool off. The negative pressure (vacuum) and gravity starts pulling the water (or coffee) through the filter down into the lower ball again. And that is the brewing process of the Siphon brewer.
Siphon Review: how to brew
To brew a Siphon coffee you will need some equipment.
- Siphon brewer (Yama, Hario etc.)
- Burner/heating device (Alcohol, Electric, Butane)
- A Paddle to stir
- Cloth filters
A simple brewing recipe is using 30 grams of ground coffee to 500ml of water. The grind size should be between filter and espresso, but more like a filter. Use a light roasted coffee (I prefer my Siphon coffee to be Rwandan, Ethiopan of Kenyan) specifically roasted for filter coffee. Please keep in mind that this explanation is for a 30 grams/ 500 ml water recipe.
- The first step is to install the cloth filter and hook the metal cord to the lower part of the Siphon to keep things in place.
- The next step is to fill the lower compartment with (quality) water. Some people prefer to use water that is just below boiling-point because it will safe time. It will also prevent water from creeping up the siphon before it has the optimal temperature.
- Grind your 30 grams of coffee and put it in the upper compartment. Then put both compartments on top of each other, and make sure the seal is intact.
- Turn the heater on full heat. When the coffee grounds gets soaked enough, you might want to stir so that the water saturates the grounds evenly.
- Adjust the heater to such a level that the coffee in the upper compartment doesn’t boil. Let the coffee steep for around 70 seconds (depending on the coffee and amount of grounds/water of course).
- Now completely remove the heater so no residual heat will continue to heat the Siphon. The drop of temperature will start to suck down the coffee rapidly.
- Your Siphon coffee is brewed. Enjoy!
How to make Coffee – Lani Kingston
Everything you wanted to know about coffee – Jack Frisks