The art of making coffee has evolved over the years. From the simple process of grinding the beans to steeping them until it turns to the beverage that we all love —the ingenuity of coffee-making gave birth to more unique brewing processes that produce even more unique types of coffee.
If you’ve been in specialty coffee shops or modernist, hipster-style cafes, then you’ve probably seen a lot of contraptions and devices to brew your favorite cup of coffee. An emerging crowd favorite is siphon coffee.
This curious type of coffee is known for its unique, one-of-a-kind brewing process. Characterized by the theatrical brewing method and its clean and rich flavor, there are a lot of reasons why siphon coffee is now emerging towards the mainstream coffee scene.
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Siphon coffee is more recognizable through its brewing process. To make this type of coffee, a vacuum coffee maker is used where the beans are brewed through steam and vapor pressure instead of boiling.
As a result, this gives the coffee a cleaner, crisp taste without the “burnt” and overtly bitter aftertaste that some coffee has. The flavor of the siphon coffee is likened to the purest form of coffee beans used in brewing.
Since the siphon coffee is meant to highlight the full flavor of the beans, it’s not traditionally combined with milk or sugar. The simplicity of the brew makes the technique and the quality of beans shine through.
Brief History and Origin of Siphon Coffee
The concept of siphon coffee and using vacuum coffee makers dates back to the mid-1800s. As coffee becomes a staple in every household, the conversation of the best brewing methods started.
Coffee enthusiasts were in agreement that the method of directly boiling coffee is too harsh and will actually kill and mellow out the flavor in the process. This begun the coffee experimentation phase where brewers tried to incorporate vapor pressure and vacuums into the process.
The earliest form of siphon brewer was made by a French woman named Marie Fanny Amelne Massot in Lyons, France. Essentially, the brewer is made with two glass balloons on top of each other secured by a simple frame. By the 1830s, the siphon brewer became commercially successful.
During this time, coffee is evolving from more than a daily necessity to a social event.
Different versions of siphon brewer popped up, each with a more unique design than the other. Siphon brewers weren’t meant to be placed hidden in the kitchen but rather, in public where you can show off the theatrics of brewing coffee.
Now, siphon brewers are mainly used in fancy or specialty coffee shops and café. This device may be replaced with coffee machines that are made to provide you coffee as quickly as possible, but no coffee devices ever came close to the theatrics of siphon brewers.
What does Siphon Coffee Taste Like?
Siphon coffee is known for its clean and crisp taste that allows you to fully appreciate the aroma and flavor of your coffee beans. This type of coffee is also traditionally served without cream or sugar.
The brewing method allows your coffee to be prepared in a manner that doesn’t involve direct heat —which makes your coffee free from any burnt or over-steeped taste.
The closest flavor that might come close to a siphon coffee is black coffee. Although siphon coffee tends to have a better, well-rounded flavor and cleaner on the palate.
How does a Siphon Coffee Brewer Works?
Much of the popularity of siphon coffee revolves around its fascinating brewing process. As mentioned, a siphon coffee brewer is simply two glass balloons on top of each other. The secret behind its coffee-making is science.
A siphon brewer has an upper and lower chamber that is connected with a funnel. The lower chamber can have a built-in heating coil below, depending on if the device is stovetop or not.
On the other hand, the coffee grounds are placed in the upper chamber. And a filter is placed through the funnel.
The lower chamber is filled with water. As it boils, the vapor pressure accumulated from both of the chambers causes a great portion of the water to rise where it mixes with the coffee grounds.
Then once the pressure decreases, the coffee drips back down to the lower chamber. This leaves the used coffee grounds on the upper chamber and perfectly brewed coffee at the bottom.
What’s the Difference Between Siphon and Pour Over?
The huge difference between siphon and pour-over coffee is the technique that you need to have in order to produce a consistent brew every time.
Since both flavors of siphon and pour-over are generally dependent on the coffee beans that you use, the main dealbreaker is the process itself.
In the pour-over method, you have full control over every step of the brewing process. The method sounds simple enough —pour the hot water on the filter with coffee grounds. But you need to master the technique to have a consistent brew throughout. A common mistake is under-blooming your coffee which results in pale flavors.
Meanwhile, using the siphon coffee brewing method might look complicated but your contribution to the brewing process itself is minimal. You simply place the water on the lower chamber, the filter on the funnel, and the grounds on top.
Then you let science do the work. The selling point of siphon brewers is their consistency throughout the process and it is pretty beginner-friendly despite the intimidating contraption.
Tips to Brew Better Coffee with Siphon
There’s rarely room for error when using a siphon brewer. But that said, there are always tips and techniques to get the best out of your unique device.
Here are some of our tips to brew better coffee using a siphon brewer:
1. Have The Best Quality Coffee Beans That You Could Buy
The best thing about siphon coffee is that it allows you to extract the purest form of flavor in your beans without the risks of damaging the flavor in the process. That said, your coffee is only as good as the beans that you use.
Siphon brewing can capture the floral and citrus notes of the beans that other coffee brewing methods might have a difficulty in catching.
Being that said, we recommend using beans with lighter roasts. Lightly roasted beans will have the natural sweetness and aftertaste of berry and citrus that can balance the strong taste of coffee, especially if you’re drinking it without sugar or cream.
Buying lightly roasted beans that are high quality can be tricky. If it’s your first time buying, we recommend buying in smaller quantities first so you can do a little trial and error with your coffee brands. You can use coffee beans from your local roasteries or favorite coffee brands. Try one of Volcanica Coffee’s selection of beans.
2. The Grind Size is Important
The grind size of your beans is important when using a siphon brewer. The size of your coffee grounds will determine how the flavors can successfully develop on your coffee. Plus, you have to take into consideration the vacuum pressure is brewing.
This really depends on your personal preference. The finer your grounds are, the stronger the flavor would be since the vapors can easily permeate through the coffee.
This can be another trial and error until you get the hang of it. Normally, a fine espresso grind will do the trick for siphon brewing.
You can adjust the grind size depending on how you like your coffee. But make sure that you don’t grind it too fine that it’ll make your coffee too bitter, or too coarse that the pressure inside your siphon brewer won’t be able to brew your coffee correctly.
3. Keep an Eye on The Temperature
Siphon brewing is all about science and the relationship between temperature and pressure within the chambers of the brewer. That said, you have to keep an eye on the temperature when you’re heating water.
Some models of siphon brewers have a built-in heat source that will allow you to set a specific temperature every time you brew. But in stovetop versions, you need to keep an eye on the temperature.
The right time to add the coffee grounds is when the water has risen to the top chamber and the temperature reads about 93 degrees Celsius.
Don’t let the water go to boil since that might leave a burnt taste on your beans. On the other hand, adding the coffee grounds earlier than it should be will result in an underdeveloped, almost “watered-down” flavor on your brew.
4. Always Preheat Your Brewer
A lot of people who are new to siphon brewing seem to skip this step in order to save time, but take it from many professional brewers and baristas that preheating your brewer is essential.
When you preheat your brewer, you’re essentially “tuning” your equipment. You’ll know if it’s working properly or if there are some malfunctions in the device.
It’s better to know it early on instead of halfway through the brewing process where you’ll have nearly boiling water seeping through everywhere. Not to mention it’s a waste of good coffee grounds.
Aside from that, you’ll be conditioning the temperature of your equipment and slowly raising it to meet the ideal temperature. This might sound like an unnecessary part of the brewing process but it actually affects how your coffee will turn out.
Last, and if not the most important, preheating makes sure that your brewer is squeaky clean. Siphon brewers are notorious to be quite hard to thoroughly clean because of their shape. Preheating your brewer will remove all the impurities coming from your last brew.
5. Rinse Out Your Coffee Filter
This is Basic Coffeemaking 101. Always rinse out your coffee filter before starting the brewing process to avoid any loose filter threads contaminating your coffee.
You can do this during the preheating process. And regardless if you use a paper filter or reusable ones, always rinse it out.
Wrapping it up!
Siphon coffee is making a huge comeback especially to coffee lovers who appreciate and love the art of making coffee.
With such an aesthetic and fascinating brewing process, it’s only a matter of time before mainstream coffee establishments start using siphon coffee brewers.