(Updated October 2019 the 2nd)
Around 1830s it was invented the coolest way to brew coffee thanks to a German called Loeff. I’m talking about the Syphon, the syphon coffee maker.
Ten years after a Scottish marine engineer called James R. Napier, designed another syphon brewer named Napier coffee pot. But it was a French woman called Marie Fanny Amelie Massot, who designed the first commercial vacuum pot, who will soon-to-be-famous (it seems that Napier didn’t have the money to deposit the patent).
The French one designed a Syphon in which there are two chambers (one on the bottom and one on the top) held by a frame. And lastly, a balance brewer or Belgian brewer was invented in 1842 without leaving its mark.
About the Syphon
A Syphon coffee maker is unique of its kind: unlike any other brewing method, a syphon coffee maker is both immersion and vacuum. The bottom chamber is filled with water close to the boiling temperature.
While water is heating we can grind our coffee and when water reaches 94° we can put the top bowl on to allow water to start steeping our coffee grounds. When heating up, the vapour starts creating pressure inside the lower chamber. As the water moves up into the top chamber we need to regulate the heat to prevent the water from getting superheated causing crack to the chamber.
After the first 30 seconds of brewing, we can give a stir to break the crust and avoid that any ground of coffee is sitting high ruining the brewing process. After a minute we can move our siphon from the heater and stir for the last time to make sure the coffee bed is even. Now we are cooling-down our lower pot so the coffee liquid is drawing down from the top chamber.
The vacuum effect is occurring due to the loss of pressure that causes water to drop from the top chamber to the lower one. Other 30 seconds and we can remove the top bowl and enjoy our coffee.
This is a standard recipe: I usually do a ratio of 65 grams per litre using the syphon Hario “Tecnica”; the grinding size is medium to fine.
Bear in mind that there is no ideal recipe, it just comes down to preference. Now, brewing coffee with a Syphon is far from being easy, mostly because it requires skill and attention throughout the entire brewing process. We need to deal with many variables such as the temperature of the water and which heating element to choose from, which kind of filters and what ratio to play with. But just before starting brewing, we first need to think about what we want to achieve. After that, we can play with adding more or less water and grams of coffee and adjust the grinding setting.
What we know for sure is that syphon gives the best clarity and cleaner cup than any other brewing method. That’s because, unlike any other brewing method like an Aeropress rather than a french press, while brewing coffee with a syphon the water is keep heated during all the whole brewing process. This result in a much more consistent result given the fact that extracting coffee with the same temperature is a crucial part to obtain the most flavoured cup possible. Body, aromas and acidity are therefore balanced to obtain the right level of complexity.
Now it’s time to choose our equipment. Let’s have a look at what we need to brew with a syphon coffee maker and what is the difference of these single parts that make the syphon an outstanding coffee maker.
We also need to choose which kind of filter we are going to use and as well which kind of heating source.
About filters, we can decide on metal, paper, cloth or glass one.
The metal one is for the ones that love to enjoy a heavy and body cup, though we are going to find some fines at the bottom. The paper one tastes like any other brewing method with a smoothie and clean cup. The cloth one is the most used cause we are not going to find any fines; we can enjoy all the coffee oils in an aromatic and silky cup. The glass one is similar to the metal one and it’s even much heavier.
The last choice we need to do is about which kind of heat source we want to use. We can mainly choose between our stovetop, a butane burner, and an alcohol burner.
The stovetop is a good choice because we can control quite easily the temperature. The only limit is that we can’t decide to move away from there which is not good if we want to let people show our nerdy side.
The butane burner is a pressurised gas that works well. It’s clean and it’s really easy to regulate. It’s a bit expensive than any alcohol burner but it’s probably the best choice.
The cheapest one is the alcohol burner, but unlike the butane burner, we need to buy and add denatured alcohol. And usually, it’s easy to spill alcohol out. We can even choose a halogen lamp but it’s really expensive for most of the people.
As far as I’m concerned, brewing syphon it’s a nice experience, especially when brewing it at home with some friends. It’s just not about aesthetic but it also produces outstanding coffee. So, as soon as you can manage with all the variables such as temperature, particle size distribution, ratio and time, you can surprise them serving the cleanest, crisp cup of coffee they have ever drunk.
There are so many syphon coffee makers out there to have a look at before purchasing one. Even if with different design available, the way they brew is generally the same. Just need to choose according to your budget and your preference.
I am an Italian coffee lover that pushed for the love of this “amazing drug” decided to come to London to study about coffee and its different extraction procedures and tastes.