The world of craft coffee is a counterculture – an anomaly. It’s the sweet oasis in a desert of indifference. It’s intentionality.
If you routinely enjoy the delectable art of specialty coffee, you can probably remember the first time you got hooked. Maybe it happened when you first tasted blueberries in an Ethiopian coffee. Maybe you were captivated by the impossible folds of milk the barista poured in your latte. Or maybe you were romanced by the processes that looked more like alchemy and less like coffee brewing [which is what we will be discussing in this article!]
The things we love have a story. It’s always good to go back and remember what inspires us.
There are many truly inspiring brew methods out there. Different methods of brewing allow us to truly explore the coffee craft. If you’re new to the coffee scene, you may be overwhelmed with how many brew methods there actually are. French Press, Clever, Aeropress, V60, Kalita Wave, Walkure, Chemex…the list goes on, and it seems endless.
However, the extensive nature of coffee brewing is part of what makes it fun! There’s always something to learn, and there’s always room to improve. The siphon coffee method takes the spotlight in today’s article for that very reason. It’s the method that makes us baristas feel like mad scientists.
Compared to many brewing processes, the siphon is kind of eclectic. If a steampunk chemistry set and a coffee maker had a baby, a siphon brewer would be the result. It’s a favorite amongst coffee gurus for its consistent brewing capabilities and style.
Let’s quickly walk through the siphon brewing process, and then we’ll jump into some of our favorite siphon brewers, and what we think the best siphon coffee maker truly is.
The Siphon (Vacuum Pot) Method
Commonly called the Vacuum Pot Method, the siphon method of brewing involves two phases:
- Percolation / drawdown
Many look at the siphon as complex and intricate. Yes, the physics of the process are technical, but the coffee extraction is like any immersion method. Don’t let the bubbles and fire scare you.
Here’s how it works:
There are two chambers on a vac pot or siphon brewer. These are the upper chamber and the lower chamber. Simple enough.
When the upper chamber is attached securely to the lower chamber, it creates a closed system. This means that the air and water vapor pressure in the lower chamber will push the water into the upper chamber if the atmospheric pressure increases. How does this happen?
Well, not always with fire. With heat.
Heat increases the pressure of the air and water vapor. We typically use alcohol burners, butane/bunsen (eske) type burners, and halogen burners with the siphon. For the vac-pot, a stove or hot plate can be used.
So to clarify:
Hot water is poured into the lower chamber. The upper chamber is firmly secured to the lower chamber, creating a closed system. Now we add the heat source – a burner placed under the lower chamber. If done right, water will make its way up the siphon tube, and into the upper chamber!
It’s important to note that a cloth, paper, or metal filter is secured in the upper chamber. This will filter out the coffee during the drawdown phase.
Alright, so now that your water is boiling nicely in the top chamber, we can finally toss in our ground coffee. The coffee extracts, delicious solubles dissolving in the brew. Once the desired time is reached, the heat source is removed and the brewed coffee draws down into the lower chamber.
When heat is removed, the vapor condenses in the bottom chamber. This makes the bottom chamber pressure less than the upper chamber pressure – creating a vacuum. The coffee is literally pulled back into the bottom chamber.
Now you’re left with liquid gold.
Is This Brew Method Overkill?
Why is vacuum pot brewing so sought after? Cafes list siphon brewed coffee at exorbitant prices of 7 dollars or more. This is crazy! Is it really that good? Should we be lining up for chemistry set coffee?
It may sound absurd, but my answer is YES. Let me clarify:
- Siphon brewing is unique, in that temperature is easily adjustable. If properly dialed, the coffee will come out incredibly balanced. Typical “burned” flavors caused by temperature fluctuation are non-existent.
- The siphon method is painstaking work, and it’s time-consuming. When ordered at a cafe, a barista’s workflow behind the bar is severely hindered. However, the flavor outweighs the inconvenience.
- This method of brewing gives the user an incredible amount of parameter variation (time, temperature, concentration gradient, etc.). A coffee’s true potential can be sought out and experienced with a siphon.
BPC’s Top 3 Best Siphon Coffee Maker List
Determining the best siphon coffee maker really depends on your style preferences and brewing arrangement. We believe that the 3 brewers listed below encompass the traits many people are looking for. If you consider this list, the best siphon coffee maker isn’t about the brewer, it’s about you. Each brewer below is killer in the kitchen.
If you’re looking for an entry level siphon brewer, this is it.
This brewer from Yama emanates the glorious style and poise of a “fancy” siphon, yet it’s affordable. The stand is exceptionally sturdy, so you needn’t worry about shattered dreams. Yama crafted a great piece of gear here. Instead of dropping over $100, you’ll be spending around $70.
Featured are both siphon chambers, a nifty stand, a lid/upper chamber holder, filter mechanism, and an alcohol burner (some packages come with a butane burner).
Things we like:
- Yama designed it to be sturdy and durable.
Things we don’t like:
- For those wanting more “pop” in aesthetic, you may want to reconsider.
- The bottom chamber holder works fine, but some units are shipped with it slightly off-kilter. Watch out for this.
Unlike the Yama Siphon, the Yama Vacpot doesn’t “hang” over a heat source. Instead, it goes straight on the stove. It’s candid, no-nonsense, and it brews up to 40 ounces of coffee.
If you have access to a kitchen stove, you’ll fall in love with this brewing marvel.
Things we like:
- Once again, affordability. $55 isn’t a bad deal.
- No stand to worry about – simple design
Things we don’t like:
- It’s a little bulky, so we don’t recommend it to those wanting to conserve space.
- It’s not as mobile as siphons with detachable burners. You’re basically landlocked…we like this, but others may not.
Just look at it. The Sommelier is a hot, sleek mess of coffee brewing goodness. It’s the most handsome siphon on the block, and it produces even more handsome brews.
Inspired by the wine carafe, Hario designed their new flagship siphon to mimic an intentional wine tasting. The carafe design keeps fines and excess colloids at the bottom of the brew, and the shape promotes aroma sensation.
Featured are the carafe and upper chamber, metal filter and filter holder, lid and upper chamber holder, an ergonomic stand, and an alcohol burner.
Things we like:
- You can show this thing off. It’s beautiful.
- The carafe design is well thought out.
Things we don’t like:
- The price is a little high…but it’s worth it.
Our Verdict on the Best Siphon Coffee Maker?
Like we said before, the best siphon coffee maker depends on you. Let’s separate these 3 brewers into different categories. If you’re itching to buy one or research further, maybe these categories will give you a hand.
If you commonly find yourself hosting others at your humble abode – bequeathing food and beverages upon your guests – the Yama 8-Cup Coffee Vacpot is a stellar choice. Not only will you be able to serve coffee to 5 or more people, but you can display your barista chops. It’s an accessible brewer that will reward you as time goes on.
The Common Coffee Nerd
If you’re just a regular guy or gal needing some coffee discovery in your life, go with Yama’s 5-Cup Tabletop Siphon. It’s a great brewer, and it will serve you well. It will definitely be the best siphon coffee maker for you.
The Thrill Seeker
If you want to bask in well-designed aesthetic and brewing quality, you need Hario’s Sommelier Siphon. Hario is a respected brand in this industry. They’re always going above and beyond to deliver the most innovative products in brewing. Making a cup of joe with the Sommelier is a dream.
We hope this post helped describe the world of siphon brewing. It’s one of the most eye-opening brewing experiences. Vacuum pot coffee opens us up to new flavor profiles and new ways of brewing!