In a previous post, I said that if Doc Brown from “Back To The Future” drank coffee then he would use the AeroPress- a syringe shaped coffee maker.
But guess what? I got it wrong.
There is a more suitable way for our favorite madcap scientist to make coffee and it is by using a siphon coffee maker.
Siphon coffee makers are also called vacuum coffee makers and with their hour glass type designs, they would be a perfect addition in Doc Brown’s garage!
But do you need a siphon coffee maker to bring out the mad scientist in you?
Let’s start with a quick definition.
What is a Siphon Coffee Maker
What is a vacuum coffee maker?
It an awesome device comprised of two glass chambers: a closed chamber on the bottom full of water, an open chamber on top and a filter between the two.
It’s heated from the bottom, forcing the water up through the filter.
Coffee is stirred into the hot water in the top chamber.
The brew takes from one to five minutes depending on taste and the coffee you use.
Then, you take it off the heat.
As it cools, the brewed coffee is sucked back down into the bottom chamber.
Why use one?
Hipsters like them.
It adds body and flavour clarity.
It only takes about a minute to brew.
Oh, and they make you feel like a mad scientist.
Like a French Press, the top chamber uses the total immersion method.
It means the coffee grounds and the water will be in contact throughout the brewing process.
The total immersion make it taste clear and light. But total immersion doesn’t get the full flavour from the coffee.
That’s where the vacuum comes in.
As the chambers cool, the vacuum in the bottom chamber sucks the coffee back through the filter into the bottom chamber.
The process squeezes the last vestiges of flavour from the grounds.
It creates a complete, full-bodied flavour unmatched by other methods.
The consistent heat applied throughout the brewing process gives you more control.
It allows you to adjust the temperature and flavour with more precision than other methods.
You can adjust to perfection.
On top of it all, they are just awesome to look at.
It’s like having a chemistry kit in your kitchen.
It’s like being a mad scientist or wizard producing delicious potions.
They look cool and are impressive to use or watch.
What a great way to show off to guests!
Types of vacuum coffee maker
You can choose one of two distinct types of siphon coffee maker: the stovetop or the standalone.
They’re both self-explanatory.
The stovetop kit sits on your gas or electric stove.
They require a diffuser to protect the glass from cracking.
You don’t want broken glass instead of coffee!
They are straightforward and do the job well, but they don’t have the style of a standalone model.
The standalone kit comes with its own heat source.
They are usually fuelled with butane or alcohol.
You can take them wherever you want.
So, how do you choose?
Stovetops are generally cheaper.
Standalones are more stylish.
It depends on your priorities.
The capacity of a brewer is a simple but important choice.
How many coffees do you need to get going in the morning?
How big is your family of coffee drinkers?
Most siphon makers produce 4-8 cups in a batch.
Some of these machines can look crazy.
Lots of extra twisty tubes and beautifully-shaped bulbs.
This is something to consider if you want to make it a kitchen showpiece.
Also, the more complex designs tend to be harder to take apart and clean.
In the old days, vacuum brewers were built from tough metals like stainless steel.
They had an industrial feel.
You can buy these nowadays for a steep price.
But they are tough, and you feel like you’re in a steampunk laboratory.
These days, most are built from glass.
The best quality glass you can get is heat resistant borosilicate.
They will break if you drop them.
But, if you take care of them, they’ll last forever.
There are two types of filter to watch out for: cloth and steel.
The cloth filters are the classic design, but they are irritating to clean.
You need to wash them thoroughly and immediately otherwise mildew will grow.
Stainless steel filters are becoming more popular and they are so much easier to clean.
Most use butane or alcohol for their burners.
But, a lot of more modern designs use halogen and electric.
Some even offer a choice between the two.
The more options you get, the more expensive your brewer will be.
Alcohol can be a bit messy, leaving soot on the underside of the brewer.
The most reliable is butane.
It’s clean and easy to use.
History and Origins
The vacuum coffee maker was invented in 1830s Berlin by Loeff.
Back then, they were built to avoid boiling water, which they believed ruined the taste of the coffee.
In 1841, Madame Vassieux patented a “glass balloon” in Lyons, France.
She was the first to create a commercial vacuum pot.
This method became successful because of the “parlour theatrics.”
It allowed ladies and gentlemen to show off at social functions.
Then, like now, the siphon coffee brewer was the ideal way to wow guests.
Advantages & Disadvantages
The coffee tastes better
The number one reason for changing your coffee making habits is taste. Many believe boiling water spoils the taste of coffee. Also, the brew method itself brings out more flavour from the beans.
It’s feast for the senses
It’s awesome to watch, you can see every part of the process. Both the smells and the visuals are unlike any other coffee brewing experience.
It’s flexible and controllable
You can alter the strength of the coffee just by changing the amount of coffee you stir in. Depending on the size, you can brew as many or as few cups as you want. And, most importantly, you have total control over the water temperature.
The rich, intense aroma
The mechanism traps the smells and flavours inside the bulbs. It creates a rich flavour that is both clean and deep. It’s unlike anything you’ll get from a drip or a French press.
Siphon coffee makers are tough to clean, partly because of all of the different parts and the ornate shape of these different parts.
These coffee makers are hard to store.
Realistically, they are objects that need to be put on display but some people just won’t have the room available on the work surfaces in the kitchen.
Also, if they are to be stored in a cupboard, how do you ensure that the delicate parts do not get broken?
Vacuum coffee makers are not automatic.
They can’t be loaded up with coffee and water and then left to do their own thing whilst you go off and check your diary.
Instead, you need to watch over them constantly.
Kitchen Aid Siphon Coffee Maker
Ideal Buyer – the first-time siphon brewer
The KitchenAid Siphon Coffee Brewer has a distinctive glass bulb design.
It gives you an incredible view of the unique brewing process.
It’s flexible too. It allows the use of a stainless steel filter for easy cleaning or a cloth filter for a lighter and more traditional brew.
It’s great for beginners.
It’s safe and doesn’t require an open flame. And, it automatically turns off when water reaches the perfect brewing temperature.
It’s tough and well-constructed too.
On the downside, some users report that it’s a little fiddly to use and annoying to clean.
But, overall, it’s a great piece of kit and makes great coffee, too.
Hario “Technica” Syphon Coffee Maker
Ideal Buyer – The coffee scientist on a budget
If you want something classic, consider the Hario “Technica” Syphon Coffee Maker.
It has an simple, elegant design and comes with its own alcohol burner.
It comes in three sizes: 2 cup, 3 cup and 5 cup.
It uses a traditional cloth filter that can be a bit tough to clean, but does a great job at produce a light-yet-rich coffee.
It’s a great price. One of the cheapest on the market.
The main drawback is that it comes with an alcohol burner, rather than butane or halogen.
But, if you’re looking to siphon brew on a budget, it’s a fantastic choice.
You can always upgrade the burner.
Yama Glass 8 Cup Stovetop Coffee Siphon
Ideal Buyer – The coffee addict who thinks big
Want something a little bigger?
Want to show off at a dinner party?
Then, the Yama Glass 8 Cup Stovetop Coffee Siphon might just be the perfect brewer for you.
It sits on the stovetop and brews up a coffee in minutes.
It’s easier to use than many similar vacuum brewers and the fact you can use it on the stovetop saves a lot of messing around.
It comes with both a cloth and steel filter.
However, it’s a little unstable on the stovetop though and wobbles a bit as you use it.
Not great if you’ve got a gas burner.
If you want something big and affordable, give it a try.
Kendal Glass Tabletop Siphon
Ideal Buyer – The entertainer who wants to take their coffee to the next level
The Kendal Glass Tabletop Siphon is a treat to use.
It’s portable and a feast for the eyes.
It looks amazing sitting on the kitchen counter and you feel like super villain as you set it going.
Straight out of a James Bond film with a twinkle in your eye.
It feels a little light and cheap in construction.
But the price makes this much less of the problem.
It’s one of the most affordable vacuum brewers you’ll get and brews up a smooth, clear cup of coffee.
It makes five cups in one go, so you can brew up a batch for friends and family.
It puts on an amazing show while brewing, so perfect if you like to entertain.
Diguo Belgian Luxury Royal Family Balance Siphon
Ideal Buyer- The coffee lover who loves a science project
If you want something with style, then give the Diguo Belgian Syphon Coffee Maker a go.
It’s a standalone unit that feels like an entire chemistry kit. It’s exquisitely designed in black and silver.
It makes you feel refined and cultured just using it.
It’s a breeze to use and one of the easiest siphons to clean.
It takes time and effort to use, but it’s time well spent, especially when showing off to colleague at work.
The coffee comes out with rich flavours.
It’s just such a pleasure to use .It is a work of art for the kitchen counter.
Klarstein Syphon Vacuum Coffee Maker
Ideal Buyer – the coffee enthusiast with a passion for fun gadgets
Do you like a gadget?
Do you want your coffee making experience to be more than a chore?
Give the Klarstein Syphon Vacuum Coffee maker a go.
It’s a beautiful device that will wow your guests with its subtle curves and bubbling coffee.
Boeng 5-Cup Coffee Syphon Tabletop
Ideal Buyer – The siphon coffee enthusiast on a budget
The Boeng 5-Cup Coffee Syphon Tabletop has a simple and utilitarian design with just enough detailing to make it attractive.
Boeng’s product is easy to use, easy to clean and easy to admire – a great combination for a coffee maker at such a low cost.
And although the coffee maker has a maximum limit of 5 cups, those 5 cups are sure to be of high quality, every time.
It isn’t built the best and feels a bit flimsy.
But, you can still rely on a great cup of coffee from a siphon coffee maker that is definitely not going to break anyone’s bank!
Nispira Belgian Luxury Royal Family Balance Siphon Coffee
Ideal Buyer – A lover of form as much of function
Elegance, luxury, old-world charm: these all describe the Nispira Luxury Siphon Coffee Maker.
Its attractive design brings to mind Victorian science experiment or mysterious device from the pages of a Jules Verne novel.
Rest assured: this is a unique coffee maker.
The way the Nispira’s mechanical elements shift and re-balance during the brewing process is ‘magical’.
It is a treat for guests and family.
As much an object of art as it is of pure function, the Nispira Luxury Siphon Coffee Maker doesn’t rely on fancy electronic wizardry but the tried-and-tested method of heat and time.
It makes an unparalleled cup of coffee.
Twinbird Siphon Coffee Maker
Ideal Buyer – The no-nonsense coffee drinker looking for a consistent brew
The TWINBIRD siphon coffee maker boasts a simple, yet elegant design.
Its sleek black and silver and should fit in effortlessly with any modern kitchen.
The product is Japanese and thus has a reliable and consistent build quality.
The consistency doesn’t end there: this siphon coffee maker is purported to produce great cups of coffee, time after time.
The manual is only in Japanese with no translation provided.
But, its ease-of-use means that this is probably unimportant for the average user.
With a brew time of around 3 minutes, anyone using the TWINBIRD siphon coffee maker in a rush can rest easy.
Their cup of coffee will be ready in no time at all.
Bodum PEBO Coffee Maker
Ideal Buyer – The passionate coffee enthusiast who wants to get the most out of every drop
It has the appearance of a chemistry experiment.
The Bodum PEBO coffee maker perfectly marries brewing time and temperature for a superlative brew.
Bodum’s product moves into the realm of science.
It uses a vacuum brewing method to extract each and every precious oil from your favourite coffee.
The vacuum locks in all those luxuriant coffee aromas, guaranteeing you a more powerful cup of the dark stuff.
If time is of the essence then worry not.
Bodum’s PEBO coffee maker will brew up to 8 cups in 5 – 11 minutes.
Perfect for those on the go!