I’ve always loved siphon coffee brewing from the moment I first experienced it. I loved it long before I lived in Tokyo, which only deepened my passion and taught me their flawless brewing methods.
My love was further enhanced by the theatre of the old-world siphon bars in Japan. These siphon-brewing coffee shops in Tokyo’s Ginza district were my heavenly escape after a long day in the roastery. In a time when siphon coffee was yet to hit the third wave coffee movement, the theatre performed by the Japanese siphon-brewing baristas was unforgettable. These specialist baristas were dressed to impress with a pristine white shirt, black tie, a stylish vest and shiny black shoes. They brewed and served the most amazing coffee, silver-service style.
Back in Australia in 2005, being a proud coffee geek I used a siphon brewer in the Australian barista championship finals where I finished third. And while it’s not an ideal competition method, as it’s time-consuming and finicky, a properly brewed siphon enhances the coffee’s natural sweetness and in my opinion has no negative flavours.
Originally invented in the 1830’s, this amazing brewer was the staple for many households for over a century. It’s a shame that its complex design and detailed brewing process relegated it to the shelf as a collectors piece. I love brewing siphon at home impressing my guests with a delicious and theatrical after dinner brew. It’s such a special way to experience coffee and I hope to inspire some of you to brew a siphon every now and then too.
What you will need
- A siphon brewer
- A heat source such as a gas burner or oil lamp.
- Fresh coffee beans
- Bamboo paddle or parfait spoon
- Wet chux
- Tea towel
- Your favourite mug
How to make it
The siphon brewer I am using holds 250g of water, therefore we will use 15g of coffee, which is in line with SCA brewing standards. Grind size is integral when brewing siphon. My personal preference is to grind as fine as possible to maximise the force of vacuum pressure. A good starting point is a fine espresso grind. (lso see the video below).
- Grind and weigh coffee (in my case 15g)
- Place water in the bottom bulb
- Assemble top section with filter paper and spring clasp
- Realign and center the filter for best results
- Place assembled siphon on heat source
- Allow preheating and rinsing of filter to occur
- Remove the water and use for preheating drinking your mug
- Add clean measured water to the bottom bulb (in my case 250ml)
- Assemble brewer then place on heat source
- When entire water amount has risen to top chamber start checking the temperature
- When the temperature reads 93 degrees celsius place weighed and ground coffee into top section.
- Start the timer
- Agitate the coffee using a north and south motion, ensure all coffee is saturated by water
- At 1 minute remove the brewer from the heat source.
- Using a cold wet chux, place it on a tea towel, then wrap the bottom bulb. Please be careful as the bulb is very hot.
- Remove the top chamber when all coffee has returned to bottom bulb, place top chamber upside down on bench on a tea towel.
- Empty preheated cup and fill with your delicious brew
As they say in Japan “Kampai”, which means bottoms up!
We want to start our brewing when the water reaches an ideal brewing temp between 92 – 94 degrees celsius. The water is only at 85 degrees when it first enters the top chamber and a common mistake that people make, is either that they place dry coffee in the top chamber even before starting brewing or they place the coffee in the water when it first rises. Water at 85 degrees will cause a sour brew and will lack clarity and sweetness.
The point of wrapping the bottom bulb is to control when we want the coffee extraction to stop. In doing so we are forcing the bottom chamber to cool faster which condenses the air and starts the siphoning process.
Watch the video
I also made a video on siphon brewing which you can watch below.
Keep it special