Have you ever been into a trendy coffee shop and found a barista who was attending to some rather peculiar apparatus apparently trying to perform alchemy?
Well, they probably weren’t actually trying to turn lead into gold, they were most likely using a coffee siphon – and if you’ve ever thought of buying one, here’s our guide to the best siphon coffee makers.
What is a coffee siphon?
You might be forgiven for believing that the coffee siphon is a new invention.
It could easily be the creation of some ultra-hipster barista with way too much time on their hands who dreamt up this elaborate new way of brewing coffee (1).
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Siphon coffee makers – also known as vacuum coffee makers – are one of the oldest methods of making coffee around.
The first one was invented in the 1830s, it’s just that since then, people have managed to come up with quicker and more practical ways of brewing coffee.
How does siphon coffee maker work?
A coffee siphon consists of two chambers, usually made of glass. Water is placed in the lower chamber and heated.
The heat causes some water to turn to steam and the increased pressure forces the water up the funnel into the upper chamber – much like what happens inside a Moka pot.
When the hot water has risen to the upper chamber, the coffee grounds are added and stirred in.
The coffee is left to extract, after which the flame is removed and the vacuum that has been created in the lower chamber sucks the now-infused coffee liquid back down through the filter.
What are the main features of a siphon coffee maker?
These are the main features of siphon coffee makers.
1. They use full immersion as the extraction method
Full immersion means all the ground coffee is stirred into the water and extraction takes place in much the same way as when steeping tea.
When the coffee is brewed and ready to drink, the grounds are then filtered out – brewing with a French press also uses the full immersion technique.
2. The vacuum
As we already mentioned, the siphon method is also known as the vacuum method.
This is because when the water is first heated and forced up into the upper chamber, a vacuum is created in the lower chamber.
When the heat is removed, the vacuum pulls the coffee back down through the filter. Use of a vacuum for brewing coffee in this way is unique to the coffee siphon.
3. Constant heat
Another aspect of brewing using this method is the constant heat throughout the process.
Since changes in temperature can affect extraction, the steady application of heat in this way makes the extraction process easier to control more accurately.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of a coffee siphon?
In some ways, coffee brewed in a siphon is similar to coffee brewed in a French press. They are both brewed using total immersion and both produce light, delicate coffees.
However, once the coffee has brewed and the heat is removed, the vacuum sucks the coffee back down through the filter, teasing the last delicious flavors and aromas from the grounds, further enhancing the beverage.
Some say that this method is the best way to brew a high-quality light-roast coffee with delicate, complex flavors since this method allows those flavors to truly shine through.
Then there’s the look. Siphon coffee makers are undeniably one of the coolest-looking ways of making coffee around. This very hands-on method is fun to perform and will certainly impress any guests to your home.
On the downside, this method takes time, probably the main reason they went out of fashion for so long in the first place. They also need cleaning after each use, making them even more of a pain.
Then there’s all that glass – these coffee makers are extremely delicate. This is probably not the best thing to have on display if you have kids running around.
Finally, there’s the price. If you just want a decent brew and you’re on a budget, buy yourself a French press – you’ll save yourself a lot of money since coffee siphons don’t come cheap.
What to look for
There are not so many coffee siphons available. If you have decided you want to buy one, here are some of the features to pay attention to.
1. Stove-top or free-standing
There are basically two designs of the siphon, stove-top or free-standing. Stove-top is self-explanatory.
These siphons are designed to be placed on the stove to heat. They are easier to use but don’t have the flair factor of standalone models.
Free-standing siphons come in two varieties, ones with a built-in heat source and ones without.
If you choose one without a heat source, you will need to buy a burner separately. These siphons do not tie you to the stove and are generally the more aesthetic of the two types.
If you are looking to make large quantities of coffee each time, a siphon is probably not the way to go.
That said, they are available in different sizes, and you should consider how large a siphon will best fit your needs.
Since these things are not cheap, you’ll want one that will last. You might need to pay a bit more, but you will know that if you take care of it, it will serve you for years to come.
You’re buying this because it looks cool, let’s not pretend otherwise. So you’ll want to make sure you buy one you like the look of. There’s no shame in that!
The best siphon coffee maker on the Market 2020
Here are our picks for the best siphon coffee makers.
1. Hario “Technica” Syphon Coffee Maker
This “Technica” model from Hario measures 16.34” x 14.92” x 6.5” and weighs only 1.4lbs. It features a stylish Japanese design and is a high-quality item.
The main chambers are made of resistant borosilicate glass and it also includes an alcohol burner.
It is easy to use and easy to clean and we think this is a great-looking piece of equipment.
One issue is that the alcohol burner supplied takes time to heat the chamber of water from cold and is not easy to control accurately.
Perhaps better to buy a butane burner separately to complement it.
Overall, a high-quality, cool-looking free-standing siphon that represents great value.
2. Yama Glass 8 Cup Siphon Stovetop Coffee Maker (Our Top Recommended)
This siphon measures 8” x 8” x 11” and weighs 2.3lbs. Yama is well-known for making beautiful cold-brew equipment, but this coffee siphon is also a high-quality item.
The chambers are made of resistant borosilicate glass and the handle is heat-resistant. It makes up to eight cups.
This is a stove-top siphon and so is more functional than free-standing models.
While this might be less of a conversation piece for your guests, it is still capable of making delicious siphon coffee.
Suitable for gas and electric stoves, or electric coil burners using the wire diffuser included.
3. Kendal Glass Tabletop Siphon Coffee Maker
This attractive Japanese-made siphon weighs 3.1lbs, is made of heat-resistant glass and can make up to five cups of coffee.
It is easy to use and easy to clean and will allow you to make delicious siphon coffee. It is a free-standing model that comes with an alcohol burner.
We like the design of this one – for us, it’s one of the best-looking siphons.
We thought the price was very reasonable – there are few on the market that are cheaper – but you will need to be careful with how you treat it since the glass could prove to be delicate.
4. Nispira Belgian Belgium Luxury Royal Family Balance Syphon Coffee maker
If you want a coffee maker that will wow any visitors to your home, this classic old-style siphon could be just what you need.
It features a gold and chrome body (also available in copper) with a wooden frame. It includes a fixed refillable alcohol burner and glass chambers.
This is the perfect coffee maker for someone who wants something that will really draw attention to itself.
It is a highly unusual piece and will certainly receive plenty of comments from your guests.
The main problem here is the price since it’s more expensive than many other siphon coffee makers.
The ideal choice for someone looking for an unusual, ostentatious piece of equipment for brewing coffee.
5. Hario “NEXT” Syphon Coffee Maker
The “Next” model from Hario is an upgrade from the “Technica”. It measures 4.3” x 5.2” x 7.3”, weighs 3.09lbs and features an attractive Japanese minimalist design.
It is constructed from the best borosilicate glass, is freestanding and includes an alcohol burner.
This is a newer model compared with the “Technica”. The design is slightly different, and this model also includes a metal filter along with the cloth one that comes with the “Technica”.
We love the classy design and consider the slightly higher price well worth paying if you can afford it.
Not many siphons – but some good ones
Siphon coffee makers may be becoming more fashionable, but they are still not that common and there is not a lot of choices.
However, there are some good siphons out there from some reputable companies and we liked all five models in our review.
If you are looking for a siphon coffee maker, any one of these would be highly recommended
Do you have a siphon coffee maker? Or does your favorite coffee shop have one? How is the coffee? Is it as good as they say?
If you have anything to add, please leave us a comment – we always love hearing from you. And if you enjoyed our article, please don’t forget to share!