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Activity #1 : experiment with a Siphon coffee maker

During the current Coronavirus stay-at-home periods, we are suggesting “coffee” things you can do. Stay tuned for more suggestions!

For this activity, we look at something that is a more traditional, but today is a less common way, to make a brew.

What is a coffee siphon

A coffee siphon is an “older” or traditional method of making (delicious) coffee. It uses the principle of differential pressure to make coffee, a method supposedly invented in Germany in the 19th century.

Are coffee siphons a “design classic”

Well, you probably wouldn’t invest in one just for show. The reason you would buy one is because it looks fantastic, makes nice coffee, and would surely impress visitors and dinner-party guests. And because they can easily make more than one cup at a time, they are particularly suited to ‘after dinner on-table’ entertainment. Note that some siphons use an open flame so extra care and attention is needed, although the open flame adds to the magic. Electric-powered machines are also available.

But they are more that simple entertainment – they offer you more control over the brewing process, so you could use this anytime even just for the morning brew. Although there is a bigger faff factor.

Who are these aimed at?

If you are a coffee lover or like the artisan feel of the method then you would be sure to enjoy using a siphon. If you prefer just to stuff a coffee pod or capsule into a machine because its less fuss, then a siphon is probably not for you. But they aren’t really too expensive so you can indulge your passion for coffee of all types.

And as siphons are not exactly the world’s biggest selling type of coffee maker, (most!) coffee enthusiasts would secretly love one. So a siphon would make a fantastic gift for any coffee nut.

How does a siphon work?

It is actually quite straightforward. The process varies a little between manufacturer because of the different filters and heating methods used, but essentially:

  1. You put water in the bottom heating section
  2. You put ground coffee in the top section (some guides say to add coffee after step 4)
  3. You heat the water in the bottom section
  4. Hot water is pushed up into the top where the brew takes place
  5. You remove the heat from the bottom
  6. The coffee flows back to the bottom (through a filter), pulled by the partial vacuum that forms in the bottom section
  7. You remove the top section
  8. Pour and enjoy

There is a slightly different variant of the “normal” siphon maker – called a Balance Coffee Maker. We will cover these soon.

Getting the best from your siphon

A siphon is like a coffee-maker’s chemistry set, so you can experiment with the brewing process. But – as is common across all coffee making – use fresh water (some makers recommend filtered water) and fresh coffee grind. Water and bean freshness are important factors in any brewing method really.

OK, where do I get a siphon machine?

As we said above, siphons are not the world’s biggest-selling coffee makers, so they are not as readily available in the high street as, say, pod machines. Online shopping comes to the rescue.

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