Are you looking for a new toy?
The siphon coffee maker is the coolest gadget in any coffee nut’s arsenal.
Also known as vacuum coffee makers, these guys aren’t so big here in the States, but you can find them in other countries. The Far East particularly, where I first tried one.
And the coffee?
Well…. the unique brewing method allows for a gorgeous blend of smooth tasting but high clarity coffee. Yummo.
Buying a siphon can be tricky though.
You need to know a bunch of different things. How to power it, types of filters and that sort of lark.
So in this article, I’ll save you the time. I’ll describe each of the brewers I’ve chosen, their pros and cons, and how to get set up making coffee ASAP.
At the end, I’ll also answer the most common questions I see about his unusual way to brew.
There’s a lot of information there. That’s just how it goes with this unusual brewing style.
I like the Yama Glass Siphon Coffee Maker. You heat it using a stovetop. Gas, electric or induction are all fine. It’s made of heat-resistant borosilicate glass so it’s strong and safe. Super convenient and makes damn good coffee.
It also comes with two reusable filters so you can get making your first brew within minutes of getting one of these babies.
If you’re interested in alcohol burners or using a wall outlet to power the siphon then read on for more reviews. And of course, detailed info about every siphon I mention.
Let’s get started.
1. Yama Glass Stovetop
The Yama Glass stovetop is an inexpensive siphon coffee maker and the best all-round choice. It’s the least flashy, but the most practical.
It’s made of heat-resistant borosilicate glass which is handblown, a nice touch in these days of giant factories and mass-production lines. Also, as with any siphon, people are generally amazed by how good their coffee is.
This siphon works on all type of stovetops. Gas, electric, ceramic, induction, it can do them all. It’s important to bear in mind that you need to use the wire trivet between the pot and the burner if you use an electric or induction stovetop (it comes with instructions on how to do that).
|Need to buy anything extra?||No|
|Size options||5-cup (22oz) /|
You get two size options. The 5-cup makes 22 fl.oz (650ml) of coffee and the 8-cup makes 40 fl.oz (1200ml) of coffee. Plenty for entertaining large groups although it’s tricky to make small batches.
The Yama comes with two washable cloth filters that can be reused – bear in mind you only use one at a time. It’s easy enough to apply and as I’ll get into later, you have the option of getting a permanent glass or metal filter.
The cleaning process is very simple for such a complex device – it’s dishwasher and microwave safe. Replacement parts are easily available, too.
2. Nispira Siphon
It doesn’t need pointing out what a majestic looking device this is. The gold and chrome design resting on its solid wooden base is an amazing thing to look at. You might imagine it’s how the queen gets her coffee served!
The burner is fuelled by alcohol, adding to the sense of wonder. It feels like you’re transported back to the 19th century as you carefully fill it up, like filling up an old lamp with gas. Of course, this means you need fuel to get it working and it is not included.
Here is a link to some cheap denatured alcohol that will do the job. Any will do though, and you only need a small amount.
Despite how complex it looks, the Nispira is straightforward to use. Set the device up, put the burner on and you’re done. The heat source shuts itself off after a certain amount of time so you can pop your coffee on and forget about it while you watch the news drone on about the latest Trump debacle…
Clean up, too, is easier than many other coffee methods. The burner and two chambers all come off so you can wash them independently.
|Best for…||Looking majestic|
|Filter||Cloth (3 included)|
|Need to buy anything extra?||Yes, alcohol for burning|
|Size options||One, makes about |
17oz (500ml) of coffee
The device makes about 17oz (500ml) of coffee, enough for two decent-sized cups or one pretty large one and it also comes with three washable filters. It makes a great gift for someone who’s into coffee and, above anything else, is probably the most visually striking coffee ‘thing’ you can own. And let’s face it, you want it cos it looks nice!
3. Queen Sense Siphon
If the Nispira is the model of the 1830s then the Gourmia is surely the model of the 2020s! The futuristic-looking base plugs into a 110v wall outlet. You place the pot on the node on the base which then heats up the pot electrically and makes your siphon coffee. As simple as that!
The Gourmia, fitting in with its space-age modernity, offers automatic and manual functions. Automatic heats the water for 60 seconds whereas Manual gives you the opportunity to control the brew time. A nice touch so you can dial in your coffee.
It’s the fastest way to brew siphon, you can get one of these done in less than 5 minutes with the right conditions. A far cry from the 10-15 minutes brew time people think of with siphons!
All round, in this category of terribly inconvenient coffee makers, this one’s the most convenient.
|Heated by…||Wall Outlet|
|Filter||Cloth (1 included)|
|Need to buy anything extra?||No|
|Size options||One, makes about |
The Gourmia also comes with a measuring spoon, useful if you haven’t got a scale yet. It comes with a reusable clother filter but it’s probably the weakest of the three, the string is quite short and it’s hard to clean. You might want to think about investing in a permanent filter. More on that in a sec.
What Is Siphon Coffee?
A little background on siphon coffee. You’d be forgiven for not realizing that these coffee makers came about 100 years ago. They looks like they could have been invented yesterday!
The siphon brewing method was given a shot to the heart by the 3rd wave coffee movement and its focus on high-level coffee making and artisanal products. One of the reasons for its resurrection was the unique taste that wonderfully straddles the body/clarity divide giving a lovely balanced brew.
The siphon coffee maker is variously referred to as a vacuum coffee maker, vacuum coffee pot, siphon brewer or even syphon coffee maker. Whatever you call it, the display of coffee making it does is mesmerizing.
Its sleek, straight-from-the-science-lab design impresses anyone who sees it and is only bettered by the smooth coffee it can produce.
It’s not for the faint-hearted though, the price is higher than most non-espresso ways of making coffee and the total time to brew including setup can be up to 10 minutes.
It’s in this sense that you can think of it as a luxury brew method. If the French Press is your reliable Honda Civic, then the Siphon coffee maker is your sexy Porsche 911.
In short, this is a pretty badass way to make coffee. And it’s gonna look great in your kitchen.
How Do Siphon Coffee Makers Work?
Here’s a great video that shows you a brew. Props to the guys who made it and their awesome camera!
How To Power The Flame? (Stovetop, Alcohol Or Outlet)
How you power the flame is your biggest decision when buying a siphon. You’ve got three options.
Stovetop. Pop the pot on your stove and watch it brew. The Yama Glass Stovetop, my first selection, works on all types of stoves and includes a small wire trivet that you use for electric and induction stovetops.
Alcohol. You need to fill your alcohol burner with denatured alcohol, like you were lighting a lamp from the 19th century. There’s an amazing Victorian feel to pouring in the alcohol and letting it heat up, not a wall outlet or stovetop in sight.
Outlet. The least romantic, but probably the most practical. Plug it in the wall and the water heats up and brews your coffee. all without losing that same great siphon coffee taste.
Is It Worth Getting A Permanent Filter?
The cloth filter you use with the siphon has a couple of quirks that put people off using it. It can be annoying to clean and may not last that long in good condition.
Your alternative is to invest in a permanent filter. The major brands often carry proprietary filters that fit their siphon coffee maker or you can choose a third party brand. The one I’ve heard the most good things about is the Diguo Ceramic filter.
Bear in mind that the type of filter does affect the taste. In general, the finer the filter the more ‘clean’ your coffee will be. The less fine the richer it will be.
If you like the cloth filters you have the option of simply buying replacements as well.
Reasons To Get A Siphon Coffee Maker
Unique, balanced taste. The siphon with its immersion brew and cloth filter gives a lovely smooth and balanced taste that has great body and complexity at the same time.
In layman’s terms, you’re getting a cup that embellishes all the gorgeous notes of chocolate or honey in your coffee beans while delivering a rich texture at the same time.
Looks fantastic. Let’s not kid ourselves, if you’re looking to buy something like this then the ‘wow’ factor is probably a part of your decision. And believe me, people will say ‘wow’.
No sediment. Immersion brews like Turkish coffee or the French Press are associated with a gritty sediment that finds its way into the bottom of your cup. No such problems with the clean-tasting siphon and its cloth filter.
Reasons Not To Get A Siphon Coffee Maker
Difficulty. It’s not a starter coffee method, it doesn’t come with training wheels like the French Press, Clever or Aeropress (kinda) does.
If you’re just getting into home coffee making then I advise that you learn how to make great brews with the simpler and more forgiving brew methods before you tackle the trickier ones.
Takes ages. It takes 10 minutes to make a brew and you should give yourself 15 minutes to be safe. The Gourmia option is quicker than this however, it plugs into a wall outlet which speeds up the heating process considerably.
Cost. Plain and simple, the prices of siphon coffee makers are more than many other methods of brewing coffee.
Where Did Siphon Coffee Makers Come From?
Amazing as it may seem, vacuum coffee brewing predates espresso machines, french presses, drip coffee and a whole lot of other things. It’s really old! First invented by a German named Loeff in the 1830s and was considered a specialty item at the time.
Before then, it was widely acceptable to boil coffee in a pan then pour it straight into a cup, grounds and all! A far cry from these days of hyper-accurate coffee grinders and almond milk lattes!
The siphon coffee maker remained popular for over a century. Check out this advert for one from 1914. It was an expensive item back then, the $41 in that advert would be over $800 now!
It fell out of favor sometime around the middle of the 20th century, largely due to the rise of the newer methods like the french press or espresso machines.
It has enjoyed something of a resurgence in the last few years during the so-called ‘third wave’ coffee era. So much so, that the Siphonist World Championships are held each year in places likes Seoul and Taiwan.
Bought a Gourmia about 6-7 months ago, it was very disappointing. The first one was a lemon, it would boil water in the lower chamber, then it might, or might not ascend to the upper chamber. Before you dismiss me as a vaculator neophite I’d like to add that my grandmother thought me how to make coffee in her Silex when I was 8, that was 1962. It’s rare that I don’t use a vaculator.
Back to the Gourmia, the issue wasn’t the gasket or improper sealing, it was in the heating element. The company gladly replaced the unit. The second one performed well, for about a month. Then the timing unit failed. No, it didn’t get wet.
So, I paid about $70 for a coffee maker that lasted for a month. I’ve gone back to my favorite Sunbeam Coffeemaster, this beauty was made about 1940, and has made me scrumptious coffee for 20 years. Today’s manufacturers would be well served to take a page from Sunbeam’s book.
Thanks for the story Keith. You might be interested to hear that the Gourmia siphon has been discontinued since you wrote your comment, perhaps yours was not the only one to be faulty?
I like the sound the Sunbeam Coffeemaster. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult for me to find one nowadays…