Looking at your new syphon coffee maker and not really sure you’re ready to use it for the first time? You’re in luck. We’ve assembled a list of seven things every beginner should know as they tackle the adventure and challenge of making siphon coffee. If you’re still looking to buy your first siphon maker, have a look at our recommendations that won’t break the bank.
You should also look at our Easy Siphon Brewing Guide, of course, but this list below covers some of the other stuff you won’t often find in guide-based articles.
Your coffee’s not going to brew itself, so let’s make sure you can really thrive as you jump into the world of siphon coffee.
1. Preheat Your Water In A Kettle First
We find it takes quite a while to heat water in the siphon with a butane or alcohol burner. From cold to boiling, more than six minutes!
The problem is that these burners are designed to keep water hot during brewing, but they’re not really big enough to get the boiling process going very quickly.
So here’s how we cut down that prep time: we heat the water first in a kettle.
This cuts down boiling time by nearly three minutes, which is a big deal for when we’re low on time but still want amazing coffee. It also saves a pretty good amount of fuel each session.
2. Use A Medium-Fine Grind Setting
Siphons were first invented in the 1800’s as a way of using of fine coffee grounds. It was believed back then that finer grounds would improve flavor objectively (we know this isn’t exactly the case anymore).
Before siphons, fine grounds would just clog up the filter and the brewed coffee would get stuck. But now that we can use a vacuum to suck down the liquid with more force than gravity alone, we can use finer grounds!
We suggest a medium-fine setting. Finer than pour over coffee, but not espresso-fine.
This enables you to use your siphon to the best of its ability. Pair that fine grind size with a short brewing time—around one minute—to experience the richness and balance of excellent siphon coffee.
3. Tilt The Upper Chamber While Heating The Water
Not every guide suggests this, but it’s fairly common to see baristas tilt the upper siphon chamber while the water heats in the lower one.
Should you do this? Does it help the coffee flavor?
It confused us at first, too. Here’s what you need to know about this step.
Without some sort of rough surface in the water, it’s actually possible for water to ‘superheat’—essentially it heats beyond boiling point. Superheated water can violently explode.
By adding in the second bulb and the chain from the filter, you give the water a surface for bubbles of hot water vapor to form, which keeps it from superheating. You can still press down the upper chamber to create a seal without worrying about superheating—it just makes the water take a bit longer to boil.
So make sure there’s always the chain in the water as you heat it. That’s really the lesson here.
4. Don’t Reach For The Metal Spoon
We’ve seen it a hundred times. Glass. Shattered glass everywhere.
And then come the tears.
Breaking coffee gear with something as simple as a metal spoon is the worst way to ruin your coffee. Because not only are you down a good siphon, but it’s all because of a metal spoon. That’s it—a spoon!
Siphons are made with durable glass, but they’re still not going to withstand a good blow from a metal spoon.
This is why we suggest getting a bamboo stirrer. Yeah, it may seem a bit overboard, but it’s much cheaper than having to buy a whole new siphon outright.
5. Soak Your Cloth Filter In Water Between Uses
Cloth filters can get stiff and crusty when they’re left out to dry—and cracking open a filter isn’t a very fun way to start your siphon brewing routine.
We suggest storing your cloth filter in a small mason jar of water in the fridge.
The water keeps the filter from getting too dry, and the refrigerator ensures microbes don’t grow where they shouldn’t over time.
Trust us, your filters will last 2-3x as long this way.
6. Clean Your Brewer Without Destroying It
Brewing siphon coffee is an act of artistry and patience. So is cleaning the siphon.
Don’t whisk it around carelessly or bang it against the trash can to get the grounds out.
Get yourself one of those sink mesh strainers and rinse the coffee out of the siphon, rather than scooping it out with a spoon. Then you simply dump the grounds from the strainer into the trash—no shattering glass required.
A good rinse is all the siphon needs after each use, but when you give it a deeper clean with soapy water every 5-10 brews, just make sure to be really careful with your scrub brush.
7. Here’s How Siphon Brewing Actually Works
To really thrive at siphon coffee, you need to know how it works.
You’re not just dealing with gravity here. There’s some interesting physics at play, and if you can wrap your mind around the basics, your friends will think you’re some kind of coffee genius.
Essentially, as the water heats in the lower bulb, the hot water vapor pushes the water upwards, through the tube, and into the upper chamber, creating a vacuum below the water.
Now you add your coffee and brew.
When you remove the heat, the lower bulb cools, which changes the pressure. This pressure change shoots the water vapor up and sucks the liquid coffee down through the coffee, through the filter, and into the lower bulb.
Here’s a great video from Intelligentsia explaining the process.
You’re ready to go. So hop on over to our Siphon Brewing Guide and let us know how it goes in the comments below!