Siphon coffee is enjoying a resurgence among cafes and home baristas that enjoy the performance of brewing. The brew method is hardly new, however.
Where Does Siphon Coffee Come From?
Siphon coffee was originally invented in the 1800s, as people were looking for an alternative to boiling coffee. Espresso (~1901), pour-over (~1908), French press (~1929) and automatic drip (~1954) weren’t around yet. Boiling was thus the most common way to brew coffee, and many decried how it destroyed beans’ flavor.
The siphon coffee maker addressed this issue, brewing coffee just below 100°C and preserving much more flavor.
Who Invented Siphon Coffee?
The earliest known patent for a siphon coffee maker was filed by a German. Loeff submitted a vacuum-based design in Berlin during the 1830s. As is so often true, however, the inventor wasn’t the person who made the product popular.
Siphon coffee became popular in the 1840s, after French woman Marie Fanny Ameelne of Lyons promoted a design that had a pair of “glass balloons” that were held by a frame. Mme. Vassieux (as she was called) first debuted her creation in 1841. Many cafes installed these siphon makers, and this continues to be the design that most of today’s models are based on.
Independently, a Scottish marine engineer presented the Napier Coffee Pot in 1840. The invention earned an award from The Institution of Mechanical Engineers 16 years later, in 1856.
The multiple siphon coffee pot designs don’t necessarily show that one inventor was stealing from another. Rather, they evidence a widespread desire throughout Europe to move away from boiling coffee grounds. The vacuum method was one of the most accessible solutions given the era’s technology and materials.
The Modern Siphon Coffee Pot
The modern siphon coffee pot was popularized after 1915, when Silex made a model using Pyrex glass. This provided a durable and affordable model that was user-friendly. It perfectly fit within the middle- and upper-class home, and it came along at a time when other coffee brewing inventions evidence a common interest in making better coffee.
Today, the siphon coffee maker is once again seeing a resurgence. The most notable instance of this is Blue Bottle’s dedicated siphon coffee bar, but these makers can be seen in cafes and homes wherever coffee is celebrated.
Try making siphon coffee at home or order some in a cafe — you’ll (literally) see why so many people like it.
Scott M. Brodie has over 20 years of professional experience working in coffee shops and writing about coffee (including selling superautomatic machines). When not writing, he can usually be found roasting a new African single origin or composing a fictional work.