The art, the craft & the flavor
Siphon coffee is among the most artistic and most scientific ways to brew, and it happens to make great-tasting coffee too. For those who love the visual appeal of a Chemex or French press, siphon brewing is also worth exploring.
In This Guide:
- What is Siphon Coffee?
- How Does Vacuum Coffee Work?
- How to Make Good Siphon Coffee?
- Comparisons of Siphon Coffee Other Brewing Methods
- Types of Siphon Coffee Makers
- The History of Siphon Coffee
What is Siphon Coffee?
Siphon coffee is one of the most theatrical brewing methods, alongside Turkish sand coffee and drip-tower cold brew. This brew method is meant for demonstration, and is perfect for the cafe and home-entertaining settings.
Because siphon is one of the most theatrical methods, it’s also one of the most involved. You probably don’t want to replace a daily coffee maker with a siphon (indeed, few siphons will brew a single cup). There’s no better way to showcase coffee when sharing it with others, though.
(Siphon coffee is also referred to as syphon coffee, vacuum coffee and gravity coffee.)
How Does Vacuum Coffee Work?
The term “vacuum coffee” stems from the highly scientific process that siphon brewing uses. You may even feel more like a mad scientist than a master artist when making it — but mad scientists are also much fun to watch.
The vacuum coffee maker consists of two bulb-shaped “balloons,” which are most often placed above and below each other. The maker also has a tube connecting the balloons, a container for grounds, a filter and a heating element (sometimes separate).
When brewing, grounds are placed in the upper chamber and water in the lower. As the lower chamber is heated, the water evaporates into vapor and pressure builds. At approximately 1.5 kPa (0.015 atm), the hydrostatic pressure forces water vapor into the upper chamber. The vapor condenses once in the upper chamber and brews.
As the water cools and condenses, gravity and a lower-pressure “vacuum” draw the coffee back down (hence “gravity coffee”). A filter ensures that only the brewed coffee, and not the grounds, descend.
As the water continues to cool, gravity and a lower-pressure “vacuum” draw the coffee back down. Intelligentsia has a good video demonstration.
Do Siphon Coffee Makers Boil When Brewing?
The water bubbles, and boils as it brews in the siphon maker’s upper chamber. As high school physics explained (and we all forgot), boiling is a product of temperature, volume and pressure. Although the water is technically boiling, it’s brewing at a temperature that’s just below 100°C (212°F) — which happens to be the perfect temperature for drawing flavor out of coffee grounds.
In fact, brewing coffee below traditional boiling temperature was the driving reason behind creating siphon coffee makers in the first place.
Is Siphon Coffee Coffee Filtered?
Siphon coffee is filtered, but not in the same way as pour-over or automatic drip. The brew method is immersion in the upper chamber, and the filter’s sole purpose is to prevent grounds from dropping into the lower chamber. The filter on a pour-over or drip actually controls the rate of flow, and thus the brewing time. (This is why the filter chosen is of immense importance for pour-overs but less so for siphon brewers.)
The French press’s screen is much more similar to how a siphon’s filter functions. Both methods use immersion, and then a “filter” is used to separate the grounds from the brewed coffee. The filter itself doesn’t significantly impact flow, strength or flavor (see Types).
What Does Siphon Coffee Taste Like?
The siphon’s immersion brew method creates a cup like French press. French press coffee tends to be slightly more complex and flavorful, due to the longer 4-5 minute immersion time that the press uses (see How to Make). Siphon coffee is still highly aromatic and flavorful, though, and it’s a cleaner cup thanks to the finer filter that’s used.
When compared to a manual pour-over, the vacuum-induced drawing down of grounds maintains a slightly higher temperature. Complemented by immersion, the higher temperature can make the most delicate aromas and flavors minorly more noticeable. Both methods are comparably clean because of the filter.
Ultimately, siphon brewers create a hybrid between the French press and pour-over. The coffee has complexity like a press but is clean like a pour-over. The only area where siphon brewing significantly departs from either is in the amount of involvement — it’s even more hands-on than pour-overs.
Is Siphon Coffee Better?
There’s no one best brew method, but rather a varied array of methods that each have their own advantages and disadvantages. If you’re looking for the convenience of automatic drip or simplicity of French press, siphon isn’t better and may be the least suited for your needs. If you want to show and share coffee, though, there’s no better method than making vacuum brew.
Siphon coffee brewer video
Can Siphon Coffee Makers Brew Iced Coffee?
Siphon coffee can be quickly cooled as it decants in the lower chamber. This combined with the clean, bright cp profile makes siphon brewing well-suited for iced coffee. Ice can even be added directly to the lower chamber once coffee is cooled.
The same African, Central American and South American coffees that are naturally suited for this brew method also make for excellent iced coffee.
Can Siphon Makers Also Brew Tea?
Much like the French press, siphon coffee maker can also be used to brew some teas.
In particular, siphon coffee makers can brew black and herbal teas that steep at near-boiling temperatures. Because a minimum temperature is needed to build up sufficient pressure, the brew method tends to be too hot for green and most white teas. Black and herbal teas can also withstand the amount of time that brewing requires.
The biggest challenge with brewing tea is fully cleaning the apparatus. Cloth filters will never be sufficiently clean, and even glass or metal components can impart coffee flavors if they’re not perfectly cleared of all coffee oil residue.
How to Make Good Siphon Coffee?
Making good siphon coffee requires practice and patience, for it takes multiple times to refine all of the variables. The following materials and steps will help you get started on the right path toward excellent-tasting siphon brew.
Siphon Coffee Recipe
You will need:
- Siphon brewer
- Heating element (may be separate)
- Filter (may be separate)
- Medium-fine coffee (see Grind)
- Water (room temperature)
Room temperature water can be used since the water is heated during brewing. There’s no need for a separate kettle.
To brew good siphon coffee:
- Prep: Measure out your coffee and water, using a 1:16 ratio (see Ratio). Grind the coffee on a medium-fine grind (see Grind). Pour the water into the lower chamber, and the coffee into the upper. Connect the two chambers, and place over a heat source.
- Heat: Heat the water until it’s boiling, and continue to heat until all of the water enters the upper chamber. High heat can be used, since the water is only being forced into the upper chamber and not actually brewing until it enters.
- Reduce Heat: Once all of the water has entered the upper chamber, reduce the heat to maintain a brewing temperature just below boiling. A medium to medium-low heat is likely sufficient, if you don’t want to actually read the temperature.
- Brew: Allow the coffee to brew for 1 to 3 minutes, depending on the siphon brewer size. A 3-cup model might take 1 minute, while a 5-cup model might require 2.5 minutes and an 8-cup model a bit longer.
You may agitate the grounds when starting and finishing the brew. Agitation isn’t entirely necessary, however, as the vapor pressure agitates the grounds when entering the upper chamber and as the water boils throughout the brewing portion.
- Filter: Swiftly remove the entire apparatus from the heat source. If using an electric heating element, take the siphon maker off of the element so that it doesn’t continue to be warmed.
The brewed coffee will condense and filter down into the lower chamber. All of the coffee is filtered when there’s a bubbling mound of grounds in the bottom of the upper chamber.
- Serve: Separate the two chambers. Decant the coffee in the lower chamber, serve and enjoy!
If you are just getting started with siphon brewing, also check out our tips for beginners.
How to Clean a Siphon Coffee Filter?
A reusable siphon coffee filter may be cleaned with warm water. Soap should only be used on glass or metal filters, as the soap won’t fully wash out of other filter types. Cloth, paper and nylon filters may be disposable.
How to Clean a Siphon Coffee Maker?
A siphon coffee maker can be rinsed out, and periodically cleaned with warm water and soap. A mixture of diluted vinegar or lemon juice can be used to remove any scale that builds up. Just allow the mixture to soak for a few hours or overnight. Alternatively, commercial coffee cleaners can also remove scale.
How Much Coffee Do Vacuum Coffee Pots Make?
Siphon, or vacuum, coffee pots typically brew between 3 and 8 cups of coffee. The amount of work required is typically too much for a single cup, and the brew time can become an issue when brewing more than 8 cups. A few models lie outside this common range, however.
Comparisons of Siphon Coffee Other Brewing Methods
Siphon Coffee vs. Pour-Over Coffee
Both siphon and pour-over brewing produce clean, bright cups of coffee. Siphon tends to get a slightly more complex cup, both because of immersion and reduced cooling during the brewing process.
Siphon and pour-over also are two hands-on coffee making methods. They both allow for a great degree of control over variables (e.g. ratio, grind, temperature, time) because of this. The ability to control pour patterns and rates allows for slightly greater control with pour-over.
See our in-depth guide comparing siphon coffee vs pour over.
Siphon Coffee vs. Chemex Coffee
Chemex is the ultimate pour-over coffee maker in many ways, and it’s the best manual pour-over to compare siphon coffee with.
The above comments on profile notwithstanding, both siphon and Chemex coffee makers will brew any coffee well. They also both shine best when used with African, Central American or South American coffees.
The Chemex coffee maker is also equally elegant to, if simpler than classy siphon models.
Anyone who enjoys the profile, aesthetic and hands-on process of the Chemex will probably appreciate siphon coffee too.
Siphon Coffee vs. French Press Coffee
Vacuum coffee makers and French presses both make comparably complex cups, although presses have a minor edge due to a longer immersion time. French press coffee is somewhat stronger, because of that longer immersion and fines that slip through the plunger’s screen. The filters that siphon coffee makers allow them to produce cleaner and brighter cups.
The differences between siphon and French press coffee can be negligible, and how noticeable they are is partially determined by the coffee used. Light- and medium-roasts that are brighter will show the subtleties more, while the brew methods’ nuances will be less discernible with darker roasts.
Siphon Coffee vs. Espresso
Siphon and espresso coffee makers are a couple of the few brew methods that utilize pressure. They both create clean, bright, crisp and flavorful cups because of this, but the way they use pressure and the resulting profile do differ substantially.
Whereas siphon coffee makers use pressure but keep the temperature below normal boiling, espresso machines use pressure to increase the temperature above 100°C. As a result, the profile of siphon coffee is more comparable to pour-over and press that don’t rely on pressure. Espresso will create profiles that no other brew method can fully replicate.
Siphon Coffee vs. Moka Pot
Moka pots are often likened to espresso, on account of the strong brew that they produce. Moka pots are even more similar to siphon coffee makers than espresso machines, however. The principles behind siphon coffee and Moka pots are identical, save for whether the brewed coffee drips down.
Both siphon coffee makers and Moka pots are comprised of a lower chamber, grounds holder and upper chamber. The water goes in the lower chamber, is heated until pressure builds, and evaporates into the upper chamber.
Siphon brews the water and grounds in the upper chamber, whereas Moka pot brews coffee as water passes through the grounds chamber. The upper chamber spout in the Moka pot is also designed so that brewed coffee remains in the upper chamber.
Despite using almost identical brewing science, the taste profiles of siphon and Moka pot coffee could hardly be any different. Siphon coffee creates a cleaner, brighter and more nuanced cup, largely because of the filter it uses and greater control it affords. The finer grind, metal screen and less control that Moka pots have create a more concentrated and muddied coffee.
Types of Siphon Coffee Makers
There are a few features that will help narrow which siphon coffee maker is best for your purposes and situation, and assist in eliminating some inferior models.
Glass, Metal or Plastic Chamber
The upper and lower chambers are often constructed of borosilicate or Pyrex glass, although a few models have metal or plastic chambers.
Glass is highly preferable, as it won’t impart any off-flavors. Metal and plastic can impart their own unwanted flavors, and plastic will accumulate coffee oils too. Off-flavors are especially unwanted because the purpose of this brew method is to create a clean and clear cup.
Additionally, glass looks much more elegant and allows viewers to watch the entire brewing process. Given that this is also a theatrical way to make coffee, aesthetics are important.
Tabletop vs. Stovetop Design
All siphon coffee makers require a heating element that warms the lower chamber’s water. The element is built-in on some models, and left separate on others.
Built-in models can be used on a tabletop, while models without their own heating element are most often used on the stove. Tabletop models may have any shaped bottom chamber. Stovetop models must have a flat bottom chamber, so they can rest directly on a stove’s burner.
Tabletop and stovetop vacuum pots can brew equally excellent coffee. The choice between the two is entirely a matter of your personal situation and preference.
Remember that a large perk is the theatrics, though, and you can showcase brewing much better if it’s on a table that people sit around. This brew method ultimately is better done in the cafe or dining room, rather than the kitchen.
(Stovetop models do tend to be less expensive, but they’re still pricey coffee makers. An elegant, high-quality and more affordable coffee maker is the pour-over, including the Chemex.)
Belgium Balancing Siphon
The Belgium balancing siphon is perhaps the most intriguing siphon coffee maker, even if it’s seldom seen today.
Rather than placing the two chambers above and below each other, the Belgium balancing siphon positions them next to one another. The chambers are suspended by a balance beam that crosses a focal point, and the heated chamber (usually the lower) has a counterweight.
Brewing proceeds like normal, as pressure forces water vapor into the brewing chamber. Once the water has entered this chamber, however, the counterweight functions as a spring-loaded snuffer and extinguishes the heat source (a flame). This lets the first chamber cool, so brewed coffee is drawn back into via vacuum.
Essentially, the Belgium balancing siphon can be thought of as an “automatic” way to brew siphon coffee. Going through the trouble of setting it up and having an open flame is far from a true automatic process, however.
Nispira Belgian Siphon Coffee Maker
The Nispira Belgian Siphon Coffee Maker is one of the few widely available balance models. It has vintage style, and the added benefit of making friends wonder whether you distill spirits.
Recommended For: Vintage collectors who want a conversation starter as much as a coffee maker.
- Nispira luxury balance siphon coffee maker in silver
- Black wooden base. Stainless steel water retainer and plug
- The set consists of heat-resistance glass, Plated balancing shaft and handle It also comes with filter cloth, measuring spoon and cup.
- User manual is included. Easy to use. Please check out product review and see why people like the Nispira coffee maker
- 100% customer satisfaction guaranteed. Quality meets or exceeds leading national brand
Electric Siphon Coffee Makers
Electric Siphon Coffee Makers rely on an electric heat source, which is preferable to an open flame for obvious reasons. These look a lot like stovetop models, but they have the added bonus of their own heating element. Anywhere you can plug in an electric model, you can brew syphon coffee.
Kitchenaid Siphon Coffee Maker
The Kitchenaid Siphon Coffee Maker offers streamlined functionality like so many of the company’s products do. A magnetic lid connects the two chambers, easily attaching and detaching from each as needed. The stainless steel tube is also easily cleaned, and so too is the reusable plunger that you can stir with.
The Kitchenaid has some plastic components, but the chambers and most pieces that water contacts are made of glass or stainless steel. The plastic may be enough to detract from aesthetics, but few other models match the Kitchenaid’s ease of use and price point.
Recommended For: Anyone who wants to experiment with siphon coffee brewing will find the Kitchenaid’s price point and functionality make for a good initial entry point.
- Automatic siphon brewer is safe, easy to use and requires no open flame, 8 cup capacity.
- Uses vacuum technology to brew a delicious velvety, complex cup of coffee with fuller body.
- Distinctive glass globe design offers a dramatic view of the siphon brewing process.
- Choose your level of filtration with a reusable stainless-steel for full-bodied coffee or a cloth filter for a lighter brew, both included.
- Automatically turns off after water reaches ideal heating temperature.
Bodum EPebo Electric Vacuum Coffee Maker
The Bodum EPebo Electric Vacuum Coffee Maker is an electric version of the company’s Pebo model. The more basic Pebo maker is a stovetop model that’s mostly glass and dishwasher-safe. It offers the simple functionality that Bodum is so well known for.
The EPebo coffee maker takes the same functionality and simplicity, and adds an electric heating element. This doesn’t just allow the coffee maker to be used away from the stove, but the eclectic element is calibrated for optimal brewing. Set up the apparatus and turn on the machine — it’ll manage the temperature and time for you.
The Bodum EPebo is among the few truly automatic siphon coffee makers. Some control is sacrificed, but many people appreciate the added convenience.
Recommended For: One of the most automated siphon brewing setups, the Bodum EPebo is perfect if you want the quality of siphon coffee without as much of a hands-on experience.
- The PEBO's effective vacuum brewing method extracts all precious oils of your favorite coffee, delivering an exceptional cup of coffee.
- Watch the brewing process through two firmly attached glass bowls, which completely seal off the vacuum brewing process so no aroma can escape.
- The funnel and the filter are dishwasher safe.
- The brewing time and temperature are perfectly calibrated, ensuring a perfect cup of coffee with each brew.
- Please Note: All of our coffee and tea makers are measured in European cup sizes: 1 Cup = about 4oz.
Japanese-Style Siphon Coffee Makers
Japan has a storied coffee history, and one that’s grounded in both craft and quality. Some of the most elegant brew methods are favored here, including siphon coffee (and drip cold brew). The culture has given rise to a few companies, such as Hario and Bodum, that are well-known for their coffee makers
Yama Tabletop Vacpot Coffee Maker
The Yama Tabletop Vacpot Coffee Maker is available in a 3-cup and a 5-cup version (with a cup equaling 120 mL).
The model features a round lower chamber and cylindrical upper chamber, which are held by a distinctive stand. A combination of glass, metal support and (some) black plastic create a thoroughly modern look, while the shape draws intrigue.
The siphon maker comes with a denatured alcohol burner, or a small butane burner can be purchased separately. Either option allows for brewing in any room even if an outlet isn’t nearby.
Recommended For: With an affordable price, unique design and ability to brew anywhere, the Yama is an excellent choice for entertaining smaller gatherings.
- Siphon brewed coffee produces cleaner richer and smoother cup of coffee by maximizing the essential oils from the brew
- Elegant siphon stand design offers safe and stylish table top brewing
- Vacuum technology seals in the aroma and flavors delivering on the true profile taste of your coffee
- THE DIFFERENCE Premium hand crafted hand blown Borosilicate Glass is non-porous and does not absorb odors or chemicals ensuring each brew is as fresh and pure as intended
- Recommended by 'Coffee Geek' for making a smooth delicious cup of Coffee
Yama Glass 5 Cup Stovetop Coffee Siphon
The Yama Glass 5 Cup Stovetop Siphon likewise has a unique design. It may not be as visually intriguing as the tabletop versions, but this is perhaps the most creative design of any stovetop model. The same high-quality materials ensure that coffee brews extremely well.
Recommended For: As the most imaginative stovetop model, this is perfect for eat-in kitchens where friends will see coffee brewing even when on the stove. This is also one of the best values, offering excellent quality at a comparably lower price point.
- Unique, theatrical way to make coffee; 20-ounce (5-cup) capacity
- Vacuum brewed coffee produces a cleaner, richer, and smoother cup
- Made of heat resistant borosilicate glass; heat-resistant handle
- Works on gas and electric rangetops; comes with wire diffuser for use on electric coil burners
- Dishwasher and microwave safe; imported
Hario Coffee Syphon Technica
The Hario Coffee Syphon Technica is a tabletop model that also comes in a 3-cup and a 5-cup variation (360 mL and 600 mL, respectively). The models are virtually identical to the Yama tabletops in function and quality, but they’re more straightforward and plain in aesthetic design. These too use a denatured alcohol or butane burner.
Recommended For: The Yama models are often cost a little less and look a little better. If you can’t source a Yama model or find a good deal on Hario, though, don’t hesitate to get one of these tabletop options.
- Upper bowl, lower bowl and burner are made of the best heat resistant borosilicate glass from Hario
- Stand, burner cover, and filter are made of stainless steel
- Imported from Japan
- Item dimmensions are: 14"H x 6.2"W x 4.3"L; 5 Cup Capacity
- Fasteners are made of brass; windbreak is made of aluminum
- 3 cup capacity 360ml
- HARIO heat-resistant glass in japan
- Easy to use
- Easy to Clean
- Design in Japan
Bodum Pebo Vacuum Coffee Maker
As mentioned, the Bodum Pebo Vacuum Coffee Maker is a basic yet well-designed vacuum pot. It’s not the most striking, but it has excellent functionality and durability. It also happens to be one of the largest options, brewing up to 8 cups (1 L).
Recommended For: Strongly consider the EPebo if you’re looking at Bodum, for it’s more portable, more automated and costs not that much more. The Pebo is a solid contender if you want to brew large batches, however.
- Its exceptionally effective vacuum brewing method extracts all precious oils of your favorite coffee.
- In addition, the brewing time and temperature are perfectly calibrated, ensuring a perfect cup of coffee with each brew.
- Depending on the amount of water used, the PEBO can brew delicious coffee within 5 to 11 minutes, serving anywhere from 4 to 8 cups (0.5l/10oz,max. 1.0l/34oz).
- The vacuum brewing process is entirely sealed off so no aroma can escape.
Cona Coffee Maker
The Cona Coffee Maker is a step up in class but also in price. The most notable trait is the virtually all-glass construction, with even the heating chamber being made from glass. The only exceptions are the plastic handle and stainless steel base.
An all-glass construction makes for beauty that none of the others fully match. Of course, this is also a tabletop model so you can give a full brewing demonstration when entertaining.
Recommended For: The Cona is among the best choices if you must have a premium siphon maker that’s absolutely gorgeous. If it’s outside your budget, Yama’s tabletop models are a much more affordable alternative.
- The famous Abram Games industrial design-classic. Making the finest cup of coffee with scientific flair without filter paper or cloth. CONA is the original benchmark since 1910. Quality made in Europe. Parcel in transit for 9 working days from manufacturer in the Netherlands to your door in USA or Canada. Amazon charges you your state's sales tax on your purchase. This means no hassle at US Customs
The History of Siphon Coffee
Please see our guide on the history of siphon coffee.
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.