We are often asked about this precarious brew device. Yes, it looks like it belongs in a science lab. No, you cannot make meth in it. Yes, we can make you a cup of coffee in it. These are conversations that this unique looking device oft produces.
For this post, lets explore a brief history of the vacuum pot, commonly called the siphon and most commonly used in Japan to brew coffee. Invented in 1840 by Scottish marine engineer Robert Napier, the vacuum method brews coffee that some people judge the best of all – a brew as full flavored as that made in a french press, yet hotter and almost as clear and sediment free as drip coffee. In fact, some fans say it yields coffee that taste just like it smells.
But a vacuum coffee maker, which resembles laboratory glassware, is cumbersome and fragile and requires painstaking attention and careful storage, not to mention plenty of butane (unless you have a thermal heating element). That didn’t hinder the siphon’s popularity during its heyday in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s. Detective novelist Raymond Chandler made it the brewing method of choice for his private eye Philip Marlowe. Katharine Hepburn struggled with the vacuum pot to hilarious effect in the movie Woman of the Year (1942).
I have found an abundance of articles that offer coffee to water ratio’s so I will just provide some practical tips that helped me brew with a vacuum pot.
1. Grind Size – adjusting this will drastically change the tast. I usually go a bit coarser than for drip coffee.
2. Time of Immersion – similar to an aeropress you can try having the coffee sit in the chamber until it comes back down by leaving heat on until all water is up the stem. Or, you can use 1 minute or another increment of time. Just keeping track of time and taste of result is key.
3. Stirring – Once the water is heated and begins to travel up the stem assisting it by stirring with a pre-wet and cleaned spoon will help.
Keep an eye out for our brew series which will include the vacuum pot. They will be available online for sale, at our retail store free with any purchase. They will include step by step brew instructions for every device we use.
Cheers and extract well!