Posted in Kafevend Blog
Let's be honest - for maximum convenience many of us switch the kettle on and grab a jar of coffee out of the cupboard. There are some great instant coffees out there these days, so why not follow the path of least resistance? Nevertheless, there are times when we want to expend a little more effort and savour the aroma of coffee brewing. (Link to how does coffee smell to you?) Maybe you have a filter machine, or perhaps you dig the cafetière out. We'd wager that few of us own the type of coffee machine that's the subject of today's blog, namely the vacuum brewer.
Also known as the syphon brewer, this way of preparing coffee isn't some new fangled method. It was actually invented back around the 1830s, but has since been replaced, both in the home and the coffee house, by other gadgets requiring less expertise and tending to. Everything comes back into fashion sooner or later though, and this appears to be no less true of the syphon brewer. It certainly provides baristas with an extra opportunity to showcase their skills and is considered an ideal method of giving coffee itself a chance to shine.
The way the brewer works is down to simple physics, but looks a lot like magic to the scientifically challenged among us! Made of glass, so you can watch it all happening, the syphon brewer has two chambers; at the bottom is a coffee pot, which is where the water starts off and at the top a container in which the coffee is placed. A syphon tube containing a filter connects the two. Heat is applied to the lower chamber and after a while some of the water becomes water vapour. Once the vapour has expanded enough the water is pushed up through the syphon tube and into the top container holding the coffee grounds and the brewing takes place. Next, the heat source is removed and the vapour in the bottom pot starts to contract until a pressure vacuum is created and the brewed coffee is sucked back down into the pot, ready to pour. A perfect brew requires careful adjustments to the heat source, so that the coffee doesn't over extract too quickly for example.
That really does sound like quite a lot to manage effectively, so perhaps unsurprisingly there is a competition in which baristas vie with each other for the ultimate prize in syphon brewing. The World Syphonist Championship got under way in 2009 and thus far has been dominated by competitors from the Far East where syphon brewing has maintained a more continuous presence than further west. In fact Japan and Taiwan have featured in the top three every single time.
Preparing coffee this way is certainly at the other end of the spectrum to making a mug of instant, but if the idea appeals, then it's worth doing a little research on the web. There's certainly a lot of syphon brewers available at a wide range of prices. All are made of borosilicate glass - the sort that's resistant to thermal shock , like Pyrex for instance, so at least you won't have to worry about exploding glass!