All About Vacuum/Siphon Coffee Brewing & The Best Brewers
In with the old - out with the new with vacuum coffee makers. One of the oldest brewing method is now popular again as people re-discover the delicious taste that vacuum brewing there coffee produces. Vacuum/Siphon brewing provides the coffee consumer a combination of rich flavor and a coffee brewing method that is feels like much more of an “experience” than a traditional coffee extraction. All the while giving you a lack of sediment that often results from a French press brew. The artistic elegance of a vacuum brewer is unsurpassed and will often be appreciated by all.
Many people's first and sometimes only experience with Siphon or Vacuum brewed coffee only occurs at some of the finest restaurants, bed and breakfasts and Inns of the world. However that no longer has to be the only way you experience it. With today’s widespread adoption and commercial availability of vac brewing systems you can start using the method at home with every little expense or difficulty in getting set up. (and its easier then you may think)
Coffee brewed by the vacuum process is fun to watch and even more enjoyable to drink.
Table Of Contents Quick Nav.
Getting Start With Vacuum Brewing
A good quality brewer can be easily found for under $100 (click to jump to the bottom, and see our reviews focusing on 4 of the best vacuum coffee makers - bellow $100) After the coffee maker, you will have to actually make the first cup, well don’t worry, process is not as difficult as it may look, we will guide you thru each step of making vacuum brewed coffee at home.
But before we get to the buying and brewing, let me take you a little deeper into the history, design/construction, proper names, and what vacuum and siphon brewers really are. (the vac & siphon are basically the same...but a little different, I will get in to that more latter)
What Is a Vacuum Coffee?
If you do not settle for the usual coffee, if you are looking for that little point of distinction and pleasure that you get from handcrafted coffee elaborations, your thing is vacuum coffee makers. The term vacuum coffee (also called “vac pot coffee” or “siphon coffee”) refers to a particular, increasingly popular coffee brewing process that utilizes a two-chamber system for brewing. These coffee machines give you a different way to prepare the coffee, completely manual, and the result is a very intense drink, with the aromas much more defined and intense than in the coffee made by filtration.
History & The Naming of The Vacuum Coffee Maker: AKA Siphon or Japanese Coffee Maker
The vacuum coffee maker was originally created in 1830 by Loeff of Berlin. In 1840, Robert Napier designed his own vacuum coffee machine and named it The Napier Vacuum Machine, and it soon became very popular.
These coffee vacuum coffee makers were appreciated immediately by the coffee free of impurities that were obtained and the great wealth of aromas tastes in the coffees that were obtained from her.
In the mid-twentieth century, the coffee maker achieved great popularity, but never as a daily household-use coffee maker. Its design, more complex than other coffee makers, made this coffee maker not replace the existing coffee, but appeared as a second coffee maker for special moments in which what is intended is to obtain a better result at the expense of a little preparation More paused.
The materials with which the coffee maker was manufactured at that time (nowadays surpassed by the Pyrex glass with which they are made) made it relatively easy for glass of the coffee maker to exploded if it stayed on the flam to long.
A Coffee Maker With So Many Names
When you go to find reviews or buy vacuum coffee machines, you can sometimes see them referenced to as a Cona Coffee Machine, Kona coffee maker, Japanese coffee maker, Vac Pot, and siphon coffee brewers. (Or some variation of any of these names combined.)
Japanese Coffee Maker
Yes, these coffee makers are also known as Japanese siphon coffee maker. The reason is not that the Japanese siphons were invented in Japan, but actually they originated in Germany (dating to the first third of the twentieth century).
The problem is that these coffee machines quickly fell into oblivion and nobody paid much attention to them for much of the 20th century. It was the Japanese as well as other Asian country baristas and gourmets who began to rescue and start using vacuum coffee machines again, and so they adopted the name of Japanese siphon coffee maker in the popular imagination.
For this reason, company's such Japan’s Hario and Taiwan' Yama coffee makers have established a very large presence in this method of preparation. Hario its self is highly responsible influencing this recognition due to the exceptional quality of its glass they use in there production.
Cona Coffee Machine (Kona coffee maker)
This is because Cona is one of the most well-known and genuine manufacturers of such devices. It was also one of the first companies to market them on a large scale around the world. Cona vacuum coffee machines are usually more resistant and more exclusive than those of other manufacturers, since this firm is only dedicated to working on this particular type of coffee machine.
Vacuum Coffee Makers – Vac Coffee Pot
Vacuum coffee makers, and to a less extent siphons are obvious descriptor phrases that simply "describe" how the brewer is operating. In the more mainstream markets these two names are the finding themselves to be the most common commercially used names, they are a more generic and “non branded” names that other manufactures have adopted.
Parts of a Vacuum Coffee Maker
The Vacuum Brewer consists of four parts:
The lower part is a glass sphere containing the water and where the pressure is created pushing it towards the top, and it is also the final container of the infusion when it descends again attracted by the vacuum when the source ceases Of heat.
The upper part, which acts as a cup where the coffee infuses, and from there returns down, through the end tube that connects it with the bottom. At the bottom of this upper part is where the filter is located, which must fit between both parts keeping it centered and flat.
The central part consists of a sealing joint, generally rubber, to help create a vacuum in the lower vessel.
The heat source , which can be a halogen lamp, an adjustable gas burner, a wick oil heater, or a small alcohol nozzle, which gives that process a "retro" look.
The two main parts of the vac pot are the containers, one upper and one lower, connected to each other by a small tube of the same material. There is also a filter where the ground coffee is placed, and placed in the upper container.
Finally, an alcohol stove, (traditional kitchen stove can be used with specific ceramic vacuum makers designed for stove-tops can be used use)lighter, (also some electric bases are acceptable) is necessary to generate heat in the bottom of the coffee maker.
What is Vacuum Brewer Made Of?
These coffee makers are usually made of a type of glass called Pyrex (Borosilicate Glass) because it withstands heat shocks very well. (This material resists three times more abrupt temperature changes than conventional glass).
How Does A Vacuum Coffee Brewer Work
The vacuum brewers consists of 2 containers, an upper one and a lower, that are joined to each other, and in the one at the top there is attached a tube (the siphon) through which the liquid rises. It also has a filter that is usually located at the base of the upper container.
The water is heated in the lower chamber, this heating of the water creates a vacuum which draws the water up through the connecting siphon and into the upper chamber, where the coffee grounds are.
The liquid continues to rise pushed by the expanding hot air and when practically all the liquid has risen, the heat source, which commonly used to be an alcohol burner, is removed or turned off in most of the initial designs.
Now with the heat source no longer present, the air in the lower vessel cools and contracts, creating a vacuum that causes the top liquid to flow back through the filter and fall back to the lower zone.
So in the end the coffee will be ready in the bottom of our siphon brewer. This is another of the main differences of vacuum coffee machines with other types of coffee makers such as Italian, where coffee is always at the top. The result is a delicious and perfectly clean cup of coffee.
Watch A Video Showing How a Vacuum Coffee Maker Works
To find out how a Japanese siphon or vacuum coffee maker works, let's go to the popular barista
How To Brew In Vacuum Coffee Maker
If you are using a cloth filter, be sure to soak it in hot water for at least a minute before beginning the brewing process. The soaking helps the filter to stretch out to completely cover the opening of the siphon. This is important as vacuum coffee is supposed to be clear of sediment.
*For siphon coffee makers it is recommended to use a fine grind of coffee.
In these brew directions we are using a 15-ounce vacuum pot. You can adjust your ingredients according to the size of your vac pot.
After the filter has soaked for at least a minute, position it over the opening of the siphon, in the upper chamber. Drop the chain down the siphon and fasten to the bottom. This keeps the filter secured over the siphon and prevents coffee grounds/sediment from getting into the final product.
Pour hot water into the bottom chamber and put flame under it to begin boiling. (I always use hot, but not boiling, water that I have heated on the stovetop to start as this speeds up the brewing process.)
Add grounds to upper chamber.
Place the upper chamber on top of the lower one, but do not seal them together yet.
Once the water in the bottom chamber begins to boil, seal top and bottom together. As the water continues to boil, it will be forced up into the upper chamber. This is known as the “kick up”.
Wait for the water to begin to fill the upper chamber. Once it is about half-full of water, stir to mix the grounds. It is traditional to use a bamboo stir stick, but you can also use a wooden or plastic stirring utensil. (Using a metal utensil can scratch the glass.)
Once all the water has left the bottom chamber, shut off the heat source and let the coffee stand for a minute or so. (Steep times may vary from pot to pot, so check the instructions that came with your equipment to get a specific time.)
Break the seal between the two chamber, but do not completely disconnect the two chambers, as the coffee will now filter back down the siphon and into the bottom chamber. This is known as the “kick down”.
Once all the coffee has drained from the upper chamber, you may disconnect it and rinse.
Now your coffee is now ready to drink. You can serve it right out of the bottom chamber of your vac pot. The Vacuum/Siphon coffee makers can transform the sometimes mundane task of just making coffee, into an entertaining event. They will add a wonderful touch to your after-dinner refreshments, the next time you hosted some friends.
Instructions for How to Brew With Bodum Pebo Stovetop Vacuum Coffeemaker
1.) Fill the bottom of the Bodum Pedo's carafe with the desired amount of water.
2.) Place the carafe on the stovetop. Use a trivet or heat diffuser between the electric elements and the carafe. Use a heat diffuser between gas elements and the carafe.
3.) Insert the filter into the funnel.
4.) There is a small chain on the filter, with a hook. Pull the chain gently and secure the hook to the bottom edge of the glass tube
5.) Insert ground coffee in the funnel. Use one scoop of coffee for each cup. Any grind of coffee can be used; finer grinds will give you a stronger cup, but some will also make their way to the bottom when the coffee is done.
6.) Insert the funnel into the carafe, pressing gently for a tight (but not too tight) seal. Turn on the stovetop element or flame so that the heat or flame only covers the bottom of the carafe. Bring the water to a boil.
7.) As the water boils, it will rise into the funnel and mix with the ground coffee. Around 2 cm. (c. 3/4") of water will remain in the bottom carafe. (If the water level goes below this zone, your heat is too high. Don't let the water level go below this zone, or the carafe will risk cracking.)
8.) Remove the Pebo vac. coffeemaker from the heat source and place it on a dry grass mat, or a dry dishtowel, or a dry trivet. The coffee will now go back down from the funnel into the carafe. (Should it cease to go down, simply replace on the heat source and bring to a boil again, and remove promptly.)
9.) When all the coffee is back in the carafe, remove the funnel and serve. Clean the funnel by removing the coffee grinds, releasing the filter hook from the glass tube, and rinsing both thoroughly. Enjoy your Bodum Pedo brewed coffee!
Instructions for How To Brew Coffee Using the Yama Coffee Siphons
1.) Drop the washable, reusable cloth covered filter into the funnel (glass infusion chamber) with the chain hanging down into the glass tube.
Pull the chain down until you can hook it to the bottom of the siphon tube.
2.) Stand the funnel onto its holder. Add one heaping measure of ground coffee per "cup".
Fill the bottom of the Yama carafe with fresh, cool water up to the maximum capacity mark (5 or 8 "cup").
3.) Place the funnel onto the bottom carafe and gently twist to fit the rubber stopper and tube into the opening.
Place on stove, low to medium heat.
If using an electric stove, you must use the wire trivet between the carafe and the burner.
4.) As the water boils, it will be siphoned to the top funnel chamber, where it will infuse with the coffee grounds.
You may now stir the mixture a bit.
It is normal for a little water to remain in the bottom carafe.
5.) Let brew about 60 seconds, then remove the coffeemaker from the heat source.
The coffee will then filter back down into the carafe, leaving the grounds at the top.
6.) Gently rock the funnel back and forth to loosen it from the carafe, lift off and stand it onto its holder.
Pour Your Yama Siphon brewed coffee and enjoy!
How Much Does A Vacuum Coffee Maker Cost
The price of vacuum brew pots and balance siphon coffee makers are a slightly higher than the average non electric coffee machines, but they manage to remain fairly affordable, and the make up for there price with the beauty and the flavor quality of the coffee they produce.
The majority of coffee siphons are around $50-$100 in price, and from there (depending on their size, style and their year of launch) can reach upwards to $250+. The 2 cups, 3 cups, or up to 4-5 cups is the average capacity for vacuum coffee machines, but much larger brewers, can be found. Its capacity is determined by the size of the vessels.
Disadvantages and Advantages of a Siphon/Vacuum Pot Coffee Maker - Are Vacuum Coffee Makers Better
Siphon coffee machines have very defined pros and cons:
Vacuum Coffee Makers PRO's
The advantages of vacuum coffee makers are undoubtedly the excellent quality of the coffee they produce, pure and aromatic as few. It is an elaboration that has part of ritual, and that it enchants the true coffee aficionados.
Since they do not need electricity, they are usually used to make the coffee directly on the table, in front of the diners.
Another benefit of vacuum coffee is that the brew itself is very clean (no grounds or sediment in it) and crisp.
While French Press coffee, another popular coffee-brewing process, makes a bolder cup of coffee than the vac pot, a common complaint is that there is often a layer of sediment that collects at the bottom of the cup.
Often, this sediment washes out of the cup with the last sip, making for a very unpleasant end to an otherwise enjoyable cup o’ joe! With vacuum coffee, there is none of that. What’s left in the bottom chamber, at the end of the brewing process, is very clear, very sediment-free coffee.
Vacuum Coffee Makers CON'S
On the one hand, they are very fragile instruments, which can break both in the handling (cleaning, storage...) and during brewing by heating the glass in excess and do not turn off the Fire on time.
Also, the two containers are very difficult to clean because they have a really narrow apertures. In addition, care must be taken: if you are going to clean a vacuum coffee machine, it is advisable not to use soap or toxic cleaning products.
Balance Siphon Coffee Maker (Syphon)
Also know as just a Siphon coffee maker or sometime spelled “Syphon”, Vienna coffee maker (a Vienna is a different but similar brewer), A Retro, or a Belgium royal coffee maker (this is actually a brand however many people refer to all balance siphon brewers and a royal or Belgium)
Gaining its early popularly in Portugal, the balance siphon coffee coffee is reminiscent of its predecessor from Vienna, from around the mid 1800's. And just as the top and bottom style two chamber vac brewers this is a wonder to watch as it makes coffee.
The balance coffee makers and brewing methods have are bit more involved both with process actual hardware then the glass vacuums do. But don’t fear the balance brewers, they are not as daunting as the may first appear. We will cover all the parts and functions of a balance maker, as well as each step in the brewing, cleaning, and troubleshooting of a balance siphon brewer.
Parts Of A Balance Siphon Brewer
Balance and supports -
Serving container - solid brass or copper with tin-lined interior
Burner Base - hard and resistant to denatured alcohol
How A Balance Siphon Coffee Maker Works
Coffee is placed in the carafe and hot water in the server. With everything in place, the burner is lit under the server. As the water is heated, it exits the server and showers the ground coffee in the carafe. At the same time, the server rises and the flame under it is automatically extinguished. A vacuum forms in the server and the coffee is called back into it. Open the tap and pour yourself a wonderful cup of hot coffee.
How Brew Coffee with Balance Siphon Maker
Put coffee grounds in carafe
1.) Pre-heat water in a kettle (See The Cordless Cuisinart CPK-17 PerfecTemp Kettle Review) , so it's ready for when it needs to be poured into the server..
Place water in boil Reservoir
5.) For the 1000cc units, place about 5-6 tablespoons of ground coffee into the glass carafe (4-5 tbsp for the 600cc units). Adjust the quantity to your own taste.
6.) Remove the top center plug from the server and pour about 600-1000cc (20-34 ounces) of water into it.
7.) Securely replace the top center plug on the server.
Water is mixed with coffee
*Tip the server up using the knob on the counterbalance, open the wick cover and release the boiler slowly so that it keeps the burner cover open.
8.) Ignite the flame.
9.) Depending on the amount and the temperature of the water, it will take from 7 to 9 minutes to begin its performance.
Flame automatically extinguished
10.) As the water heats, it is forced through the sleeve into the glass carafe and over the coffee, to mingle with it.
11.) As the server gets lighter, it will rise with the help of the counterbalance, and release the wick cover, extinguishing the flame.
12.) On the outside chance that the burner cover should remain open, gently tip the cover handle to close it.
Coffee returns to boiler
13.) As vacuum forms in the boiler, the coffee is recalled through the sleeve into the server, and the grounds remain in the carafe.
Trouble Shooting & Tips For The Balance Siphon Coffee Brewing Process
|Use only denatured alcohol or methanol:||Make sure the burner is always at least 1/4 full when operating. Wipe up and dry spills before lighting. Never allow it to burn dry, and never fill it while it is burning.|
|If the burner cover (flame cap) remains open:||Tip the burner cover handle to close it, and lightly oil the hinge when you clean the unit.|
|If coffee does not flow from the server to the carafe:||Check that the flame is burning.|
Check that the top center plug is in the closed position.
Check that the siphoning tube is placed tightly into the server.
|If coffee does not flow from the carafe to the server:||Check that the top center plug is in the closed position.|
Check that the siphoning tube is placed tightly into the server.
|If coffee does not flow from the spigot:||Check that the top center plug on the server is open or in the open position.|
How to Clean Balance Siphon Coffee Brewer
Always wait to clean the machine until it has cooled completely.
Remove the glass, dump out the grounds and wash as you would all glass. Never clean a hot glass with cold water, to prevent breakage.
The server and siphoning tube can be cleaned by running under water. Never attempt to open the server other than by the top center plug, as it is hermetically sealed.
Never use abrasive cleaners, scouring pads or hard brushes for polishing or cleaning.
Lightly oil the hinge of the burner on a regular basis, to guarantee automatic closure.
The Best Vacuum Siphon Coffee Makers Reviewed
Yama Glass 5 Cup Stovetop Coffee Siphon (Syphon) Review
Northwest Glass Yama Stove top Vacuum Coffee Maker
I like the stylish flair of preparing vacuum coffee over an open flame, but there are times when it’s more practical to use a stove top model. If you find yourself needing the more practical model, try this vacuum coffee maker.
The 40-ounce capacity of this siphon pot makes it one of the larger vacuum coffee makers on the market today. It’s perfect for serving more than two.
Besides being dishwasher safe, another great feature of this vacuum pot is its heat-resistant handle.
Will this work on my electric range?
Yes, the Northwest Glass Yama Stovetop vacuum coffee maker will work on both electric ranges and gas burners. This model includes a diffuser that with electric coil ranges, making this coffee maker one of the most versatile ones out there!
It’s Nice To Have Options
If you decide that 40-ounces is too much for you, check out the 22-ounce version that is on sale over at Amazon for only $50 +/-. Honestly, though, considering that the 40-ounce model is also on sale right now for only $10 ($60 +/-) more than the smaller one, I would recommend getting the big one.
Benefits At a Glance:
Smaller, 22-ounce version available (also on sale)
Large 40-ounce capacity
Practical stove-top version – works on gas burners, as well as electric ranges (with included wire diffuser)
Bodum Pebo Vacuum Coffee Review
Bodum Pebo Vacuum Coffee Maker, 8 cup, 34 oz Black
Pebo and Santos are the exact same product, Bodum simply decided to change the name from Santos to Pebo, other then the name there is no difference in then, same quality same construction and features.
If any vacuum coffee maker can be described as elegant, it’s the Bodum Pebo. This is the coffee maker you’re going to want to constantly have lying out and about so both you and your friends can admire its beautiful and award-winning design.
The Bodum Pebo is not just nice to look at, it also brews a smooth cup of coffee without any of the bitterness you get from more conventional coffee set ups. It is constructed from high-quality, heat-resistant glass and has a stay-cool handle design, ensuring you never burn yourself reaching for your morning wake up. The Bodum Pebo comes apart in seconds, allowing for quick and thorough cleaning. With a 34-oz. capacity, you get about six 5-oz. cups of coffee, which makes it a perfect option for the hardcore solitary coffee drinker or the entertainer. As for accessories, the Bodum Santos comes with a coffee scoop and resting stand.
Not only does this vacuum coffee maker have form and function going for it, it also has a great company history. Bodum is a trusted company with a long history of success. It began in 1944 in Copenhagen and went international shortly thereafter. Bodum is family owned and its conceptualization of design has garnered it many awards. Long story short: Bodum is a company you can put some serious stock in.
Will the Bodum Pebo work an electric stove/range?
YES - The Bodum Santos will work on an electric stove top. Some people have reported having success brewing directly on the stove coils, but I recommend you get a diffuser to ensure even heat distribution. You can find more about diffusers on our accessories page. Whatever you do, make sure that there is always water in the carafe when the coffee maker is being heated. If this precaution is not followed, you will wind up with cracked or broken glass and a useless Santos.
What else should I know?
One thing to keep in mind about the Bodum Pebo is the filter. The factory filter that comes with the coffee maker is constructed of plastic and wire mesh and is picky about the consistency of the coffee grounds run through it. If your grounds are not just right, you might clog the filter and get a less than satisfactory cup of coffee. One solution is to put some time and energy into finding just the right grind of coffee or simply grind your own beans. If you decide to grind your own coffee beans, try keeping your them in the freezer (not the refrigerator) and using a burr coffee grinder. Not everyone has that much space in their schedule, though, so another solution is to just purchase a Yama cloth filter and use that instead. You will have excellent coffee without any headache.
Northwest Glass Yama
TCA-5D Review (Alcohol Burner)
Northwest Glass Yama TCA-5D
So you like coffee and you like flair — but you also like cheap. The Yama TCA-5D is the vacuum coffee maker you are looking for. For right around $50.00, you get a stylish, sturdy, entry-level coffee maker made of heat resistant borosilicate glass that comes in either a 15-oz. or 20-oz. capacity (and with a negligible price difference between the two sizes, you know you want the larger one!). The Yama TCA-5D comes with a soot-free denatured alcohol burner, the fuel for which can be found at any home improvement store.
One thing to take into consideration with the Yama TCA-5D is the temperature at which the alcohol burner burns. The Yama TCA-5D is designed to get your water moving, but not to actually push it over the boiling point. This ensures that your coffee is not overheated and does not lose any flavor (or gain any undesirable flavors). But because the alcohol burns cooler than, say, butane, this also means you are going to have to wait longer for your water to heat and your coffee to be done.
You have a few options. You could use the wait as a time to reflect on the coming day, make breakfast — whatever it is you do in the morning. You could preheat the water in a microwave or kettle before putting it in the Yama TCA-5D. You could also just replace the alcohol burner with a butane burner. Even with the additional cost of replacing the burner, you are still looking at an affordable way to break into vacuum coffee.
Habits and hobbies do no have to break the bank. If you are looking for a quality and economical vacuum coffee maker that is perfect for everyday use, look no further than the Yama TCA-5D. Both your taste buds and your pocketbook will delight!
Yama Glass Ceramic Base Vacuum Coffee Maker Review
This stylish vacuum coffee maker has a 20-ounce capacity, which is perfect for a couple of mugs of coffee, or several espresso-sized cups.
The Northwest Glass Ceramic Base vacuum coffee maker makes a really smooth cup of coffee and, with the included butane burner, makes for a great showpiece.
Included with the coffee maker are a bamboo stir stick and, as mentioned, the butane burner.
What makes the butane burner so nice is that:
It burns hotter, making your prep time shorter; and,
Butane is the same fuel used in many cigarette lighters, which means it is often easier to find than alcohol fuel.
A Quick Ending Summery of Vacuum Coffee Makers
Truly a show, the vacuum coffeemaker deserves, and requires, watching.
There is no need for paper or other filters for the coffee, since the Bodum unit comes with a washable filter. Even when using coffee ground for automatic drip, only a minimal amount of sediment remains in the carafe after the coffee is made.
Allow 18-25 minutes for brewing. Though the water boils rather quickly when using the unit on the stovetop, it takes about 10 to 15 minutes for the coffee to settle back in the carafe, depending mostly on the size of the coffee grounds. As the directions below indicate, watch it while the water boils, remove it from the heat source before all the water escapes the bottom carafe, then let it finish the process on its own.
For a tabletop show, you can use the coffeemaker over a spirit filled burner (like a fondue base); it takes a little longer to heat, but it may well prove worthwhile.