Saturday, April 26, 2008

Ghetto Siphon Coffee

Several months ago I read an article in New York Times about a $20,000 Japanese siphon bar at Blue Bottle Cafe in San Francisco.

A siphon bar or vacuum coffee maker uses vapor pressure & vacuum force to brew coffee. Many believes this would give coffee a cleaner, crisp, rich & smooth taste.

As a coffee aficionado myself, I believe the attraction to siphoned coffee is purely based on placebo effect.

To prove my point, I have built my own vacuum coffee maker for using only a moka pot & a glass salt shaker. Of course, you can also purchase a Bodum Santos for less than $100, but where is the fun in that?

My total cost was much lower than $20,000. Granted, I did not have fancy glass globe as the water reservoir.

After filling moka pot's boiler with water, I placed empty salt shaker over the top & coffee ground around it.


Similar to regular siphon coffee maker, water has expanded after heating & traveled upward into the upper chamber.

After removing the moka pot away from heat source, brewed coffee siphons back into lower chamber as it cools.

Voila! Now you can also enjoy the same kaleidoscopic beverage all the pretentious hipsters are raging about.


  1. Cool. I should probably try that sometime. Thank you Tian. Btw, what kind of stove is that. It has a freaky (in a good way) purple heating element.

  2. kaleidoscopic beverage. very nice.

    in defense of blue bottle, or maybe to make them sound even sillier, the $20K cost of siphon bar does not include the cost of the vacuum pots

    the $20K is just for the water heater - 5 halogen lamp heating elements encased in brass with nifty buttons.

    for the vac pots, blue bottle uses the yama. about $70 online, although maybe they got a bulk discount.

    so, to compare apples to apples, please tell us how much your stove cost too.

  3. The stove is Maytag MER5752BA standing Electric range, around US$550 plus tax.

  4. This is all well and good, but you have forgotten one thing: in true vacuum coffee making the intent is for the coffee to have not contacted metal during the brewing process. Your use of the stovetop espresso maker, which is composed of cast aluminum, which may leave residual acidity from metal contact. Nice, try, but unsatisfactory for your purpose. Get a few beakers from a chem lab and a bunsen burner and try again.

  5. Just like the Starbucks' Clover, you pay $4 for a drink from a machine that you still have to mix yourself!! (The machine is $11K each if you didn't know.)

  6. When are people going to realize it doesn't matter how expensive the coffee is, or how much the equipment costs, it's all going to come out as piss anyway?

    i'm happy with a french press.