As a full-time coffee geek I get unashamedly excited over unique brew methods, but none get me quite as excited as the Siphon brew coffee maker (also known as a vacuum coffee maker).
Today, I am going to try and calm my coffee-boner so I can tell you about the best siphon coffee makers of 2017.
What Is A Vacuum Coffee Maker?
There is a short and a long answer to this question:
The short answer - a vacuum coffee maker is that thingy you’ve seen in a handful of hyper-hipster coffee shops and never known what it does.
The long answer - a vacuum coffee maker is a full immersion brew system that uses a constant heat source to create a vacuum in one chamber by forcing water up into another chamber, where the coffee grounds are steeped, and then allows the brew to drain back down into the bottom chamber.
Although this process may sound confusing, I promise it’s not. To get a good visual of how it all works watch this video for a demonstration.
Besides a nickname (siphon) that would fit well on the X-Men super mutant team, vacuum coffee makers have four unique features that set them apart from other brew systems:
The first is that vacuum coffee makers brew with a dramatic-sounding process called total immersion.
However, total immersion is rather simple, and all it means is that all the coffee grounds and all the water will be in contact throughout the whole brewing process.
This brew method should sound familiar to you, as both the French press and the AeroPress use this method for brewing. Essentially, total immersion is the same as steeping, and usually results in a clearer and lighter flavoured brew.
Unfortunately, this method isn’t as good at extracting the flavour out of your grounds as a drip method - think of cleaning a dirty sponge with running water vs. soaking it for a while - which leads me to…
The feature from which this mad scientist's experiment gets its name is also its most defining.
After your coffee grounds have soaked for a while, becoming more loose and relaxed than your hairy uncle at the community bathhouse , the vacuum created in the bottom chamber pulls all that caffeine-saturated liquid back down through the filter.
By forcing the water back down through the grounds, this method is also effective in extracting any remaining solubles your coffee grounds still cling to.
So, unlike a French press, a vacuum coffee maker gives you the best of both worlds: total immersion to let your grounds soak, and a hot water whirlpool to extract any last bits of coffee goodness, leaving you with a cup of coffee unmatched in flavour and aroma.
Another unique feature of a vacuum brewer is that it provides consistent heat throughout the entire brew process.
Unlike other brew methods, which require you to pour preheated water over your grounds, a vacuum brewer is continuously heated.
Since temperature is one of the most important parts of brew quality, having a consistent heat source allows for greater control over your brew.
I won’t pretend that I’m not shallow, because to a certain degree I am. I’ll admit that I sometimes choose coffee beans based on their label design and, yes, I like vacuum coffee makers because they look damn cool.
Having a vacuum coffee maker sitting on your kitchen counter (or in your trophy case - I would) will immediately catch any guest's interest as they wonder what sort of awesome science experiments it’s used for.
Well Then, How Do I Choose a Siphon Pot Coffee Brewer?
Aside from the features listed above, there are a few other things to consider when at the market for a vacuum coffee maker.
I’ll go over some of these considerations:
Stovetop vs. Standalone
In terms of brew quality there isn’t much difference between a stovetop or a standalone vacuum brewer. The basic difference is that a stovetop (like the name implies) is designed so that it can sit on top of a gas or electric stove.
A standalone vacuum brewer has its own fancy stand, and either a built-in or separate gas or alcohol burner that rests neatly below the bottom chamber.
Choosing between the two is often a matter of aesthetics, as standalone brewers tend to have a bit more flair than their (comparatively simple) stove-hugging counterparts; however, stovetop brewers tend to be less expensive than standalones.
Like most other brew systems, many vacuum coffee makers brew in different size batches, and typically they range between 3-8 cups per brew.
How caffeinated you prefer your mornings (or how big your family is) will determine which size is the best fit for you.
How Fancy Are You?
Given the price range of these brewers, I can safely assume that anyone considering purchasing one has a soft spot for style. Whatever your sense of style, there are vacuum brewers for the Elton John in all of us.
But just a fair warning, the more Elton you are, the larger the price tag you should expect.
5 of the Best Siphon Coffee Makers of 2017
5 & 8
Now that you know what to look for and what you’re looking at, let’s take a look at the best options out there - In no particular order (i.e - they are all great options)
#1 - The Yama Glass Stovetop Coffee Siphon
The Yama Glass Stovetop Siphon brewer is the least expensive on the list - but only by a whisker. It’s is a stovetop brewer, which comes in two different sizes - a 22 ounce and a 40 ounce - meaning you can choose the right capacity for your needs.
Compared to other vacuum brewers, the Yama is a simple design and very easy to use. Most who purchase the Yama find its simplicity endearing, and its brew quality on par with other, more expensive vacuum brewers; however, a few have claimed this simplicity merely masks poor quality.
Although one should expect that a device made almost entirely out of glass to be fragile, the Yama has been criticized for its thin glass, which makes it relatively fragile for a vacuum brewer.
- At $55, this brewer is the least expensive on the list.
- It is also the smallest, and has a compact design.
- The cloth filter can be a pain to store and keep clean.
- Cheap manufacturing sometimes results in an imperfect seal, which can cause drain issues between the two chambers.
- It has thinner glass than other vacuum brewers, which makes it more prone to cracking or breaking.
#2 - The HARIO Technica Coffee Siphon
If you are googling vacuum brewers right now, trying to learn more about the funky contraption behind the bar at the coffee shop, chances are The Hario Technica is that same funky contraption you saw. This brewer seems to pop up all over the place - in obscure coffee houses, trendy corner cafes, and many YouTube videos - and for good reason.
Thanks to Japanese propensity for simple and efficient design, the Hario Technica is a user favorite. The quality of this brewer vastly overshadows the Yama stovetop siphon, so you won’t run into any of the issues - fragility, inadequate seal, and poor draining - that seem to plague the Yama.
The Technica is a standalone brewer, which is sure to impress upon first sight. It comes in either a 3-cup or a 5-cup size, and includes its own (unattached) alcohol burner.
If you are looking for a classic vacuum coffee maker, this should be at the top of your list.
- A simple and efficient design makes the Technica easy to use and easy to clean.
- It's still near the bottom in terms of price of brewers on this list.
- The hardy glass is less likely to break than other vacuum brewers (but don’t go playing catch with it).
- It also uses a cloth filter, which can be a pain to keep clean.
- The included alcohol burner is slow to heat the water, so you may need to buy a separate, butane burner.
#3 -The Bodum Santos Stovetop Glass Vacuum
If you’ve ever walked into a Starbucks (don’t lie) you’re probably familiar with The Bodum Santos - Starbucks loves advertising Bodum French presses all over their windows.
This Scandinavian company is known for its clean and minimal design without sacrificing utility.
The Bodum stovetop is no exception to this discipline. This vacuum brewer is only slightly larger than the Yama stovetop, yet the Bodum stovetop is made from slightly higher quality materials.
Amazingly, the Bodum stovetop brewer does not use a cover for its top chamber, which usually isn’t a problem, unless you put in too much water.
- The minimal design makes for a nice aesthetic addition to your kitchen.
- It brews more consistently than many other vacuum brewers.
- The handle is a little flimsy, so you will need to pour carefully.
- Over time, the Bodum may begin to lose its seal, causing drainage issues.
#4 - The NISPIRA Belgian Balance Syphon
If you are looking for something to impress, or to match your new top hat, then the Nispira belgium balance vacuum brewer is the way to go. Nothing says class and refinement like a throwback to the early days of coffee brewing.
Essentially, the NISPIRA is a remake of one of the first vacuum coffee makers. Although it reeks of impractical snobbish elegance, the machine functions just as well as most other modern vacuum coffee makers.
Unfortunately, this gadget is the most expensive on the list; however, I’m sure you already expected this since it literally has “luxury[AW8] ” in the name. Unlike other vacuum coffee makers, which stack one chamber on top of another, the chambers for the balance siphon are positioned next to each other.
Despite this unique design, the Balance Syphon works under the same basic principles, but you can see it action here:
Unfortunately, the Balance Syphon is not nearly as easy to tweak as other vacuum brewers, and replacement parts can be very difficult to find - it's more for show, but it still makes darn great siphon brew!
- The gaudy design is sure to impress, and the unique mechanism is always fun to watch.
- A very consistent machine, that (once started) is relatively automatic and easy to use.
- Most of the machine is made of metal, so it is not as fragile as other vacuum brewers.
- Most expensive brewer on this list.
- It can be very difficult to clean, and replacement parts are hard to find.
- It is not as open to personalization as other vacuum brewers.
#5 - The Yama Glass Tabletop Ceramic Syphon
So, you liked the NISPIRA Balance Syphon, but your monocle wearing days are over. You enjoy showmanship, but you want something with more of the open-source nature of the other vacuum brewers.
Well, dear reader, the Yama Tabletop Syphon could be the brewer for you.
This vacuum brewer comes with a stylish three-arm stand with a decorated ceramic base, but aside from that, its design is very similar to the Hario Technica.
Unfortunately, its performance is not quite up to par. The rubber seal on the Yama Tabletop Syphon is not always effective, which can prevent a vacuum from forming.
However, this brewer does come with its own butane burner, which is a very effective and consistent heat source. Additionally, you have the option to use this vacuum brewer on a stove top.
- A stylish design that looks both modern and elegant.
- The brewer comes with a butane burner, but it is also able to be used over a stove.
- Second most expensive on the list.
- It sometimes suffers from seal issues, which makes it difficult for consistent brewing.
Although the competition was tough, I do have a clear winner: The Hario Technica.
This vacuum coffee maker is the brewer of choice for so many coffee shops because, compared to its counterparts, it provides the highest and most consistent quality. It embodies the unique design iconic to vacuum brewers without sacrificing any functionality.
Additionally, that Hario Technica is well-built from superior materials, which means it does not suffer from the same sealing issues of other vacuum brewers.
Have you used any of the vacuum brewers from this list? If so, tell me about your experience in the comments below. Also, let me know what you thought of the article, and share with your friends if you liked it!