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One of the most interesting ways to brew coffee involves using the pressure of a vacuum. The siphon coffee maker—also known as a vacuum coffee maker—was invented in the early 19th century in Germany and has been used all over the world for nearly two centuries. There are many on the market, so we went on a hunt for the best siphon coffee maker.
If you are looking to buy one, you might be overwhelmed by all the options. How do you know which is the best siphon coffee brewer for your kitchen and brewing needs? This guide will tell you what you need to know, what to consider when purchasing, and point you toward what we think is the best siphon brewer on the market: the Hario Technica Syphon Coffee Maker.
Our 5 best siphon coffee makers
We’ll review these five siphon coffee makers that we consider to be among the best on the market:
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What is a siphon coffee maker?
A siphon coffee maker, or vacuum brewer, produces coffee using heat and the pressure of water vapor.
The method grabbed many people’s attention following this 2010 episode of the TV series Breaking Bad, in which chemist Gale Boetticher shows colleague Walter White the office coffee maker he has set up in the spiffy new meth lab provided by their crime boss:
The Boeticcher character has taken advantage of a coffee brewing method invented in Germany in the 1930s. Its main features are a specialized coffee maker featuring two chambers, typically made of glass and joined by a siphon channel with a built-in filter. As the name suggests, the coffee is brewed by creating a vacuum that pushes the liquid back and forth through the siphon.
How does a siphon coffee maker work?
A siphon coffee maker produces a brewed cup using two stacked vessels joined by a siphon chamber. The coffee grounds sit in the upper chamber, while the water for brewing is poured into the vessel below. A heat source below the lower vessel slowly heats the liquid inside.
As the water gets hotter, pressure from water vapor builds in the bottom chamber. When the temperature surpasses the boiling point, the pressure of the water vapor becomes stronger than the atmospheric pressure in the upper vessel. This expansion causes the water to rise through the siphon channel into the upper chamber, where it mixes with the waiting coffee grounds. A small bit of water remains in the bottom vessel, maintaining enough water vapor and pressure in order to keep the coffee brewing in the upper chamber as long as the heat is maintained.
After the coffee has brewed for long enough, the heat is removed. As the lower chamber cools, the water vapor and pressure begins to decrease. Pressure in the upper chamber combined with the force of gravity is now stronger than the force of the water vapor below, and pushes the liquid back down to the lower chamber.
You can read about it in more detail at Coffee Geek, or watch the process in action in this Starbucks video:
A filter within the siphon chamber prevents the coffee grounds from following the liquid to the bottom. Once the upper chamber is removed from the bottom, the coffee can be served directly from the bottom vessel.
The pros and cons of vacuum coffee
A siphon coffee maker brews a delicious cup of coffee. The setup allows for a lot of control over the temperature and coffee-to-water ratio. All the grounds get thoroughly saturated, lending to a consistent extraction.
The non-electric design of a vacuum coffee maker also allows for it to be used almost anywhere. While you might want to be careful packing glass for a weekend off the grid, in theory you could even use this method while camping.
As great as the coffee can be, the process with a siphon coffee maker is more complex than with other brewing methods. Because it is not automated, you need to pay close attention to the temperature from the heat source, and the timing, in order to brew coffee at its best. It requires focus.
A vacuum coffee maker also needs to be disassembled after every use in order to access the coffee and clean the apparatus. If you’re looking for a quick, convenient, and automated process, a vacuum brewer won’t provide it.
What to look for in a siphon coffee maker
If you’re serious about getting into the vacuum brewing method, there are several features to consider before making your purchase.
First, determine your price point. Siphon coffee makers tend to be more expensive than other types of coffee makers due to the materials and design. However, prices vary greatly based on size and aesthetic appeal. Set a budget before shopping so you can narrow down your options.
Stovetop or standalone
You should also decide whether you want a coffee maker that works on a stovetop, or can stand alone. They brew equally good coffee, so it really comes down to the type of heat source you want to use. A stovetop coffee maker can be used on any gas or electric stove surface, while a standalone is heated by a built-in or separate burner. Stovetop makers tends to be less expensive than the standalone models.
Finally, you’ll want to consider how much coffee you need to brew at a given time. The majority of siphon coffee makers come in size options of three to eight cups. Since the brewing process is so involved and precise, you’ll probably want to drink the coffee as fresh as possible to truly appreciate the taste. How much do you expect to drink in one sitting?
Siphon coffee maker reviews
This sleek and classically styled Hario Glass Technica Syphon Coffee Maker is a beautiful option for crafting the perfect coffee. Featuring two stacked heat-resistant borosilicate glass vessels and a stainless steel stand and burner, this standalone coffee maker is both sturdy and sleek in its design. The Hario Technica will not take much space on your counter, but has the capacity to brew five cups of coffee.
- A sleek and compact design to fit most kitchens
- Made of sturdy and heat-safe materials
- Has a capacity that is sufficient for most users
- A higher price point
- Alcohol burner works slowly and inconsistently
- Replacement parts are expensive
- Flame can be difficult to regulate, leaving carbon marks on bottom vessel
Due to the higher price point and the margin for error with the flame on the included burner, this Hario Technica is a great coffee maker for an experienced vacuum brewer. A novice may struggle with the intricacies of balancing the temperature and maintaining the boil. The five-cup capacity makes it the perfect size for a single user who drinks several cups, or for a couple. For best results, the Hario Technica should be used with a gas burner.
This unique siphon brewer is for those who appreciate a good cup of coffee and a work of art. The Belgian retro design of the Diguo Belgian Luxury Royal Family Balance Siphon Coffee Maker features a borosilicate glass carafe and stainless steel vacuum vessel side by side with the burner situated underneath the latter. The siphon pipette connects the two chambers by arching from one to the other, and a fulcrum lifts the vacuum vessel and shuts off the burner once the liquid has moved to the glass carafe.
- Sturdy wooden base and convenient carrying handle
- Variety of plating colors for the set to match kitchen decor
- The burner will turn itself off, which reduces need to watch diligently
- Fun to watch the different features work
- Very expensive
- Glass carafe is fragile and not affixed to the base
- Small two-cup capacity
- The vacuum vessel collects a lot of carbon soot
If you have the money to invest and only drink a cup or two at a time, this is the ideal coffee maker. It is one-of-a-kind, functional, and does not need to be watched as closely as other models due to the auto shut-off feature on the burner. This brewing set offers a sophisticated and artsy style that will be an attractive addition to any kitchen.
This sleek and classic vacuum coffee maker is simple yet functional. One of the most inexpensive options available, the Boeng 5-Cup Coffee Siphon is also sturdy and durable. The two chambers are made of heat-resistant borosilicate glass and the denatured alcohol burner is soot-free, leading to less mess and cleanup. The Boeng holds about five cups, perfect for an avid coffee drinker or sharing with a friend.
- Compact size to fit in any space
- Soot-free burner keeps your glassware carbon free and crystal clear
- Low price point
- Lightweight and easy to move and travel with
- Included burner is not very strong
- Not as durable long-term as more expensive models
Overall, the benefits of this coffee maker outweigh the negatives, especially for the price point. Due to its size, ease of use, and the price, it is the perfect vacuum coffee maker for a novice. The capacity and the quality of the brew make it a good choice for any vacuum coffee lover, especially as a travel option or in a small kitchen.
The stovetop Bodum PEBO Vacuum Coffee Maker features two stacked borosilicate glass containers joined with a plastic handle for safe holding. The completely sealed vacuum process yields between four and eight rich and flavourful cups of coffee, depending on the amount of water and grounds used. The Bodum PEBO can brew your morning coffee in as little as five minutes to have you on your way.
- Moderate price point
- Easy to clean after using and to maintain cleanliness
- Heats quickly and easily on gas or electric stove
- Breakage is possible if heated and cooled too quickly
- Filter does not keep all particles out
- Can be cumbersome to store due to bulky parts
At a moderate price point and with a large capacity, this vacuum coffee maker is a good choice for experienced brewers. It is important to carefully monitor the temperature of the stove in order to ensure the chambers do not heat too quickly, and to be careful with cooling the glass too rapidly. The versatility and quick brewing time of this stovetop vacuum coffee maker make it a top choice for siphon brewing enthusiasts.
This moderately priced vacuum brewer offers a lot of value for the money. With the ability to brew eight cups of coffee on the stovetop using either a gas burner or electric element, the Yama Glass 5 Cup Stovetop Coffee Siphon even comes with a diffuser for use with electric coil burners. The two borosilicate heat-resistant glass chambers will heat evenly without leaving any odours or tastes behind from previous brews.
- Moderate price point
- High volume capacity
- Lid and siphon create a stemmed stand for the chamber when finished
- Durable when heated and monitored properly on the stovetop
- The filter system can be difficult to clean
- The water is sometimes vacuumed to the top before it reaches the necessary temperature
Yama also makes the Vacpot, pictured at the top of this page, but among moderately priced brewing systems we think their eight-cup brewer offers the most bang for the buck. The capacity is unmatched by many other vacuum brewers at this cost, and the durability makes it a worthwhile purchase. Since it is easy to overheat and shatter glass on a stovetop, it is important to follow the directions and brew the coffee over a lower heat setting.
Our recommendation for the top siphon coffee maker
Among the top five vacuum brewers, the Hario Glass Technica Syphon Coffee Maker stands out as the best siphon coffee maker. Although it’s priced on the higher end of the spectrum, the Hario Technica is worth every cent. This vacuum coffee maker is durable, aesthetically pleasing, and works efficiently. The five-cup capacity is the perfect size for nearly all home brewers, and its sleek and compact design fits beautifully in nearly any kitchen. While soot and carbon buildup is a concern with this model, using a higher quality burner could help. As a lightweight standalone coffee maker, you can take this machine anywhere and brew a perfect cup of aromatic and flavorful coffee.