Brewing Siphon Coffee [History & Guide]

Of all the methods for making coffee, there is one that is historically one of the most fascinating and visually satisfying of them all. Yet the invention itself has another plot twist that is also worthy of telling to clarify how the siphon coffee machine came about. Let’s find out more…

Made In Germany And Gleaned By Others…

The original design of the siphon coffee maker was in fact designed by a German inventor only known as S. Loeff and was patented in 1830. Unfortunately, the design proved to be unpopular and had been forgotten for the next decade. It was among the first that used a vacuum to brew coffee

siphon coffee maker evolution
Siphon Coffee Maker Evolution

James R. Napier created the Naperian coffee machine in 1840, but sadly it was not patented as well. Rather, it was forgotten with many of Napier’s inventions including many steam-powered innovations that couldn’t be envisioned properly. His inventions even included a hot-air engine (1853-1857) and partnered with Professor William John Macquorn Rankine which could have replaced steam-powered engines with greater output power.

Napier was also one of the first to help develop the Iron-clad Gunship known as the Erebus in the 1850s. Aside from this, the often stolen credit often goes to Marie Fanny Amelne Massot. The reality of the matter may sound murky, yet history proves that one good idea is another person’s prosperity. It seems that Marie Massot had seen the 1830s German patent from Loeff listed in a French reprint of the patent in 1838.

It was ironically an exact duplicate of Louis Francois Boulanger’s copy of Loeff’s siphon coffee machine patent which Louis patented in France in 1835! Well, as the story goes, the siphon coffee machine underwent another design upgrade and modification with Massot’s version further adorned with a decorative metal crown and balloon-shaped glass vessels. It was patented under Marie’s rather impressive-sounding stage name Madame Vassieux.

This patent that was filed in 1841 in Lyons, France was the invention that got the ball rolling for all siphon coffee makers of this age. Since Marie Massot was a known socialite and courtesan with several French Nobles of that era. Her invention was meant to impress her guests by taking an otherwise little-known invention and exploiting it to gain Noble favors. Little did she know that her invention was stolen right under her feet by another in 1842!

It seems that Jean Baptiste Augusta Fortant, a tinsmith by trade had further invented a method for auto-extinction of the oil lamp under the siphon vessel, and had yet improved on Massot’s stolen design. In fact, it was nearly identical to the Massot version except it has no crown or pouring tap. It seems that this design was further lifted by another Frenchman by the name of Jean Baptiste Augusta Soleil the very same year.

But this is where the story comes right back around to German design… Since Soleil happened to mention that he wanted to popularize a version of the siphon coffee maker that was invented by a German physicist by the name of Johann Gottlieb Christian Nörrenberg, who just so happened to come to France to study in 1929. Not to get the story too diluted, there is a very strange twist that revolves around this.

Before coming to France, he was a teacher of physics and chemistry at the Darmstadt military school in Germany. The very same school where Nörrenberg taught his lessons on his ideas of a vacuum coffee machine! He actually published his findings in 1927 entitled: “Description of a coffee machine”, which included his findings on how the vacuum siphon coffee machine works.

This likely would have influenced a young student only known as S. Loeff to invent his so-called version of the siphon in Germany back in 1830. Ultimately, the unique history of the siphon coffee maker seems to have been lifted from Johann Gottlieb Christian Nörrenberg all along. Besides this, the story itself has become synonymous with being called the ‘Cirque du Soleil’ in many siphon coffee circles for obvious and dubious reasons.

Is The Siphon Coffee Maker Getting a Second Wind?

man making coffee by siphon

The fact is that the siphon brewing method never went away without mentioning the trope of “Bob’s Big Boy” somewhere in there. gif humorSiphon brewing has become a very popular variant of coffee brewing methods since it’s still very entertaining to watch. But the flavor of how siphon coffee can taste is the real reason why it’s gaining momentum. It’s the combination of subtle flavors that reveal notes that might otherwise never be tasted in your coffee.

The newest designs bring back the visual attractiveness of the old-fashioned designs of the late 1840s, yet now include modern heating elements. The newest retro models offer infra-lamp heaters to boil the water, while others still include gas lamps. Yet this impressive design still sticks to the primary function it serves to make siphon coffee. You might be interested in how it works instead of getting a long-winded history of how it was reworked?

How Does Siphon Coffee Work?

siphon coffee making process

The science behind a siphon coffee maker is a lot like the Moka pot in many ways except for one big detail. The lower vessel which forces the water into the upper chamber begins to cool and causes a vacuum. This pulls the brewed coffee into the lower chamber and is filtered back down in the process. This is achieved with a process that is caused by equalization through expansion and contraction. Check out how this works below:

Brewing Siphon Coffee

 

siphon brewing vessel with boiling water and coffee filter

1. Insert your brewing vessel into the lower boiling pot

You first fill the lower chamber with clean filtered water and place the burner at the bottom of this chamber. As the water underneath is heating up, you will lay the upper section at…

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an angle before sealing it to help create the vacuum. When the water starts bubbling you can seal both chambers that start your brewing process. The upper chamber will have a couple things that you also want to pay attention to.

One is the filter that sits at the bottom of the upper vessel. The second is a little pull chain that is inserted into the lower pot. This chain helps to create bubbles, which causes pressure inside the lower chamber, forcing the water into the upper chamber faster. The filter needs to be clean and if it needs replacing, then a new one should be added beforehand.

 

adding coffee powder in siphon

2. Add your coffee

As soon as the upper chamber fills with water, you want to lower the temperature of your burner. Not much but just enough to keep the temperature constant in the..

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upper chamber. If you have a thermometer this will allow you to keep this at a constant 195 to 200F degrees Fahrenheit. Now you add your pre-ground coffee into the upper chamber and let this saturate a little bit. At this point, the timer should be set for a total of 45 seconds.

Give your coffee grounds a second stir after 20 seconds so you can release the gas produced from the coffee blooming. After the 45 seconds is finished turn off the coffee burner and remove this as a heat source. This begins a reverse vacuum where you’ll see the coffee being drawn back down into this chamber. It will continue until the coffee in this chamber starts to bubble up along the top. This means you need to remove the upper vessel.

 

siphon brewed coffee in cup

3. Drink your coffee

At this point, you can start pouring your brewed coffee into a cup and drinking it right away. It’s better to drink this coffee when it’s still nice and hot to preserve the flavor that’s..

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been brewed. You can clean and rinsed out and clean the upper chamber when it gets cool, repeating the same with the lower chamber when it’s empty. You can also see this process with pictures to get a better idea of how it works. Enjoy!