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If you love rich, smooth coffee, and have a liking for fancy stuff, a siphon coffee maker is perfect for you. Straight out of a vintage movie, these coffee makers look really expensive (while not actually being so), and make really good coffee.
Bland, watered down coffee that tastes like plastic? No more. Time to get used to flavorful coffee that has little to even no bitterness.
In this article, we discuss what vintage siphon coffee makers really are, how to shop for one, and our top picks of the best siphon coffee makers on the market right now.
If you’re looking for the best overall siphon coffee maker, we recommend the Hario Glass NEXT, as it offers the best balance between affordability and quality.
For an even more premium choice, the Diguo Belgian Balancing Coffee Maker is a great choice. Plated in gold with a unique look, it’s bound to be the conversation piece – apart from making exceptional coffee.
Table of Contents
What Are Siphon Coffee Makers, And How Do They Work?
Yes, it looks like something out of your high school or college science lab, but it’s actually not difficult to understand how they work. As a hint, they’re also called vacuum coffee makers, and it’s not for no reason.
Siphon coffee makers are actually just another category of coffee makers that makes coffee in a different way than, say, a regular drip coffee brewer would. While a drip coffee brewer passes water through ground coffee in a one-way process, in siphon models, it’s more of a two-way process.
A siphon coffee maker has two parts, an upper glass bowl and a lower one, connected by a tube. First, what happens is that through boiling, water gets transferred from the lower bowl to the upper one, where ground coffee is put in.
Then, when all the water has been transferred, the heat source is taken away. Due to the falling pressure and vacuum state of the lower bowl, water in turn gets sucked into the lower bowl through the tube again – the second part of the process. A filter is placed on the bottom of the top bowl, which filters out ground coffee.
Because of full immersion of ground coffee in water, what you get in the end is rich aromatic coffee, waiting to be served in the bottom chamber.
To learn about how exactly to use these coffee makers, we’ve laid down the steps to operate them further down in the article.
Buyer’s Guide: What to Look For in Siphon Coffee Makers
A siphon coffee maker is definitely not a frequent purchase, and it’s not even close to something you see very often. This makes it a little difficult when shopping for one when you’re unsure of what to look out for.
No need to worry. Here are a few things you should take note of when shopping for a new siphon coffee maker.
Most siphon coffee makers are able to make 4 to 5 cups of coffee at once. While pretty limited in this regard, you might be able to find ones that go up to, say, 7 or 8 cups of coffee at a time.
For the best durability, look for models with full stainless steel construction. If you’re able to find high-grade 304 stainless steel, that’s even better. These models are able to take a beating.
The material of the glass chambers are very important too. The best you could probably find is what’s known as heat-resistant, BPA-free borosilicate glass. These withstand the test of high heat and clumsiness, and are proved to be as toxic-free as glass can be.
Generally, there are two types of siphon coffee makers out there, a vertical one, or a balancing one, or sometimes referred to as the Belgian siphon coffee maker – or simply the Belgian coffee maker.
Most who are new to the world of siphon coffee makers would opt for the more common models that are composed of two glass chambers held together by a tube, and that’s a good choice. They’re usually easier to use and clean, and are more affordable too.
However if you’re already familiar with siphon coffee makers, the balancing models are definitely capable of producing higher quality coffee.
Our Picks of Best Siphon Coffee Makers
Traditionally, a siphon coffee maker is a unit on its own, with its own heat source underneath the glass bowls. Most of the options on our list are therefore these kinds of units, but if you’re looking for a more compact, stovetop option, our last recommendation has got you covered!
This Japan-imported siphon coffee maker by Hario has our wholehearted recommendation. In Japanese, Hario means ‘the king of glass’. Appropriately named, as both the top and bottom glass bowls are made from heat resistant borosilicate glass, which is bound to be able to stand some careless handling.
The overall construction of the unit is solid as well, being made from stainless steel. The silicone handle that the coffee maker comes with is ergonomic and nice to hold, and stays cool when in use. It includes a plastic measuring cup and stirrer so you don’t have to get one yourself. The tapered design of the glass bowls also make them easier to clean.
If you’re new to the world of siphon coffee making, or even coming from other models, this one offers a really pleasant experience to use. Coffee tastes less bitter with this, and more flavor is brought out, leaving a slight savoury hint. The unit comes with two filters, a cloth and a metal one. From our experience, the cloth one works much better, filtering out ground coffee more effectively.
The Hario siphon coffee maker includes an alcohol burner, but whenever possible we suggest getting a gas or butane burner instead. This is actually consistent with the advice coming from Hario themselves. This is to cut down boiling time to almost half, and to avoid leaving black soot on the lower glass bowl.
- Made from heat resistant borosilicate glass
- Stainless steel construction, with silicone handle
- Includes a plastic measuring cup and stirrer
- Tapered design easier to clean
- Comes with cloth- and metal-based filters
- Includes an alcohol burner
- Included burner takes a long time to heat up
If the Hario is just a little over your budget, this Kendal nicely fills in the spot of being a quality siphon coffee maker, while being a little more affordable.
Specifications-wise, the two are very similar. Both glass bowls are made from heat resistant borosilicate glass, the very same ones from Hario. But from what we have experienced, these feel a little more delicate. A few reviewers have also mentioned how they cracked after bumping into things, so these might not be the best for a careless person.
The frame construction is made from stainless steel. With your purchase of this model, you’re getting a few things in the package as well. An alcohol burner, a cloth filter, a plastic spoon, and a bamboo stirrer – very similar to what Hario offers as well. It doesn’t include a metal filter, but a cloth filter is probably the better way to go in the first place anyway (or if you’d like some improvements, go for paper filters).
Other than that, you can expect high quality siphon coffee from this model. Less bitter, smoother, richer coffee – just as you would expect from a quality siphon coffee maker.
- Glass bowls made from heat resistant borosilicate glass
- Stainless steel stand construction
- Includes an alcohol burner
- Comes with a cloth filter
- Includes a plastic spoon and a bamboo stirrer
- Glass bowls don’t seem to be as solid as the ones from Hario
For an affordable entry into the world of siphon coffee makers, this model from Homend is an absolute steal. It comes in at about half the price of our top picks, yet manages to offer a really great experience.
Well, of course, it’s not on the same level as the Hario or the Kendal. Notably, the glass bowls are made from regular glass, and not high-quality borosilicate glass. While this isn’t a big problem, the thermal expansion properties aren’t as good. In simpler terms, it is less heat resistant and more prone to cracking at high temperatures.
Other than that, many parts of the frame, or the stand, are also made from polypropylene plastic, instead of stainless steel. What this gives is an overall, much less premium build of the whole coffee maker. Don’t get me wrong – if you’re careful enough, and don’t mind the lesser build quality, it’s very usable.
In terms of what’s included with the purchase, it’s pretty standard as with the other models. What comes with the unit is an alcohol burner, a wood stirrer, a plastic spoon, and finally a cloth filter.
- Bowls made from heat resistant glass, with polypropylene plastic in other parts
- Includes an alcohol burner
- Comes with a wood stirrer, plastic spoon, and a cloth filter
- Plastic construction not as robust as stainless steel
- Glass bowls feel more brittle than desired
- Lacking of reviews online leading to uncertainty of its longevity
Looking for something even more sophisticated than just regular siphon coffee makers? This balancing siphon coffee maker from Diguo is sure to tickle your fancy.
Personally, I really like the looks of balancing coffee makers. Even without touching on its coffee-making capabilities, the appearance alone makes a great conversation item. Place it in the center of your kitchen countertop, or maybe your bar counter, and it instantly brings a different atmosphere to the space.
In terms of coffee-making, this piece excels. You can expect ultra premium coffee from this – pure flavor, aromatic, smooth, with little to no bitterness. The coffee that comes out of this is a new level of strength and richness, which beats out any espresso maker or drip coffee maker easily. Not to mention the theatrical effect of brewing with it!
The construction and included accessories are also high quality. The entire unit was made with premium materials, including gold plating and black wood. The flasks and pipette are made in 304 high-grade stainless steel, with the brewing flask being made from heat resistant borosilicate glass. It also includes a coffee scoop and a water measuring cup.
If you’re already liking the sound and looks of it, trust me – it’ll only get better when you have it in hand, watching it brew coffee like a science experiment.
- Premium coffee brewing – pure flavor, aromatic, with no bitterness
- Includes a high-quality cloth filter
- Plated in gold and made with premium materials e.g. black wood
- 304 stainless steel vacuum flask, siphon pipette and filter head
- Heat-resistant, BPA-free borosilicate glass brewing flask
- Comes with a coffee scoop and water measuring cup
- Pricey option
- Coffee flask collects soot, possibly due to the burner being too close
An alternative, equally-stunning yet more affordable option to the Diguo coffee maker is this other balancing one by Nispira. It can be bought at a lower price, but offers an equally satisfactory experience. The reason we put it as the runner-up, is because we simply liked the appearance of the Diguo model better!
Construction-wise, this Nispira unit takes a slightly different approach to the Diguo. Instead of gold, this is coated with copper. The wooden base is also brownish instead of dark wood. It’s equally as high quality though, so this all comes down to personal preference at the end of the day.
As with the standard, Nispira includes a cloth filter, a measuring spoon and a measuring cup with the purchase. The brewing glass is also heat-resistant, however there isn’t any mention of it being borosilicate or BPA-free, so we’re not sure if that’s the case. It feels solid in the hand though.
Compared to the Diguo, we found this to be slightly more difficult to clean, due to its design. The angles are a little sharper, which makes reaching into tight spots a tad harder. That being said, this is pretty much the only disadvantage we’ve come across, so it’s a solid recommendation all-around.
- Copper-coated with a brown wooden base
- Water retainer and plug made from stainless steel
- Includes a cloth filter, measuring spoon and cup
- Brewing glass is heat-resistant
- Slightly difficult to clean due to design
If you’re short on countertop space, or would simply like to utilize the heating power of your existing burners, this stovetop siphon coffee maker from Yama Glass is a good alternative to the other tabletop models we have reviewed.
One of the biggest advantages that this model offers is its large size. At 32oz, it is enough to make around 8 cups of coffee, beating out all its tabletop competitors. It works with your existing stovetops – in fact, can only be used on stovetops – and includes a wire diffuser to be used on electric coil burners.
Another thing we liked about this model is that replacement parts are available for purchase. You don’t see many manufacturers providing this level of after-sales service, especially within the market of siphon coffee makers.
That being said, it does have its own caveats. The most important one is that it is flat-bottomed, for it to work on stovetops. For some reason, this produces coffee that is not as rich and smooth as the countertop models. The glass flasks, while heat-resistant, also break quite easily. Great care should be taken while handling and washing them especially.
It’s great that the Yama siphon coffee maker allows you to use it with your existing stove top burners. However if you’re serious about siphon coffee, we highly recommend that you go for a countertop model whenever possible!
- Large-sized at 32oz, makes around 8 cups of coffee
- Works with your existing rangetops
- Includes a wire diffuser for use on electric coil burners
- Heat resistant borosilicate glass
- Comes with cloth filters
- Replacement parts available for purchase
- Flat-bottomed glass produces less smooth coffee
- Glass breaks quite easily
- Stem doesn’t touch the bottom of the glass which leaves a small amount of water behind
How to Pick for Your Use Case?
There you have it, our best siphon coffee brewer options. If you’re still confused after reading our reviews though, here’s how you should choose the right one for yourself.
Both of these models can be bought at a reasonable price. This allows you to get a taste of what actual siphon coffee-making is, before jumping into the more expensive, balancing models. Spoiler alert – siphon coffee making isn’t for everyone! For some, it is just too much of a hassle to set up and manage everyday.
If you’re experienced though and would like to get the best of the best, the Diguo Belgian Balance Coffee Maker or the other one by Nispira are our top picks. Offering about the same level of quality, picking between one mainly comes down to personal preference of their appearances.
Do note though that these often give the greatest results if you’re willing to shell out for a separate gas/butane burner, which increases the cost. If you want to avoid that, the Yama Glass Stovetop model is worth looking into, although we think many would much prefer the experience of a tabletop model instead.
Also, unless absolutely constrained by budget, we would suggest skipping the Homend Siphon Coffee Maker. While offering a lot of value at its price, it is undoubtedly not as well-built as the other ones.
How to Use A Siphon Coffee Maker
Siphon coffee makers sure look fancy. Almost as if it’s something out of a science experiment or a 20th century wealthy household pantry, it can be confusing to operate at first. Although it requires more work than your regular drip coffee makers, once you get the hang of it though, it’s not difficult at all.
First, boil some water, and while waiting, grind your coffee beans. Then, assemble your coffee siphon – with the upper glass tilted and not fully closing the bottom part – and pour the boiled water into the bottom glass bowl. Next, light up the burner and wait for the water to fully boil.
When you start seeing bubbles form, signaling that the water has fully boiled, place the upper glass straight, covering the opening completely. Then, pour your ground coffee into the upper glass bowl. At this point, water should rise from the tube into the upper part, which you should then stir and leave to steep. Wait for about a minute and a half, remove the burner, and let the coffee drain down into the lower glass bowl.
At this point, remove the upper glass and place it on its convertible lid which acts as a stand (not all models include this), or transfer it into a serving carafe, and enjoy the smoothest coffee you’ve ever tasted!
If you want a video overview of the process, here’s a good one we’ve found:
Rich, flavorful coffee that is smooth and barely bitter, who doesn’t want that? Seeing that siphon coffee makers provide all these benefits, without being expensive at all, they’re the perfect investment for a coffee lover.
That being said, it’s not for everyone. While offering premium coffee, what you pay though is your time. While classic drip coffee brewers allow you to set-and-forget, siphon coffee makers require you to be present throughout the process.
But if you ask me, I don’t mind at all. It’s a really fun process to watch, and just never gets old!
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