SimplyGoodCoffee: Olson brewer

SimplyGoodCoffee: Olson brewer

The first thing I noticed about the SimplyGoodCoffee Olson brewer is that it looks like a certain more costly coffee maker, The famous Technivorm Moccamaster. There’s nothing new about one coffee maker looking like another. The original Mr. Coffee home machine was a spitting image of the then industry-standard Bunn commercial machines. But looking like another brewer is one thing. Readers to The Coffee Companion know invariably what matters here is a brewer’s performance, not its appearance. To those who might not know what I mean, the word performance means the following.

  • Water temperature which affects the brewing taste and its consistency from beginning to end
  • The contact time between the grounds and water
  • The ability to get all the grounds equally soaked with hot water throughout the brew cycle
  • A successful attempt to initially soak the grounds and then allow them to settle prior to the full brew cycle. This last ability is most critical when using fresh-roasted, fresh-ground coffee.

So, how’s the SimplyGoodCoffee Olson brewer perform this taste list? Here are the parameters:

Water temperature – The SimplyGoodCoffee Olson brewer has a fast-water heat rise time. It performed as well as any high-performance brewer. This is important because, as any of us who are familiar with professional commercial brewers, know that consistent brewing temperature throughout the brewing cycle is vital to the cup’s taste. Underperforming brewers that don’t get the water to within 5 degrees of 200F actually produce sour taste notes; those that brew too high (rare but possible) brew bitterness.

Contact time – The SimplyGoodCoffee Olson brewer takes six minutes to complete brewing a full batch of coffee. This is excellent and meets longstanding industry brewing standards. Lately, it has become common for manufacturers to offer twelve cups as their standard. When they optimize their brewing cycles for this larger batch, those of us who brew eight cups (or less) as their preferred size typically lose a minute or two of water/grounds contact time. This results in under-extraction and a weaker tasting cup of coffee. The SimplyGood Coffee brewer was right on the money with its results. The best I’ve tested in a while. Kudos.

Note the wide coverage of water droplets.

Water Soak Equality – Just look at the above photo! The SimplyGoodCoffee Olson brewer performed about as well as a manual pour-over, my highest praise for automatic drip. Look closely at the water droplets and realize the grounds are receiving nice full coverage. My month-long exclusive use of this machine shows it consistently did its job, spraying the hot water over the grounds, while the brewed coffee exit hole at the filter’s bottom is ideally sized to maintain a slightly elevated water level throughout the brewing cycle. You’ll note in the photo below how the grounds bed looked just after brewing. This “after” shot clearly shows how evenly the grounds have been soaked, a reliable indicator of evenly showered water over the grounds. The SimplyGoodCoffee Olson brewer goes beyond simply outperforming other automatic drip brewers; it matches the best manual pour-over devices that set the original standard!

One of the best-ever tested ground soak tests. Fully matches what I can do with a manual drip coffeemaker, the highest praise.

Pre-infusion – Pre-infusion is the final step that closes the divide between superior manual drip and the industrial age’s attempt to automate it. All fresh coffees create a carbon dioxide foam similar to pouring a can of soda into a glass. The best remedy is to momentarily halt the brewing process immediately after the first hot water fully immerses the grounds. The pre-infusion stage works beautifully with the SimplyGoodCoffee Olson brewer. It pauses just long enough, but not too long, and then lets things proceed. From this point on the grounds remain submerged in hot water for the rest of the brew cycle.

Build Quality – When SimplyGoodCoffee’s designers went with mimicking the Moccamaster, they should have expected the comparison to that brewer’s noteworthy build quality. Even those who nitpick some of the Moccamaster’s quirks of its pioneering designer, the late, beloved Gerard-Clement Smit, everyone agrees about its lasting build superiority. There’s no way I can predict longevity of a brewer; a 30-day test just doesn’t cut it. The best I can say is that such superficial details as its appearance and exterior fit and finish all appear first-rate.

History Lesson – The SimplyGoodCoffee brewer is the brainchild of Laura Sommers, a highly experienced, highly coffee-aware entrepreneur and her experienced design and manufacturing team. Laura’s previous company, Espresso Supply, had the original mission to market a Melitta-badged-as-Bonavita brewer and its following iterations. What these brewers all have in common is an awareness of the mass expansion of specialty coffee and the importance of an affordable highest-performing automatic drip brewer for home use. Rumor has it that noted coffee guru George Howell was among those who helped tweak a high quality Melitta brewer to its state-of-the-art circa early-21st century performance. All of the brewers in this category meet the standards first established by a U.S. trade association based upon observed performance parameters of commercial coffee brewers. The SimplyGoodCoffee Olson brewer is the latest product designed to meet these rigid standards and still be affordable for families and individuals who know good coffee, but don’t necessarily have commercial sized budgets. Laura told me of her vision before the first design was submitted. I will stop far short of predicting super longevity akin to the Moccamaster for the Simply Good Olson Coffee brewer. I can only say I own the first samples of the earliest Melitta brewers upon which Laura cut her entrepreneurial teeth and they perform to specification to this day.

Personal taste test results – I have found a great bean is Big Shoulders’ Colombian House Drip. They are so nonchalant, but it really is a good coffee, one that has gobs of chocolate on both the nose and tongue. I had a last-minute afternoon guest and made us a full pot. I used 62 grams and medium fine grind. I can honestly say it was the best this bean has ever tasted. It just has everything in one place. Another favorite, Alana’s Coffee’s Ethiopian Sidamo Ardi natural process gave a hardcore group of visiting home roasters an exotic thrill or two. This jaded coven seemed almost humbled in the presence of this coffee. It seemed to inspire them to perfection as they seemed more enthused than ever to discuss a home roasting event at next year’s CoffeeCon. These are just two noteworthy brewing sessions with the Olson, but it shows how consistent and easy it is to use and adept at putting its culinary capabilities on display.

Conclusion – The SimplyGoodCoffee Olson brewer has really floored me in its attention and meeting all the important brewing details. Those willing to spend around $150 on a home brewer should consider it in the top tier of the best available choices, and possibly the best choice. More money may buy you more features such as the Behmor Brazen’s adjustable temperature settings, the Ratio Coffee maker’s sexier curb appeal or Moccamaster’s proven-longevity and build quality, but this one very possibly brews the best coffee and won’t empty your pockets. That alone, at this price point is simply awesome. Nice job, folks!

Oren Bloostein: Coffee’s Roasting Superhero

Oren Bloostein: Coffee’s Roasting Superhero

Oren Bloostein is one of the founding specialty coffee roasters. He has spent his career so far in Manhattan. At its peak Oren’s Daily Roast also ran a dozen or more stores throughout America’s biggest city. Like the Superman logo, Oren’s memorable company meme depicts Oren zooming over the city skyline powered by his coffee. More than almost anyone, Oren personifies the original concept of the bean store, that is the specialty coffee store that sells an assortment of single-origin beans and blends, each with its own story, roast and taste. The in-store cup of coffee is almost an afterthought, which is, to me as absolute home coffee enthusiast, as it should be. It also shows Oren’s almost unique passion for his beans. As I’ve come to know him better over the years until I count him as a close friend; the first call I made on 9/11 was to Oren to make sure he and his family were okay.

Kevin What’s Oren’s origin story? What made you decide to become coffee store owner?

Oren I know this will shock some people, but initially I got into coffee by a virtual roll of the dice so to speak. I admit I did lots of research. I’d decided I wanted to go into retail. I knew it. My father was a retailer, at the May Company. But, after working on the training program at Saks Fifth Avenue I realized it wasn’t for me. I couldn’t manage upward. (laughs) That is, I couldn’t self-promote as one had to in a corporate environment to be successful. What I did learn there was that the top quality of any item was the easiest for me to sell. That alone was a valuable asset!  

I researched, researched, researched. I considered everything from shoes to dental supply. While I was doing all this research I began frequenting a local coffee place that was in the building where my wife Nancy and I lived. The guy who owned this place did a pretty good job. I liked the environment. The coffee was, while not probably knockout by my later standards, far and away better than I’d had anywhere else. He didn’t roast, but he was proud of his shop and he showed me an option that seemed to contain all the elements I was searching for in a career. I really liked the concept of finding all these () different coffees from around the world and making them available to people. While people were in the store, I would always be brewing coffee with my beans. The thing that made the concept work was doing my own roasting. That made the coffee unique. And you could smell the aroma down the block.  

Kevin Was in-store roasting still a rarity?

Oren Yes, it was rare. Most coffee stores bought from some larger local or regional roasters who had these old big roasters. They’d get coffee once a week, not daily. That’s part of the reason I chose to name my business Oren’s Daily Roast.

Kevin How come I taste a fuller flavor in beans, than those same beans roasted by other roasters?

Oren We don’t roast too light or too dark. I never have roasted as light as many third wave roasters do. I insist on a full roast.

Kevin In my ongoing quest to make great coffee accessible to my friends who own K-cup machines, is it possible to just grind superfine and use a refillable K-Cup? The Eckobrew one is certainly well made.

Oren Interesting you mention it, I’ve done a lot of testing to see if we could recommend Oren’s in just such a configuration. If you think it’s frustrating for consumers, it’s a huge segment. I know they love coffee. I know they really love Oren’s coffee. How can we provide them with it? The challenge is you need to grind fine for the K-cup’s flash contact time. I mean if you open a standard-issue K-cup, it’s close to espresso grind. Well, in all our tests we found if you grind too fine, it risks machine clogging and winding up with a tiny driblet of coffee. One thing you have learned over the years is I’m brutally honest. I won’t say it works so I can sell something. I remain unconvinced that refillable K-cups provide a good enough alternative at this point. I am however, still willing to try any new one that comes along. I’m certainly not disinterested in this huge market. Meanwhile, for just a small amount of money and minimal instruction, as you’ve done with online brewing tutorials, you can own a Chemex and taste the same cup Nancy (Oren’s wife) and I enjoy every morning, and that you and Pat do when you visit us.

Kevin Yeah, you’re preaching to the converted. But… there are loads of people who will say they need to brew a cup of coffee with automation. Is there an automatic brewer you’d say fills the bill and truly represents all the work you’ve spent tasting and selecting the beans, your roast, and in some cases your blending?

Oren Bonavita currently makes a $99 brewer that just blows away what was available in auto-drip just a short while ago. You may prefer another brewer’s design, a feature such as a timer, or the hand-made longevity of some costlier brewers, but you can definitely make coffee with the Bonavita that shows off all the work that the farmer and I put into it.

Kevin Speaking of farming, how about green. You’ve been one of the credible voices I’ve heard saying that green prices need to come up. As someone who recognizes the risk-taking and hard work of farmers I’m interested in seeing them get more, but it’s against my nature as a consumer to wish prices to rise. How do you want me and others to reconcile? Why should consumers support this?  

Oren One way to look at it is look at the price of coffee today and the price when I first started in 1985. I think the price for coffee Friday closed around $1.22. When I started planning my business in 1985 the price was $1.75. And that 1.22 is not adjusted for inflation. So the farmers are earning much less than they used to earn on coffee. 

And as far as not wanting to pay more, who wants to?  But by continuing to pay these prices we are keeping coffee farmers in an untenable situation. Many will simply stop growing coffee and that will be both devastating and by necessity increase prices as supply declines. 

Kevin I note you offer a number of blends. What is your approach to blending?

Oren Well, to start I take a different approach than most people think of when it comes to blends. Most blending done in the industry is finding a way to combine multiple price coffees an make them taste good. Believe it or not, I actually applaud the ability of these blenders. The guys at the various big brands are really amazing and are the unsung heroes of their companies. My passion is bringing great coffee to people. Single origins are fine. I am a fastidious cupper. If I divided up my time I’d say I devote a good part of my week, the most enjoyable and most important part, is spent cupping green samples.

Kevin So how about your blends?

Oren Where Oren’s differs from the majors is my idea of a blend is three or four terrific single origins. Each is thoroughly enjoyable by itself. However, when they are blended together, there’s a new and unique note that is worthy of its own name and identity. My original Oren’s Blend has two roasts of a Colombian coffee, plus one other coffee. My Canterbury Blend was pre-blended and then roasted. Others are roasted singly and then blended.

Kevin That makes a difference?

Oren It makes a significant difference.

Kevin How do you determine whether to preblend or roast separately?

Oren By taste. That’s the only reason I ever do anything.

Kevin What’s happening of interest in green coffee?

Oren Perhaps Anerobic processing. For the past few years, there’s been some experiments but so far, it hasn’t thrilled me. Over the past decade especially, producers have been seeking new and improved ways to differentiate themselves, moderate their coffee’s flavor profiles, and offer exciting and interesting flavors to roasters and consumers all over the world. Sometimes a little experimentation and ingenuity can go a long way without having to re-invent the wheel, which is why we’re interested in the increasing popularity of anaerobic-environment fermentation. I’m interested if not yet excited with the results.

Coffee production is already being affected by global warming causing more disease and more defects in the coffee.  Obviously this is a worldwide disaster. For specialty it means that top quality coffee is much harder to find under these new conditions. The farmer is caught by this with either lower production or lower quality or both. We need to always keep the farmer in mind and pay him, or her, what the true value of the coffee is, not the commodity price.

Kevin What’s next in your career?

Oren Well two years ago, I’d have a different answer. Covid has changed everything. Whatever anyone thinks about its impact on health, its impact on the coffee business, on all business is inestimable. It may be maddening but I suggest the most practical, survivable and healthy response is to embrace its dynamism and inevitability. There’s no doubt that home is now a much more popular place to brew. Yes, drive-throughs are doing well, but of course I live in one of many cities where this is just not practicable. Overnight, it puts you, Kevin and your Coffee Companion educational role in a new important position, but it also returns me to my role as a purveyor and procurer of beans and then roasting. That’s fine with me. I only want to discover where I’m best placed in the world to do just that and I’m basically a happy fellow.

Coffee Freshness System. Everlasting Beans!

Coffee Freshness System. Everlasting Beans!

I know many are obsessed with single origin varietals. The industry has done a great job of marketing these. How you brew that coffee is also getting to be widely known as important. Our Four-Way Flight class, originated by Marcus Boni at CoffeeCon is one of our most popular. The idea that coffee might taste different when brewed using a different coffee maker is well demonstrated in this presentation. Sometimes it’s dramatic.

The final frontier of coffee is freshness. It’s the biggest current weakness in coffee compared to say craft beer or wine. Beer is shelf stable for months. Wine is for years, although I know some wines age well, while others don’t. But, over a few months no problem. It’s therefore not unusual, and in fact it’s considered desirable for a wine enthusiast to stock multiple wines for food matching or just plain variety.

Just press a button to replace staling oxygen with preserving Co2.

How about coffee enthusiasts? Come on. Admit it. You culinary coffee relationships have been condemned to serial monogamy. You buy one, drink it repeatedly in its youth until it’s gone. Then move on to another. While this practice may seem like a good compromise, it limits your enjoyment. For one thing, your wine and beer buddies get to drink whatever kind of beer pleases them.

So, what can we as coffee enthusiasts do?   Well, you can freeze coffee. “Oh, no!”, you say. Well some of us do this unashamedly, although much of the industry claims it results in everything from freezer burn to less-than-full flavor. “No one freezes oil” say the geeks. I’m not taking a side on this in this article, but let’s for the moment say that no one claims it’s a first choice, nor as good as fresh-roasted unfrozen coffee.

One-way valve bags were the industry’s great hope of the 90s. This invention, which basically lets gas escape, but no air in, was sold as The Answer. What many of us found, or at least I did, was it was better than nothing. The valve offers protection against outside competing scents. Yes, it allows bean de-gassing in an otherwise sealed bag. But, it slow, rather then prevents staling. Consensus seems to indicate it does a good job of prolonging a bag of beans for a few months, maybe as long as six. Best results are claimed if the beans are scrupulously packed in a nitrogen-flushed environment.

With cover removed it’s easy to replace cartridges, available at Target and Wal-Mart.

Good so far, right? However, when you purchased that six-month-old sack and break the seal, consensus is they stale quickly, like one-too-many facelifts on a Hollywood star. That fountain-of-youth pill suddenly wears off. I know people, I think sincere ones, in the coffee industry who swear by one-way valve bags, but those are often the same folks who don’t really believe in the whole “fourteen days from the roaster” dogma anyway. I suppose I do, so we gradually drift apart.

The Coffee Freshness System, or CFS for short, is a mechanical storage system consisting of a method of sealing a canister, which you fill with beans. After locking it tight, you simply place it on a mother unit, which draws all the oxygen from it. Meanwhile, Co2 from a replaceable can. This is the ingenious part as it effectively emulates the same effect as nitrogen. When you open the canister, up to a month or more later, to make coffee, the beans are still fresh, presumably as fresh to taste, smell and brew as when you sealed them. I must admit at first I was dubious, but intrigued.

The is of preserving one coffee is enough. But, suddenly it occurs to me that we have a potential revolution on our hands. As individual canisters are sold separately, it is possible to stock several coffees in your home, creating a coffee wine-cellar (coffee cellar?) so to speak. Imagine inviting a friend to drop over and have them pick their coffee the way a wine collector lets you pick a fine wine to open and share.

I knew I had to try this. I begged them to loan me a sample, which was easy.

Why easy?

Apparently the trade doesn’t see the value of this invention. My thought is, “Are they Crazy?” I can’t understand. I asked several of my roaster friends. None of them seemed very excited by it. It took me a while to analyze this but eventually I realized why. People who work at a coffee roasting plant, or even near a small shop roaster are deluged with fresh coffee. They likely aren’t wanting for fresh beans to take home each evening, so they just grab enough to fill tomorrow morning’s brew basket. I’ve even found doing my FB live video conversations with roasters that many do not even brew before coming to work. Why not just wait and sample some when they arrive each morning?


Enthusiast game-changer. Buy multiple canisters and collect coffees. Finally!

I’m going to tell you after testing for several months I consider the Coffee Freshness System a major breakthrough. I used it one canister several bags of beans, keeping it for a period of weeks each time, which no discernible aroma or scent reduction. It is amazing to have beans for a period past a month or two and break it open and brew it and have it foam up as the water first hits, just as you would with just-roasted coffee.

For a second canister, I grabbed a particularly tasty Kenya Coffee from Big Shoulders in Chicago. These beans were highly rated by the Coffee Review and had a particularly unique flavor footprint. I kept a small amount for nearly four months, then opened the canister and brewed. Again, no difference, at least none I could detect.

The end result. I took three-month old beans from my Coffee Freshness System canister and brewed a Hario V60 batch. Notice the gentle foam, signaling fresh coffee. Oh yeah. It tasted great!

I consider it a coffee enthusiast game changer. I literally did invite friends over and let them choose their bean, as I’ve let them choose which brewing method in the past. I am now considering amassing more canisters. Warning: You are going to want to do this to maximize the social potential of this invention.


The Coffee Freshness System is not cheap at $500. It is well-made. I’ve noticed no bugs with it, impressive especially for what must be an early generation product. Some larger companies with more to spend on R&D and tooling have far more tweaks in their early product issues. Robert Wallach, Coffee Freshness System’s primary inventor and founder, is to be congratulated on his invention. Wallach is a coffee enthusiast who likely created this product for his own use, hence his passion and resolve to make it right the first time. Frankly, coming from a video and audio hobbyist background, this price tag is high but not outrageous. I live in a world where hobbyists spend that much on turntables and styluses for their high-end turntables. Wine connoisseurs pay this much for a single bottle of an historic vintage. My older brother paid this much for his first CD player.

It’s an invention that finally makes it possible to collect coffees. Think about that!

Hario Syphon: Ultimate Brewing for the Enthusiast

Hario syphon in flight. A beauty isn’t she?

I’ve waited forever to do this review. Why? I don’t know. Words fail me when discussing syphons, which used to be called vacuum makers, glass makers or sometimes percolators. You likely think I mean the dreaded pumping percolator, which became shortened to the single word designation, but I don’t. The two used to be distinguished from each other, but as the vacuum version got phased out, the pumping percolator got called a percolator. Since then, it’s been blamed for virtually taking the coffee industry down, but that’s another story… and blog post!

CoffeeCon Syphon class taught by long-time pal Charlie Sarin (thought not pictured). The Syphon is open-ended tech, with different presenters offering their individualized hacks and variations on the theme.

The Hario Syphon is one of two relatively popular and widely available syphon brewers. The other is made by Bodum and deserves its own review. Let’s take the Hario syphon and examine its strengths, and any potential weaknesses. It’s really not hard to understand a syphon. The lower bowl is really a kettle, where the water is heated in order to make coffee. The two bowls are fitted together. Once the water is heated to nearly a boil, hot air in the lower bowl expands, forcing the near-boiling water up through the upper bowl’s tube, through a filter where it starts bubbling as if it’s boiling – it’s not. At this point the barista (at home, you or me) adds finely ground coffee to the upper bowl and stirs it swiftly so it starts the extraction process. After roughly a minute, the siphon is removed from heat and the brewed coffee travels downward, as cooling air in the bowl below creates a vacuum (hence the original name) and drawing the coffee through the filter, where the spent grounds are trapped. When the coffee liquid is all down below, the two bowls are carefully detached (they’re hot!) and the lower bowl simply becomes a serving vessel.

At this point, lots of question should come to mind. For this reason, I’m inserting an FAQ here.

Syphon FAQ

  • Does the syphon boil to make coffee? No, the water never boils. It remains at a near-ideal 200°F for the duration of the brewing contact time. The bubbles that appear are more expanding air being released as gas expands in the lower bowl. If just looks like it’s boiling.

    Flame heat is slower, prone to wind, but otherwise effective. Call me a modernist, but I prefer Infrared bean heater for their consistency, ease of use and glamour effect. You simply pull this out when entertaining watch the jaws drop.

  • Why finer than drip grind? The siphon’s contact time between hot water and grounds is roughly two to three minutes, approximately half that of most drip brewers. You can grind finer, which reduces grounds surface area exposed to the hot water and the overall beverage strength will even out. Note: Automatic syphon brewers may take drip grind. Follow your maker’s recommendation.
  • How did we get so lucky that the temperature in the upper bowl happens to be 200°F? We didn’t. Truth is, the standards that recommend 200°F brewing temperatures were developed by observing a siphon brewer and measuring its temperature. That temperature became the de facto ideal recommended extraction temperature for various brewing methods. Note, the syphon naturally brews at 200F, but if for some reason you want a lower or higher temperature, you’d best choose another method.
  • Competitor’s syphon compared. All syphons are reliable at achieving 200F brewing temperatures. Differences are durability, capacity and ease of use. Hario’s excels at all three.

    Why wait until the water all goes to the top before adding the ground coffee? It’s the most reliable way to time the contact time, which must be done for consistent results. But, you don’t have to. There are several ways to use a siphon. I’m just giving you the one I’ve found works best in my experience.

  • No matter how long I wait, all the water never really rises into the upper bowl. What am I doing wrong? Nothing. All the water will never rise into the bowl. Just understand, it doesn’t have to. All the water never needs to be in contact with the grounds. However, all of the grounds do need to be in contact with the water in the upper bowl.
  • Is stirring necessary? Yes, I think so. I realize so-called automatic syphons don’t require nor recommend it. These designed used a developed force to propel the water up into the upper bowl and agitate the grounds, which were added before pressing the on button. This simplified method seemed to work, but I think the manual glass method used by Hario (and others) works best when the end user waits for the water to be mostly up in the upper bowl, adding the grounds and immediately stirring to make sure all the grounds are enrolled in the extraction process. The second stir is done because, on occasion, the grounds re-clump together during the minute or so after the initial stir. I realize I’m insisting upon being thorough here, but you may as well learn to do it right. It happens to me often enough that I think it’s worth sharing as a step.

How Did We Test the Hario?

Note bubbling, boiling water in lower bowl during upper bowl brewing. This boiling water has no effect on brewing process, nor is it cause for concern that all the water never attends the extraction process. The syphon brewer is an excellent method.

I tested the Hario using it precisely as I described above. However, there are a few options for you to choose. The filter for instance. Hario supplies both a metal permanent filter and a cloth filter. As a long time syphon fan, to me there is no choice. I prefer cloth as the definitive filter of choice with this method. Metal is fine, but it does let some particulate through and into the final cup. While hardly objectionable and certainly never to the point of being described as sludge, I simply prefer the viscosity and taste of coffee filtered by cloth. To me it offers the ultimate coffee mouthfeel. While cloth filters are not permanent, they do last a month or more if carefully rinsed and stored. They take no more care than the metal permanent filter and they are renewable and inexpensive. I misplaced the one that came with the brewer and didn’t have the nerve to request more from Hario. I went online and purchased some from Amazon for around $5 shipped Prime. About a year’s supply for me. I can’t complain.

On the left is a fresh cloth filter, after its first use. Right is a two-week-old filter. Notice discoloration begins immediately and darkens with each use, regardless of scrubbing. Works fine regardless. I suggest not worrying about discoloration which seems to have little effect on cup taste.

Don’t be a Purist. The benefits of pre-heating water

One thing I recommend. Don’t pour cold water directly into the syphon for heating. Boil it in a separate kettle. It saves time and energy. I just used a nearby BonaVita kettle but any one will do. I set it to 203°, my normal drip set temperature and used its gooseneck to carefully pour the near-boiling water into the lower syphon bowl. Then I placed the syphon bowl on a heat source. I guess I qualify as a barista because Hario supplied me with an infrared beam heater. I do not know if these heaters are available to the public, but if they are, I highly suggest one if you are committed to syphon long-term. They are simply so easy to use. They also illuminate the process beautifully. Admit it. Part of the syphon’s allure is its theatrical visual as it does its stuff. The beam heater captures all this in its glory.

Looks like it’s boiling, but it’s not. The upper bowl, where extraction takes place, is typically within a few degrees of 200F. Many consider this ideal contact temperature.

Beam Heaters versus Flame

A check online of beam heaters tells me it’s at this writing a $250 option.  Meanwhile a flame lamp is easy and inexpensive at around $30. Frankly, some baristas tell me they think it’s the ideal way to brew with the syphon. More responsive and direct heat using the flame. If you preheat it, it takes very little time. If you don’t, the beam heater is still too slow.  Visually, the lamp gives very little to the beam heater. Both make great coffee. Your call.

Is the Syphon Hard to Use?

The Syphon is not hard to use. It does take some effort and attention, but it’s not hard. The method is actually very reliable and, assuming you agree with the industry’s standards, the syphon follows them perfectly. As I said, it was the model for those standards.

Here are a few potential cons to syphon brewing.

  • Thorough cleaning. Not dishwasher safe. As far as I know you cannot just pop the Hario syphon parts into our dishwasher. They require hand washing. You need to thoroughly rinse and perhaps use a little mild or unscented detergent to clean a syphon before putting it away after using. It’s not difficult. The Hario syphon is substantial. It is far better made tempered glass than most others I’ve tried over the years. Still, while hot all syphons are more fragile than cold.
  • Syphons get hot. I just finished teaching a syphon class at CoffeeCon NY in Brooklyn. There were two small children in the first row. I wasn’t worried at all, but know that I would always use care when brewing in a home with children. The parts get hot, near-boiling water if traveling up and down in the unit. The beam heater or lamp both get even hotter to do their job. It’s not a unit to ever leave unattended. However, I also made stovetop French fries the other evening when my family was over, and all the same risks remain. Same cautions.
  • A cloth filter takes an extra step. It must be thoroughly rinsed and a drop of detergent may be helpful as well to keep it free from oil buildup. It never looks clean after initial staining, but practical use has shown me this means little and doesn’t in my opinion compromise its effectiveness in the coffee making process.

Grind fineness depends upon contact time. The Hario typically takes a grind finer than drip coupled with a 3 minute contact time.


Do you need a syphon? Of course not. The question is akin to asking, “Do I really need an iPad? There’s virtually nothing you can do on an iPad  you can’t accomplish on a laptop or other mobile device. The point is it’s ideal for some situations and uses. Same with a Syphon. I know of no better, more thorough and reliable extractor of coffee oils than the Syphon. It never needs to be de-limed with citric acid. Its filtration contains little or no plastic that can become smelly with time and use. The syphon is the best method of extracting from all the grounds. No matter how thoroughly you use drip, most drip cone designs contain some “trouble zones” where grounds in those areas are likely to be less extracted. The syphon’s natural bubbling acts as an extraction facilitator, using what Bunn Corporation calls “turbulence” throughout the contact time. The very dry spent grounds observed after the finished coffee beverage has been drawn down below is evidence of the effectiveness of the final separation of brew from grounds of the syphon.

I can’t imagine being a coffee enthusiast without owning a syphon. And, Hario makes one of the best; perhaps the best.



New French Brewer and Interview with its Designer

New French Brewer and Interview with its Designer

Silo Coffee Brewer

New French Brewer

We’re living in a golden age of brewers. If you think they’re all alike, think again. The new Silo drip maker is stunning looking. But looks alone don’t warrant a mention in The Coffee Companion. What sets this one apart is its filter. Another attribute is its double walled carafe. It keeps the coffee warm without a warming plate. I met Romain Gauthrot, designer, at Coffee Fest in Chicago this past June.

Designer Romain Gauthrot

I hope to get a sample to test, but all signs are good from my initial taste. As you may know, I’m not a big fan of permanent metal filters. But, this one seems to really work – that is separate the grounds from the brew. I could detect virtually no sediment in my samples. Apparently, Mr Gauthrot was able to make two separate screens work together to accomplish this.

This is one of those inventions that has much that has happened before. But the sum total of his efforts is so effective that it warrants a second look. People often presume a new drip brewer can’t taste different from ones that have come before. That’s just not correct. Details can make big flavor differences. Mr Gauthrot has promised a sample and I hope to be able to rigorously subject it to my kitchen in the future.

Meanwhile below is an interview I did with him right at his exhibit space at Coffee Fest.

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