Syphon coffee

Coffee Syphon

The other week I bought a Hario Coffee Syphon, as much out of curiosity as anything else. It’s a funny looking, vaguely scientific set-up that I think looks pretty cool. It basically works on the principle of creating a vacuum for the coffee to brew. You put some water in the bottom container, which looks a bit like a bulbous, rounded test tube, and the coffee in the top section, an open-ended glass tube. The idea is to put a flame under the bowl and as the water heats up it will be drawn into the top section with the coffee. Give the coffee a stir, adjust the heat, and the coffee will then trickle back into the bowl, where it bubbles and gurgles in the vacuum, as if it’s got indigestion.

It came with a spirit burner, which I found to be unsatisfactory in many ways, but largely because it was hard to adjust the heat with any precision. Online I went again and bought a very little and terribly cute butane fuelled burner. That does the trick nicely. The other challenge is the coffee grind. Like most men I like my coffee strong and with a good depth of flavour. I generally buy a dark roast which I grind fine for the home espresso machine.

Because of the different brewing method the grind for the syphon is recommended to be coarser, though it seems a fine art to get just the right granularity. The coffee I’ve made so far does have a different flavour from the espresso machine – not as sharp, and with a rounder, deeper flavour. Not better, not worse, but a different experience.

It’s quite an operation to make a cuppa, so I haven’t made a lot, but it’s also a bit of fun, and the taste experience is well worth it.


Old age is catching up to me these days. Would love a good nights sleep – early to bed, a bit of a lie-in. Not to be. Unhealthy lifestyles r us at the minute.

Last night went to the footy with Donna. Less said about that the better. Afterwards had a pizza and a milkshake in Bridge road at about 11. Rocked home in time to catch the time trial in the Tour de France. Stayed to the end watching Cadel monster the Schleck brothers and absolutely run away with the event. Very impressive. Sleep then. Then awake. Turned the radio on to hear Amy Winehouse was dead. Surprise that. Texted Cheeseboy the news for out celebrity death watch. I think one of us might have selected her last year. Switched off the radio before the footy report came on. Wanted to sleep. Just lay there H, my body told me, just go with it. Not to be. Collected the paper, made a coffee, combined the two briefly before getting up properly to shower and dress. Raining outside, a lot. Drive down Bridge road in the drizzle. Find a park, meet up with one of the speed daters at New York Tomato for breakfast. Over a quesadilla with refried beans and a poached egg she told me how someone had nicked her knickers from the clothesline overnight, and half a dozen bras. Indeed. We talk, one coffee, another, my fugue slowly clearing though my body aches still. We part, me handing her the change as a contribution to the bra fund. I drive back up Bridge road. I dream of curling up with a good book for the afternoon next to the open fire. The fire doesn’t work so I stop off on the way and spend money on cheap books and lollies. Home then, the dog clamouring for me as if I have returned from exile in the salt mines, as usual, the heater humming, feeling unhealthy, too much pizza, feeling decadent and unfocussed. Okay, okay I think, yes, I’ll read, but I don’t. Instead I get lost gazing into this screen, joining in online conversations I have no real interest in with people I generally consider nuff nuffs. Minutes tick by. Okay then, we’ll do the book, or maybe a DVD, or maybe both for fucks sake, be lazy, go on, be lazy I urge myself, and who needs to be told twice…

The difference between Melbourne and Sydney…

In my conversation with Vinnie yesterday I made comment on his propensity to catch up with friends over a coffee. “How many coffees do you drink a day?” I asked. “Too many” he said, then added: “That’s what you do in Melbourne. In Melbourne you have coffee; in Sydney you have a kebab.”

I though this was funny. Sums up the differences too very neatly, and he should know – he’s from Sydney.

Home of the coffee nerd

A latteImage via Wikipedia

Melbourne has been long been passionate about it's coffee, but in recent times that has been elevated into a science. The place is chock-full of coffee nerds searching out the best macchiato or latte, the best coffee roaster or barista, and then squirreling on about it to like minded nerds. I'm not fond of the nerd appellation, but I'm similarly passionate about my coffee. I source only the best beans, often getting them from specialised roaster by mail order, I grind my own beans to ensure it's just the way I like it. Half of my friends are similarly nerdful.

Melbourne has been one of the leading coffee cities in the world probably since about 1990, when the public consciousness switched from instant coffee and the occasional frothy cappuccino to coincide with the emergence of a multitude of cafes throughout the laneways and arcades of the CBD, and through the inner city suburbs. At the same time coffee making came to be seen as an art – hence the barista, a groovy job looked on with respect and envy by many, and as something similar to being a good sommelier in status.

In recent years this has gone through the roof. There is probably some aspect of navel gazing in the universal reverence for coffee in this city, and the self congratulation that goes along with that. There are plenty of coffee snobs in Melbourne, and the success of a cafe will depend entirely on the quality of the coffee they put out – there is nothing more important, certainly not in the CBD where workers vote with their feet. And when Starbucks dared to open here Melbourne looked down its collective nose at them – and Starbucks failed (it's not just that the coffee lacked individuality, or that it was an American chain store – I would contend Starbucks took coffee too lightly for Melburnians taste. In a city where coffee is put out by craftsmen working in boutique cafes the mass produced department store approach is never going to work. As I said, Melburnians are great coffee snobs, but they are also purists, and know just what they want). Coffee drinking and making in the city is a serious business, and is without doubt a pretty central part of our local culture.

It has now got to the point that it also a very big business, with industries and sub-cultures all consequent of that. There are now professional coffee tasters much as there are wine tasters. The technology roasting, grinding and creating your cup of coffee has become incredibly innovative. (St Ali in South Melbourne and its sister operation, Outpost, in South Yarra, are good examples of fine coffee being taken to the nth degree). It's hard to think of another city in the world that takes its coffee as seriously as what Melbourne does, and there is good reason to think that Australia is the coffee capital in the world.

All this is good I guess for someone living here and with a passion for coffee – and yet I feel a slight misgiving at how far cafe society has progressed in the last 20 years. Is it too much? It's hard to make that claim when the quest for a good coffee counts so high. And yet I wonder if we have made too much of it. In a way it's the old difference between the amateur and the professional, one does it for love, and may fumble doing it, the other for profit – though doubtless there is still much passion. In considering this I feel a little like the man who has been sweetly flirting with a pretty girl on the tram, only to discover she's a burlesque dancer in her spare time. There's a certain piquancy, but also a subtle loss of innocence…

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]