Just read an article in the New York Times about the Blue Bottle Cafe in San Francisco acquiring this siphon bar from Japan to make brewed coffee. Check out this slideshow to see the owner, James Freeman, using the machine. What I admire is the patience and skill involved in the process. It also doesn't hurt that the siphon bar is a thing of beauty - even though I thought it looked like lab equipment at first - but perhaps it does require scientific precision to make a truly great cup of coffee.
Some excerpts from the article:
The secret is in how it’s stirred.
A siphon pot has two stacked glass globes, and works a little like a macchinetta, that stove-top gadget wrongly called an espresso maker by generations of graduate students. As water vapor forces water into the upper globe the coffee grounds are stirred by hand with a bamboo paddle. (In Japan, siphon coffee masters carve their own paddles to fit the shape of their palms.)
The goal is to create a deep whirlpool in no more than four turns without touching the glass. Posture is important. So is timing: siphon coffee has a brewing cycle of 45 to 90 seconds.
“The whirlpool, it messes with your mind,” said Mr. Freeman, the owner of the Blue Bottle. “There’s no way to rush it.”
Mr. Freeman said he practiced stirring plain water for months to develop muscle memory before he brewed his first cup of siphon coffee. Even now he starts every day with a five-minute warm-up. The evidence of good technique is in the sediment: the grounds should form a tight dome dotted with small bubbles, the sign of proper extraction.
“It’s kaleidoscopic,” Mr. Freeman said. “It’s forcing you to pay attention to every sip, because the next one is going to be different. I feel like when we serve it we’ll have to ask people to just pour it in their cup and smell it for the first minute or so.”