Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Siphon Bar - Japanese Design Mastery

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.”

1 comment:

Marcie Greene said...

Hi Gigi!

so many things to comment on.....

1. The chicken-filled omelet thing is interesting - never thought about it but ewwwww - good thing I'm not a chicken eater anymore! and I'm iffy on eggs - when you think about what it really is (baby chicken), it's not so appetizing, is it? and I've never been a fan of veal, which is a whole 'nother story.....

2. The milk thing is another ewwww - what's a girl to do when she's allergic to soy milk and likes her coffee light and sweet? I'll give rice milk a try.

3. Have you read "Skinny Bitch"? it's not a great book, but brings up some interesting points on what milk is really meant for in nature (to help baby animals - including humans - grow, not for dunking Oreo's in). It's a bit of a vegan handbook, and is quite conservative in that respect, but I definitely look at animal products in a different way after seeing it from that point of view.

4. Finally - do you know the protocol from taking pictures, quotes, etc. from other sites - must you always credit? I'm wondering for my own blog, and don't want to offend anyone or get in trouble. I have a few more technical questions as well for the next time we get together.......