Gear Review: KitchenAid Siphon Coffee Brewer

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Among my home baker friends, there is no kitchen appliance more coveted than a KitchenAid Mixer. With ten speeds and planetary rotation, a KitchenAid Mixer has features normally only found on industrial mixers.  Throw in a copy of Tartine Bread and a good starter and you’ve got a decent loaf going.

When we learned that KitchenAid was launching a new line of coffee makers, we were intrigued. Normally, we’re skeptical when big appliance companies try to break into the specialty coffee market, but given KitchenAids’s stellar reputation, we had high hopes when KitchenAid offered to send us their Siphon Coffee Brewer to review.

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The siphon brewer, also known as a vacuum pot, is perhaps the most fetishized brew method. It actually predates more familiar brew methods to Western audience, including the now ubiquitous coffee pot.

The siphon brewer utilizes a two chamber pot with a filter places in between. Water is placed in the lower chamber and coffee in the top. As the water is heated, vapor pressure builds, creating a vacuum that forces the water into the top chamber. The coffee then steeps in the water until the user cuts the heat, causing the liquid solution to return to the lower chamber. The coffee grounds are strained by the filter. This full immersion method is prized by some coffee connoisseurs for the heavier mouthfeel of the final cup, but the labor-intensive nature of the device (not to mention the messy clean up), have relegated the siphon brewer to the world of specialists and hobbyist.

KitchenAid Siphon Coffee Brewer

KitchenAid, however, aims to change that. The KitchenAid Siphon Coffee Brewer is electric and automated. Compared to the butane burners and halogen bulbs that power most vacuum pots, KitchenAid’s siphon is shockingly simple. In fact, it’s no more complicated to use than a conventional coffee maker (though the cleaning is certainly more involved).

We used the KitchenAid Siphon Coffee Brewer to make a variety of different coffees with varying batch sizes. We used both KitchenAid’s recommended parameters and experimented with our own.

Pros

The KitchenAid Siphon Coffee Brewer is very well designed. Attaching and detaching two chambers of a conventional siphon can be a cumbersome affair, but KitchenAid has simplified the process with magnets and a ergonomic plastic handle. The use of stainless steel for the connecting tube was also a nice touch. Siphon brewers are famously fragile, but the KitchenAid is built to take some abuse.

The bottom carafe is smartly designed, with clearly demarcated lines for measuring the proper amount of water for different batch sizes. The manual includes recommended water-to-coffee ratios, which we found to be a bit on the low side for light roasted coffee.

The stock mesh filter makes a surprisingly clean cup that features the rich, oily mouthfeel of a French press without any of the grit. One can also use the included cloth filter for an even cleaner cup.

KitchenAid Siphon Coffee Brewer

Cons

The biggest problem we found with the KitchenAid Siphon Coffee Brewer is that it actually boils the coffee. Specialty coffee, especially light roasted coffee, needs very hot water, but boiling water will extract bitter flavors that are better left in the grounds. Most butane or halogen-heated siphons hold the brew temperature at a steady near-boiling, but the KitchenAid pushes the temperature past 100 celsius. The designers seemed to compensate for the boiling temperatures by using a very short steeping time. Most of our brews clocked-in at under two minutes, which is much faster than the typical 4-5 minutes recommended for full immersion methods.

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An additional problem with the heat source is that the bottom carafe is still sizzling hot when the brewed coffee drains down. Applying heat to brewed coffee breaks down the lively, bright acids we love into the harsh, acrid acids that destroy taste buds and stomach linings alike. As such, we would recommend decanting the brewed coffee as quickly as possible.

In spite of playing opposite extremes off of each other, the KitchenAid Siphon Coffee Brewer makes a surprisingly good cup of coffee. Most of the cups we brewed had a drying finish we would blame on the high temperatures. A longer steep time would have brought out more sweetness from the coffee as well. Nonetheless, each brew was not only drinkable, but enjoyable, with a full body and a coating mouthfeel.

Conclusion

The KitchenAid Siphon Coffee Brewer takes the specialist niche of siphon coffee brewing and makes it accessible for a wider audience. Thanks to its ergonomic design, we found it very easy to use and consistent in making a surprisingly good cup of coffee. Its ability to make very large batches of coffee makes it ideally suited for serving large groups of people. The lack of customization and temperature control, however, are notable short comings that might frustrate some users. Although we think this device will happily meet the needs of many users, if KitchenAid mimicked the temperature control of devices such as the Bonavita Variable Temperature Kettle we would expect an even better product.

 

7 thoughts on “Gear Review: KitchenAid Siphon Coffee Brewer

  1. It actually doesn’t boil the coffee from everything I’ve read. I own one and use it daily, as well.

    The “bubbling” in the top is the steam rising up from the bottom and causing the appearance of boiling water in the top section.

    It makes a great cup of coffee and I appreciate that there is virtually no plastic that is heated in making the coffee. It’s all glass except for the non-mesh part of the filter.

    1. I’m glad you made that statement about the boiling at the top. A little understanding of the physics involved would be enlightening. The heating in the bottom creates pressure that pushes the water to the top. After the unit shuts down and the bottom cools, the decreased heat has less energy that decreases the pressure and creates a vacuum, thus pulling water from the top back into the bottom chamber. I can’t speak however to the excess heat remains in the bottom pot though.

    2. I agree with those who say the coffee does NOT boil in the top chamber, the cooler the water is in the bottom chamber when you start the lower the brewing temperature will be on average. There is a very short period ( a few seconds at best) when the coffee comes down the large stainless steel tube and hits the hot bottom of the carafe, but it is really exceedingly short in length and the boil is only a few seconds and only boils a small portion of the pot. the appearance that the coffee is boiling is the remaining water being turned into steam that agitates, mixes and heats the coffee/water mixture to brewing temp. I have tested the temp. with a fast-acting recording thermocouple and it never hits 100 deg C. The hotter the temperature the water is when you start the brewing cycle the hotter the brewing temp. will be. The instructions also call for a coarse grind on the coffee which cuts down on the over-extraction that hap[pens with cone filter machine that require a fine grind. You can run finely ground espresso roast coffee starting with hot tap water or let the water heat before sealing the magnetically sealed top half to the bottom. You can even stir the grounds a bit when the bubbling calms down to mix them more thoroughly for a stronger brew. If you do this it is possible to get a brew that is very close in strength and taste to espresso made in a pressurized machine. Just use extra finely ground coffee with less water, the natural suction will automatically extract all the liquid coffee from the grounds and even give a nice foam top to the pot. Try no shoot for no more than 4 cups total finished product. The last thing that Kitchen Aid does not advertise, but I think should, is that it makes an excellent as well as a quite fast electric tea kettle. Providing 8 6 oz. cups of rolling boiling water in no time, or so it seems. There are improvements that I am sure could be made as there is to any coffee maker, but my challenge to you is to either buy one or borrow one and practice with it and see just how good a cup of coffee this machine can make as well as how versatile it really is. The key to cleaning it is to rinse the top with warm to hot water as soon as you remove it from the bottom and replace the cap on the carafe. One that is done and it is fairly clean take out the filter and rinse it and the top a bit more and place it on the stand and then go back and finish it with a quick scrub after you have enjoyed one of the best-tasting cups of coffee available.

  2. I am not sure you understand how siphon coffee makers work. You have the process described incorrectly. The vacuum is used to draw the coffee from the top container. The bubbling is not boiling, but rather steam; this bubbling actually helps mix the water and the coffee for a fuller flavor.

  3. As others have said, the bubling in the upper chamber is not boiling but it is due to the steam rising from the lower chamber which actually helps to infuse all the grounds. Once the water is in the upper chamber it can not boil since it is not in contact with the heating plate, same as what happens when you remove a pot of boiling water from the flame.

    I will be buying it even though my Bonavita makes great coffee.

  4. As a long-time French press coffee drinker, this is the only process that I feel makes better coffee. Cleanup is about the same as French press, with a few pieces to “swish” rinse. And a filter piece to clear of coffee grounds. I kind of wish there was a gold-like micro filter instead of the cloth variety in the current model.

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