The syphon (or vacuum coffee maker) is one of those brew methods that truly embodies coffee geekdom. Everything about it feels more like a science experiment than a morning coffee routine and it always creates quite a performance at the coffee shops who use them. The invention of the syphon coffee maker dates back to the early 1800′s, which makes it one of the oldest ways to brew coffee. While it’s taken many forms over the years, the modern syphon design hasn’t changed much—until now.
Hario, one of the more prominent manufactures of syphon brewers, has just released an elegant and curvaceous new model called the Hario Sommelier. I saw what looked like a prototype of this in Portland last year which piqued my curiosity, so Hario sent me one of the new production models to try out. If you happen to be in Nice this week for the World of Coffee event, they will most likely have them at their booth.
The new SCA-5 has left behind the glass globe from former syphon models and embraced a look that’s more familiar to wine aficionados. The new syphon bowls are handmade in order to achieve its extreme shape, but also contributes to its heftier price ($260). As the name implies, this syphon is meant to enhance the aromatic experience of the coffee, while also catching the attention of fine dining establishments.
One of the primary differences with this syphon, aside from the shape, is its separation from the stand. This allows the coffee decanter to sit on its own, which changes the experience of pouring and presentation. The neck is also covered by a thick, finned silicone collar that can be easily removed for washing.
Functionally, the Sommelier syphon works just like other vac pots, but Hario seems to have designed it to work primarily with their new metal filter. The filter is laser cut and works quite well, leaving behind sediment that’s comparable to the latest Kone filter.
The stainless steel and silicone filter is easy to clean and looks like it will survive a significant amount of re-use, however, the clarity of cloth filters is what I love most about the syphon. The Sommelier comes with both a cloth and metal filter, so you can decide yourself what works best for the occasion.
There are two things I had issues with while using the new design that I’d like to point out. First, the extreme bell curve at the bottom of the decanter is meant to trap sediment when pouring coffee, which is great when you’re using the metal filter, but frustrating when you’re using cloth and want all the coffee to pour out easily.
The decanter needs to be tipped at a fairly extreme angle to get everything into your cup. The lip on the decanter itself is also fairly wide, so the control of the pour isn’t as precise as the woodneck or V60 decanters, but I assume this is a result of it being handmade.
Hario may have gained inspiration for the Sommelier (name and shape) from fine wine, but now they’re using their expertise to help elevate the coffee experience in fine restaurants as well. Whether Noma ever intends to switch from brewing delicious coffee on V60s or you just really want to impress your dinner guests, the Sommelier syphon definitely makes a gorgeous conversation starter about coffee.
Here’s a video of the Sommelier in action from Hario: