Watch an Exquisite 19th Century Coffee Maker in Action


Cold brew

Sin­gle ori­gin

Cof­fee snob­bery may seem like a recent phe­nom­e­non, but the quest for the per­fect­ly brewed cup has been going on for a very long time.

Behold the Con­ti­nen­tal Bal­anc­ing Siphon, above — a com­plete­ly auto­mat­ic, 19th-cen­tu­ry table top vac­u­um brew­er.

There’s an unmis­tak­able ele­ment of cof­fee mak­ing as the­ater here… but also, a fas­ci­nat­ing demon­stra­tion of phys­i­cal prin­ci­ples in action.

Vin­tage vac­u­um pot col­lec­tor Bri­an Har­ris breaks down how the bal­anc­ing siphon works:

Two ves­sels are arranged side-by-side, with a siphon tube con­nect­ing the two.

Cof­fee is placed in one side (usu­al­ly glass), and water in the oth­er (usu­al­ly ceram­ic). 

A spir­it lamp heats the water, forc­ing it through the tube and into the oth­er ves­sel, where it mix­es with the cof­fee. 

As the water is trans­ferred from one ves­sel to the oth­er, a bal­anc­ing sys­tem based on a coun­ter­weight or spring mech­a­nism is acti­vat­ed by the change in weight. This in turn trig­gers the extin­guish­ing of the lamp. A par­tial vac­u­um is formed, which siphons the brewed cof­fee through a fil­ter and back into the first ves­sel, from which is dis­pensed by means of a spig­ot.

(Still curi­ous? We direct you to Har­ris’ web­site for a length­i­er, more egghead­ed expla­na­tion, com­plete with equa­tions, graphs, and cal­cu­la­tions for sat­u­rat­ed vapor pres­sure and the approx­i­mate tem­per­a­ture at which down­ward flow begins.)

The bal­anc­ing siphon was to 1850’s Paris and Vien­na what Blue Bottle’s three-foot tall Japan­ese slow-drip iced cof­fee-mak­ing devices are to ear­ly 21st-cen­tu­ry Brook­lyn and Oak­land.

Does the fla­vor of cof­fee brewed in a bal­ance siphon mer­it the time and, if pur­chased in a cafe, expense?

Yes, accord­ing to Maria Tin­de­mans, the CEO of Roy­al Paris, whose 24-carat gold and Bacar­rat glass bal­anc­ing siphon retails for between $17,500 and $24,000:

The cof­fee from a syphon can best be described as “crys­tal clear,” with great puri­ty of fla­vor and aro­ma and no bit­ter­ness added by the brew­ing process.

More afford­able bal­anc­ing siphons can be found online, though be fore­warned, all siphons are a bitch to clean, accord­ing to Red­dit.

If you do invest, be sure to up the cof­fee snob­bery by telling your cap­tive audi­ence that you’ve named your new device “Gabet,” in hon­or of Parisian Louis Gabet, whose 1844 patent for a coun­ter­weight mech­a­nism kicked off the bal­anc­ing siphon craze.

via Boing Boing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How to Make the World’s Small­est Cup of Cof­fee, from Just One Cof­fee Bean

The Life Cycle of a Cup of Cof­fee: The Jour­ney from Cof­fee Bean, to Cof­fee Cup

Wake Up & Smell the Cof­fee: The New All-in-One Cof­fee-Mak­er/Alarm Clock is Final­ly Here!

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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