There is a Reason for Everything Part 5
Portola Coffee Lab - Wednesday, October 26, 2011
"Welcome to Episode 5 of there is a Reason for Everything which makes this the Empire Strikes Back of coffee blogs." - Clinard Lets start this week by going back in time for a second, please keep your hands and arms inside the DeLorean at all times. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="255" caption="best way to enjoy kyoto iced coffee without waiting 10 hours is time travel."][/caption] In the 1850’s the coffee industry had two problems, they couldn’t control the temperature of water well enough to brew coffee properly and they couldn’t filter the grounds from the brew mixture properly so most coffee had the consistency of mud. Enter the siphon, or vacuum pot (“vac pot” for short) - an 1850’s German designed coffee brewer that is the most entertaining to watch of all the brew methods in our shop. We have a blog that goes into more detail about this machine’s history. But lets get back to the future, and address the question at hand: Why have I never seen this thing before? And why use it, just for the coolness factor? The coolness factor is only a peripheral benefit that is secondary to the quality in the cup. Just like with everything we have talked about, it is what ends up in the cup that is the most important. As to why you might not have seen one, the siphon has reemerged in America after being trumped by countertop auto-drip machines, stovetop brewers, and instant coffee. Because (much like Walmart, fast food, and sweat pants) these methods have dominated this country purely out of convenience. Now that we are experiencing a coffee quality renaissance here in America, the siphon is making a comeback. In Japan, where specialty coffee is taken very seriously (and they don’t like Walmart), the siphon is as widely used as espresso machines here in America. All coffee brew methods fall along a spectrum with what we call “Body” on one side and “Flavor Clarity” on the other. The Hario V-60 falls in the middle, the Trifecta between the middle and body side and the siphon is at the extreme side of flavor clarity. The siphon is special because it presents some of the most delicate flavors in the coffee. It effectively draws some flavor oil but few coffee solids so while the coffee’s viscosity is lighter, the ability to detect even the most subtle flavor notes is amplified. It’s like when you remove the white noise so you can hear the notes of song more clearly. The peach in my Guatemala La Soledad and the key lime in my Kenya pop when brewed on the siphon. It’s beautiful! I absolutely love the siphon. Even at 160 this old guy is keeping up with all the young guys on our bar. Like the Slayer. The Slayer was designed and built by the fine folks from Slayer Espresso in Seattle, Washington in the good ol’ US of A. It is refreshing to see a company venture off and experiment with the age-old and ever-so complicated process of brewing espresso. What did the Slayer do that was so different? And why did you pick this machine when there are so many machines out there that are cheaper, and make good espresso? Slayer bucked the norm and created a machine that allows the trained barista to affect brew pressure at various points in the brew process - commonly referred to as “pressure profiling.” What this means is we can custom design a shot profile to highlight what is best about a particular espresso and mute what is offensive or undesirable. Because even with amazing coffee, if prepared improperly, then it can taste less than good. With the Slayer, we have the ability to alter the shot in ways that simply aren’t possible with traditional espresso machines. That is why I can put some pretty amazing single-origin shots on the menu that would generally not be obtainable on standard espresso machines – at least without some sacrifice. We can also make many adjustments at the machine to hone in the extractions on our Show No Mercy espresso blend. We have a great blog on the Slayer if you want to read more about this killer machine: It’s Called Slayer. You might wonder why we chose this machine when there are other machines out there that utilize pressure profiling in some way or that can pull single-origin Espresso just fine without being a Slayer. I would love to get into detail about that, just comment on this blog with your questions, or hit us up on twitter or facebook. I would talk about our Japanese cold water drip iced coffee brewer, dubbed the “Kyoto” or the Hario Fretta iced coffee system, but again we previously created a blog that does this wonderfully. If you have more questions about those methods, please just comment on the blogs and we will happily answer them. All of this "stuff" is meant for nothing other than creating the freshest brewed coffee and is part of the equation as to why our coffee is as good as it is – the other part of the equation is the ingredients. Support Good Coffee Jeff Duggan.