Siphon Coffee Vs. Pour Over (A Quick Guide)

Outside of the world of Speciality-Coffee, there are very few coffee drinkers (even seasoned ones) who would know for sure what either Pour-Over or Siphon coffee is. With the advent of trendy outlets worldwide offering a variety of brew methods and YouTube taking the same into your home and workplace, however, all that is changing.

Siphon Coffee Vs. Pour-Over is an impossible conundrum. They both add greatly to the brewing experience, neither negating the other:

SiphonPour Over
Fuller, rounded flavorGreat control
Zen-like art form;
tremendously relaxing
Low acidity –
taste is ‘complete’
Swift processMore economical

Both Siphon and Pour-Over are used in specialty coffee shops globally, but they are very different in their construction, brew method, and uses. Let’s look at the Pros, Cons, and Delights of these two tactile brew methods:

Siphon Coffee Vs. Pour-Over In A Nutshell

Both of these methods take practice and a lot of it. It is easy to produce a coffee from both without even venturing near the unbelievable control over taste, color, and depth that experience may bring. I say ‘may’ because there is no way you will stumble on the correct preparation and pouring method of the Pour-Over in particular and the Siphon to a lesser extent. Research and effort are required.

A lot of the Siphon experience is about the look and feel of the system, but it does produce incredibly pure coffee if done correctly. The Pour-Over offers you far more potential and involvement as I see it. Where the Siphon will give you some growth as you improve your technique, the Pour-Over offers tremendous development and improvement in every aspect of the brew as you learn the art.

Siphon Coffee Vs. Pour Over

These two Speciality-Coffee brew methods have very little in common and produce different results, so it’s a bit like comparing apples to grapes, and neither deserves to be ignored or relegated to the cupboard under the kitchen sink.

Siphon Coffee 

siphon

Siphon coffee uses a unique vacuum to brew the coffee, allowing the extraction of all elements in the bean. This method produces a wonderfully balanced cup of coffee if done correctly and one that is much cleaner than a cup made through filter paper. 

This creates a vacuum in the lower chamber caused by heating water over a gas or alcohol flame. The water is pushed upwards by steam pressure, where it filters through coffee grounds introduced in the compartment above. Once the water has all risen and filtered into the top chamber, the heat source is removed.

The vapor in the lower bowl shrinks, creating a partial vacuum of negative pressure, pulling the brewed coffee back to the lower bowl. Some Coffee-Heads will reheat the liquid a second time for another round of brewing, but that’s personal taste. This process creates an intensely flavored coffee that is clear and incredibly smooth in taste. 

The heat source can also come from induction heating coils at the base. Clean-up is very easy and quick to execute, and the rich flavors of the clear brew are an excellent reward for the (long) time spent in the process.

Brew time typically is four to five minutes, and the water should be just under boiling., around 200 F / 91 C, and if you are going to take this seriously, you might consider checking your water source for purity levels. Too low, and you may want to stick to purified or spring (cold) water.

The amount of ground coffee to use is totally up to your taste buds and will undoubtedly vary from bean choice to bean choice, but 18g is a suitable starting point if you are undecided.

Pros

  • Deep, complete flavoring
  • Truly an art form if done correctly and is very pleasing to perform and watch
  • Clarity is magnificent; the purity of taste is worth waiting for, giving more of a ‘mouthy’ feel. Fuller taste, more smoothness, somehow.
  • Clean-up is easy, as mentioned, but although there are no paper filters, you still have to dispose of the grinds. (You might care to add them to your compost, vegetable beds, or worm farm)
  • Since there is no paper filter (which absorbs some crucial elements in the cup), siphon coffee tastes purer than usual.
  • It looks great on your countertop, but push it to the rear if you have cats like me (or you will be reaching for your wallet more than once!)
  • Complete immersion of the grounds in the water extracts a full spectrum of flavors from the coffee.

Cons

  • Handling is always a little stressful, as wet hands and glass (which they are all made from) have a way of parting company at inopportune moments.
  • If your guests are not warned of the duration of the process, the wait can be annoying, but this period can be beautifully tranquil like the Japanese tea-ceremonies.
  • Price is high, which is why many students raid their science lab for similar-shaped components, burners, etc.
  • Storage is not easily done due to the fragile nature and uncooperative shape of the components

Pour-Over 

pour over

A traditional pour-over system consists of an upper container with a filter paper containing coffee grinds and a cup, mug, or beaker that receives the brewed coffee via gravity during brewing. Hot water is poured carefully over the coffee grinds, usually using a goose-necked mini kettle that offers far more control over the stream than conventional kettles do. 

Unlike drip coffee that also uses gravity to move water through the grounds, pour-over requires that you take a very active role in the process, carefully controlling the flow of hot water. A successful pour-over ensures an even flavor profile but gaining consistency does take practice (or a forgiving palate!).

Pros

  • Fresh, ‘complete’ taste
  • Less acidity in the process translates to less bitterness on the tongue
  • Clean-up is in the range of ten seconds
  • Reasonably priced

Cons

  • You are limited to a cup or perhaps two at a time if you brew into a carafe. If you have guests for the evening, you might want to use a different brewing method or be prepared to spend the visit preparing coffee.
  • Fairly time-consuming if you do it correctly. If you don’t, you have converted the Pour-Over to a costly drip method.

The Bottom Line

If price is the issue, take the Pour-Over. For those treasured moments with someone special, go with the Siphon and appreciate the time spent creating a near-perfect brew. Of course, if you decide to spring for the Siphon, you might just as well get the Pour-Over for your daily venture into the world of Speciality-Coffee.