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On the Hunt for an Elaborate, Obscure Coffee Brewing Method in DFW

Starbucks Reserve's siphon-brewed coffee goes for $12.99.EXPAND
Starbucks Reserve's siphon-brewed coffee goes for $12.99.
Jacob Vaughn

There’s no shortage of coffee spots in North Texas. With that comes a variety of ways for coffee addicts to get their fix brewed — pour-overs, cold-brew, French press, standard drip. An older brewing method, however, seems to have come and gone in the DFW coffee scene.

The siphon method of brewing coffee dates to the 1800s. Trinity Street Coffee in Decatur is one of the few places in North Texas where you can still find it.

There are three parts to a siphon coffee maker, says Kasey Headley, operations coordinator at Trinity Street Coffee. There is a bottom and a top chamber and a cloth filter in between.

At Trinity Street, the bottom chamber is loaded with 300 grams of water. Underneath is a heating mechanism cranked up as high as it can go. The heat causes the air above the water in the lower chamber to expand, creating pressure that forces the water through a tube and up into the upper chamber. At this point, a barista at Trinity Street will cut the heat down to half and stir 23 grams of coarse-ground, single-origin coffee into the hot water in the top chamber.

Once the grounds are incorporated, the heat is shut off, the pressure in the lower chamber drops and the brewed coffee travels over the filter and back into the bottom chamber. The grounds are captured in the cloth filter and the coffee is ready to be served.

The folks at Trinity Street sell their siphon brews for $4.50. They like this method for its theatrical presentation.

“It kind of changes people’s perspective on how coffee can be made,” Headley says. “It makes for a very well-rounded cup of coffee.”

Some say the siphon is the best method of brewing, but still, it is hard to find near Dallas.

Sip Stir Coffee House in Uptown used to serve siphon brews until ownership changed a few years ago, a barista at the coffee shop says. Local coffee giant Ascension Coffee hasn’t used the siphon method since 2014.

Russell Hayward, founder of Ascension, says they got rid of their siphon because of customer wait time. He says a patron could wait as long as 10 minutes to get their siphon brew during busy hours. Additionally, the coffee is much hotter when made with a siphon, which forces the guest to wait even longer to drink it.

While he says it is still one of his favorite techniques for brewing certain coffees, Hayward’s team and customers opted for the faster pour-over method. They do still use Kyoto towers for their cold brews, which share a similar aesthetic with the siphon.

If you don’t want to drive too far, you can always go to Starbucks Reserve at Legacy West in Plano or in Uptown and order a siphon brew at their slow bar. You can choose from a selection of single-origin coffees like their Colombia Huila Pink Bourbon. A barista named Tiffany might call you over to watch as she explains the step-by-step process and how to best taste the flavor note in the coffee. It will set you back $12.99.

But, Hayward says, Starbucks is a little late to the specialty coffee game. He’s not sure how long they will be in it, he says.

If Starbucks does stop showcasing this sophisticated brewing method, curious coffee connoisseurs can also make their way to Epic Gelato & Craft Coffee in Flower Mound to try a siphon brew for $5.59. But Richard Baldwin, the owner, is not too enthusiastic about the siphon.

Baldwin agrees that the siphon is visually pleasing, but the reason it’s harder to find in the world of specialty coffee is the temperature of the water, which gets as hot as 211 degrees Fahrenheit, he says, and tends to blow out any nuance in the coffee’s flavor.

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When trying to get the most nuance out of a specialty cup of coffee, you want the beans to be in the pocket, Baldwin says — this is when coffee is most fresh. But when you brew with a siphon, the effort that went into the coffee selection and making sure it is served when it’s in the pocket is wasted, he says. This is because the siphon leaves coffee with one primary flavor note, which is what people will get when brewing stale coffee, he says.

“Each method has inherently different things that it brings to the table,” Baldwin says. “The siphon pot brings a really good show.”

Baldwin will make siphon brews, but he says he often tries to talk his patrons into other methods that will produce a better tasting cup of coffee.

There are a few other drawbacks to this method. The equipment is expensive, hard to access at times and  fragile. Trinity Street has to make sure they have backup equipment for their siphon because the glass can break from simply grabbing it too hard. 

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