At first sight, Hario’s line of Syphon vacuum brewers look more like the kind of quizzical doodads you’d find in a mad scientist’s laboratory than coffee makers; they’re big, complex, and slightly intimidating, with lots of sophisticated components that will have you reliving the anxiety of your 11th-grade chemistry class.
If you’re serious about brewing truly great coffee, however, and you don’t mind putting in a little extra time and effort to do it, the Syphon series can grant you the power and freedom to make about as fine a cup of coffee as you please.
Our Hario Coffee Syphon Technica review may make you think of other choices. Check some out in our buyer’s guide!
As mentioned previously, each of the entries in the Syphon collection is a vacuum brewer, which is a very particular type of coffee machine that offers loads of onlooker appeal but also comes with a bit of a learning curve. Eye-catching though these gadgets may be, figuring out how to use them is often a demanding and time-consuming task, as is using them in general.
For this reason, the Hario coffee syphon probably isn’t an ideal choice if your chief concern is getting some go-juice in your system before starting your day.
I would go so far as to say I would recommend it only for the most adventurous javanauts—those who aren’t afraid to experiment and take chances on their quest to brew the Perfect Cup. The pain-in-the-neck to payoff ratio will simply be too high for casual drinkers.
“Syphon” is the family name of a line of vacuum brewers (the entire line includes the models “Moca,” “Technica,” “NEXT,” and “Sommelier,” as well as the adorably downscaled “Miniphon”) from Japanese glassware masters Hario. While each machine differs somewhat in terms of capacity, dimensions, technical specs, and design, we’ll be treating them all as a single archetypal product throughout this review for the sake of convenience.
The Syphon is a multi-cup siphon-style coffee maker made primarily from heat-resistant borosilicate glass and stainless steel. Thanks to its material makeup, it boasts the same trademark quality and resilience as other Hario products, along with a sexy science-fair aesthetic that’s guaranteed to turn heads.
Unlike more minimalistic coffee makers, this not-so-lean, mean caffeination machine comprises six essential parts: an upper beaker, a lower beaker, a silicone-coated handle-stand (plastic on older models), an alcohol burner and burner cover, and a reusable seal filter. As you might imagine, getting it to turn roasted beans and fresh water into drinkable coffee is more akin to alchemy than a rote procedure.
Price-wise, the Hario Coffee Syphon Technica sits somewhere between a high-end French press and a mid-grade drip pot. This relative affordability makes it quite accessible in cost if not in operation.
- Capable of making excellent coffee with some trial and error
- Premium-quality glass construction
- Attractive, professional-looking design
- Easy to clean
- Fun to use once you get the hang of it
- Not well suited for daily use or whipping up a quick cup
- Requires a separate coffee grinder (a burr grinder will offer the best results)
- Some smaller pieces appear cheaply made
To get an idea of how well the Hario Syphon performs and whether purchasing one would be a good use of your disposable income, it’s necessary to understand how each piece of the apparatus works individually and in conjunction with the others to carry out the brewing process.
This is where the magic begins.
Since the Hario Coffee Syphon Technica and other siphon-style brewers rely on evaporation and condensation to do what they do, a clean yet potent heat source is arguably the most crucial link in the chain.
Here’s how it works in a nutshell: the burner heats the water in the bottom beaker, which eventually turns to vapor and passes through an intervening filter into the top beaker. You then add an appropriate quantity of coarse-ground coffee, stir it thoroughly, and percolate for about two minutes.
When those two minutes are up, you kill the heat, and the resulting temperature change creates a gentle vacuum that pulls the freshly-brewed coffee (sans grounds) down through the cloth filter and into the bottom beaker, from whence you can pour it into your favorite mug. Voila!
The friendly people at Hario generously include a glass alcohol burner with all of their Syphon coffee maker machines to save you the trouble of having to buy one separately. All you have to do is light it up and let it burn for as long as it takes to percolate your joe to the desired strength. Afterward, it can even be used as a warmer for the bottom beaker, though you don’t want to leave fresh coffee on the heat too long, as it will quickly end up tasting scorched.
In addition to being safer, burning alcohol rather than gas is less likely to interfere with the flavor of your coffee. It’s also more economical—when you’ve depleted your burner, you can simply refill it with store-bought denatured alcohol.
The compound handle-stand making up the bulk of the Hario Coffee Syphon Technica’s base fulfills two essential purposes: it holds the bottom beaker in place during the initial heating phase. It provides a convenient grip for pouring upon completion of the drawdown, or the vacuum suction that transfers the finished coffee to the lower container.
The handle-stand is the most prominent and sturdiest piece in the Hario Coffee Syphon Technica setup, involuntarily calling to mind images of early 20th-century telephone receivers. And it needs to be, considering the amount of weight it has to support and the catastrophic mess that would occur were it to fail to do its job.
Older Syphons featured basic plastic grips, but the new-and-improved NEXT model’s handle is coated with velvety, high-traction silicone. This enhancement provides a more comfortable and secure hand feel and looks pretty slick to boot. No matter where you place your hand, the base’s weight remains evenly distributed and you’re able to achieve a smooth pour effortlessly.
Hario is a glassware manufacturer first and foremost. Their entire century of expertise in this area is abundantly evident in Syphon’s dual brewing chambers’ quality and craftsmanship.
Both beakers are beautifully molded from double-tough borosilicate glass, which is capable of withstanding temperatures far over the ones generated by the included alcohol burner. It’s also more resistant to drops, impacts, and other accidents than ordinary silicate or soda-lime glass. That said, borosilicate glass is still prone to cracking and shattering, so you’ll still want to be careful when handling the beakers, especially while they’re wet.
The two beakers are instantly distinguishable by their shape.
The bottom beaker has a rounded, bulbous profile reminiscent of a conventional coffee pot. The chamber’s curved sides facilitate even heating and focused steam dispersal, fundamental mechanics that make siphon brewing possible. Meanwhile, the top beaker takes the form of an open cylinder roughly the size of a French press that leaves plenty of room for sifting coffee and maneuvering stirring utensils.
The Syphon’s smallest and most unassuming component, the reusable seal filter, is also one of the most crucial. The fate of your coffee’s flavor rests in the proverbial hands of this little scrap of cloth.
The circular filter is designed to fit between the top and bottom beakers. To install it, you simply drop it into the top beaker and tug at the attached pull chain to create a tight seal.
When you begin heating the bottom beaker, the resulting pressure will push the water up through the filter into the upper chamber, where you’ll add your coffee and tailor it to taste perfection. When you remove the heat, the coffee will pass back through the filter on its way down, leaving behind the muddy grounds.
All in all, it’s a fairly straightforward concept that’s unlikely to present any issues in practice.
Some users have complained about grounds occasionally escaping into the bottom beaker, but this should only happen if you don’t take the time to make sure the filter is seated correctly.
Since it’s woven from strong cloth, the single seal filter included should be suitable for many uses (way more than the average user will put their Syphon through, realistically). If and when it does finally wear out, inexpensive generic replacements are readily available on the internet. Hario also sells the adapter piece separately with a removable paper filter option if you’d rather take the one-and-done approach.
By most standards, the Hario Syphon is probably a bit impractical for daily coffee drinkers, especially those who frequently find themselves battling the clock in the morning. These individuals will be better served by a standard drip coffee maker, French press, or single-serve unit, all of which will produce a much-needed cup in a short amount of time with minimal cleanup.
That said, its unique appearance, open-ended functionality, and potential for sheer spectacle could make it a perfect option for outfitting haute cafés or putting on a show for guests. Think of it as part coffee maker, part coffee-related entertainment system.
Perhaps more importantly, the Syphon and similar devices invite coffee lovers to participate in the brewing process in a meaningful way.
You’ll doubtlessly find yourself far more enchanted by the delicate dance taking place when you’re single-handedly responsible for controlling the measurements, temperature, timing, and taste of the beverage you so delight in. And along the way, you’ll learn far more about the subtle attributes and interactions that make it so delightful.