Siphon coffee tasting bitter/burnt

Coffee preparation techniques besides espresso like pourover.
bigbad

#1: Post by bigbad »

Just tried siphon coffee for the first time today. I ground between french press and espresso on the Rocky... which is around the 15 mark for me.

The first go around, I ground 21 grams for 3 cups and brewed for about 70 seconds, and the coffee ended up smelling really burnt. It tasted like really strong, bitter coffee.

The second go around, I ground 18 grams for 3 cups and brewed around 50 seconds. It wasn't as burnt/bitter this time. You can actually taste a hint of brightness at the end.

BTW I'm using Intelligentsia Black Cat... I'm not quite sure what it's supposed to taste like in a siphon or pour over, 'cause I've never tried it that way.

Also, by "3 cups," I really mean 12 ounces. It's the Yama 3-cup siphon... I thought by 3 cups, they meant 24 ounces, so I actually got the wrong model. I would've definitely copped the 5-cup model had I known it was 12 ounces...

Two possible reasons to account for the burnt/bitterness is that 1) my Prodder thermometer hasn't arrived yet, so I can't get an accurate temp reading with my current gear and 2) the coffee is around two months old. It's been in a bean vac, but I'm sure it's gonna affect the taste.

Anything else you can attribute to the bitter/burnt result?

The only thing I can compare it to, is some of the pour over I've had at the place I was trained at. I sampled three different coffees via pour over. All were fantastic. None of them tasted anywhere near bitter or burnt. Maybe I'm using too much coffee, and therefore mistaking strength with bitterness?

Any feedback is welcome.

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John P

#2: Post by John P »

Use coffee, not espresso. While Black Cat is an excellent espresso, most espresso, if any, do not fare well as a siphon brew. Siphon shines with single origin coffees. The better the coffee, the better the siphon. It's not just about the quality of ingredients, it's choosing the correct ingredients as well.

Your brew time is too long for that kind of grind.

I recommend a ratio of 17:1 water:coffee (by weight, not volume). YMMV. Grind should be adjusted to yield correct extraction ratio.

For the Japanese methodology: Grind should only be a hair coarser than espresso, and brewing should be 35-40 seconds. Brewing longer than 40 seconds will not increase flavor extraction, it will either have no effect or overextract. As a general rule, keep stirring to the barest minimum until you have perfected your basic brew.
John Piquet
Salt Lake City, UT
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Peppersass
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#3: Post by Peppersass »

I agree that the primary problem is the coffee: Black Cat isn't going to work well in vac pot. Use a coffee specifically roasted for brewing. I've successfully brewed light-roasted SO espressos in my vac pot, too. Whatever you do, use fresh coffee properly rested after roast.

I have the same vac pot you do. I grind for it on my Baratza Vario very slightly finer than I do for drip (one notch on the macro lever.) I use about 21g-24g of coffee. 7g-8g for a 4 oz cup is pretty standard for all brewing methods. I do not use the cloth filter and holder that came with the vac pot. I use paper filters and a holder designed for them, both of which I got from a Canadian company (I'll look it up if you want.) This produces a cleaner cup with no funky taste (as long as you rinse the paper filter first.) Here's the procedure:

1. Put a paper filter in the holder and install the holder in the upper chamber. Rinse the upper chamber with hot water to wet the filter and warm the chamber. Set it in the plastic holder. Rinse the lower chamber with hot water to heat it up, too. I use the hot water tap on my espresso machine.

2. Fill lower chamber with hot water to the 3 cup level. I use the hot water tap on my espresso machine. Slide the tube of the upper chamber into the lower chamber at an angle so you can rest the upper chamber on the lip of the lower chamber (don't plug it into the lower chamber, just rest it there.) Start the burner. I use an aftermarket refillable butane burner -- can get you the brand if you want.

3. When you see the first large bubbles begin to boil up from the bottom of the lower chamber, insert the upper chamber. You don't have to press hard to make a good seal. If you do, it will be difficult to remove the upper chamber after brewing. As water begins to enter the upper chamber, turn down the heat to the lowest level that allows the water to keep flowing.

4. When the upper chamber has filled (a small amount of water will remain bubbling in the lower chamber), test the temperature with an accurate instant-read thermometer. The target temperature varies with the coffee, but you want it in the range of 195F-205F. I would keep it at 200F or less until you get the hang of it. I usually shoot for around 197F for the SOs I like to drink. If the water is too hot, you can cool it down by stirring vigorously. If the temp is very high, it could take a few minutes to do this. It's better to not overheat the water in the first place, which is why in step #3 you want to turn down the burner to the lowest level that sustains moving water to the upper chamber.

5. When the water reaches the desired temperature. dump in the ground coffee and gently push it beneath the surface with the bamboo stirrer or a small wire whisk. Break up the CO2 bloom as best you can and make sure all the grounds are thoroughly wetted. Be gentle and don't stir. Stirring too much will cause the coffee to over extract and taste burnt/bitter.

6. Let the coffee steep for 35-45 seconds, then turn off the heat.

7. When the coffee starts to drop into the lower chamber, give it a quick stir to break up the bloom and start a sort of vortex action. You don't need much of a stir to do this. If you stir too aggressively, the coffee will over extract. Less is more.

8. Let the coffee drop into the lower chamber until you see very vigorous bubbling. This is air entering the filter in the upper chamber. Remove the top chamber. A little coffee will slide out of the tube. Let the coffee sit for about 5-6 minutes before pouring. Otherwise, you'll just taste hot, not coffee flavor.

9. The drop time should take no more than about 90 seconds. A 2:00 to 2:30 total brew time (steep + drop) is about right. I know one person who shoots for 90 seconds total. You can play with that by varying the grind and/or dose. If you got the stirring part right, you should end up with a gentle symmetrical dome of grounds above the filter in the upper chamber. If there's no dome, or the grounds are flat or concave, or if they climb up the sides of the glass, you probably stirred too much.

There are other ways to do vac pot. I've seen lots of videos where the grounds are dumped on the filter before the water moves into the upper chamber. I suspect the steep time has to be shortened a lot to make this work.

Hope this helps.

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JohnB.
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#4: Post by JohnB. »

Peppersass wrote:This produces a cleaner cup with no funky taste (as long as you rinse the paper filter first.)
You won't get a funky taste from using cloth filters if you use clean filters each time you brew. I keep 4 cloth filter assys. in use with each getting used only once before a thorough cleaning with Oxyclean Free in boiling hot water. I prefer the richer taste of the cloth filtered brew over paper filtered which removes more of the oils.
LMWDP 267

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cannonfodder
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#5: Post by cannonfodder »

I got the wire mesh filter for my vac pot. I let it steep for about 2 minutes before I remove the pot from flame but I also use the same grind as my press pot so it takes longer. As mentioned, switch to a regular coffee not an espresso blend.
Dave Stephens

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Boldjava

#6: Post by Boldjava »

Surprised no one has mentioned glass rods. I use Corys, Cornings, and Silexes. Produces a fuller cup with the oils. Avoids the mess of the cloth filter.

I once used an early iteration Black Cat and didn't care for it in a vacpot, though I enjoyed it as espresso. I use a stovetop Yama on a daily basis and use single origins only.

B|Java
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ex trahere

#7: Post by ex trahere »

Boldjava wrote:Surprised no one has mentioned glass rods. I use Corys, Cornings, and Silexes. Produces a fuller cup with the oils. Avoids the mess of the cloth filter.

I once used an early iteration Black Cat and didn't care for it in a vacpot, though I enjoyed it as espresso. I use a stovetop Yama on a daily basis and use single origins only.

B|Java

This is how I make syphon coffee (I use method two generally, skipping the middle stir).

Clean cloth filters are by far my favorite. As long as you keep them clean, they will not add any "funk" to your coffee. You will get a more complex cup than by using paper.

As far as Kory rods(glass) go, I usd to use one with my Cona, but that thing just sits in a box these days. I was able to produce a cup that had last sediment than FP, but still it was not a clean cup by any means.
I now use the Hario TCA-2(240ml capacity), and could not be happier. I would rather have the 'mess' on the filter than in the cup.

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JohnB.
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#8: Post by JohnB. »

Boldjava wrote:Surprised no one has mentioned glass rods. I use Corys, Cornings, and Silexes. Produces a fuller cup with the oils. Avoids the mess of the cloth filter.B|Java
The cloth filter also allows the oils to pass through but unlike the glass rod you won't end up with grounds in the lower globe or your cup. The paper filter traps the oils & gives a "cleaner" cup that some prefer.
LMWDP 267

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Boldjava

#9: Post by Boldjava »

The cloth filter also allows the oils to pass through but unlike the glass rod you won't end up with grounds in the lower globe or your cup. The paper filter traps the oils & gives a "cleaner" cup that some prefer.
Grounds in the lower globe? I don't experience them in the Yama stovetops. I never stir the grounds while in the 'north' position but use a rice paddle to push them down the sides. As well, I keep the temp controlled and let the rod settle down before adding grounds, avoiding the 'rod dance.'

B|Java
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LMWDP #339

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iginfect

#10: Post by iginfect »

Using a glass rod, I do get some grounds in the bottom of my Yama but when I decant out the brewed coffee, they stay in the Yama. Rinsing out twice the bottom "globe" is my cleaning and it goes into the dishwasher the rare times that gets run. The cloth filter is aesthetically disgusting and a breeding ground for germs.

Marvin