X

KitchenAid Siphon Brewer review: Seductively strong, rich coffee, but not for everyone

Priced at $250, the KitchenAid Siphon Brewer makes a heady cup of coffee but is finicky to use and clean.

bb-ces
Brian Bennett
bb-ces

Brian Bennett

Senior writer

Brian Bennett is a senior writer for the home and outdoor section at CNET. He reviews a wide range of household and smart-home products. These include everything from cordless and robot vacuum cleaners to fire pits, grills and coffee makers. An NYC native, Brian now resides in bucolic Louisville, Kentucky where he rides longboards downhill in his free time.

See full bio
6 min read

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Even serious coffee addicts may shy away from siphon brewing. The centuries-old coffee-making technique typically demands delicate glassware and other expensive equipment -- and it's shrouded in mysterious, almost alchemic procedures. KitchenAid hopes to bring this arcane style of coffee creation into the modern home with its new $250 Siphon Brewer. Fully automatic and powered by electricity instead of alcohol or open gas flames, this impressive machine whips up fantastically flavorful pots of java with minimal hassle.

kitchenaid-siphon-coffee-maker-product-photos-23.jpg
7.6

KitchenAid Siphon Brewer

The Good

The KitchenAid Siphon Brewer makes superbly rich siphon filter coffee automatically and with standard electric power.

The Bad

It requires more time and effort to clean than drip devices and its lightly filtered brew may be an acquired taste for some.

The Bottom Line

The KitchenAid Siphon Brewer runs automatically, uses electricity for extra convenience and brews distinctly flavorful coffee but is tricky to keep clean and operate.

Even so, while much easier to operate than traditional siphon coffee products, the appliance is no simple drip gadget. The machine needs lots of TLC in terms of cleaning and operation compared to your average Mr. Coffee. Unless you have plenty of time on your hands you'll want to think twice about using the KitchenAid Siphon Brewer for your daily caffeine fix. For more options take a look at other high-end coffee makers we've reviewed.

Using Kitchenaid's Siphon Brewer is deliciously fun but takes work (pictures)

See all photos

Design

Looking like some sort of futuristic gumball machine, the KitchenAid Siphon Brewer is clearly no conventional drip coffee maker. Instead of being rectangular, the default design of your average drip brewer, this kitchen gadget is sculpted in curves and smooth, rounded lines.

kitchenaid-siphon-coffee-maker-product-photos-23.jpg
Enlarge Image
kitchenaid-siphon-coffee-maker-product-photos-23.jpg

The Siphon Brewer has two main parts, a brew unit up top and carafe below.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The device consists of two main parts: an upper brewing globe and a main water reservoir chamber below it. Separating the two regions is a circular metal mesh filter that is porous to water (coffee-infused or otherwise), but not solid coffee grounds.

Both sections are primarily constructed from transparent glass accented with the occasional chrome or matte plastic highlight. While my review unit was buttoned down in a conservative onyx black color scheme, KitchenAid also sells the brewer in two additional hues of what it calls silver and slate.

The water tank portion of the Siphon Brewer features a thick metal handle and also functions as the carafe for decanting the coffee you make. Weighing 2.5 pounds by itself, however, the eight-cup (42-ounce) pitcher is very heavy compared with the carafes offered by competitor machines such as the Technivorm KBT-741 and Bonavita BV-1900TS .

kitchenaid-siphon-coffee-maker-product-photos-12.jpg
Enlarge Image
kitchenaid-siphon-coffee-maker-product-photos-12.jpg

The bottom of the carafe is actually an electric heater.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The main reason for the carafe's extra heft is a special adapter, about an inch thick, which makes up the bottom portion of the container. The adapter mates with a flat, round stand that contains an electric heater designed to bring water in the carafe up to the correct temperature, just below boiling point.

How you siphon brew

Using the KitchenAid Siphon Brewer takes some practice since the required procedure is more involved than a basic drip device. Place the brewing globe (KitchenAid calls it a brew unit) onto its tailor-made stand. The brew unit's stainless-steel siphon tube slides into a hole on the stand's long neck.

kitchenaid-siphon-coffee-maker-product-photos-17.jpg

A metal filter separates the brew unit from the carafe.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Next measure the amount of coffee you'd like to use based on the detailed chart provided by the Siphon Brewer's paper manual. The chart suggests you use a kitchen scale to weigh out the proper portion of medium-coarse grounds. For eight cups of water (roughly 40 to 42 ounces), you'll need 2.6 ounces of coffee. For lower-maintenance brewing, keep shopping.

Before adding the coffee grounds make sure to place the coffee filter into the bottom of the brew unit. More importantly, confirm the filter is securely positioned by twisting it into place -- you'll feel a distinct click when it locks. With the grounds now in the brewer (resting above the filter), remove it from the stand and drop it onto the carafe (with its allotment of water already inside).

I found it a little tricky at first to seal the filter tightly enough. I discovered the best approach is to connect the brewer so that its handle is offset with the carafe's handle. Then I swiveled the brewer unit back and forth until both grips were aligned with no visible gap between sections.

kitchenaid-siphon-coffee-maker-product-photos-8.jpg

Even though it's magnetic it takes some fiddling to attach both parts of the Siphon Brewer together.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Lastly, with the carafe resting on its base, cap the brew unit with the multipurpose lid (doubles as the carafe lid) and flick the "on/off" switch. Now sit back and enjoy the show.

Performance

Once you flip the KitchenAid Siphon Brewer's switch the stage is set for some pretty dramatic brewing. After about 3 minutes into the brewing cycle, tiny bubbles begin to form within the carafe accompanied by the soft hiss of steam. Thirty seconds later the water level noticeably starts to drop inside the carafe while the coffee grounds above slowly dampen.

kitchenaid-siphon-coffee-brewer-product-photos-28.jpg
Enlarge Image
kitchenaid-siphon-coffee-brewer-product-photos-28.jpg

Once the water in the carafe reaches the boiling point, it rushes dramatically into the brew unit.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

At the 4-minute mark, most of the water in the carafe reservoir has creeped up into the brewer. A few seconds later, the remaining water violently leaps upwards into the brewing chamber where it churns together with the coffee grounds. I can confirm this liquid is very hot -- between 210 and 211 degrees Fahrenheit (98.9 to 99.4 Celsius) -- just below the boiling point of water.

Thermocouple readings put the temperature inside the brew unit at a slightly lower 205 degrees Fahrenheit (96.1 Celsius) where it remains for about 2 to 3 minutes frothing and bubbling with great energy. This is slightly above the sweet spot for correct brewing as defined by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). The group's Golden Cup Award states that water temperature must be at 200 degrees Fahrenheit (+ or - 2; equivalent to 93 Celsius) when it comes in contact with the grounds.

Within this brewing period the coffee maker's lever-like power switch flips automatically to the off position. Once the brew cools enough it cascades down forcefully into the Siphon Brewer's glass carafe, sucked back by vacuum pressure. The coarse grounds remain inside the brewer above, strained by the metal filter. All told the entire process takes just over a short 6 minutes, 30 seconds.

kitchenaid-siphon-coffee-brewer-product-photos-30.jpg
Enlarge Image
kitchenaid-siphon-coffee-brewer-product-photos-30.jpg

Liquid coffee is sucked back down into the carafe in one fell swoop.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Does the Siphon Brewer make good coffee? It consistently made some of the best java I've ever had. Within the bundled manual, KitchenAid describes siphon-brewed coffee as, "clean, crisp, and vibrant" and I must agree. Using my humble Costco House Blend test beans (medium coarse grind), I was astonished by the level of bright floral flavors I tasted from the first sip. Frankly I couldn't wrap my head around the amount of complexity and depth that hit my tongue, cup after cup.

I warn you though. If you're used to standard drip, the solution the Siphon Brewer makes is another animal altogether. More like coffee from an Aeropress, French press or brewed cold, this is liquid is cloudy, rich, almost silty. Those who crave the silky smoothness of highly filtered drip brew may find it off-putting.

kitchenaid-siphon-coffee-brewer-product-photos-34.jpg
Enlarge Image
kitchenaid-siphon-coffee-brewer-product-photos-34.jpg

Rich and cloudy, this is quite a different animal from standard drip.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Refractometer readings confirmed the Siphon Brewer's concentrated drink. I consistently measured very high TDS (total dissolved solids) percentages of 1.9 percent or higher. This translates to extraction percentages of between 27 and 28 percent. While that's above the ideal -- commonly said to be between 18 and 22 percent -- it's in line with my results from other great coffee makers such as the Bonavita BV1900TS (26.8) and the Bunn Velocity Brew (30.4). By contrast the Technivorm Moccamaster KBT-741 turned in a less extracted beverage (1.5 TDS, 21.1 percent).

One area where the KitchenAid Siphon Brewer will disappoint is its inability to keep coffee hot. Since the machine's carafe isn't thermal, its non-insulated liquid quickly drops below 150 degrees Fahrenheit (65.6 Celsius) in less than 2 hours. By contrast the current thermal champ is the Moccamaster KBT-741, which holds java hot for over 6 hours.

kitchenaid-siphon-coffee-maker-product-photos-22.jpg

This delicate glassware is not, repeat not, dishwasher safe.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Cleaning and usability

Aside from the lack of a thermal carafe, other attributes of the KitchenAid Siphon Brewer will make you think twice about using it as your daily coffee maker. Cleaning the machine takes a bit of work and caution. Its fragile glass parts must be hand washed and not put through the dishwasher. You also can't submerge either the brewing unit or carafe in water, to avoid shattering glass or damaging electrical components.

Spent coffee grounds tend to stick to the sides of the brewer, too, even after vigorous shaking and tapping. The best way to clear everything out is with lots of water, which makes a sink garbage disposal a key accessory unless you'd like to clog your kitchen drains.

Conclusion

KitchenAid should definitely be proud of the $250 Siphon Brewer. It's the only fully automatic and electric siphon-style coffee maker I know to be sold anywhere. Unlike the many siphon gadgets (sold by Yama, Hario and others) that either require a special Sterno alcohol flame to operate or be heated via a gas stovetop (or Bunsen burner), KitchenAid's product works at the flip of a switch.

I do acknowledge that cleaning the device is much more of an ordeal compared with basic drip coffee makers. And the rich, silky beverage it concocts isn't for everyone. That said, if you want to get siphon brewing without having to shell out big bucks for a fancy halogen heater or use chemical combustion every time you want coffee, the KitchenAid Siphon Brewer is the best game in town.

kitchenaid-siphon-coffee-maker-product-photos-23.jpg
7.6

KitchenAid Siphon Brewer

Score Breakdown

Performance 9Design 8Features 6Maintenance 6