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

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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.

7.6 Overall

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.

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.

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.

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 .

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.

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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.

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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.

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