Making Coffee

By Sean Carroll | January 26, 2010 7:07 pm

My new-espresso-machine wave function has not yet collapsed. In the meantime, via Cynical-C, here are two videos from Intelligentsia Coffee in Venice (CA, not Italy). Making espresso, and making siphon (or “syphon,” apparently) coffee.

Suffice it to say that my level of coffee-making care doesn’t really compete.

  • Matt

    Sean, two websites which helped me immensely during my espresso machine buying experience were CoffeeGeek and HomeBarista. What I wish I knew was that with good espresso, the choice of grinder is just as important as choice of machine. Without a good grinder, even the best machines will not be able to live up to their potential. The Mazzer Mini seems to be very well reviewed among the home coffee enthusiast community both for its performance, and durability. I plan on getting one to go with my ECM Giotto as soon as possible.

    Good luck with your purchase!

  • robrob

    I’ve had a couple of stove top coffee syphons, I find them cheaper and make better coffee than an espresso machine (keeps the water in the grounds at just the right temperature, unlike some of the cheaper espresso machines that would run it through too hot), but most importantly they look amazing, watching the water bubble up through, mix with the coffee, then watching the magic of vacuums happen as it sucks it back down.

    The magic of heating/cooling glass and vacuums also happened to all three syphons I’ve owned in the past. While it’s also exciting to watch, it’s not so fun when bits of glass fly everywhere.

  • scerir

    Sean, sooner or later somebody must translate this famous piece of Eduardo De Filippo (taken from “Questi Fantasmi”). He explains how coffee should be made using the neapolitan flip coffee pot.

  • Rich

    From watching the second video I just learned that the Aeropress makes coffee the same way as the syphon, except that you push the coffee through the filter with the Aeropress, rather than pulling it through from the low-pressure in the lower flask of the syphon. In both, you stir the coffee in just off-the-boil water for a little while, and then force it through a filter using a pressure difference. The only difference is the pressure is higher on both sides with the Aeropress (which I don’t think should make a significant difference!). And the Aeropress won’t break if you knock it over! And even if you do break it it’s only £20.

  • Brando

    I love that place…Dogtown classic!

  • brad

    Never got the Aeropress to make coffee up to snuff, IMO.

  • Matt

    Wait, there’re two espresso fiend Matts posting regularly on CV? Dammit. You don’t happen to be in a hair metal cover band, too, do you doppleganger Matt?

  • DPSinVenice

    The video helped me upgrade my morning coffee ritual. It is an embarrassment that living in Venice I’ve yet to get to Intelligentcia. (FYI about a block away there is a terrific “new”ish casual restaurant, Gjelina.) Thanks Sean.

  • French Press Coffee Master

    No matter what everyone think, a french press is hands down tastier than any other kind of coffee I’ve ever tried. If you have some of time, take a peak over to the how-to guide we’ve assembled at Thanks for the post!

  • How to make coffee

    Yeah that’s pretty high end stuff! Thanks for posting.

    But as someone mentioned, the Aeropress is a cheap little plastic device that works in a similar way, and it’s great. My wife just bought me one, and I like it a lot. Only drawback is that it’s a lot of work to make lots of coffee…


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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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