Vacuum coffee pot, syphon, siphon — whatever you want to call it, it looks like it came out of your tenth grade chemistry lab.
But in many circles, it’s the chic way to brew coffee, and it’s no different in Portugal. At the beautiful new culture club in the Palacio Belmonte — one of the oldest palaces in Lisbon, now a gorgeously appointed hotel — one can enjoy a siphoned cup while listening to the likes of brilliant Israeli concert pianist, Elisha Abas.
Maria, owner of the Palacio along with her husband Frederic, fixed me a cup. A mid 19th century design, popularized in the 1960s, the concept is quite simple, and the result is clean and aromatic. The siphon is made up of two glass carafes connected by a glass stem; the coffee grounds are placed in the top carafe, the water in the bottom. A flame is lit at the bottom, causing the water to heat and create a pressure vacuum, that forces the water up into the coffee grounds. Once all the water has reached the grounds, the coffee is stirred for one minute. Then, the flame is removed, and the brewed liquid passes down through the filter, back into the bottom carafe.
Et voila, the coffee is ready to serve, straight out of the glass carafe. The coffee has little sediment and clean flavor. And at the culture club, it’s an homage to the vintage idea that good aperitifs and coffee are best served with Chopin floating through the air (compliments of Elisha), which makes it the most fabulous place to have coffee in Lisboa.