Monday, March 5, 2012

Kafka's Coffee Syphon

Vancouver is arguably a coffee city.  There is certainly no shortage of coffee shops in this city; in fact, I once heard that there are more Starbucks per capita in Vancouver than anywhere else in Canada.  (On a side note: While googling to see if this statistic could be verified, I found that this at at least seems to be accepted as an anecdotal truth.  I also discovered that the two Starbucks kitty-corner from each other on Robson and Thurlow seem to delight tourists.  From personal experience I can say that I was once with two friends and when we decided to go to Starbucks, we each walked in three different directions.)

A few Saturdays ago, Peter and I decided to go get a coffee at Kafka's as the first stop in what turned out to be an overly ambitious Mount Pleasant coffee tasting tour. Even though I lived in the neighbourhood when it opened, I had surprisingly never been to Kafka's (my delay probably due to leaving the country).


Kafka's is a nice, spacious coffee shop, which when we arrived was filled with people reading and studying, adding to its ambiance.  We managed to find two seats at a table shared by two others who were studying.

In addition to the usual espresso drinks available at most coffee shops, their menu listed pour-overs and syphons.  Feeling curious, never having heard of the latter method of brewing coffee, I ordered one.  The barista who prepared our syphon was very knowledgeable and friendly and explained the brewing process without a hint of pretension.  He explained that the syphon was one of the oldest ways to make coffee, dating from the nineteenth century.  It fell out of fashion in the mid-twentieth century but came back into vogue among coffee nerds in the 1990s.

The whole thing looked like a chemistry experiment.  He started by boiling the water in the bottom vessel with what looked like a Bunsen burner.  As the water boiled, it travelled to the upper vessel.  He then mixed in the grounds and removed the flame.  The coffee steeped and then strained itself as it dripped back down to the bottom receptacle.  The science behind the syphon is explained more eloquently in this article.

Watching the coffee syphon was intriguing and transformed customary activity into an experience.  We drank our coffees black and they were delicious. I once read that if you drink good coffee, you don't need to cut it with milk or sugar; Peter and I have been drinking black coffee for about a year now and this is absolutely true.  Even if you don't have a habit of drinking black coffee, I would at least encourage you to try a sip of black syphon coffee; this method of brewing reveals complex flavours different from a pour-over or press.


Scott said...

That looks delicious. I must try some sometime

Muhammad Munawar said...

Nice Chemistry Experiments

Emily said...

This looks very interesting! I have to say I was almost expecting some Metamorphosis references based on the title of the blog though :)

I hope you're doing well!

Vanessa said...

True:) I suppose I could have worked it in when I discussed the brewing process. I have to admit though, that I have never read Metamorphosis, even though my grade 12 English teacher gave me a copy of the book. I should probably bone up on Kafka before ever going back to Prague. I feel that he's a big touristy deal there (it IS his hometown).

Anna Felicity said...

Haha, I love the comment about trying to go for coffee with friends and all of you walking in different directions :D

Vanessa said...

Yeah, that was funny when you, Dom and I started going in completely opposite directions.