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It's coffee time

January 5, 2015

Coffee maker

Ever since coffee became available in Europe in the mid-seventeenth century, coffee drinkers have been trying to perfect the brewing process. By the 1850s, the Balancing Siphon Coffee Brewer was preferred by java junkies worldwide. The example shown above is part of Historic New England's collection of household objects.

The Balancing Siphon Coffee Brewer combines ingenuity and science. Its dual chambers use vapor pressure and a vacuum to brew the coffee. First, the water heats up in the ceramic chamber. As temperature increases, so does the vapor pressure. The increasing vapor pressure in the ceramic chamber pushes the boiling water to the lower-pressure glass chamber, which contains finely ground coffee beans.

A small amount of water remains in the ceramic chamber in order to keep the pressure constant, thus allowing for enough time for the coffee to brew. As the temperature and pressure decrease in the ceramic chamber, a vacuum-like effect is created and the coffee is sucked back, leaving the coffee grounds behind. Once back in the ceramic chamber, the coffee is ready to be enjoyed.

The Balancing Siphon Coffee Brewer is the forerunner of many modern devices used today. See it in action here.

Explore more Historic New England collections.

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It's coffee time