It didn't take long for me to become a fan of Siphon Coffee, the new coffee shop on West Alabama, just east of Montrose. It didn't matter that there were no seats when I arrived on a sweltering Sunday afternoon. I didn't even have to order their signature siphon coffee for it to become my new "it" coffee house.
When I took a sip of my latte, with its not-so-precisely designed latte art design (the baristas can use some practice perfecting this part of their craft), the creamy latte exhibited that great depth of flavor that you can only get at an artisanal coffee house that pays attention to the finer details. The temperature was correct; the milky foam (they use local dairy purveyor Mill King) displaying a good density and fluffiness; the color, that rich mahogany brown that tells me even before I take my first sip, that the coffee will be just as I like it.
The place itself is designed in that industrial-meets-rustic-country aesthetic that you might find at restaurants like Underbelly or Oxheart -- trendy, but comfortable, a place that's clean and nice, yet stripped down with a polished cement floors, and mixed metal and wood accents. A black chalkboard with big, bold, white lettering offers a simple menu of coffee drinks, and points to beer on tap, as well as snacks and light bites. It's here that you place your order, adding a bakery item from the case if that is your wish, before effecting payment on a white tablet touch pad.
Three siphon stations are on display just to the left of the counter where you place your order, and pretty much any time someone orders a siphon coffee, there is someone standing there watching. The baristas are seemingly oblivious to all the attention. I myself snapped several photos, and I watched as other patrons stood silently gawking or videotaping the proceedings.
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Siphon, pronounced "Si-fun" (not "sip-hon" like a friend of mine thought), is named after the vessel that produces the coffee. The first time I saw it in action was at the Mint Building in San Francisco, at the popular Blue Bottle Coffee some years ago. In Houston, I've seen it offered at places like Killen's Steakhouse, which collaborated with Pearland Coffee Roasters to provide its patrons with an artisanal coffee experience. I also heard that Down House was doing it on a case by case basis (though I've never seen it), but Siphon Coffee is the first place that prominently offers this type of coffee, ostensibly because it takes up to 10 minutes to produce one cup.
At Siphon, you can order a siphon for one for $7, or a siphon for two for $11. Granted, it's not cheap, but the rich, concentrated coffee takes time to make, and the resulting product is deep and smooth. The first time you order it, I suggest sipping it in its original form so that you can appreciate the nuances of this particular type of brewing method. You can, of course, add cream and sugar or whatever is to your liking. Double-wall glasses come with each siphon coffee order, a spiffy extra-something to make the sticker shock more palatable.
Siphon Coffee also offers beer on tap, and a breakfast, lunch, and evening menu, created by consulting chef Amanda McGraw (formerly of Tiny Boxwood's and Brasserie 19), which includes items like breakfast tacos and empanadas in the morning, and panini sandwiches, salads, and meat and cheese boards for later.