Intelligentsia Siphon Brewing Video

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A couple of weeks ago, just after the SCAA skill building workshop in Ann Arbor, I decided to reward my wife with a weekend in Chicago for our 16th wedding anniversary.  We had a great time in the windy city, and the number one thing on my list of stuff to do there was visit Intelligentsia!  I found a 

Intelligentsia Chicago Millenium Parklocation that was easy walking distance from our hotel.  There are only 5 Intelligentsia coffeebars in the world, 2 in California and 3 in Chicago.  I visited the Millenium Park location at 53 E. Randolph Street.  Funny enough, I got the location on and the address listed there was WRONG-O!  The listed address was across the street, which is a hair salon.  I almost pulled my hair out looking for the place, but I looked across the street and spied my prize…that and I’m bald 😉

I had heard some great things about their coffees, but I didn’t really know what to expect in the shop.  It was a bit more modest than I had envisioned, not a bad thing by any means.  It is a very simple and elegantly laid out shop with a modern and clean decor and seating for 30.  There was a bit of a line, but it wasn’t very long.  The ordering process was quite smooth and everyone moved along quite nicely.  Now, what to order!?  I wanted one of everything, but figured that I would surely die of caffeine overdose if I did.  I finally narrowed it down to two items, a single origin espresso (Panama El Machete), and a cup of siphon brewed coffee.  The single origin espresso was so packed with flavor it was like I was having my first espresso ever…and in many ways I was. It was bright and rich all at the same time with an explosion of apricot, cinnamon, and milk chocolate.  This kind of coffee is why coffee aficionados sneer at the thought of adding artificial flavors to coffee! The staff were busy, but very personable.  They readily agreed to allow me to video the making of my siphon pot brewed coffee. (Unlike McDonald’s!)  The one thing I did not see there…an auto drip coffee brewer!

My wife's latte

They had a station with 4 Hario v60 pourover brewers always on the go.  This appeared to be their common way of making brewed coffee.  My barista was very accommodating, gladly explaining the process even though I didn’t ask her to!  I had done quite a bit of siphon coffee brewing at home, but I used a stove top model.  This was a single cup brewer with a halogen lamp heat source.  Apparently, these halogen burners are quite sought after, as I could not find any for sale online…”Sold Out” was as close as I got.  Oh well, they are quite pricey anyway!  I did learn a couple of things that I didn’t know before; don’t seal the top chamber right away, use a thermometer, stir the water to lower the temperature, stir 6 times when you add the coffee and then again just before you remove it from the heat source.  Too much stirring allows for over-extraction and lower brewing temps, which will either flatten the taste or make it bitter. What I like about Intelligentsia, in addition to properly brewing and preparing their beverages, is their ethical sourcing practices.  They have pretty much developed their own certification process in which they pay in excess of fair trade prices, and they are very hands on, visting each farm about 3 times per year.  Some other programs allow for inspections just once per 5 years.  So they could meet the standards for the inspection, then totally disregard them for four years and 364 days while still carrying the certified label.  Intelligentsia deals directly with those who produce the goods, not middle men.

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Nate is a special kind of coffee lover. He began drinking the same swill that most others do, but thought there must be something better out there. Sure enough, he was right, even more so than he ever dreamed possible. He soon found his way into the specialty coffee industry, and was tasting exceptional coffees from dozens of roasters from around the country. He is now committed to teaching others how they can appreciate coffee, and how they can make the best coffee in town and save money at the same time! Cheers c[_]

Say something!

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  • Jamie Ferguson

    Great video Nate. I've been wanting to try a Siphon Pot.

  • Thank you Jamie! I'm honored to see you here 🙂 Siphon brewing creates a rich flavorful cup that is also crisp and clean…the best of immersion and filter brewing all at once!

  • Wow Nate! Good coffee and young girls blowing on things! I can't take it.Do I have to go to Chicago or L.A. to see this? Can you suggest anywhere in this coffee dessert of Phoenix,AZ. where I can have real coffee?Also, do you have an archive of these vids?

  • Do You count Diggs?

  • Sure

  • Thanks James, I sent a tweet out asking about Phoenix coffee shops. I have never been there so I can't speak from experience. Try searching a site like Yelp for reviews. I've found those helpful. Tweets automatically get shared at the bottom of the page, so no worries 🙂

  • Phillman

    I love siphon brewing. I got a a Cona brewer for Christmas. The one thing the Cona offers is a glass stopper that acts as the filter. I see in the video they used a paper filter. With the glass filter the only thing that ever touches the coffee is glass. Great video Nate. I wish I get siphon brewed coffee somewhere outside my home.

  • Hi again Phillman! I think you have a Cora brewer. I did purchase an old glass filter rod to use in my modern day siphon pot and it worked admirably! Intelligentsia uses cloth filters in their siphon pots, the paper filters were being used in the v60 pourover brewers. Thanks for the compliment and your time 🙂

  • As far as an archive goes there are a few ways you can search old videos.
    • Use the 'categories' links in the right column to search by topic
    • Click “Index” at the very top of any page for a list of all posts in the last year, categories, months etc
    • Use the search bar at the top right column to search videos by keyword
    Thanks again 🙂

  • This is funny. I recorded a short movie really similar to this a few weeks ago that I still need to edit and post. I liked hearing the coffee shop in the background. The halogen bulb is interesting.

  • Great minds think alike? It was pretty busy and I think the high ceilings made the noise bounce around more. That would be my only knock on the place, but my wife has her own. She is only 4' 11'' and she was too short to see into the compartments on the table with the napkins and stuff on it. lol

  • Phillman

    I completely agree about the halogen element, very cool…or hot actually. Neat to have but not practical. Thank you for sharing your coffee experience.


  • Julie

    Another great video! I enjoyed it. I haven't had the pleasure of trying siphon brewed coffee yet, but I might almost enjoy watching the process more than drinking the coffee itself! (Yikes, did I dare just say that?!) I got excited when I read that there are two Intelligentsia coffeebar locations in California!…but alas, they are down south. In any case, Intelligentsia will be one of my destinations the next time I'm in the LA or Chicago area.

  • Mrasg1


    Have you given the Clever Coffee Dripper a try. I use it every morning and love it. Simple, and great clean taste. You should do a video!

    Adam in Jersey City NJ

  • No, I haven't … I'll look into it. So many ways to make a cup of coffee, it's fun to learn about them! Thanks Adam!

  • Hi Julie 🙂 I'm sure there are coffee shops in your area that offer siphon brewing. You'll have to do some investigating though. I have made about 500 pots of siphon brew, and I never tire of watching the process unfold. Take care

  • Mike

    I'm so jealous! Have I mentioned that! When I was in Chicago for a conference last month, I didn't get a chance to stop by there….even though it was in between my hotel and where the conference was. Still devastated.

    Anyways, how long did that siphon coffee take?

  • Julie

    I think there is siphon brewing in my city – Blue Bottle something… But I don't venture into that neighborhood often. We'll see…

  • Julie

    Hey…I tried to reply to your reply, Nate. Didn't quite work out that way…Not sure why I can only post original comments. Sorry for the multiple posts. Just wanted you to make some sense out of my last comment, which was actually supposed to be a reply to you.

  • That's too bad Mike! I'm thinking you could've come up with some reason to get in there while you were in Chitown. Oh well, I drank enough of their brew for both of us 🙂 The siphon brewing took about 7 minutes from start to finish. It probably could have been faster if it was the only thing she was doing.

  • Do it! Blue Bottle is excellent…so I hear. I'm trapped in the middle of nowheresville, so I don't get to experience too much of that big city stuff 😉

  • Wow Nate, what an awesome barista, she really knew her stuff. It's great to get a barista that has the heart of a teacher and is willing to explain everything they're doing so you can learn.

  • Tcashin07

    How awful it is to live on a big island with no good espresso in sight..

  • Yeah Ken, I was impressed at the friendliness of the vast majority of the staff there. I hate a shop that hires haughty baristas! Get over yourselves and serve the customer by educating them. Don't roll you eyes or sigh when they aren't sure about something…I'll stop there 😉 Thanks for popping in Ken!!

  • Are we neighbors? The only place in this town that I've had a decent espresso is MY house 😉