The café — in the Wells Fargo Building, at 299 S. Main in downtown Salt Lake City, facing the Gallivan Center — was launched in 2004 as the city’s first micro-roaster and siphon bar, and continues to pioneer in the world of coffee.
“Everything we do,” said John Piquet, the owner, “is a way to experience the roasting. From the siphon and the espresso, it is all because of roasting; that is the thing that separates us.”
Siphon brewing, which Piquet started offering in 2008, is a process that combines immersion and vacuum to create a visually stunning activity that’s center stage at the cafe. It’s more complex than standard drip brewing, and more time-consuming — a customer should plan on an hour to enjoy the experience. And the coffee made this way is always served black.
The key to what Piquet calls “the perfect cup of coffee” starts with the roasting process. It’s a delicate balance of art and science, transforming green coffee beans into the aromatic, full-flavored delights coffee connoisseurs all know and love.
Piquet said he chooses coffees based on complexity and rarity. He selects single-origin coffees that are all farm- and lot-specific from such places as Ethiopia, Kenya, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Rwanda, Costa Rica and northern Sumatra. Such a diverse array of origins allows the café to offer a wide range of flavors, each with unique characteristics.
Drinking espresso, Piquet said, should be a layered flavor experience.
Coffee roasting is the intricate process, by which the coffee beans’ aromatic and gustatory qualities are developed at high temperatures. The roasting process starts with heating the drum to the right temperature. The green coffee beans are then released into the roaster, where they undergo a transformation — the beans’ cell structures break down, pulling out the moisture so they can be ground effectively for brewing.
“We are small, so we roast everything on site for all coffees, and I do 50 different coffees per year — and out of those, I end up doing between 50 and 100 different espresso,” Piquet said. “I use the same coffee[beans], but use a different roast level and different profiles to create a different outcome. I typically offer three in the siphon, which changes every 2-to-3 weeks.”
Creating different flavor profiles requires careful control of the roasting temperature and timing. Different roasting methods can result in drastically different flavors, even from the same bean.
“Simply, everything is about taste and adjustment — that is the premise of everything,” Piquet said. “Roasting is both science and art, and the most meaningful things are coming out of the art portion. … Roasting is all about understanding the fundamentals, and along with that, it is about learning and understanding how to taste and how to brew. It does not just magically happen.”
Once the coffee is roasted, it’s time for brewing.
Piquet said he learned the art of siphon coffee brewing by visiting the experts in Kyoto, Japan — specifically the Hanafusa Coffee Shop. And while watching the process is a theatrical experience, it’s also a method that produces a distinctively clean, crisp, vibrant cup of coffee, allowing delicate flavor notes to shine through.
Here’s how it works:
• The siphon coffee maker consists of two chambers: The siphon bulb below, where the water goes, and the upper chamber, where the ground coffee goes. The chambers are connected by a siphon tube. The filter — made of cloth, metal or paper — goes in the upper chamber.
• Heat: The lower chamber is heated, using a butane burner, alcohol lamp or halogen beam heater. The water boils and evaporates, producing steam.
• Vacuum and immersion: The pressure from the steam forces hot water up the siphon tube into the upper chamber, immersing the coffee grounds. This is where most of the brewing happens. The coffee and water steep for between 1 and 2 minutes (though this can vary, by preference).
• Stirring: After steeping, the coffee is gently stirred. This ensures the coffee grounds and the water are thoroughly mixed, promoting even extraction.
• Drawdown: The heat source is removed, and the lower chamber cools — creating a vacuum effect. The vacuum pulls the brewed coffee down through the filter, separating the liquid from the grounds.
• Serving: Once the liquid returns to the lower chamber, the upper chamber is removed, and the coffee can be poured directly.
Even the type of coffee cup enhances the experience, Piquet said. The right cup, he said, has a round, wide brim that not only retains the heat but directs the flow of the beverage over the taste buds to accentuate the complex flavors developed during roasting. Piquet serves his brew in Japanese bone china.
“The best customer service you can ever give is by spending the time on your craft to give them the ‘best thing,’” Piquet said. “That means there is nothing superficial about what you are doing. It is all about the intent of delivering the best coffee or espresso you can, so everything I do is with that purpose.”
Piquet added, “I don’t spend thousands of hours on my craft to have my own coffee. I want to share this thing with other people, crafting these unique espresso and coffee experiences you can’t get anywhere else.”