Coffee sure has gotten complicated. There was a time when you bought it in a can, drank it black, and it tasted like acid. It got grittier as you drank it and put hair on your chest, which is why you had it with whiskey. Now all these snobs have come along and spoiled things by giving us choices, like lattes and pumpkin spices; they even--gasp--made coffee taste good. If you think you've seen it all, Bull Run Roasters near Lake Calhoun has something to surprise the most jaded drinkers: coffee explosions!
That's right, folks, Bull Run, which opened in association with Rustica Bakery next to Punch Pizza last November, has a unique siphon brewing contraption that could well be straight out of your high school chemistry lab. This surprisingly uncomplicated vacuum filtering system not only makes for a more consistent, flavorful drink but also looks really cool and involves fire.
The process--demonstrated in the above video by barista Just Holinka--basically works by preparing the coffee in two chambers over an open flame. Water is boiled in the lower chamber, gets vacuumed to the upper chamber where it mixes with the coffee grounds, and then filters back down to the lower chamber once heat is removed.
Aside from its visual appeal, the trick of the siphon method is its use of a cloth filter. "The cloth removes all the sediment," says fellow barista Stephanie Ratanas. "Whereas a French press keeps extracting particulates while you drink it, the siphoned coffee maintains its flavor without getting bitter."
Wait, what was that? I got distracted because you just put my coffee on a Bunsen burner. Crazy!
Seriously, though, it turns out the siphoning likely originated in Germany during the 19th century and is popular today in Japan. Not surprisingly, it's yet to catch on here, with Angry Catfish being the only other place in the area that uses it. In fact, all of Bull Run's equipment-- which also features the only Clover machine in Minneapolis (Kopplin's and Black Sheep have them--St. Paul is ahead of the game when it comes to high-tech brewing!) and the sole Synesso Hydra in the state--is pretty sophisticated and manually operated, so, while difficult to use, it also allows for very precise temperature control.
Not surprisingly, such high-tech machinery means particular methods are better suited to particular coffees. Holinka and Ratanas recommend trying the Kenya on siphon, Amaro Gay on clover, and Altamira on pour-over.
What's more, the coffee is good enough that Bull Run doesn't really need props to sell the stuff. (Word to the wise: Props never hurt.) So even if you still feel insecure about drinking a fancy cup of coffee, rest assured you'll at least look cool when you have them blow it up for you.