I was recently watching the original music video for Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire," and at 0:38 there's a shot of a stovetop with an odd looking device with what I assume is a coffee pot on top. There are two bowls, one on top of the other, with some tubes in between them. There appears to be coffee, or some other dark beverage, in the bottom of the two bowls. It doesn't appear to be on an actual range, but rather sitting on a hot pad, after the brewing process is done.

Here's a screenshot of the scene: enter image description here

What type of coffee pot is this, and how is it supposed to work?

1 Answer 1


This is a vacuum coffee maker or siphon.

The invention is nearly 200 years old and uses the physical principles of vapor pressure and vacuum. When placed on a heat source, boiling water creates steam and thus pressure in the bottom compartment. Hot water from the lower pot is pushed through a (glass) tube into the upper part, where it meets the ground coffee. After the required brewing time, the pot is removed from the stove and the resulting partial vacuum and the atmospheric pressure push the coffee back into the lower vessel. The grounds are held back by a filter mechanism (various types used).
Here’s a video, that shows the Bodum type in action, without distracting talk.

A related type of coffee maker is Bialetti’s moka pot, which pushes the water through the grounds by the same principle, but collects it in the upper part - no flow-back mechanism in this case.

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