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A $13,000 Coffee?

Montrose gets another new high-end coffee shop, but this one is unique — and chemistry driven

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Siphon Coffee Houston Michael Caplan and Edward Treistman.
Siphon Coffee partners Michael Caplan and Edward Treistman researching the San Francisco coffee scene in October 2013. Siphon Coffee/Facebook
Siphon Coffee Houston eggs Benedict a la Cowboy biscuits, pan sausage, poached egg and secret jalapeño cream gravy
One of McGraw's dishes is Benedict a la Cowboy biscuits: pan sausage, poached egg and secret jalapeño cream gravy. Siphon Coffee/Facebook
Siphon Coffee Houston sign
Look for this sign on West Alabama.  Siphon Coffee/Facebook
Siphon Coffee Houston housemade chicken and beef empanads with chimichurri
At dinner, Siphon will serve savory items like this housemade chicken and beef empanads with chimichurri. Siphon Coffee/Facebook
Siphon Coffee Houston Michael Caplan and Edward Treistman.
Siphon Coffee Houston eggs Benedict a la Cowboy biscuits, pan sausage, poached egg and secret jalapeño cream gravy
Siphon Coffee Houston sign
Siphon Coffee Houston housemade chicken and beef empanads with chimichurri

Montrose has a lot of coffee shops: Blacksmith, Southside Espresso, Black Hole, Inversion, and more. Add in restaurants with great coffee like Paulie's and the Eatsie Boys Cafe, and Montrose might be Houston's most well-caffeinated neighborhood.

While it seems like the last thing the area needs is another coffee shop, Michael Caplan, whose previous efforts include the nightclubs Europa and Grasshopper, thinks Siphon Coffee, his latest project, can set itself apart with its namesake brewing process, late-night hours and good food. 

Essentially, in siphon brewing, heating water at the base creates pressure which forces the water up the siphon to a second level that holds the coffee grounds. The result, as Caplan explains, is "full-immersion coffee method, meaning all the grounds are being immersed in the water at one time . . . It actually extracts all the oils, all the flavors." Breaking Bad fans may recall a modified form of siphon brewing being one of Gale Boetticher's more appealing quirks.

As for the cost, expect it to be $6 for a small and $10 or $11 for larger, two person serving.

While Caplan doesn't possess Gale's flair for chemistry, he has purchased a $13,000 brewer from Japan that uses halogen bulbs, rather than an open flame, to heat the siphon. This video demonstrates the process. Yes, coffee drinkers will pour coffee from the bottom of the siphon just as they do in the video.

"There's not one I know of in the state of Texas," Caplan says. 

As for the cost, Caplan expects it to be $6 for a small and $10 or $11 for larger, two person serving. Compared to other slow brewing processes such as French press or pour over, the siphon will be a $1 or $2 more expensive, but Caplan agreed with my suggestion that the siphon coffee is a "premium product at a premium price." Siphon will also have traditional drip coffee and a full range of espresso drinks available, with beans primarily sourced from Houston's Amaya Roasting Company of Catalina Coffee fame.

Caplan also plans to source nationally from providers such as Chicago's Intelligentsia and Heart Roasters in Portland, Oregon. 

Caplan says his business partner Edward Treistman insisted that Siphon serve food. "He convinced me that, if we’re going to have the best coffee and serve it in this unique way, let’s not make food the afterthought," Caplan says.

Therefore, they've enlisted former Brasserie 19 chef Amanda McGraw to craft the menu.

"The reason why we’re such a good fit is she loves great coffee as well," Caplan explains. "We said 'Amanda, we want to make this a place people would come to eat, even if they weren’t thinking about drinking coffee.' "

McGraw's menu includes a variety of egg dishes for breakfast, panini at lunch and charcuterie at dinner. Pastries will be available at all time, up to the expected midnight closing time. 

Not in the mood for coffee? Siphon will serve eight beers and four wines on tap. Caplan says the beers will be mostly local, and the wine will employ the Free Flow system to preserve freshness.

"I like the fact that we're going to be green. We're not going to be wasting bottles," he says. 

If all goes according to plan, Siphon will open around March 1. Until then, Houstonians will be stuck drinking coffee brewed using more traditional methods. 

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