Brew master hones skill after roasting rivals

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 September, 2011, 12:00am


He wears a white outfit and is sweating intently over a row of brews bubbling away in what appears to be a chemistry experiment in a university laboratory. But it's not what you think. Vincent Hung Ka-wai is brewing coffee, and it's not just the run of the mill type you get at a cafe.

This is siphon coffee and brewing it takes skill, which means hours and hours of practise. And the hard work paid off for 19-year-old Hung who works as an assistant at the Speciality Coffee school - he won a brewing contest in Hong Kong and will represent the city at the world championships in Japan on September 30.

To prepare for the local siphonist contest early this month, he used 70 litres of distilled water to make about 280 cups of coffee.

The Hong Kong champion will now compete at the World Siphonist Championship in Tokyo. But he will practise more intensively before heading off to the hub of siphon coffee making to compete with champions from Japan, Taiwan, the US, Australia and South Korea.

'During the Mid-Autumn Festival, I was roasting coffee beans until 1am ... and at one point I drank so much coffee that I stopped drinking water,' he said.

A siphon coffee maker consists of two parts: an upper funnel and flask. When water in the flask is heated, it gushes up the funnel filled with coffee powder. The brewed coffee flows down to the flask when it is done.

Dealing with one siphon looks hard enough, but the contestants had to make four black coffees and four cups of a signature brew from their own recipe - all in 15 minutes.

Without staring at his watch, Hung made sure each siphon was heated for about 45 seconds. In between, he stirred the fluid.

'Siphonists show their character by the stirring, timing and the blends of coffee beans they choose,' he said.

Judges can only see the brewing process, but more preparation work is done beforehand. 'Making coffee is similar to raising children. Birth, ageing, death and burial, you have to go through all the stages,' he said.

The first task is to roast green coffee beans until they are brown. Then he roasted 10 types of coffee beans for various lengths of time - coffee tastes stronger the longer it is roasted.

'Only commercial outlets sell coffee with a high caffeine content. Great coffee can taste like tea. It can help someone get some sound sleep,' said Hung who wants to open a coffee shop in three years.

To preserve the fragrance, the beans were freshly ground fresh before they went into the siphon, he said, whichwas sometimes referred to as a vacuum coffee maker.


The number of years ago when siphon coffee began in Europe

-It died out in the 1960s when the drip filter arrived