My Montrose: Michael Caplan of Siphon Coffee
What made you pick this particular spot for Siphon?
When I first drove by this spot, it was kind of run down. I thought it would be a great area for a coffeeshop. I wanted to be in the Montrose area. I think the people in this area really appreciate good coffee, and I wanted to be a part of a little community. This was a really great area, and the landlord said he’d redo the building if we moved in. So we just took it from there. It’s great to have HSPVA behind us, and St. Thomas next to us.
What made you decide on the siphon method for your shop?
Siphons have been my favorite brewing method for coffee for a while. I’ve always been aware of them; I have a siphon machine at my house that I use on special occasions. A few years ago I heard there was a Japanese company–siphons are really popular in Japan and Taiwan–that was making a halogen-warmed siphon machine. It’s safer than a bunsen burner, but it works great. I ordered one right off the bat. So I was either gonna have a really successful coffeeshop, or a really expensive siphon machine at my house. [laughs]
So with that, you decided to set to work?
Yeah, I went to YouTube and started seeing all these cool coffeeshops, mainly in Japan. I started researching in the U.S., and there are a handful here too. So I started traveling, and I went to these coffeeshops in San Francisco and Portland, and some in Houston and all over Texas. I just loved the [siphon] process, and thought it was such a unique way to deliver coffee. I love the flavors it brings out.
Is it less bitter?
hahahum..With the French press you get the grit, which some people like, but I like real clean coffee. A siphon is also called a “vacuum pot” because when you remove the heat, there’s a vacuum that’s been formed underneath, and it actually pulls the coffee through the filter to the container underneath. So there are a lot of flavors extracted that gravity-based methods just don’t get. It also brews the coffee at a constant temperature, which is another difference.
Are siphons a relatively new way to brew coffee?
Siphons came about a couple hundred ago. When coffee was making its way out of the Middle East, the Germans were looking for the best ways to brew coffee from a scientific approach. That’s when they started using siphons, and people have been running various versions since.
Is there anything else that really sets Siphon apart as a coffeeshop?
Right now we’re running Heart Roasters, that’s out of Portland. They’re a great roasting company. We’re really trying to get some great coffee here that people in Houston don’t normally get a chance to taste.
Someone told me you used to own nightclubs. What made you make the switch?
I started in ‘96 with this place called Club Europa in the Greenwood Plaza area, which I had for about 14 years. I had clubs downtown in ‘99 when Main St. was blowing up with nightclubs. But I’m older now, and want to go to bed earlier.
I also love the diversity of the people. With nightclubs, you’re always looking for the same crowd. And I love the fact that in a coffeeshop you get so many different types of people.
Don’t forget to join Michael Caplan and the District at Siphon Coffee for our mixer on September 25th!