a bit of a syphon film

August 23, 2010 – 10:21 am

the thing about syphon brewing is that it is both all the rage (in specialty circles) and completely unknown (to most consumers). it’s an eye-catcher, like certain espresso machines, but completely anti-industrial and pleasantly simple. it offers itself as a bit of glass-and-liquid bar art, then reveals itself as a piece of scientific intrigue.

and so the idea was to capture the paradox in a short film, lasting roughly the length of the syphon process itself but featuring almost exclusively macro photography. in this way, the images act as an almost abstract sequence of bubbles and steam and rising liquid and swirling particles — a gorgeous build-up of forces and processes. then, with a second look, you actually get some insight into the process — the behavior of heated water, particle migration and extraction quirks, foam and aromatic elements. at least that’s what it does for this blog.

roughly 30 hours into the project, it’s clear we couldn’t have done it without the technical mastery and creative ideas of solis jake, of j4 studios. the coffee was byron holcomb’s dominican finca la paz, a nicely sweet and bready beverage, along with some other sample coffees. if you can hook in a subwoofer or boost your bass, this blog highly recommends it.

The Syphon Project from Jacob Forrest on Vimeo.

you might quibble that there are some moments of grit and odd interference. this is true, especially of the shot from underneath the syphon in which the coffee has dropped into the bowl and the air pressure is equalizing from above with a blinking red “bloop, bloop” each time an air pocket descends the central syphon tube onto the eye of the viewer. and there — unmistakably in the middle of the picture — are more than one particle of coffee, and some grime on the surface of the bowl to boot.

as carefully as we had tried to polish glass and employ precise barista skills, it was tempting to remove this shot from the sequence. but it remains included, in part because each time we tried to get a cleaner version of this shot we kept seeing coffee in the bowl — it seems to be a real (and seldom noticed) part of this brewing process, in other words.

in the end, it’s kind of nice to stare at but also impossible to resist indulging in some analysis. look at how completely the dry coffee resists the water’s moisture when plopped on top. it’s somewhat surprising, to me, how the particles arrange themselves on drawn-down. and what on earth is that mist swirling above that half-consumed bowl of coffee, and do we ever taste/experience that?

feedback welcome.