A Coffee Maker That Looks Like It Comes From A Chemistry Lab

The Café Balāo is a coffee maker that'd look right at home in chemistry class, but it's simple enough for anyone to use.

Perhaps it's the late nights at the lab, or just the fact that the ubiquitous glassware is so well suited for double duty brewing up a cup of joe, but chemistry and coffee have always seemed to go hand in hand. The Café Balāo is a coffee machine that even Mendeleev (or Gale Boetticher) could have loved: a siphon-like coffeemaker that borrows its design cues not from Nespresso, but from the equipment of a science-age chemistry lab.

Designed by Portuguese design student Davide Mateus, the Café Balāo looks very much at first glance like a modified version of the Kipp Apparatus. There are two tiers of the Balāo, one for water and the other coffee, each of which is made with reinforced glass. Place ground coffee in the top bulb, and fill the bottom tier with water. A submerged electric coil heats up and boils the water when the Balāo is plugged in.

Image: Courtesy of Davide Mateus

The way the Café Balāo brews coffee is simple percolation physics. When you plug in the Balāo, the heated coil in the bottom bulb begins to rapidly boil the water in which it is immersed. The boiling of water forces the water up the pipe in the middle of the Balāo, which then enters the chamber with the coffee, where it is infused. After it has boiled for however long you want it to boil, you unplug the Balāo. As the coffee cools, it flows back into the lower chamber, leaving the spent grinds in the top container.

According to Mateus, a master's student at the ESAD.CR design school in Caldas de Rainha, the Café Balāo's laboratory bowl setup results in a sweet, delicious cup of coffee every time, thanks to the glass construction and precise control over the length of the brew. Inspired by watching local chemists use a siphon coffee maker over a bunsen burner, Mateus set out to create a design that borrowed the mad scientist-like trappings of the siphon experience, but which did not require open flame or an external burner to make.

The Café Balāo is not available for sale yet, although Mateus's functional prototype is being adapted to industrial production. He is currently looking for partners to make a mass-produced Café Balāo a reality.

[Image: Courtesy of Davide Mateus]

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14 Comments

  • Frank

    This is hardly a new concept. Restuarants throughout the US used this type of coffee maker of years. The difference was a stove was used to heat the water and, when the bottom was empty( with all the water in the top), the fire was turned of to let the bottom cool and, allow the coffee to drain back into the lower pot.

  • Noah Hornberger

    does 'not being a new concept' invalidate it's sucess as an useful object? People don't own coffee makers because they are new concepts but because they make coffee. Perhaps in different ways. Perhaps in different styles but I think the correct frame of reference would be "how does the cup taste?" Until we have all tried a sip, there is no way to invalidate it with such run-of-the-mill-tenpenny-hipshot observations.

  • Plant_Based_Living

    As for taste, it would be similar to the Bodum Santos which tends to run to slightly bitter for my taste and I enjoy a strong, dark brew. My preferences is cold brew or espresso although this type of vacuum brew is a great coffee table conversation piece. What sort of ruins the Cafe Balao design for me is the power cord.

  • Annie Rincon

    that is not true, this is how it is traditionally brewed in Colombia, also known as the coffee capital of the world.

  • Mel Dinius

    Boiling water over coffee grounds results in a bitter cup of Joe. I have tried this method and the flavor doesn't compare to the type of brewing method obtained from the carafe below

  • hotandbothered

    Yes, the only thing different about this is the addition of the electric heating element. Weren't we always warned to never let an electric kettle boil dry, it damages the coil?