We have been using a French press coffee maker for years but on a whim decided to order a Hario siphon coffee maker and there is no comparison - it makes the best brewed coffee. The design, also called a vacuum coffee maker, has been around for over a century. Ever read the Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler? Marlowe offers a very detailed description of his coffee making ritual in the morning and it involves a siphon brewer.
Anyhow, what makes it so amazing is first how the coffee is heated by a small flame (or in some cases a halogen lamp) until the water boils and travels up a glass tube into a top chamber where it mingles with the coffee for as long as you like (much discussion on how long and how much stirring the grinds is best). Then you remove the heat and as it cools the coffee seeps through a cotton cloth filter into the lower chamber nice and hot. It is sort of the same principal as the stove top metal espresso makers, but since it is glass nothing taints the flavor of the coffee. There are other brands as well we have not tried, such as the Cona, which uses a mysterious glass wand to filter the coffee, one by Bodum called the Santos and some other brands. The Cona costs almost three times as much as the Hario so we played is safe and got the Hario.
The one drawback is you have to preboil the water before adding it to the lower pot and then you heat it again to a boil with the burner. We were using rubbing alcohol which is the wrong fuel, so it was taking a long time, but after switching to the right fuel it is pretty fast. The cloth filter you can use over and over, and you have to store it in a little bit of water in the refrigerator for some reason. Do a search on Youtube for siphon or syphon coffee makers to see videos of people using them.
Another thing we like is how Hario, the Japanese company that makes our brewer, is very environmentally conscious in their manufacturing processes.
We bought ours from a company in Canada and they email you right back with any info you need. The best customer service ever.
Avenue 18 - sells the Hario brewers. Email them about the best size for you and tips on using. We got the Tech 3 model which makes 1.5 cups. They offer a bigger one for two cups, though some people think the smaller one makes better tasting coffee.
Sweet Marias - sells the Cona brand siphon brewer with the glass filter. They also sell a brand called Yama.
Hario Glass - manufactures the siphon we use. They make many other products as well.
Bodum - famous for their French press pots, they make a siphon called the Santos. You can buy on their site. It is in the Coffee section under Coffee Presses & Pots.