Travel Siphon: Concepts & Design Iteration Process

by Dan Walsh


Final renders and key innovations in the siphon design process.

The concept and design work for the travel siphon is complete! It took about a week to find and hire the right contractor, but the extra homework paid off. After Bilal was on board he was able to turn my rough sketch and project brief into a fully realized product in less than a week.

We came up with some innovative solutions along the way.

The concept of the travel siphon (needs a better name) is pretty simple. Compress an electric kettle and a coffee siphon into a travel thermos. The traveling coffee lover can brew and drink gourmet coffee anywhere in the world. But like almost everything worth doing, it’s easier said than done.

Collapsing all that functionality into a compact package had major design challenges from the onset, and we discovered even more as we progressed. Thankfully we made a good team and were able to find a way around all of them.

Major Wins

1. Saved lots of room by creating a siphon that broke down into three parts, instead of the typical two, while still maintaining enough vacuum for it to work properly.

2. Found a creative way for all the parts to nest into a package only slightly larger than a typical 16 ounce thermos.

3. The nesting method also creates a protective solution for glass components so we could keep some of the aesthetic feel of traditional siphons.

4. Designed a two-hole lid that enables the siphon to work in brew mode, and the user to drink all their coffee without spilling in drink mode.

5. Resolved a tricky coupling interface that required an airtight seal between interchangeable parts: drinking lid, siphon tube, and brewing reservoir.

6. Externalized the base of the heating element which saves room / weight and enables one base to serve multiple thermos units.

7. Developed a lighting system to indicate brew time. No more timer!

8. Maintained a modern look and feel by reducing visibility of functional components.

9. Um… the entire thing!

The design process is always fun to see, so I included all the iterations below.


Version 1


Bilal started with this quick digital sketch to make sure we were more or less on the same page: brewing reservoir on top, connected to the thermos base via a tube. That was the idea, so we moved on to a loose concept.



This is the first concept. Pretty minimal. Establishes the external heating dock. Most of the parts haven’t been work on yet.


Version 2


Refinement and detailed work of the entire system. This is the unit in travel mode. Version 2 introduced a rotating black band at the top. Spinning the band would either reveal the power button to turn on the heat, or open a hole for pouring the fluid. It was a cool design but we scraped it for a couple reasons.



Separate parts of version two. Left: brewing reservoir (with filter). Right: thermos with visible coupling / brew tube. Right: Simple lid.



Cross section of the entire system.


Version 3 (Final)


Final design rendering. The brew time lights are all on, indicating that coffee is done brewing – even though this isn’t brew mode :) The power button was moved to the heating base to simplify the thermos.



All components shown separately.



The glass brewing reservoir nests inside the thermos from the bottom.


I’m super happy with the way this turned out. The hiring process felt like it took forever, but in the end I’m glad I spent the time upfront instead of getting a crappy final product. Bilal and I skyped only four times while we we hammered out the details. I’ve never skyped with a contractor before, but it was 10x more effective than emailing back and forth. I’ll definitely opt for Skype in the future.

All in, this turned out way better than anything I could have done on my own. This project was borderline effort I can do – but others can do better. I could have made higher fidelity sketches in Google SketchUp or something, but it would have taken forever to the refine this idea. The distance between my pencil sketch and these final renders blows me away.

Money well spent.

What’s Next?

The next step is to get this baby manufactured!

But that’s a TON of work . Work I don’t know how to do. Manufacturing has a steep learning curve and I don’t want to stumble up hill for the better part of a year and spend thousands in the process.

Partnering with a product designer saved me months of work and created a better end result. In fact, hiring Bilal was the only way to move this project forward. I just wouldn’t have enough time to work on it otherwise. The same holds true for manufacturing. If I have to learn all the ropes on my own, this project will stall out and go nowhere. I’ll lose momentum.

So the next step is to find a manufacturing partner.