Travel Siphon: Project Brief

by Dan Walsh


Hiring help to make the travel siphon a reality.

This last weekend was the final straw. Angelica and I were traveling again and I tried to brew my coffee using the hotel’s accouterments. It wasn’t the worst coffee, but let’s just say I didn’t enjoy drinking it. And when one is on the road, living out of a suitcase, bleary-eyed from overnight flights, and missing the carefully curated creature comforts of home… a little enjoyable routine goes a long way toward setting the day right. This coffee most definitely did not help set the day right. So, I’m forging ahead with the development of a travel-sized coffee siphon.

I mentioned this project previously, mostly to illustrate a point about how ideas become physical reality at the moment of their conception. Perhaps this post is some sort of further philosophical proof that ideas also will themselves to take form outside of the human body. Perhaps we are slaves to them?

Who knows!

The purpose of this post isn’t to wax philosophical. The purpose of this post is to record the process. (And to create proof of prior art in case of any litigation!)

This project is what I call a “friction project”. It doesn’t directly contribute to my long term goals, and in many ways takes time, energy, and money (kind of all the same thing), away from the pursuits to which I should be attending. I had at one point dismissed this project, but the idea has taken such hold over me that I must now see it through. However, there is no reason that this process can’t be as efficient as possible.

There is no reason for me to waste time learning how to become a (crappy) industrial designer. That would take lots of time and result in a sub-par product. To speed up the process, I’m hiring someone with vastly more experience than me to handle the design work and create manufacturing specs. I’m currently in the process of choosing the right person for the job. The following is the project brief I sent to designers who showed interest in the project. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but it seems to be doing a fine job of progressing the conversation.


Create an insulated thermos design that contains an electric heating element to boil water and a coffee brewing mechanism similar to a coffee siphon. This entire package should be compact and easy to travel.
This device will have 3 modes of use:

  1. Travel mode. All parts are contained within a compact form factor.
  2. Brewing mode. Water is heated in the lower reservoir while the top reservoir holds ground coffee beans. The hot water is forced out of the bottom reservoir via a tube and mingles with coffee beans. This brews the coffee. As the water cools, pressure in the lower chamber reduces and liquid coffee is pulled back into the lower reservoir via suction.
  3. Drinking mode: The entire device becomes a simple thermos with lid. All other components are left behind.


  1. High fidelity technical drawings that could be sent to manufacturer for production.
  2. Rendering that demonstrates 3 primary features of device: thermos, heating element, coffee brewer.

This list will surely change, but here are the components I currently envision.

  1. Double walled / vacuum thermos body. Cylinder or other shape. This will also be the lower reservoir during the brewing process.
  2. Lid for thermos. Lid will not be used during brewing process.
  3. Electric heating element contained within walls of thermos.
  4. Removable power cord for heating element.
  5. Top reservoir to hold coffee grounds during brewing process.
  6. Tube that attaches to top reservoir.
  7. Filter between top reservoir and tube to prevent ground beans from entering the bottom reservoir.
  8. Gasket at the mouth of lower reservoir to ensure a vacuum.
  9. A method to turn off heat once all water has left the lower reservoir.

Are you familiar with how a coffee siphon works?

I believe the simplest design will be the following….

  1. Upper reservoir is slightly wider than the thermos / lower reservoir and is of a height to fit around the thermos (and lid) as a sleeve.
  2. The tube, filter, gasket, and remaining components fit inside the thermos / lower reservoir.
  3. The upper reservoir is open on one side. The other side is partially closed and has a threaded connection that locks into the upper portion of the tube.
  4. Maybe the connection between the tube and upper reservoir also triggers power to heating element?

Very rough sketch attached.

This is only one method. I am open to suggestions.

Please send a short description of the potential challenges you foresee with this project. Will there be any problems if this is mostly made of stainless steel? Will the heating element be potentially dangerous? Will the connections be difficult to design?

Please let me know your thoughts.



I’ll continue to update progress.

*All contents copyright Dan Walsh 2014 :)