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Carlos Meltzer on New Siphon Coffee Role, Wine and Possible Expansion

Plus insight into the siphon brewing process.



Siphon Coffee opened its cozy Montrose outpost last May to the delight of coffee aficionados who quickly became hooked on exceptional cups of jo created via the complex brewing method plus a clever beer and wine program. The opening menu of mostly breakfast pastries and panini’s was created by Brasserie 19 alumn Amanda McGraw.

Fast forward to last month, when Siphon acquired former Revival Market GM Carlos Metzler to take things to the next level. We sat down with Metzler to talk about the many plans in the works – for coffee, beer, wine, food, events and beyond – that customers can look forward to in the former West Alabama washateria space.

Q. Tell us about your new role at Siphon – what made this the right place for you to land after leaving Revival Market?

A. The roles I’ve had – running the cooking school at Sur la Table, at (non-profit) Recipe4Success, and ultimately serving as GM at Revival helped me learn from different perspectives and different sides of the business – from the creative side to operational aspects. I’ve also learned so much about the local food community.

Houston has some excellent coffee shops … but this place is really special. More than a decade ago, I lived around the corner from here. I actually did my laundry in this space when it was a scary washateria. This area has come a long way and I think it’s so great what they’ve done with the space - the whole center - and tenants that have come since Siphon opened. There’s a strong sense of community. I loved the vibe from the moment I walked in. I love the vision that Michael (Caplan) and Edward (Treistman) have created here and how friendly the staff is. I turned down other opportunities to be here. I believe so strongly in what’s happening already so really I’ve just been organizing and streamlining to enable us to do even more.

Q. It looks different – you added seating?

A. We did. We added this whole bar along the window wall with individual barstools and outlets where there used to be window banquettes. We have a lot of students and people who enjoy working or logging on from here. We’re able to offer more of that now plus tables and chair set-ups where people can enjoy a full meal.

Q. What changes have you made to the menu?

A. It’s more of a re-alignment of the menu along with a few changes. My experience at Revival brought me closer to the principles of seasonal and local ingredients so we’ve already taken some steps in that direction with new additions to the menu, like the new salads. We only had one salad before so I wanted to add some local ingredients there right away. The mixed greens salad has roasted beets, blood orange, shaved carrots and toasted hazelnuts with a Texas ricotta we’re sourcing from Houston Dairymaids. I’m working closely with them to source all of the cheeses we’re serving throughout the menu - for the meat and cheese plates and the panini’s along with the salads. We’re working with a lot of local vendors. Ultimately we want to implement a "choose Texas first" philosophy and support as many local vendors as possible.

We’ve added a protein option for the salads – chicken or bacon for now – and in the coming months we’ll be adding other protein sources with specific techniques I’ve been teaching the kitchen staff for quinoa, tofu and boiled eggs. We’ve already added house made soups and we’re doing sandwich specials on weekends. The kitchen staff was already great so we’re just adding to what they’ve been doing. We make our pastries, muffins and breads in house. You can get breakfast until noon now – our breakfast tacos are awesome, by the way. Then starting at 11, you can order lunch and other items. We still have the empanadas everyone loves – but we have them all day until closing at 10 p.m. In time, we will have premade sandwiches ready to go so when customers stop by for their morning coffee, they can grab a delicious lunch at the same time.

Q. I see some new goodies for sale. Tell me what all you’ve brought in to tempt us with?

A. I brought in the good stuff from Rebecca Masson’s Fluff Bake Bar – cookies, bars and her cake-cups. She’s practically a coffee house staple – people love her stuff. Basically we’re making our breakfast pastries and empanadas in house and leaving the sweet stuff to Rebecca. I will say that we have an awesome chocolate chip cookie topped with Maldon sea salt – we’ll still be making those. People might not know that we make all of our syrups in house and soon after the first of the year, we will launch our own housemade Chi Latte as well.

Q. What do you want for people to know about beer and wine at Siphon?

A. We have great beer and wine here! Our staff is really passionate about the beer. We work with small brewers like Karbach, and our beer offerings change about once every two weeks. Soon we’ll be offering beer flights to sample all six beers we have on tap at any given time. We have plans for monthly beer garden parties - partnering with a specific beer vendor and turning our parking lot area into a beer garden.

Lots of people don’t know that we have wine on tap – which is actually a great way to keep the wine incredibly fresh and high quality, without any chance of spoilage. We have a cab, a pinot noir, a sauvignon blanc and prosecco all on tap. You can taste the wine before you buy a glass. Eventually customers will be able to buy bottles of the wine that they’ve enjoyed on tap. We’ll have Sangria on the weekends soon, and once a month wine tasting classes with our vendors.

Q. Back to the coffee – what makes the coffee (and this great pot of jasmine tea) so damn good?

A. Michael is obsessive about finding the best coffee makers in the country – Intelligencia, Stumptown, and Heart for example. Whatever we’re doing on the siphon we’re also bringing in retail – even though it requires a different roast for people to be able to make the coffee at home. Having the retail component is something we really wanted to offer.

The siphon process goes back 200 years. The Japanese got a hold of it and wanted to perfect it. They appropriated the halogen light instead of wick and kerosene. It heats the water to a very specific temp. The pressure brings the water up - and then the ground coffee is added. The beans are ground just seconds before they’re added and it brews for 85 seconds – a very precise brewing time and temp. Bitters are gone from it and you can really taste the flavor of the beans themselves. We recommend that people taste it first without cream or sugar to really experience the flavor and find that most people do not add anything. It’s more labor intensive and we have great people to explain the process so people really understand how it works. And we offer other coffee – regular brews and also espresso’s brewed and served traditionally. Everything has its own specific water temp and brewing process – even for the teas. It’s a totally unique process. We change up the coffee once every week or two – right now we are serving Heart. There are only a handful of places in the country doing coffee like this. Michael discovered it when he was in Portland and he was passionate about bringing it to Houston.

Q. What’s on the horizon for Siphon?

A. We’re so happy about how they’ve embraced us in Montrose. Once we get the model down, we’d love to grow into other locations. Maybe Rice Village. There aren’t a lot of great coffee options and it’s a strong walking community. I could see it really working there and of course I wouldn’t mind revisiting my time in the Heights. I could even see us looking beyond Houston.

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