I purchased this coffee syphon at the beginning of this year shortly after my cheap filter machine gave up. Being a bit of an involuntary penny - pincher (University Student) I searched for a cheap alternative and stumbled upon this beauty on Trademe (the New Zealand eBay) going for less than half the recommended retail price.
Having gotten the package home somewhat intact - I couldn't stop myself peering into the box whilst on the bus - I began assembly. The enclosed Japanese instructions with sparse and cryptic illustrations were of little help, yet the construction was straight forward enough to allow assembly to be completed in less than 3 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised at the overall build quality considering the low price, as the glass parts are free of any distortions or bubbles, the metal stand feels solid and does not wobble and the black plastic lid, which doubles as a holder for the upper glass vessel, has a nice matt finish to it and fits flawlessly. The filter assembly screws together easily, and is easily attached to the bottom of the syphon tube with the hook. Unfortunately the plastic handle on the bowl and on the stem of the base do not reflect the quality of the rest - the plastic has noticeable seams and a cheap 'feel' to it. This does, however, not diminish the generally positive impression.
The use of the coffee syphon is (when one knows what one is doing) simple - using the supplied spoon one measures the amount of coffee grind required to the upper vessel which contains the filter assembly, adds the required amount of (boiling) water to the lower bowl. Place upper vessel on the lower bowl, add fire and watch the show! Once the lower bowl is empty, one easily extinguishes the flame of the burner with the steel cap, and watches in awe as perfect coffee gets sucked back into the lower bowl.
Dissasembly and cleaning of the syphon is also straightforward, yet somewhat awkward as the upper vessels' length makes it difficult to get under the tap (at least in my sink), and the opening of the lower bowl is so small that I have difficulty getting a sponge in there to scrub it - of course it could also be my big paws attempting to enter an orifice designed for dainty Japanese digits. I do not dare attempt to clean it using the dishwasher as I fear that it may irreperably damage the rubber gasket (which resembles a small tractor wheel) or may knock the thin glass parts too much. Also, I have noticed that after considerable use (2-3 months of almost daily use) the black finish on the burner plug started to wear off. Oh, and a word of caution: DO NOT LEAVE THE BURNER IN DIRECT SUNLIGHT! THE HEAT FROM THE SUNLIGHT WILL CAUSE IT TO SPIT FUEL OUT ALL OVER THE PLACE! I also recommend cleaning the syphon as quickly as possible as it is easier to rinse out the grinds while they are still wet. But as with all things, with a little bit of care and regular maintanence, you are guaranteed great results for years to come.
Another word of advice: Before you buy this (or any Hario product) please ensure that you also have a supplier of replacement parts lined up. One may not have difficulty in getting the syphon, but you will eventually run out of filters or, God forbid, break something (like I did). You may then find yourself having to suck on beans to quash you caffeine cravings for weeks whilst awaiting for spare bits to arrive via snail-mail.