Scene, Cafe Reviews

Superstar specialty coffee in Hobart, Tasmania (... Australia)

'Superstar' cafes are those who have had a major influence on the cafe culture of a region (or even the world): often (but not necessarily) roasters, usually with competition-winning baristas, the kind of place that has been around for ages, that everyone knows, and where many current cafe owners/baristas trained at some point. The definition is deliberately fuzzy for now as we nail it down, but that's the gist of it. Think Tim Wendelboe in Oslo, Blue Bottle, Stumptown or Intelligentsia in the US, Coffee Collective in Denmark, 49th Parallel in Canada, Seven Seeds, St Ali or Five Senses in Australia or Maruyama in Japan - just for a few examples, not intending to exclude anyone. Superstars are the first 'must-see' cafes for any visit to a city by a travelling coffee lover.

Every city has their superstars, and here's our current list of superstars in Hobart, Tasmania, and why they have made the cut.

Want addresses, opening hours and a live picture stream for the cafes below and over 1,000 other amazing cafes around the world? Download Pilgrim Coffee for FREE from the iOS app store!

Villino (and Ecru)

Villino is an 'Italian-style' (i.e. somewhat less bright and Scandinavian) Tasmanian micro-roaster that opened in 2008 as a cafe, beginning roasting in 2010. It's run by Richard Schramm, a 'walking encyclopaedia of coffee' according to a glowing review in the local paper, and has star barista Andy Nairn (2014 Tasmanian latte art champion) on espresso service. They serve their beans, both blends and single origins, as espresso brewed on a Synesso Hydra and as filter coffee drinks, also housing different guest beans. Villino opened Ecru Espresso around the corner (five doors down) as a take-away bar as well, serving the same great coffee as take-away espresso drinks brewed on a La Marzocco GB/5.

Photos from Villino's Instagram photo feed by location

Yellow Bernard

Yellow Bernard is small specialty café located in the centre of Hobart's business district. Owners Scott Clements and David Jolly opened it in April 2011, neither of them with a hospitality background but both picking it up quickly. They brew espressos and single origins from Gridlock in Melbourne on a La Marzocco Linea and Mythos grinder. They source coffees via Gridlock in Melbourne but also roast their own blend themselves (using Zimmah's roasting facility around the corner)! They have pretty popular macaroons themselves (all over the Instagram feed).

Photos from Zimmah's Instagram photo feed by location

Zimmah Coffee

Zimmah Coffee is a boutique coffee roaster owned by Dane Knezevic, who originally set it up in a cafe basement! The space is quirky and interesting, with huge stacks of magazines and books used as pillars breaking it up. They look terrifyingly easy to knock over, but they stay up. There are several high tables scattered around the place and loads of papers and magazines to read too. Being positioned off of the street you might miss it at first—but all you have to do is follow your nose. They brew their own blends and single origins as espresso drinks (on a La Marzocco Linea), cold drip and pour-overs. Zimmah also supplies a number of great cafes around town.

Photos from Zimmah's Instagram photo feed by location

Pilgrim Coffee (and Property of: Pilgrim)

This awesome cafe has no affiliation with this website/app (which was named before we became aware of the amazing coffee scene in Hobart) - but incidentally and proudly, Pilgrim Coffee is the name of one of the best cafes in the area! It was founded in 2011 by Will Priestly, a man who takes both coffee and customer service extremely seriously. He was three times the winner of the Tasmanian barista championships, and once runner-up in the world latte art championships. Many of the staff are award-winning baristas (including 3rd in Australia's WBC in 2010 and 2nd in 2012), with awards in other areas like latte art as well. Pilgrim brews a rotation of world-class Australian roasters as espresso drinks on Synesso Hydras as well as doing pour-over coffees, and regularly hosts tasting events like roast profile or bean comparisons. There's a ridiculously good food (brunch and lunch) menu too ranging from sweet to savoury.

Opinion

What is specialty coffee? (more precisely defined)

In seeking definition of 'what is specialty coffee?' I decided to come up with some rules for what does (and doesn't) make it into our global list of specialty cafes. It's all informed by what I call 'coffee-centricity'. You can be coffee-centric in a number of ways, and it seems obvious when you see it ('man, these guys are really into coffee!') but I thought I'd codify it somewhat. It is summarised in the following infographic.

Perhaps this could be best elucidated upon with some examples:

This isn't specialty coffee

This is specialty coffee

  • A multi-roaster cafe that imports coffee from all over the region, brewing them as espresso drinks only
  • A cafe that roasts its own coffee, serving an espresso blend only as espresso drinks
  • A simple cafe that uses coffee from one roaster, offering the espresso blend plus a couple of filter options as espresso drinks or filter coffee
  • A cafe that just serves one espresso blend as espresso drinks, brewed by the runner up in a regional barista competition
  • A cafe that has a Slayer on which they just brew the espresso blend from a great roaster (there are lots of cafes like this! They may brew great coffee, but they're not coffee-centric)
  • A cafe that only serves filter coffee of one kind of bean
  • A cafe which doesn't mention anything about the beans or brew methods (not enough information)

This is always going to be controversial, but I think this is a restrictive enough list to make the task of cataloguing cafes around the world manageable. What do you think?

Cafe Reviews

The Cupping Room - Central (Hong Kong)

A quick review - Kapo Chiu (WBC 2014 #2)'s third location in Hong Kong, at the extremely convenient location of the corner of Stanley St and Wellington St. I don't want to think about the rent. Like at his other locations, they use coffee from Sweet Bloom in the US here, pulling predominantly espresso shots on a Victoria Arduino Black Eagle (the official machine of the WBC in 2015) and filter brews of single origins on demand. The quality is unparalleled in the area and arguably in Hong Kong. And the prices - reasonable, especially considering the location. There's a full breakfast menu and a pasta-focused lunch menu too. Standing room downstairs but siting room upstairs (if you can get a table). 

 Awards! 

Awards! 

 The barista at work. 

The barista at work. 

 Sometimes a dude just wants a latte.  

Sometimes a dude just wants a latte.  

The Cupping room is of course in our app on the App Store.

Cafe Reviews

Cafe Review: 18 Grams Coffee Roastery Lab, Wan Chai (Hong Kong)

I'm a little surprised more people don't know that 18 Grams opened up its 'Roastery Lab' in Wan Chai on 1 June 2015. It's an instant rockstar in Hong Kong and worth a visit.

The 18 Grams Roastery Lab houses a mini roaster, and comprises part of their roasting operation. Here they showcase some of their best coffees, done for you as espresso drinks (using the San Remo Opera... man they look cool! You don't see them around much, either), or pourovers or a number of specialty drinks, including nitro cold brew. There's also a full menu of brunch and lunch-type foods. But principally, this is a coffee joint, and it won't disappoint - I won't labour over the tasting profiles etc. etc. of the various coffees because once you pass a certain threshold of coffee-centricity you just have to give up and assume everything is awesome or maybe someone had an off day or maybe you have no idea yourself what you're talking about. Sometimes the product doesn't jibe with the customer. Sometimes it really does. The point is, this is one of those spots where they're likely enough to get it right that you shoudl make a visit.

The coffee bar downstairs

The view from outside, if you can't find it.

Downstairs there are a few compact tables for two (or maybe 4 if you squeeze in), and a bar around which you can sit and nerd out with the barista. Try to hold yourself back from ordering a few extra things. It's just there.

Go upstairs for the...

... Roaster! Also another more relaxed dining/lounging space, not pictured.

Basically, 18 Grams is definitely on my list of must-visit coffee venues in Hong Kong and one that's going to remain in superstar status on our Pilgrim Coffee app until it burns down.

Cafe Reviews, Scene

'Mono No Aware' ( 物の哀れ), or The Fleeting Nature of Transient Beauty

It is difficult to describe the constant bliss of travelling to a place like Japan purely to experience the coffee without leaving the English language behind entirely. It was only while I was in Japan that I became of a Japanese expression《物の哀れ》, pronounced 'mono no aware', which literally translates to the 'pathos of things'. In use, however, this expression has a much deeper meaning - mono no aware is a simultaneous appreciation for the beauty of things, as well as a wistful awareness of their transient nature. The prototypical example of mono no aware in Japan is cherry blossoms, which explode into force in magnificent beauty when in season, their glory lasting only a few days. For me, mono no aware encapsulates the feeling I have when everything conspires to create a perfect coffee experience: the beans, the brew, the environment, the weather and the people. It's much more than a cup, and it's much more than coffee. It's an ephemeral feeling of happiness that paradoxically transcends the transience of the moment and remains imprinted in my memory.

The following is a brief summary of the most significant moments, places and people of my coffee trip to Japan. Many places have been excluded, but this is a summary.

Arise Coffee (Kiyosumi-Shirakawa, Tokyo)

Taiju Hayashi, owner/roaster/friendly guy from ARiSE Coffee.

Humble surrounds and a compact space. But amazing brews.

The first time I had the feeling of mono no aware was at ARiSE Coffee in Kiyosumi-Shirakawa, a semi-industrial outpost in the east of Tokyo. ARiSE is the real star of the specialty coffee scene in the area, despite the arrival of some more prominent international juggernauts. Owner/roaster/barista/skateboarder/heavy metal fan Taiju Hayashi is a long-term veteran of the coffee industry, having been brewing and roasting since the early 2000s, but only setting up this business in 2013 when he discovered he had the right personality for hospitality. The amazing thing about ARiSE is that it's tiny. There's seating for about five, on some homely looking chairs and stools, and there's no air conditioning. Half the store is the roaster! And 100% of the store is Taiju, whose engaging presence fills the space and everyone inside it. Taiju supplies other locations around town, including his own cafe about five minutes walk away, but this is the place to go if you want to not just drink the coffee but meet the man. He instantly makes you feel at home and expresses a genuine interest in everyone who comes through the door (not just me, but others in the store, and others who have written about the place). The coffee knocked my socks off as well - a Dominican, and one that he suggested I try. You should ask him what you should try as well. Taiju only brews pour-overs (no espresso here) and has a couple of snacks if you're keen.

2. Maruyama (Minato, Tokyo)

'Do you want to come and watch the Alphadominche Steampunk?'

Presentation matters.

The second time I had the feeling of transient beauty was at Maruyama Coffee in the Minato ward. Nestled between several embassies and with some expensive cars parked around the lot, the first thought I had was that the rent must be even more enormous than the location itself. But the quality of the coffee surpasses the allure of the surroundings. The genesis of Maruyama is Hidenori Izaki, a world-wide coffee celebrity after winning the 2014 World Barista Championship, something that almost guarantees a future in the business. Notably, it wasn't just the first win for a Japanese contestant, but also the first win for someone from Asia (which will no longer be a rare thing). Izaki stepped back from the spotlight to serve coffee to his many fans and also to raise up the next generation of competitors - staff at Maruyama locations round Japan are frequent contestants and often winners of regional, national and international competitions in coffee. Maruyama has a frankly ridiculously long menu of coffee of amazing coffees - maybe fifty in total (I lost count). Combined with brew methods it can be daunting to a casual visitor, so ask the staff for suggestions. They're aware of the showmanship of coffee as well, so they will invite you to come watch the brew. The ambience is really what seals the deal here - you could luxuriate there for hours. I'd even go there on a date (no, it's not cheap, either.)

3. Cafe Kitsune (Aoyama, Tokyo)

Bonsai and a Slayer

A well-executed macchiato

There's a Blue Bottle around the corner with queues out the door and with the ambience of an Apple Store on launch day, but Cafe Kitsune, a Tokyo outpost of a Parisian brand, is quietly cranking out perfectly executed shots on one of the very few Slayer espresso machines in the country (outside their main distributer, below). A Slayer is a beautiful machine that's hand-crafted in Seattle and has to be pre-ordered sometimes a year in advance. They're basically carved out of stone and are entirely manual - the barista doesn't have control just over temperature and pressure, but even temperature and pressure profiles - and all manually. It's not easy to use. It's definitely not easy to use 1,000 times a day. But people here do it. Kitsune is a welcome respite from the busy area, and an easy place in which to relax and and recuperate both physically and mentally.

4. %Arabica, Higashiyama, Kyoto

Junichi at the helm

Another brilliant macchiato

The custom wood and glass Slayer in the window

A temple just casually outside

'You must be in a constant state of bliss', I told %Arabica Kyoto's head barista Junichi Yamaguchi, a latte art legend who has an incredible list of gushing fans. He agreed with a smile. %Arabica Coffee's name might sound a little hard to pin down (everyone uses arabica coffee these days), but the company has put an incredible amount of thought into everything in their stores, all of which are also roasters - a gorgeous aesthetic of white and woods, an open and inviting plan, really genuinely beautiful locations (check out their page for the others!) and high-end equipment - Tornado roasters and Slayer espresso machines (%Arabica is also the distributor of Slayers in Japan). This is the second mention of Slayer in this article, but it was only the second machine I saw out of 50+ locations I visited around Japan. %Arabica's Higashiyama location is located just metres from a local temple, and the entire area is breathtaking, even on a typically overcast Kyoto day - there's a peaceful ambience and a feeling of space and timelessness. The coffee is incredible, and it would be well worth your while luxuriating in the area for hours. You can follow Junichi's instagram here to be one of the tens of thousands who agree he's a rock star.

5. Cafe de l'Ambre, Tokyo

A traditional Japanese drip

An aged Ethiopian Yirgacheffe

No overview of Japan's coffee culture could be made without a mention of the traditional kissaten, an older-generation coffee house. Japan actually has a very refined coffee culture that predates the 'third wave' by a considerable degree. Decades, in fact. Did you know siphon brewers, one of the sexy new specialty darlings of the west, were invented in Japan in the seventies? Did you know that in Japan, 'Kyoto-style cold-drip' is actually just referred to as 'cold-drip'? The Japanese kissaten is usually frequented by older Japanese and has a reputation for being smokey - and while smoking is allowed, this one wasn't smokey at all. At a good kissaten like this one, you can enjoy high quality beans that have been roasted with dedication and which are brewed with meticulous care. Cafe de L'Ambre has a reputation for three things: a) being one of the oldest kissatens in the city, b) serving aged beans (with vintages - like you can get a '74 Ethiopian, for example) and c) still being managed by Ichiro Sekiguchi who opened the location in 1948 and who is, as of time of publication, just shy of 100 years old. Unfortunately he wasn't there when I visited. I mean, he was probably resting. The coffees are pricey, some of which reflects quality and some of which reflects inventory costs of storage for 40 years. It's well worth a try, and it's important to acknowledge that two generations of coffee culture can live side-by-side.

Another day, another five coffees

Like in every other aspect of its culture, Japan does coffee its own way. It isn't slavishly following trends set in Portland, Oregon or Melbourne, Australia, but rather taking notes and implementing them in unique ways. Over the course of ten days I grew to appreciate that it's a beast unto itself. The above is just a slice of the coffee culture - there are hundreds of quality specialty coffee locations around the country, and it would be impossible for one person to cover them all. But we'll keep trying.

Opinion

What is Specialty Coffee?

As I work on the Pilgrim Coffee app, I am haunted by the need to come up with a definition for what gets on the global specialty coffee map and what doesn't. In other words: what is specialty coffee? For someone who has been around cafes since the beginning of the third wave in Australia, it started loosely with 'I'll know it when I see it'. But that's not good enough when explaining to a devoted fan or cafe owner why one venue may not have made the cut.

The below is a working draft, but in consultation with cafe owners, passionate baristas and devoted fans, it's how I'm seeing it right now.

The foundation

The basis is this document from the Specialty Coffee Association of America, which attempts to reduce it to the following (emphasis added):

So how do we define specialty coffee? Well, in the broadest sense we define it is as coffee that has met all the tests of survival encountered in the long journey from the coffee tree to the coffee cup. More specifically, we measure it against standards and with methods that allow us to identify coffee that has been properly cared for.

In reality, the specialty experience already includes many steps along the journey - but many of us would add one more critical step: customer service. There is a world of difference between on the one hand coffee prepared according to a recipe and plonked in front of the customer without much description or context, and on the other hand a well-informed brewer that is willing to (and almost dying to) explain the provenance and quality of the ingredients, why it has been prepared a certain way, what the customer can expect, etc. 

And on the other hand, most cafes do not roast their own beans (for reasons of economies of scale). So one can't expect everyone to say 'the owner of this bean's farm is Juan Carlos Dominguez and his wife is expecting'. That's unreasonable. But a conscientious cafe owner, brewer and server should at least know what roaster is used, what beans are currently in stock and a little bit about each one. 

So I've boiled it down to the following three elements (as of August 2015).

The standards

  • Beans. A specialty coffee cafe should know its beans. Five years ago, I'd have said it would be enough that a cafe buy beans slightly above mass market quality and simply doesn't let them go stale. These days, the minimum standard is that a cafe knows (and openly states) its coffee roaster, which should be one that is known for producing specialty coffee (even if that's not their core business - some roasters double up as mass market and specialty). Or of course the cafe may roast its own coffee. The cafe should know roughly how the blend is made up, and almost always will provide a rotation of single origins from the same roaster (or maybe others!). The coffees on offer will always be fresh, high quality, from recognised specialty coffee provenances and have their own stand-out characteristics that the server/barista can easily communicate.
  • Brewing. A specialty coffee cafe should brew according to (evolving) standards - making espressos using equipment that is up to the standard (typically one of these machines), and/or pouring coffees that consistently are within the correct extraction range and which are able to make the most of the raw ingredients of coffee, water and sometimes milk. A specialty coffee cafe does not have to make every cup perfectly. Consistency is important, but a cafe that's pushing the envelope in bean quality and brewing technique will occasionally push things too far. Also, coffee is an incredibly fickle product, and at the upper echelons of quality, the slightest decrease will be noticeable. However, the fundamentals have to soundly be there, and a specialty coffee cafe must be able to adjust technique in response to changing conditions. Finally, a specialty coffee cafe will often (but not always) have its own specialty drinks - as simple as its own milk/coffee/water ratios (e.g. the 'shlong' or a simple variation on the piccolo, etc.), or sometimes with other complex add-ins like in-house recipes for New Orleans iced coffee, or an affogato coffee with house-made ice cream, or other exotic creations with spices, liquors, juices etc.
  • Service. This is the final element where many specialty coffee chains slip up (and some survive!). More than just friendliness and attentiveness, a specialty coffee cafe must provide a specialty coffee experience all the way through to delivery by the server. This means the server has to have knowledge of the above two steps - the beans and the brewing techniques. They should know what's on offer at the cafe, what's different and what's special, and be able to explain it. Basically they should be as engaged in the coffee process as the consumer and the barista, and be fully informed. This is similar to a waiter that can communicate a chef's prowess or a sommelier that is intricately informed of a wine list's special characteristics.

Where next

As I said, this is a working document. But the above is a great starting point that already filters out a lot in every city. Some chains make it through, and some independent cafes do not.

Cafe Reviews

Espresso Alchemy in Quarry Bay (Hong Kong)

 Nestled between skyscrapers... And next to McDonalds.  

Nestled between skyscrapers... And next to McDonalds.  

 Nestled among the skyscrapers and tall buildings is a little oasis of specialty coffee, Espresso Alchemy. Some dead giveaways that this place is serious is the descriptions of the blends up on the whiteboard glass behinds the barista, the custom paint job on the La Marzocco Strada and of course the option of filter brews (depending on availability of seasonal single origins) or cold brew on the menu. The perfectly executed milk drinks doesn't hurt, either. 

 Flat white, done well.  

Flat white, done well.  

They brew espressos on a cool looking custom painted Expobar, which was hard to get a photo of - but you get the idea! A very unusual machine in a world of Nuova Simonellis and Synessos, but obviously one capable of liking it's weight.  

 Their custom painted Expobar

Their custom painted Expobar

Espresso Alchemy in Quarry Bay is open from 6:30am on weekdays for the office worker rush, so get in early! Like every other cafe here it's in our specialty coffee app on the App Store

Scene

The other 'black gold': Australia's Bean to Bar Chocolatiers

It's pretty rare for someone to be into coffee and not into chocolate. I'm pretty sure all readers of this blog are going to be sympathetic to this cause, even if you try to limit your intake.

I'm amazed and very impressed by all the 'bean to bar' chocolatiers that have sprung up over the last few years in Australia and in the US. Particularly Australia... it's a small market, and chocolate is very capex heavy - you need lots of big equipment, and you can't buy cacao beans in small batches. On a recent trip to Australia I decided to take some souvenirs home, and in the process figured out what the state of play of Australian bean to bar chocolatiers is. I.e. these are chocolate makers who buy beans and process them rather than making their chocolate from couverture. Chocolate made from couverture is far more common (it's easier to procure in small batches, and far less equipment is needed) and can be of just as high quality. This is a much more restrictive list of those who process all the way from beans. Here's the list, alphabetically.

Bahen & Co (Margaret River, WA)

Josh Bahen founded Bahen & Co (together with his wife Jacq) after already having established himself as a winemaker, and having become familiar with the intricacies of high quality food preparation - as well as branding and marketing. Bahen is a direct trade chocolate maker, building long term relationships with cacao farmers and paying above fair trade prices for high quality beans. They invested a lot of time in finding suppliers who sun-dry their beans properly, to not have to resort to masking mouldy beans with vanilla as is the norm, and buy beans from Madagascar, Brazil, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. They uses a 1930’s Barth Sirocco Ball Roaster and circa 1910 Guitard Melangeur for their process manufacturing process - equipment that's over 100 years old! Josh always says he is always struggling to simplify chocolate making and intervene less in the process, allowing the cacao to speak for itself. So like many other producers, Bahen uses only two ingredients - cacao beans and cane sugar - and will always continue to do so. They've even put a lot of thought into the packaging. The artwork and package design is supposed to evoke aspects of each origin, taking consumers on a journey from the minute they lay sight on the package. In case you need some right now like I do, their online store is excellent and they have a sample pack of single origin bars in case you can't decide what to get.

Bright Chocolate (Bright, Victoria)

Bright Chocolate (based in... Bright, Victoria) was founded quite recently in 2013 by Simeon Crawley, wife Shannon and kids, who have have called Bright home for 10 years. Simeon was inspired by the craft chocolate movement then emergent in North America, which is preoccupied with investigating the inherent 'terroir' of each bean. He studied chocolate making at the Ecole Chocolat Academy in Canada, and added elements of sustainable sourcing and manufacturing to develop a unique Australian brand. Bright sources beans and makes single origin bars from Madagascar, Ecuador, Trinidad and the Dominican Republic, each of them with their own characteristics. Like many specialty chocolatiers, the only ingredients they use are cacao and cane sugar. There's also a range of fancier chocolates in wooden boxes (with more ingredients) to be given as gifts. Their online store is quite good, too, and there's a five bar sampler in case you can't decide. OK there's also a 20 bar pantry collection. Do it.

Charley's (Mission Beach, Queensland)

A unique concept in chocolate tourism, Charley's is one of the only places where you can see the entire 'bean to bar' experience start even before the bean... when they're being picked from the trees. It's 'tree to bar'! The factory is situated in Mission Beach in Queensland (between Cairns and Townsville), set in 400 acres of lush tropical farmland. They offer tours where you can learn of chocolate history, how they cyclone-proof the trees, and about all the stages of chocolate processing including before most manufacturers would even see the chocolate pods. Note that due to supply constraints, most of the coffee they manufacture is actually from Pacific Island chocolate producers, but as their trees mature they will move more and more of the manufacturing to domestically-sourced beans. All Charley's chocolates is 70% cocoa (which they believe about right, noting that more cocoa doesn't mean better chocolate... 90% cocoa can be 90% something awful), and use only cocoa beans, a small amount of cacao butter and sugar (no other additives). Charley's uses a slow process to make chocolate, spending 70 hours conching, something not commercially viable for mass chocolate producers. You can buy a bar of their locally grown and produced chocolate right on their webstore.

Cicada (Sydney, Australia)

Cicada, founded by husband and wife team Julian and Katy Robb in 2011, is a small batch bean-to-bar chocolatier that sources its cacao beans from small plantations around the world, including Madagascar, Nicaragua and Indonesia. They travel to the farms themselves and regularly pay twice fair trade prices, believing in establishing personal relationships with the growers and co-ops. They fully process the beans themselves, serving them as single-origin bars as well as specialty chocolates. Cicada's products are prized around Sydney and served up in a number of restaurants. They also have a boutique store in The Rocks where you can buy their chocolate directly in a scenic setting. Or they have a great looking webstore you can check out.

Daintree Estates (Mossman, Queensland)

Daintree Estates is another producer founded on the concept of 'plantation to plate' chocolates as they call it (it has to have a bit of alliteration, doesn't it?). Founder Barry Kitchen, a former senior executive at Cadbury, got the idea when overseeing a study into the feasibility of growing cacao in North Queensland. He realised it was possible, retired from the corporate world and set to it himself. That was back in 2005, and they've been growing ever since. They even use Queensland raw sugar, for a truly local product. Even though it's all one origin, they use different varieties and bean vintages for distinct flavours, embracing the subtle differences between each crop. Australian production (despite their focus on increasing yield through technology) is a costly exercise, which places Daintree in a premium market. They also have a decent webstore through which you can check out the goods.

Gabriel Chocolate (Margaret River, Yallingup, Western Australia)

Gabriel Chocolate (website is a placeholder, not much on it) is a lesser-known chocolate maker from the gourmet produce region of Margaret River, and is is a new venture on the already successful House of Cards winery. So it has the huge advantage of being situated in a beautiful region. Gabriel Myburgh (a former lawyer... a well-trodden path, lawyer --> winemaker --> ???) and wife Ruth started their chocolate factory in late 2011 and already have developed a name for themselves. Unlike the much better known regional chocolatier the Margaret River Chocolate Factory who work from couverture, Gabriel Chocolate is a bean-to-bar manufacturer - you can see the bags of beans around the place in their shop. They're entirely self-taught in the dark art of making chocolate, but seem to have figured it out. The on-site cafe also has Five Senses coffee, just in case you forgot why you're here. Unfortunately they don't have a web store, so you'll have to buy their chocolate either on-site or through a reseller.

Haigh's (Adelaide, South Australia)

Some might be surprised to see Haigh's on this list. After all, they make chocolate frogs. How is that similar to anything else on this list? Well, you don't have to have super well designed packaging and expensive Swedish-sounding names to produce bean-to-bar chocolate. Haigh's is an old Australian institution - they've been making chocolate since founded by Alfred Haigh in Adelaide in 1915, and have been buying beans from all over the world for most of that time. In that regard, perhaps Haigh's has the most right of any to be on this list! This is no flash-in-the-pan amateur operation, I think they've proven that. The majority of Haigh's commercial products isn't single origin - they started out in chocolate coated candies and still produce the same line, which is very cool (or stubborn). Nonetheless, they do produce single origin chocolates and have a few in their web store (and I'm sure also in store at their many locations around Australia).

Mörk (Melbourne, Victoria)

Mörk, which is actually quite hard to say if you try to remain faithful to the 'ö', specialises in hot chocolate products. This doesn't compromise the integrity they have in their process of sourcing from farms and producing a high-quality hot chocolate product - so high quality, in fact, that many of Australia's top specialty cafes regularly actively cite their hot chocolate as being from Mörk.

Matale (Melbourne, Victoria)

Matale Chocolate is another bean-to-bar chocolatier, founded in Melbourne in 2013 by Thibault Fregoni, founder and former owner of Monsieur Truffe (below). They source and and 'transform' their beans into bars of single origin chocolate. They use as an analogy Melbourne's coffee roasting movement, but of course I acknowledge creating bean-to-bar chocolate is much harder. They're continually striving to improve the reach of their direct-sourcing programme, for now working directly with a co-operative in Sri Lanka, trying to give input to improve their production techniques. They focus on quality, not accreditations, acknowledging that not all farmers can afford organic or fair trade certifications. Their web store seems broken as of July 2015, hopefully this will be resolved. For now, they focus on wholesale, and you can buy the chocolate from a number of stockists listed here.

Monsieur Truffe (Melbourne, Victoria)

What began as a one-man operation in 2008 by chocolatier Thibault Fregoni at Prahran market (he has now sold it - focusing on Matale) now has stores in Collingwood and East Brunswick. Monsieur Truffe recently produced its first bean-to-bar chocolate at its factory, which opened in 2011. Previously they were focusing on single origin chocolates, so they were on their way. They have a cafe in East Brunswick called East Elevation, which apart from selling killer coffee from Melbourne roaster Padre, also showcases Monsieur Truffe's ever-evolving range. Their chocolates and hot chocolates are found at many gourmet food stores and cafes around town (though the hot chocolates aren't as ubiquitous as Mörk's).

Nick's Chocolate (Brisbane, Australia)

Nick's Chocolate is the creation of Nicholas Whebell, founded in 2012, and based in Brisbane, Australia. His chocolates are 'entirely hand made', from the sorting of the beans to the wrapping of the labels. They source all their cacao beans directly and ethically, to the point where they do not label chocolates 'Fair trade' even if they can, just because they've gone above and beyond. They have a decent online shop where you can sample the goods, and you can find them at a number of quality cafes and grocers around town.

Spencer Cocoa (Mudgee, NSW)

Grown in Vanuatu, made in Mudgee. They only get their cocoa from ONE ORIGIN in Malekula, Vanuatu. How single-origin can you get? In fact, they call it 'single plantation chocolate'. Luke and Thea Spencer founded Spencer Cocoa in 2013 after a project in 2010 in which Luke helped Vanuatan chocolate farmers set up a co-op in an effort to help rejuvenate a plantation. He then thought, well why not make chocolate ourselves? Spencer Cocoa now buys their cocoa directly from that co-op. They thus have more visibility into their supply chain than arguably any other artisinal chocolate maker. They sell their chocolates through a bevy of NSW and southern QLD retailers, as well as through their own online shop.

Zokoko (Sydney, Australia)

Founded in 2009 by experienced coffee roaster Dean Morgan, NSW-based Zokoko works directly with cocoa growers from Australia to Bolivia, sourcing high-quality beans, including a rare Tranquilidad wild variety. The Blue Mountains-based company uses vintage artisan equipment and traditional methods to turn out small batches of dark chocolate. They have a cafe in Emu Heights where you can go nuts on chocolate, as well as drink some good coffee - roasted by Dean himself (what a talented guy, I can't wait to meet him one day). Dean went to extreme lengths to secure the equipment necessary to produce bean-to-bar chocolate, and then paid a pretty penny for the minimum orders of beans necessary to get started. The result is incredible, and you can judge for yourself at their cafe or stockists. No direct online store available yet, unfortunately.


That's all of the ones in Australia. There are many more around the world, of course. If I've missed one, don't hesitate to let me know in comments below and I'll add it in.

Cafe Reviews

Finally: Dandelion & Driftwood, Brisbane (Australia)

It's another place I've wanted to visit for years.

It's always closed around Christmas/New Year, the time I'm normally in Brisbane. A cheeky mid-year trip means I could visit Peter and Penny Wolff's coffee institution, Dandelion & Driftwood, in Hendra. This place has won a ridiculous number of awards (best cafe, best roaster, best coffee in Brisbane etc...) and deserves them - it was one of the first specialty coffee places (opened in Dec 2010) in a city that used to be a coffee desert.

The piccolo. Pretty spectacularly done.

The even more spectacular but less photogenic Chemex pour-over

You don't even have to ask how the coffee is, so I won't bother saying anything more than it's spectactular, as you'd expect. How much you'd like this place really depends on how much you like the beans they happen to have at any given point (which are always good, but they change and tastes vary) and what you think of the atmosphere.

The beans are sourced directly by Peter and Penny, and roasted for other cafes in their spin-off roaster Wolff Coffee Roasters. They also sell beans in-store - I took some home (and failed to replicate how well they did it). There's always the house blend, a single origin espresso and a third option on the grinders, and for filter coffees there's an even wider range. They'll brew you a Chemex, an Aeropress, other filter coffees... even using the Transformers-esque Bunn Trifecta which is cooler than it sounds (or looks). I mean, it's all filter. But give it a shot.

The space isn't huge - it's centred around a communal table, with other small tables for maximum two people. There's a bench by the window too. So it's intimate - don't go with a big group. If you do linger a while you can enjoy the food menu - a good set of brunch and lunch options as well as sweets from the cake stand out near the till.

D&D is a Brisbane institution and worth a visit. Open seven days a week from 8am (closing 4pm Mon-Sat, 2pm on Sun) at 45 Gehler Rd, Hendra. It's on the way from the airport. So go straight there if you can, like I did.

Gear, Scene

Machine spotting: Kick-ass espresso machines of superstar cafes

In my survey of thousands of cafes around the world for my upcoming global guide to specialty coffee, I keep coming across a few particular superstar machines that everyone drools about or mentions with pride that they own. Having a machine like one of the below is a terrific indicator that good quality coffee could be present - because if a cafe is going to shell out over US$15K on a machine, they're probably going to invest in other places where it counts like training, wages for good baristas and quality beans. I'm going to focus on six machines - one machine from each of the dominant brands - the machines and brands I see coming up most often, and mention why they're special. In no particular order. If


Kees van der Westen Spirit

"I like fast shapes. Espresso is fast coffee, so the machine should look so fast." Kees Van der Westen, the Belgian designer behind some of the most gorgeous espresso machine designs out there, knows what he's talking about. All KVDW machines look hot. I could post many pics of their Mirage and recently re-designed Speedster machines, but let's limit ourselves here. The Spirit is the pinnacle of their development (KVDW's been building machines since the 90s), including all their technical and design prowess in one machine. What makes it special: Looks (can't ignore it), and super-friendly control of the double boiler system allowing on-the-fly adjustments of temperature via the PID in each group head (attached to the invidual boiler for each group head). But really, it's looks.

OK, fine. Here are some pics of KVDW's other stunning creations. 


La Marzocco Strada EP

The La Marzocco Strada is another favourite of the espresso world. Handmade in Florence (what espresso machines aren't hand-made? Is there a factory producing 10,000 a month of something out there?). La Marzocco, like other Italian brands, has been producing espresso machines since 1927 and has a huge portion of the market globally - their machines are everywhere. The Strada is their current piece de resistance. What makes it special: Electronic pressure profiling. The LM Strada, particularly the E.P., was the one of the first machines (the Slayer being the first) to allow direct control of temperature profile - i.e. adjustments to the pressure applied to the coffee during extraction. It adds a whole new dimension to perfectionism in extraction. La Marzocco's dominance in the specialty coffee marketplace makes the addition of this feature a big deal, and makes it more likely for pressure profile to become an important part of barista training everywhere. There is another version of the strata that offers direct control of pressure via paddle - obviously great for manual control, but different to pre-programmed profiles that can be re-executed quickly.

Other La Marzocco machines seen pretty regularly but not as coveted are the FB80 (a curvy, shapely thing), the GB/5 and the Linea (an attractive if somewhat boxy thing). Honourable mention to the Mistral: a highly coveted (but not as much as the Strada) machine, sititng somewhere between La Marzocco and Kees van der Westen anyway (designed by the latter using parts from the former, later acquired by the former).


Slayer

Just Slayer. No model names. These guys are the new kids on the block, having been producing machines commercially only since 2010. The brand name is almost synonymous for 'dedicated to amazing coffee here'. Along with Synesso, they're also hand-crafted in Seattle. These machines are very well loved, even though they can take months to fully understand and dial in because: What makes it special: it's totally manual. Slayer prides itself on 'notoriously, horribly, beautifully manual' machines, and believes this is where it is different to other brands. The manual nature of it means you can manually adjust the pressure of extraction by tweaking the paddles above every group head (to adjust flow rate). Slayer was the first to achieve this, and won't let you forget it.

Slayers aren't just functional, they're robust as all get-out. Watch the video below comparing Slayer's heating element to one from another high-end machine (don't know who). After only a minute, the other element begins to deform. Flames appear at 6 minutes. All this time, Slayer's element burns brightly and strongly. Virtually every espresso machine manufacturer uses copper heating elements to prepare water for brewing and steaming. Name any model: with only one exception, they're all copper. But if your machine loses water, these elements fail, often at the expense of other components. 

They're gorgeous, too. See their media page for more pictures and get ready to drool.


Synesso Hydra

The Synessos are a well-loved piece of kit, built by hand in Seattle. Like the La Marzocco Strada, they offer electronic pressure profiling that allows you to customise the extraction pressure profile on each group head. Another variable to obsess over. Apart from this, what makes it special: incredible temperature stability. With independent brew tanks and PIDs for each group head, Synesso has earned a reputation for the most stable brewing temperature of any machine. The Synessos are also said to be a dream to work on, with automated back-flushing and generally being hassle free.

The Synesso Cyncra is a slightly lower spec machine that's almost identical in form.


Nuova Simonelli Aurelia II T3

The Nuova Simonelli Aurelia T3 was the tool of choice for the World Barista Championships until the Black Eagle (below) took over, and has earned a loyal following since as a 'competition-grade' machine. Nuova Simonelli is a company that needs no introduction (to most) - they have been making espresso machines since 1936. What makes it special: The soft (pre-)infusion system (SIS). A graduated pre-infusion ensures that beans are properly soaked, and aims to provide more stable brews and smooth out errors in dosing and tamping.


Victoria Arduino Black Eagle

The Victoria Arduino Black Eagle is as hot as it sounds. The official machine of the 2015 World Barista Championships, taking over from the Nuova Simonelli T3 above, you can bet that it's built well. After being acquired by Nuova Simonelli in 2001, Victoria Arduino has being repositioned as a highly functional brand for style-conscious cafe owners. The innards of the VA Black Eagle are the same as the ugly but effective Nuova Simonelli Aurelia T3 above, with aesthetic design done in conjunction with influential coffee don James Hoffman, and a couple of technical features added. What makes it special: a gravimetric weighing system, i.e. scales built into the drip tray. Hoffman believes that 'beverage mass is the most important factor in extraction', more important that brew time or visual guides to extraction quality. Thus, the intelligent drip tray scales (that can distinguish between shot weight and the barista's hand hitting the tray) can be a real boon in the quantitative search for perfect espresso.

Scene, Guides

Winning Aeropress recipes from the HK Aeropress Championships

Sometimes it's good to breakaway from the norm. I'm usually a traditionalist and use one of the Aeropress recipes from iconic roasters as a starting point, but I've noticed some distinct trends of award-winning recipes. They tend to use

  • A far lower temperature
  • More water:coffee
  • Longer brew times

So I decided to try some out, starting with my current home town of Hong Kong. Here are the winning three from the Hong Kong Aeropress Championship.

1st place - Chan Tin Lok

Ingredients:

  • 260ml water at (85°C)
  • 17.5g coffee

(water:coffee ratio = 14.9:1. Total brew time ~2m20)

Recipe:

  1. Pour 60ml water in the Aeropress for pre-infusion, stir 10 times
  2. Add 60ml water over 20 seconds, then stir 10 times
  3. Add remaining 140ml water over 40 seconds
  4. Press slowly over 1 minute

Note: This recipe was posted on their site as being 280ml, however adding up the sub-quantities ends up at 260ml.

This one's my favorite for its simplicity, not just because it happened to win. I usually up the dose to 18.5 or 19g, to compensate for the greater proportion of fines in my non-professional home grinder.

Runner-up: Lam Yuen Sim

Ingredients:

  • 23g coffee
  • 230g water (78°C)

(water:coffee ratio = 10:1. Total brew time ~ 1m30)

Recipe:

  1. Sift the ground coffee to eliminate fines, separate into coarse and fine grounds
  2. Rinse filter paper
  3. Place the Aeropress in regular position
  4. Add coarse grounds
  5. Add 230g water in 20 seconds
  6. Add fines in 40 seconds and stir 2-3 times
  7. When timer reaches 1m15, press the Aeropress over 15 seconds

This recipe requires the use of a sieve, which I heartily believe in but which is impractical for most home brewers. I have one available but even I can't be bothered most of the time!

2nd runner-up: Nip Wai Lun's

Ingredients:

  • 18g coffee
  • 245g water

(water:coffee ratio = 13.6:1, total brew time ~4m)

Recipe:

  1. Place the Aeropress upside down & rinse double filter papers
  2. Add 18g coffee & 100g water in 93℃, then cover to maintain temperature
  3. When temp drops to to 89°C add 145g water in 88℃, and cover again
  4. Wait until the process has reached 3.5 minutes, then install filters and cap
  5. Place the Aeropress upside down and press over 30 seconds

Definitely the most complex recipe of the three. It produces a clean and interesting cup, but it's not terribly practical to replicate every day!

Cafe Reviews

Great coffee, delivered: Beancurious (Hong Kong)

Last month I ran out of coffee at home. I thought: 'Never again'.

A few months earlier, I had received a free sample of 50g of roasted coffee from Beancurious. At the time, I thought 'what a cool promotion!' Obviously. Free coffee! I was even more impressed when the had sample arrived. Not only was it great coffee (something that needn't even be mentioned if I'm writing about it), but it was well-presented and efficiently delivered with a nice accompanying note.

So, in my despair last month at all the local roasters being closed, my old stash of green beans having gone stale and not being able to find Mark from GFT down the hall for a sample from some microlot in who-knows-where, I decided to sign up to their monthly service. Great decision.

Ethiopian Sidamo front bag label. Nice design!

For a paltry $180 a month, Beancurious sends you 400g. That's about $110 for 250g. For comparisons sake, it's hard to get a 250g bag for less than $150 - IN STORE. Some will have coffee for this cheap, but it won't be very good quality. Beancurious sends you great coffee at a great price - DELIVERED.

Coffee #1 is a lightly roasted Ethiopian Sidamo. It has everything I expect in a good Sidamo - fruity sweetness and that crisp blueberry aroma that drives me nuts. No complaints. This is good coffee. The beans are roasted in Hong Kong by a local roaster, so you're supporting multiple local businesses in one hit!

Sidamo back label. A quality bag, good description and even nice lettering.

Aside from good coffee, Beancurious gets the small things right, too. Every pack comes in a valve-sealed metallic package with a roast date clearly marked (I got mine a couple of days after roasting - just ready to go). There's attractive logotyping and other design flourishes. Beancurious is actually run out of a design studio, Kobo Design, so I wouldn't expect anything less than high attention to detail. Beancurious is a labour of love for Sean Okihiro's team at Kobo, and you can see they put their hearts into it.

I signed up to 400g because that's as much as I need per month while allowing me to try plenty of other coffees (I go through about 40-60g a day, depending on the day), but they offer subscriptions from as little as 200g and up to as much as 800g, at varying levels of value. So there's one for everyone.

I totally recommend this service for anyone who likes good beans, good value and likes to be surprised by something new. Hit them up at their website and sign up.

Scene

What we've been up to: Rebuilding the data model

Everyone who signed up for our beta test is probably wondering 'yo what's up'? Well, I'm keen to get your feedback. But I already know what the first two bits of feedback are, and I don't want to waste your time (and mine) getting feedback we all already know about.

  1. It's too slow.
  2. It doesn't work in China.

Both of these are big problems. For me (I go to China,too), and other people. So I'm taking a few steps to fix them... but it means a lot more work.

Right now, I have hacked together a back-end that relies on Google Docs to store the data. While this is cool and convenient for me as an editor and programmer for building a proof-of-concept, it's really risky to release like this. The app takes AGES to load when there are hundreds of cafes in a city - like in London or in New York. And secondly, Google Docs doesn't work in China. Man! What a deal breaker. There's coffee in China, and I go there, and so I want it to work. (Note: this is also why I use Apple Maps rather than Google Maps, and it's also why I'm not sure how to make it work on Android... so I'll leave that to a specialist later.)

There's also the problem that Google could pull the plug on any part of their functionality at the drop of a hat. I hate dropping hats, so I decided to migrate away from hats altogether.

The current data model, on my napkin doodle above, was fine for hacking something together for myself. But it's not going to last. So I'm going to have to build something more sustainable. See the second, more advanced napkin doodle below:

Now we're talking! This is what I'm working on now. But - any database-based structure takes time to implement. Also, I've never done any web coding. Never! So I'm saying hello to stuff designers have been using for years, putting together raw HTML, CSS, JS, Backbone and database access libraries when last week I hadn't done any of the above. Forgive me if it takes me a few days or a couple of weeks. But it'll get there!

Cafe Reviews

Linger and enjoy it: BlackStar (Brisbane, Australia)

Blackstar is one of the highest rated cafes in Brisbane, and it has a cool name. I had to check it out, despite the warnings from my hairdresser (who, being Australian and a hairdresser, knows a thing or two about coffee and design) that there are too many hippies there. Nah. Not too many.

The view of BlackStar from outside. It's unassuming. It looks dark but it's not - it was just a really bright, hot day in Brisbane.

I don't think there were 'too many hippies' (which I guess would be a lot, be so many that I couldn't taste the coffee, continue to breathe or generally keep my sanity) but it definitely had a chilled out vibe to it. There's only outdoor seating (which is fine in Brisbane, it only ever goes from 'nice' to 'hot'). There's wifi. They're cool with you chilling out for ... like... forever. And there's only a coffee bar that serves a number of beans however you like them, and some treats. No big meals. Some 'breakfasty' stuff, but don't go there expecting to wax poetic about eggs benedict, unless you were going to do that anyway.

The coffee bar at BlackStar. Not much more to it!

It rains sometimes in Brisbane, but they've got a roof here. High tech!

I had a couple of coffees, and they were both done well. The presentation was lacking, but I'd rather the barrier to entry for specialty coffee not be as high as the new designer shops set it, anyway. The pourover I had was a Kenyan with a lot of berry flavour, not a high amount of body, but a sweet aftertaste. Pretty standard great Kenyan, and just what I expected from them. I finished it off a bit later with a cold brew, which I generally don't like as much but it just looked so cool.

The pourover presentation at BlackStar. Unfussed. The glassware had fingerprints on them.

The cold brew. Great labelling! Wonder what 'cold pressed' means. Traditionally, it means 'we put it all in a bucket and gave it a swirl'.

The 'we're really into coffee' goods bar (no seriously, I love these).

BlackStar is unassuming and serious about their coffee. There's really often a distinct roasting smell coming from their roaster (which is out the back somewhere), and you can buy brewing gear and beans right from next to the counter. I would have, if I wasn't stocked up on beans and free samples from other places.

Basically, all up, this is a great place to go and check out. In an age where fit outs of cafes can cost upwards of A$500K, it's nice to see a cafe investing only where it really counts - great coffee, friendly staff and a really relaxed atmosphere. Nobody was rushing me out of my seat. They were totally chill. I think I'll be back.

BlackStar is at 44 Thomas St West End and is open 7am-5pm every day.

Scene

Our new app - Hitlist*

We've been working on a new app - the ultimate guide to specialty coffee shops around the world. No more hunting around through blogs, forums, local apps or getting referrals from friends every time you visit a new city. Sign up to our list or send us an email to find out when we go live!


* Working title

Cafe Reviews

"Check out PCP" - Paramount Coffee Project Review (Sydney, Australia)

After a good coffee anywhere, I always ask a good barista or cafe owner where I should go next. 'Check out PCP' is all they said this time (at Salvage on the North Shore). Because apparently every person knows Paramount Coffee Project place by its acronym 'PCP' alone.

The acronym'd Paramount Coffee Project from the outside

Let's get the blindingly obvious out of the way: the coffee was great. I asked for a pourover of their 'Carmen estate' coffee roasted by Reuben Hills up the road. It was great - buttery and warm with an almond finish. Slightly tart, which is a fairly common trait with lightly roasted coffees these days.

The coffee at PCP. Sweet pink ceramic cups too

The space at PCP is not really what I expected. I didn't realise why it was called a 'project' until I got there. It's based the industrial space in the Paramount building, and has been implemented as a project implemented by Russell Beard of Reuben Hills and Mark Dundas of Seven Seeds. Without knowing more, this might be due to conditions on their lease, or its temporary nature. Nonetheless, while it's there, PCP is a charming spot, well-lit and totally appetising for a daytime coffee.

PCP's main coffee and pastry bar

One thing that PCP does a little differently is their brew bar. While PCP rotates between roasters for most of their blends, its proprietors likes to choose green beans to send out to roasters, and then show the different roasters' interpretations of the same blend for customers willing to try something a little different. It's an interactive and fun thing to do, more about talking about coffee with someone (or the barista) than talking about anything else. But what else would you talk about in a place like this, anyway.

Paramount Coffee Project's specialty brew bar

PCP is decorated with hipster stuff, like bicycles and artworks. It adds to the character.

Hipster stuff like you know, bicycles

PCP is definitely worth visiting, then revisiting every few weeks when they rotate to new coffees. It's open every day from 730am-4pm at 80 Commonwealth St in Surry Hills.

Guides

Free cold brewed coffee. Free!!

Yes, free!! But you're going to make it yourself. The good news is you're not going to have to spend any money on new equipment, if you're already brewing coffee that is. People often ask me what the best cold brewer device out there is. My answer is always 'What is a 'cold brewing device' for?' Apart from wasting money or looking pretty?

There are cold brewers that cost $30 when they're just a funnel with a hole in the bottom, or HUNDREDS of dollars just for looking fancy and coming from Japan. None of this makes sense to me. Cold-brewed coffee is just coffee that has been sitting in water for a while, which is then filtered to take out the gunk.

I mean it's so easy to make that it's offensive how people can charge US$5 for a bottle of it. No more!

What you will need to brew cold brewed coffee

What you will need: A jar, a grinder, scales, and coffee filters.

  1. A jar. I prefer Vegemite jars. If you know anything about Australia, you'll understand why. If you don't, then the short story is that Vegemite is a disgustingly salty spread that for some reason Australians idolise. If you don't have a Vegemite jar for some reason, any jar capable of holding say ~350mls of liquid is fine.
  2. A grinder. You probably have one of these already if you're reading this blog. I got started using a Hario Mini hand grinder, but you can use any form of electric burr grinder or hand grinder available.
  3. Scales. Any small set of scales capable of weighing down to 1g (or better, 0.1g) is fine.
  4. A filter. You can use a funnel with a paper coffee filter in it. Or you can use a cheesecloth (please, not one that has been recently used on cheese).

How to do brew cold brew coffee with super basic equipment

This is the fun part because it's a few steps that, when you really think about it, can be summarised in: Steep ground coffee in water for a few hours in the fridge, then filter it.

  1. Measure out 40g of coffee, and grind it coarse. By 'coarse' I mean you look at the grinds and they're about 0.8-1.0mm wide. What you'd usually use for a french press.
  2. Put it in the jar and add 200g of water. Stir it in once or twice.
  3. Let it sit for 8 hours in the fridge. This is the hard part, I know. If you can, during the 8 hours come by and give it a bit of a swirl to redistribute the grinds.
  4. Filter it using a coffee filter and a funnel, into a serving pot of some kind.
  5. Dilute roughly 50/50 with cold water (or more or less to taste), and serve.

There are a number of ways to skin the cat, but the above method works and is a great place to start.

Adjusting the taste

If it's too bitter, then grind a bit coarser and try again. If it's too sour/weak, then grind finer and try again. Personally, I like to simultaneously brew three batches with different grinds, to try to find the sweet spot then use that one for the next batch.

Additional pro tips

  • Use good water. Why are you messing around with tap water, unless you live in Switzerland or NYC, which has weirdly delicious tap water? Use mineral water, or at worst, mineralised purified water.
  • Make sure the jar is sealed well. Coffee absorbs other odours surprisingly well. In fact, people use it to deodorise fridges. You don't want your coffee to taste like whatever you have in the fridge be it yesterday's fish balls soup, fresh durian, etc.