Everything you wanted to know about coffee (but were afraid to ask your hipster barista) part 2

Sensory Lab
Check out Everything wanted to know about coffee (but were afraid to ask your hipster Barista) part 1

I‘m drinking coffee made from beans that are one month old.

The beans are from the Bambito estate in Nicaragua. They are arabica, from from a mutation known as Caturra. It’s here in Australia because Nolan Hirte, owner of Proud Mary in Collingwood, brought them back to be followed shortly by 450kg he sourced directly.

It’s the big change in coffee locally also driven by local roasters Market Lane, Seven Seeds, Auction Rooms and St Ali and others. It’s called seasonal coffee.

It means the beans are fresher, the coffee less oxidized and the beans being fresher with higher levels of acid. This is something different in Australia where we are accustomed to beans that have travelled from South America to Europe and then to here. It means the beans aren’t fresh and the coffee is oxydised to varying degrees.

If you want to drink a coffee like wine and enjoy the unique flavours from unique plantations that reflect their soil, climate and other local conditions (what French winemakers call terroir) you now can. What you’ll find, although this is a generalisation, is that African coffees tend to be very acid, Asian coffees are fuller bodied and South American ones are somewhere in between.

The big difference with these beans that are now coming direct in to Australia – and mainly Melbourne, which has become the coffee capital of the country – instead of being exported to Europe before coming here. The beans are young, exhibit characteristics unique to their estates of origin, and are ideal to prepare in a way that you can actually taste the pure flavours, rather than in a milk based drink. This is known as “seasonal coffee”.

This is why we are seeing new-fangled techniques for making coffees – syphons, clover, pour over – and coffees served in Riedel-style glasses.

There are plenty of stories out there saying the coffee is the next wine. And if you are tasting it, the great thing is that the best coffee is cheap to get into tasting while wine is very expensive. But beware of coffee dinners (I might add tea, cocktails and any single drink) as many of the coffee food matches just don’t add up.

Here’s your guide to third wave coffee in Melbourne.

Syphon filter
This is the bit o’ kit that looks like it’s from the chemistry lab. Water in a bulb is heated and travels up into a vessel above, which contains a filter. The barista can control the amount of infusion in the bulb before by turning down the heat and creating a vacuum effect, the coffee is sucked back down. Best served in a delicate cup o Riedel-style stemless glass. It produces very clean coffees similar to a pour over filter. As it cools different flavours are released and the technique allows you to fully appreciate the full spectrum of flavours and acid characteristics of each brew.

Pour over
Simple: a filter over a cup or vessel. So easy, you can do it at home. It’s all about getting the right grind here and attention to detail to ensure the coffee infusion is just right. The ratio to aim for is about 25 grams of ground coffee infused with about 375ml of water to make 250ml of coffee. After the water has boiled allow nearly a minute for it to cool before pouring over the ground coffee. Boiled water filters out harsh bitter flavours from coffee while water that is to cool results in washed out flavours. Very similar in characteristics to a Syphon filter. You are aiming for water at about 92C (200F) for making all these brews.

Chemex. Very subtle difference to pourover extracting a little more flavour in theory cos of pointy filter.
This is a filter coffee in what looks like a wine decanter and is almost identical to the pour over in the resulting coffee. The filter is more pointy than used in a pour over (a bit like a Klu Klux Klan hat) and results in a brew with slightly more body.

This machine was brought to market in 2006 by the Seattle-based Coffee Equipment Company and bought by Starbucks in 2008. What the machine does is replicate the specified water temperature each time while specifying exactly how long the water is in contact with the coffee. Once the machine is set up, the idea is that it eliminates operator error. The resulting coffee is very similar to what you’d get from a French Press and quite cloudy. The first Clovers I tried in Melbourne were quite insipid. But with better beans and more experienced operators, fuller bodied beter tasting brews are now on the table.

Cold drip
Ever seen that piece of equipment in a cafe that looks like a chemistry set. If it’s not a syphon, it’s probably the cold drip filter, which makes a very smooth, concentrated coffee with fewer bitter characteristics. It takes some 12 to 24 hours to filter the water through the coffee grounds. Personally, I like my cold drip on ice on a warm day so I can taste it. But you can have it as a milk-based drink if you insist.

Bunn Trifecta (see the machine here)
Coffee made in a new-fangled looking machine in which the coffee goes through a three stage process -pre-infusion, turbulence and press-out. Coffee is dosed into what looks like a group head (as on an espresso machine) which attaches to the machine via a long glass tube, which fills with water and is agitated. This is a complicated machine, which can be preset for various blends and roasts of coffee. But once the machine is set up, the idea is that it eliminates operator error. Like the Clover, it probably is most similar to the French Press.

French Press
This is an easy way to make coffee at home and is often used in hotels and restaurants. But you’ll rarely find it in cafes. It’s made with about 60g of coffee to 25ml of water, at the prerequisite 92C (200F). you’ll find French Press at many restaurants and hotels.

Similar to an espresso the stovetop isn’t as thick and concentrated as an espresso. Try at hat was Rosa’s Kitchen at Journal Canteen.

Made on the stove top the coffee is boiled in the pot. The natural boiling of the water filters through the coffee. made well this coffee is usually drunk sweet. Try at Gigibaba on Smith St for an excellent example.

Check out Everything wanted to know about coffee (but were afraid to ask your hipster Barista) part 1


  1. Australians are such wankers when it comes to fads

  2. Very interesting post. I didn’t know most of the facts in this article.

  3. Interesting. The syphon filter looks just like the Cona system we stopped using 30 years ago, and the pour-over looks to be the Melitta system which we also gave up as it made rather poor coffee. What next? A revival of the Sunbeam electric percolator?

    So did we do the wrong thing by abandoning those systems.

    I can’t imagine going back to Melitta after years of Italian espresso.

  4. You forgot the aeropress (and the inverted aeropress). School boy error! Good articles and good coffee knowledge.

  5. Takes me back to my old laboratory days – I love my coffee but wonder if some of these would have the police come knocking looking for the meth lab LOL

  6. Oh thanks! I did always want to know the basics but have been to scared in case the baristas laugh at me hysterically!

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