There is no denying that when it comes to coffee in Australia, espresso as an extraction method still reigns supreme.
However, there is a growing trend for cafés with passion and vision to include alternative brewing methods as part of their coffee offerings, adding some ‘theatre’, increasing customer interaction with the baristas, and giving them an immediate USP (unique selling point) from other nearby cafés.
All of the leading cafés and espresso bars are currently offering at least one method of brewed coffee – many are offering several. Consumer awareness is increasing exponentially, and an increasing number of home baristas are actively experimenting with these alternative brewing methods.
As both a specialty coffee roaster and the appointed distributor for HARIO in Australia, I have seen brewed coffee building significant momentum within the specialty coffee culture. Given the volume of queries we receive on a daily basis from boutique roasters and café owners, it is clear that over the next 12 months we will see brewed coffee more readily available at your local high street café.
Now admittedly, including brewed coffee as part of the menu isn’t for every café. Like an espresso machine, these devices take time to master, require dedicated bench space, as well as integration into the café’s existing workflow. There is also the question of which brewing methods you will offer, with Cold Drip, Pour Over, and Syphon being the most common and practical to implement in a commercial environment.
Cold Drip is a ‘slow’ cold water extraction coffee, typically taking around 4 hours to produce around half a litre. It produces a liqueur like coffee that is served cold, normally in a chilled shot glass. The extraction can be drunk neat as a 60 ml shot, floated on sparkling water, or used as the base of an ice coffee. It is the least ‘labour’ intensive method of brewed coffee, as the device just needs to be checked occasionally over that period. Simple to master, and any café could showcase specialty coffee with ease using this method.
Pour over is a hot water extraction, and with practice, should take a competent barista around 4 minutes from start to finish to produce. It is possibly the gentlest way to produce coffee and produces a great clarity of flavour and a nuanced, refined and well rounded drink. If you have long black or ‘extra hot’ flat white customers, then this method is worth exploring further.
Syphon is without a doubt the ‘show pony’ of the brewed coffee world, and the main focus of this article. Syphons produce a very clean ‘tea like’ extraction, which helps to bring out the unique flavours of single origin coffees and is ideal for showcasing Cup of Excellence, specialty and micro-lot coffees.
Looking somewhat like a mad science experiment, they certainly create a talking point among customers, and although some uninitiated baristas can find them a little daunting, exceptional results can be achieved quickly if the basic steps are repeated consistently, with attention to the detail.
To get the best out of syphons, and for that matter, any brewed coffee device, there are two basic requirements when it comes to the beans: the roast degree; and the quality of the beans.
Firstly, at Bean Drinking, we look for a balance between acidity and sweetness. If you use espresso roasted coffee, what dominates the cup is an exaggeration of the roast flavours (those darker notes). To get the brightness, sweetness and nuances of citrus and berry flavours, we need to use lighter roasts.
However, by roasting lighter, we need to select our beans more carefully, as taints that are sometimes present in lower grade commercial beans that could be ‘masked’ in an espresso roast, will actually end up being highlighted at the lighter roast level. Personally, I favour specialty or micro-lots, with traceability that cup well (85+) and are clean. Only occasionally have I found a ‘clean’ higher end commercial grade bean (for example, Sumatran Batak), which has big fruit or citrus notes that has worked equally as well as a true specialty grade.
The key to lighter roasting is to stop the roast at the point where we have highlighted the natural and typically more complex flavours present in the coffee, without introducing roasting flavours. Everyone has different strategies for roasting, and results vary greatly between roasters. Typically, we schedule our filter roasting after we have done our espresso roasts. This is so that the roaster is fully pre-heated, and provides us with a more stable environment. To avoid tipping and also stretch out slightly the time at which first crack occurs, we reduce the charge temperature down by around 15% from what we would normally use for espresso roasting.
We control the gas for a steady incline on the curve of around 6 – 8 degrees every minute, rather than the typical 10 degrees per minute we would be looking for in espresso roasts. Controlling the roast for a gradual and slow increase, our aim is to hear the start of first crack around the 12:30 minute mark. Roasting faster than this produces a roast that still has typical under-development taints, such as astringent, sour or grassy notes.
At the on-set of first crack, as the beans begin to go exothermic and generate their own heat, we again reduce the gas, keeping the roast under control and rising a degree or so every 15 seconds. We tend to drop into the cooling tray around 1 minute into rolling first crack. That time varies depending on what we are roasting, but for the most part, it is a case of looking at when the beans ‘even out’ a little, although still expect to see a high degree of ‘unevenness’ to be evident on higher grown / harder beans. It is then a matter of cupping and making adjustments to subsequent roasts based on what your palate is telling you.
Keith Reay is the driving force behind Bean Drinking, a specialty coffee roaster and wholesaler based in Sydney. Keith has been a champion of specialty coffee for the past 7 years, and through www.hariogear.com.au has been helping other micro roasters and café owners all across Australia implement the Hario range of specialty coffee devices for both retail, as well as use in their cafés. Recently, Bean Drinking has also begun wholesaling their coffee, and anyone interested in implementing or reselling HARIO brewing devices in their café or gaining access to wholesale specialty coffee can contact Keith directly via