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July 2003 Newsletter


A short walk along the beachfront near my home in Port Melbourne seemed to me to be a good opportunity to assess the local coffee offerings. It’s not well known outside Australia, but we have one of the highest ratios of espresso machines to population in the world. Virtually every pub, club, bar, restaurant and milkbar in the country has an espresso machine behind the counter.


 

 

Lovely Port Melbourne

on a Winter afternoon.

A couple of years ago I bemoaned the cheapening of the basic beans used for espresso blends as wholesale suppliers tried to recover the costs associated with the supply of free machines, crockery and furniture. The current rock bottom prices for even better quality beans would appear to have slowed this trend down. I was pleasantly surprised by a couple of the shots I tasted this time around.


I started my short trek at the Beacon Cove Foodstore, the firststop for a lot of people arriving on the Ferry from Tasmania, as well as the cruise ships that dock at Station Pier. My request for a single espresso resulted in 50ml of beverage with a thin, pale yellow crema and not a lot of body. Worse, the coffee, produced from Lavazza beans, had a distinct “stale” flavour. There was no detectable robusta taste, though.

 

 

Beacon Cove Foodstore

Unremarkable Lavazza espresso


Next stop was Café Zest, about 200 metres away. Here the coffee was from Coffex, the shot volume was 30ml, the crema was light brown and body and flavour were reasonable. The blend had a hint of acidity, but again no robusta rubber.

 

Cafe Zest, a decent shot

Another 200 metres along the beach brought me to Grissini. This shot was simply an excellent commercial shot, produced from Grinders coffee. 30ml, rich reddish brown crema, full body and smooth, low acid taste.

 

 

Grissini at 1 Beach St.

Now this is a good shot!

 

I headed inland for 300 metres to Starbucks, to see how they compared. Their single espresso was much cheaper than the shots to date ($2.35 vs $2.80) and I watched the shot being correctly timed and pulled on their monster 4 group La Marzocco. Unfortunately this didn’t help the shot quality much; the crema was thin and yellow and the predominant aroma and flavour was charcoal, with the low acid bitterness associated with overroasting. An obvious case of how even decent barista skills can’t overcome poor quality or badly roasted coffee.

 

 

Starbucks in Bay St.

Not very good...

Overall, it seems from sampling a few other establishments that most of the local espresso bars are reasonable at least, especially where they are using fresh, locally roasted coffee.

 

In other news, my Rancilio shipment has finally arrived, bringing in a new supply of bases and, for the first time in Australia, the Rocky Doserless grinder. I’m not carrying the “white” Rocky because these days the demand is for stainless steel to match the Silvia, and I’ll be updating the website espresso page to match.


This month’ special is the wonderful

Brazil Fazenda Lambari

$32.00/kg


To sum it up in a single word, “SWEET”. My tasting notes read “sweet, mild, low acid, no bitterness at all, medium body.” A wonderful example of the best Brazil has to offer, and a great base to build a superb espresso blend on.

 

I still have 10kg of the Mocha/Java blend left for the swift,  and I’m also pleased to report that stocks of Café de Cuba are now back to normal, although the blended match was considered to be very close by those who tried it.

Until next month

Alan