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10 Feb 2015

How to become a true Melbournian – starting from coffee

For those who don’t know, Melbourian refers to a resident of Melbourne, Australia, the proud winner of the World’s Most Liveable City for the past four years.

Apart from the world-best livability, the city was also voted as having the world’s best coffee in 2014 – which isn’t all that surprising as the coffee culture is a vital part of most, if not all, Melbournian’s lives.

Like what music means to Vienna, money means to Hong Kong, and drugs mean to Colombia, the coffee culture is part of Melbourne’s fabric, in a healthy, or not so healthy way. You be the judge.

This is a dummy’s guide to finding great – not good, but truly great – coffee in Melbourne, and these tips also apply to defining good and bad coffee around the globe:

Coffee Machine

Café’s whom really do care about their coffee will go for quality espresso machine brands like “La Marzocco” (which most café are using it), “Synesso”, or the high end beast ”Slayer”, aka. Ferrari (very uncommon due to its price and “different” usability).

If you’re into technicality, these machines boast new kinds of control over pressure, one of the most critical parameters in making espresso’s, allowing the barista to do variable pressure profile for the perfect espresso shot.

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The king of espresso machines – Slayer

Coffee Hopper

The coffee hopper is the funnel-like device on top of the grinder where the coffee
beans are kept. If the hopper appears to be yellowish, this is caused by oil residue from coffee beans, meaning we have a lazy barista in house who doesn’t have his/her fundamentals intact – cleaning the bloody hopper! It will contaminate the fresh beans and make the coffee to taste stale.

Also, try to look at the coffee chamber where the ground coffee bean are kept and ensure it is always empty. A good barista will always grind on demand as ground coffee that is left in the chamber for will become stale and unpleasant to drink after 10 – 15 minutes, as exposure to oxygen and moisture changes the fragrance of the coffee.

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Try Your Luck

And the rest really depends on the barista’s skill in coffee versus milk portioning, frothering, coffee art (which is almost a must now in M-Town), the cafe’s vibe, and so on. However, as long as you follow these guidelines above, your chances in getting a “fair” coffee will be more likely.

Melbourne’s Best Kept Secret – The Magic Coffee

One of the pranks to capture on video we might look into doing down the track is to order a “Magic Coffee” around Melbourne’s boutique cafes. Speaking from experience, it’s actually really fun to see how baristas puzzled and confused, giving you all sorts of funny faces.

My good friend Flecher, who is a great barista and has helped me to write this blog, was actually embarrassed by a customer in the early days of his career, with his arrogance to this mysterious term; and here’s the story:

A lady came into Flecher’s cafe and asked for a “Magic Coffee”. At first reaction, the staff were confused and gave Flecher the “we’ve got a problem” look.

Then the lady went straight to my poor friend and said that he should know this as a barista, as most barista’s she came across knew. With Mr Flecher’s signature honesty and boldness, he admitted with scepticism that he had no ideas what it was, and said “ are you trying to fool me?” (thinking she must be a hipster)

She seemed arrogant at first but eventually explained to him what it was. Flecher Googled it on the spot, and the rest was history – now he is a proud maker of the one-and-only Magic Coffee.

Here’s the breakdown:

A “Magic Coffee” is steamed milk poured over a double ristretto and served in a smaller 160ml cup giving it the optimum coffee to milk ratio. A ristretto is a “weak espresso”, meaning that it’s the first half of a shot of coffee only and supposedly purer. The taste is stronger than a regular coffee with a unique sweetness that would raise some eyebrows at first contact.

Personally not a huge fan but I can understand what the kick is for some people.

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There you have it, world, welcome to Melbourne!

By the way, do I know any Melbournian who DOESN’T drink coffee? Absolutely. And I heard rumours that they are having legislations in place to prevent tea from getting into the city, just to punish these stiff-neck’s!

Getting a bit touchy, huh? Just to show you the Melbourne love!

P.S Some interesting coffee facts:

• As Melbourne’s love of coffee keeps growing, the volume of coffee beans imported from around the globe through the Port of Melbourne has increased by around 780% over the last decade.

• Every day, on average, the Port of Melbourne handles 30 tonnes of coffee beans. This makes the equivalent of 3 million cups of coffee each day – just enough to give every metropolitan Melburnian a daily coffee fix.

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