For many Melburnians coffee is essentially the elixir of the Gods. The velvety milk, or the glorious golden crema of an espresso, our baristas are artists in their own rights, steaming, frothing and pulling hundreds of their pieces de resistance for the grateful masses. But how do you ensure that you always order a coffee that will actually be good? I asked some coffee aficionados from Sydney Coffee Academy, Muffin Break, Jamaica Blue, and local baristas to help you order the right brew anywhere, every time.
Sam Taylor, teacher and course coordinator of the professional Barista course at Sydney Coffee Academy says that the consumer can be part of the process as well. “Communicating how you’d like your coffee is of vital importance, poor communication or equally poor understanding from the barista will result in an ineffective outcome,” said Sam.
It’s better to form a relationship with your barista. “Chat to your barista and engage with how they feel their product is best made and how that can be moulded to suit your taste,” he said.
Jeremy Regan Master Coffee Roaster for the Foodco Group’s Jamaica Blue and Muffin Break café brands agrees that it is important to have a conversation with your barista. For Regan, one of the best things that a coffee consumer can do is ask the barista for their advice.
“Ask them what their favourite coffee is from those available and don’t be afraid to try something different! They should know their coffees and what works best in different drinks,” said Jeremy.
“Some coffees have more than one name for the same beverage; for example, espresso and short black are the same beverage – and experienced staff and baristas would be aware of this and should be able to interpret and understand what you are ordering,” he explained.
But don’t worry, it’s not all up to the you to guide your barista through the coffee making process. According to Ben Coyle, author of Spilling the Beans, a book about cafe start-ups and owner of Dancing Dog cafe in Footscray, there are a few simple things to consider when you receive your final coffee.
“When people get handed their latte they should expect to see a rich golden crema, regardless of style of coffee. With a long or short black, don’t expect a full cup as this means too much water has been added,” explained Ben. He also added that hot milk that you burn your tongue on is not a good sign, and for larger coffees, there should be two shots in there, standard.
Now, as for cafes themselves, look beyond the facade. It’s easy to fall for the charm of carefully curated interiors, especially when they’re composed of the staples including distressed wood benches, La Marzocco machines, artisan pastries, and lanky tattooed baristas.
“Finding a cafe that we find inviting, fun and equally has great coffee can be hard. Plenty of cafes look the part but fail to deliver on the final product. In saying that there are some less likely looking places that offer fantastic product,” said Sam.
Jeremy’s advice is to ensure that the coffee preparation area is clean, especially the equipment.
“This is a good sign that the staff care about the espresso machine and grinder. If it’s dirty and unorganised then they may not care so much and this will impact on the flavour of your coffee,” said Jeremy.
While most of us may take to the coffee ordering process as a simple means to an end, these are are a few of the steps that we can take to ensure that we get the best coffee that we can pay for.
Here are some of the most-recommended cafes in Melbourne
Arcadia, 193 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
De Clieu, 187 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
Market Lane Coffee, Prahran Market
Bowery to Williamsburg, 16 Oliver Lane, Melbourne
Duchess of Spotswood, 87 Hudsons Road, Spotswood