I have my Mum’s family to thank for my love of coffee. When I was a little kid, I loved eating a spoonful of froth off my mum’s once-a-week cappuccino after the grocery shopping. Then later, one by one, everyone bought espresso machines. When I was 16 I started drinking coffee in earnest, careful not to overdo it. Never more than one a fortnight, I vowed. Then I got my first job of any consequence at a coffee shop and became fascinated with the process of coffee making. How could I get my cappuccinos as good as Milan, my Serbian boss? That was it; I was hooked on coffee. And now I’m traipsing all over, looking for the best coffee I can find.
So when my aunt suggested the coffee roaster for a family get-together, I was more than happy to oblige. And when the owner Dan Fitzsimmons (a friend of my aunt’s) offered us a tour of the roasterie, I was excited. Another step in the coffee-making process revealed.
The Coffee Roaster was one of the first of its kind in Sydney, pretty obvious when you see their web address, www.coffee.com.au (don’t worry; the website is going to be updated soon). We go upstairs where the unroasted beans are stored and poured into the roaster. Dan starts by explaining how the coffee is stored in hessian sacks but says that there’s an increasing trend towards plastic liners and that it’s important to get as much of the dust and dirt out of the coffee as possible prior to roasting.
The coffee roaster uses a computer-run Chinook air flow coffee roaster which basically means the beans are roasted on a cushion of air. The system is computerised, and each roast is saved as a file which has been optimised in terms of a variety of variables (temperature, length of roast etc.) for the individual blend or even the individual coffee shop they are supplying. He contrasts this with other roasters who roast each batch more by sight, saying that he prefers about his method as once each coffee profile has been established it makes no difference who is in charge of the roast, they will just download the correct file and thus the result will be consistent.
Dan pours some beans into the roaster and selects a profile, the TCR22 for Café Giulia in Chippendale, a long, slow roast. Dan explains that this will cut out the acid or caramel notes and lead to a darker finish where a faster, hotter roast would leave you with a lighter, more caramel finish.
We move downstairs to watch the roasting process, and Dan contrasts The Coffee Roaster’s method with that often employed by roasters. Usually they’ll have around 6 blends roasted 6 different ways, and will have one person roast, store and top-up as needed while another person fills orders with them. He, on the other hand is storing the unroasted beans until orders are placed. Customers like café Giulia call up the day before they need a fresh supply and Dan and the team will roast the batch the next morning and deliver it immediately. The whole process is surprisingly quick; they can roast about 4 batches an hour. As the coffee cools he shows us the dust removed via the roasting process – a whole bin full!
On storing coffee – a hotly contested topic in barista/roaster circles – Dan says that they package their beans as soon as they have cooled in a bag which lets excess gas out but does not let oxygen in. Every time you open it you are letting in microbes and yeasts which feed on the coffee and quicken its expiry, so he recommends storing coffee in a vacuum seal container where you can suck all the air out, or in the same kind of bags they use, so you can squeeze it out. Keep your coffee out of the light and don’t worry about putting it in the fridge or freezer – you will just be refrigerating/freezing stale air. And his number one storage tip? Use your coffee up as fast as possible because as soon as it’s roasted it begins to deteriorate.
What obsessions run in your family?
The Coffee Roaster
380 Botany Road,
Alexandria NSW 2015
1800 806 200
Campos’ second Sydney store is nothing special from the outside. Blink and you’ll miss it, as the old saying goes. And in fact, I did- for three whole months. It was only when I came out of Dan Murphy’s a couple of weeks ago that I noticed a café across the road, and headed over to check it out. ‘I think it’s a real Campos,’ I marvelled to my boyfriend, meaning it’s not just some café that stocks Campos but it is actually a coffee bar they own and run. We had to give it a try.
Even though I’m quite capable of making my own coffee, I’ve got to admit my heart skipped a beat at the thought a of a solid, reliable coffee shop walking distance from my house, maybe with somewhere nice to sit rather than our slowly deteriorating, floods-when-it-rains, overpriced terrace. On entering the store I was not disappointed. Polished concrete floors, exposed brick, high ceilings, industrial fittings, floor to ceiling windows – can I move in here?
You’ll find Don Campos at ‘The Fountain’, a newly gutted and refurbished warehouse on Fountain Street, Alexandria that’s been subdivided into yet-to-be-leased retail space. Right now Campos is the only tenant on the ground floor so there’s an eerie sense of space. You can take a seat at one of their trademark annoyingly high stools or sit outside surrounded by industrial bleakness but don’t worry, this area is well on its way to full gentrification á la Danks Street.
As with Campos’ Newtown store, you order and pay at the counter and the staff bring the coffee to your table. Food is self serve at the time of ordering and there’s a filtered water tap embedded in a window-side bench if you need your thirst quenched. The menu is minimalist- miniature sandwiches and jewel-like cakes encrust the front counter. We got our coffees quickly, although there was a bit of a wait between them, which I always find a tad odd, especially as we ordered a macchiato and a piccolo latte.
The emphasis here is well and truly on the coffee, which is as it should be. There are various blends and single origins to try, as well as Campos’ sparkling long black which I’ve yet to sample. Don Campos claims to be Sydney’s first Siphon Bar, siphon coffee being a coffee geek’s dream fusion of coffee and chemistry which is super trendy these days. So don your hipster specs and have a go. Or let these guys do it for you.
The verdict? Delicious. These guys made my dream macchiato, a drink which is known for being slightly different everywhere. I like mine with a decent amount of foam and a dash of milk. I’ve visited Don Campos three times in two weeks and all of my coffees have been a sight to behold, swirls of smooth, perfectly textured milk and a crema-rich coffee shot. The first time I went I had their dark City blend, which was fantastically rich and dark without being bitter. The other times I’ve been I had what I assume was their Superior Blend, which I sometimes buy pre-ground for home use. I found that less impressive, lacking the punch I was after.
There is admittedly a lot of hype around Campos as a brand and, as with all hype, take it with a grain of salt. I will say that they choose which cafés they supply very carefully, in accordance with their ‘charter’, and I can also honestly say I have never had a bad Campos Coffee. However, that doesn’t mean every single coffee I’ve had from them has been fantastic. In the case of Don Campos, you can always send it back if it’s not.
Shop 2, 21 Fountain Street,
Alexandria NSW 2015
(02) 9690 0090
Weekdays: 6:30am – 3:30pm
Weekends: 8:00am – 4:30pm
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Disclaimer:All opinions in this blog are mine, an everyday, real-life person. I do not accept payment for reviews and nor do I write sponsored posts. I do not endorse the content of the comments herein.