Before Australia became an espresso drinker’s paradise, how the hell did we fill our time? What reason did we give for popping out of the office at 10:30am, a quick… juice? And what of those who don’t drink it? Something tells me the Aussie psyche is evolving a distinct distrust of the non-coffee drinker. We’re learning to look on them with the same suspicion we traditionally reserved for the teetotaller – eschewing coffee will soon be ‘unastrayun’.
But lucky for caffeine addicts like me that our nation’s passion ensures that every five minutes a new, hip café or coffee roaster pops up. I may be biased as an inner-westie, but a large number of them crop up in the inner-west. Ok, so they’re in places like Alexandria or Marrickville, the so-called ‘warehouse suburbs’ (so-called because I just called them that), and that has more to do with a post-industrial (literally) gentrification than a compass. But there’s no doubt I’m one lucky Lau to live in such a pocket of coffee wankery.
Double Roasters stands on the threshold between the part of Marrickville I’d consider living in and actual Marrickville. Halfway between Marrickville Road and The Factory Theatre, it’s an all grey building with lurid neon stencilling spelling out its name on the windows. When my bro and I arrive, I’m pleased to see it’s a big place and there are plenty of tables both inside and out. We join the queue and it’s not long before a pleasant young fellow is enquiring if we want to have in or takeaway. We tell him ‘have in’ and he invites us to sit wherever we like. We do.
The windows in this place are floor to ceiling, which gives the café good light. There are your usual knick knacks scattered around and there are also bag of coffee to buy ($9 each – not bad, if it’s any good). The interior is painted the same bluish—grey as outside. The counter is brick and behind it sits a roaster, tables and chairs are wooden, arranged diagonally on the painted concrete floors. Considering its 10:30am on a Saturday morning it’s not too crowded, there’s the mix of inner-west families and student-types you’d expect in this part of town. We order coffees.
The menu looks good. Prices are more than reasonable with sandwiches (roast pork belly, poached chicken) at $7.50 and nothing on the breakky menu for more than $12.00. I note that they use Sonoma bread and the much-praised bonsoy soy milk – ticking two boxes straight up. Bro orders the roast pork belly sandwich and I go for the brekkie special – Zucchini and corn fritters with avocado salsa, rocket and a poached egg.
Weirdly, our brekkie arrives prior to our coffees. The glutton in me is disappointed by their size, but the proper grown-up recognises they portions are perfectly adequate, especially given the price. Bro loves his pork belly sandwich. I have a bite and its pretty dandy – fresh bread, some kind of apple relish and possibly aioli accompanying tender pork. My fritters are perfectly cooked and the perfect size, but I realise while I’m eating them that I’d prefer a little lower zucchini to corn ratio. The avocado salsa is a mash, so more like a guac, the egg is slightly too poached (very slightly). I would say my brekkie is almost perfect.
Our macchiato and double macchiato arrive next, and they are smooth and tasty. I don’t add any Colombian organic sugarcane to mine and neither does my bro, but I guess that’s just our personal preference. While I enjoy the coffee, it’s weirdly milky for a macch, more of a picciatto if you ask me. Nevertheless I order a second.
The only thing that slightly spoils our morning is how long it takes to pay. The guy at the register is chatting away with the customer in front of us, apparently frozen with the customer’s $20 bill in his hand. As they chat away we’re standing there, thinking he could just put the money through, then settle our bill, and then go back to his chat. A few minutes later he comes to us but, as if to try and make up for it, he runs through our order piece by piece, looking at us expectantly, urging us to deliver a verdict. This actually has the opposite effect- we don’t feel privileged to give our opinions, we feel forced to praise the (admittedly delicious) meal when we should have been walking out of the café to get on with our Saturday and the one million and one important things we had to do, hideously busy and important people that we are.
199 Victoria Road
Marrickville NSW 2204
02 9572 7711
6:00pm – 3:00pm
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
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