Posts Tagged ‘expert advice’

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

Industry Comment – with Emily Oak


Who decides what the customer wants?


What does a customer remember about a coffee they drink? Is it the latte art, the café atmosphere, the conversation they shared with the barista or the origin and farm the coffee came from? Chances are it’s one of the aforementioned, but what a barista is trying to share and what a customer takes away is probably rarely the same thing.

The experience that a customer treasures from going for coffee or visiting a cafe is often the same reason they were attracted to go there in the first place – and it is different for everyone.  Of course there is no right and wrong when it comes to defining this interaction although for the most part a feeling of trust and respect between the customer and the café must exist.

Specialty coffee baristas love what they do. We’re passionate, dedicated and in most instances educated quite thoroughly and specifically about the coffees we roast, dial in, pour and serve every day. We know the region and district it was grown, in some instances we’ve met the farmers and workers and touched the trees that produce the cherries. We care about the supply chain and the integrity of our product, and, we want you to understand it’s true value. Despite our competing businesses, as a collective this is our common goal.

So why is this a topic worth discussing? As I mentioned earlier, the problem occurs when the goals and the outcomes don’t line up.

The biggest question currently facing the specialty coffee retailer is how to better engage customers to share our passion. Because more often than not, it seems, that customers just aren’t that into it. We have, I believe, as an industry, accepted that in the past that sometimes our interactions have been less than ideal. In the push to share our cause we’ve come across as patronising, soap-boxy and preachy, and not actually stopped to find out what people are looking for. Customers end up dissatisfied and then disengage, no longer paying attention to what we’re trying to share.  What we need to do as an industry is recognise that not every person who walks through the door is looking to know the whole story…. (yet!) Equally, customers need to recognise that coffee isn’t just coffee, hopefully through the quality of experience and relationships that can be developed between a café and its patrons.

As an industry we’re in a unique position. Our clients visit regularly (daily in most instances) and the frequency of interaction we are offered is far greater than that of most other hospitality industries.  Specialty coffee needs to share with customers our product and our story, because the coffee we serve is undervalued by the general public. Because of this, people are not willing to pay what coffee is worth, or understand why in fact, we actually need to pay more.

How we better spread this message is still being debated, but at the very least communication needs to be improved. Baristas need to adapt to respect the needs and wishes of their customers and understand that everyone is looking for a different outcome from their interaction. Hopefully from this basis, a new dialogue can open up. Equally, customers need to be willing to engage a little more and begin to understand that when it comes to coffee, things can only get better.

Emily Oak is Division Manager for St Ali and Sensory Lab in NSW and a former member of the WCE Board of Directors.

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Industry Comment – with Emily Oak


Singles or Blends?

Not so long ago I had a minor squabble with Neil Perry via twitter on the pros and cons of single origins vs. blends in espresso beverages. Even as one of Australia’s most recognised and successful celebrity chefs, his mis-interpretation of the merits of each had me perplexed. As I attempted to explain how each performed generally as espressos the conversation got split into tangents and inevitably came to a halt, but it left me wondering how many people are confused by what ‘single origin’ or ‘blend’ actually means and how they can best be used.

The term ‘single origin’ can be a little confusing. Essentially it means coffee from one single place – either one country, one region or one single estate. It is not mixed or blended with any other coffee, be it from another or the same, country, region or farm. It is alone, one bean from one place.

A blend is anything other than that. A blend can be coffees from various countries, from various regions, or even two varying roasts of the same coffee mixed together (usually referred to as a ‘single origin blend’– just to things!).

So, why do we offer both? It’s hard to establish how blending coffees together began, but it is easy to explain why it became popular. By putting together coffees of various taste and depth, a roaster can develop flavours and textures that might not be possible in a single origin bean. When done well, a blend can bring out the best in coffees as individuals, while complementing each other to create balance, the desired taste or other aspect most sought after. Blending can sometimes hide faults in coffees and add volume as fillers, or perform better (than single origins) when mixed with milk.  Traditionally, over decades, coupled with the limited technology for quality control from the growing and production of green coffee and roasting, blends produced a better outcome for espresso coffees.

Single origins coffees, whilst always having existed, have had somewhat of a renaissance in the last decade or so. This is primarily because of the rapid increase in the quality and traceability of coffees, as well as a renewed interest in single cup brewing. Even when I started in the coffee industry 17 years ago we sold the generic Colombia, Brazil or Mexican coffee. Now, we can trace our coffees back to the region, farm or estate and get a much higher quality cup.

Singe Origin coffees are however individual in their taste and not for everyone. In fact, the point of them, more often than not, is to highlight the individuality and nuances of a region, variety or processing method; aspects of flavour that can get lost if mixed with other coffees. As an espresso, single origins are most often softer in milk than a blend or sometimes a little confronting with unusual or unique characteristics as a black coffee. They are not for everyone and are almost always limited when it comes to repeating a flavour profile.

Both blends and single origins are valuable elements, especially for specialty coffee, as an avenue of sharing just how good quality coffee can taste. Blends are a fantastic way of introducing people to better coffees but ironically, as people explore coffee more and more they are inevitably drawn to tasting the distinct and diverse range of single origin coffees now available to the market. Regardless of what you prefer, if it’s a good coffee bean to start with you will almost always enjoy the experience.

Emily Oak is Division Manager for St Ali and Sensory Lab in NSW and a former member of the WCE Board of Directors.

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Best Cafes of Melbourne 2011

Proud Mary_Cup_webWhen we started up, and we’re just about to celebrate our tenth anniversary, we floated the [then slightly sacrilegious] notion that Melbourne might not, after all, be Australia’s coffee capital – in fact the things that were happening in the Sydney coffee scene were rather leaving Melbourne in the shade. Since then, however, coffee in Australia has taken many leaps forward and we’ve enjoyed riding the wave as coffee in Melbourne, in particular, has surged forward.

We have recently concluded a coffee-hopping trip [including the erstwhile capital of modern world espresso - Seattle] and we now firmly believe that Melbourne takes its place – not just as Australia’s but pretty much the world’s, coffee capital – and as you’ve probably guessed, we don’t make that sort of statement lightly!

However, coffee has got to such a stage in Melbourne, that there may not be much further you can go with espresso. The ‘third wave’ in coffee has seen more emphasis on brewing with different methods – syphon, pour-over, chemex, french press and clover – to the extent that some roasts are optimised for these brewing methods & may actually not be quite so good for espresso… a quandary that probably no other city in Australia may be experiencing.


Friday, April 15th, 2011

Brisbane’s Best Cafes 2011

Cup Specialty_Brisbane_webLike any large Australian city, Brisbane has a wide range of cafes from the simple ‘mom & pop’ café to those where the focus is on excellent business lunches and great food. However, Brisbane has a large coffee purist element that is bubbling underground and is beginning to show itself to those who are seriously interested.

And the good news is this: from an espresso coffee point-of-view, the Brisbane espresso ‘scene’ rocks, supported by many enthusiastic young professionals eager to share their coffee knowledge and passion. One quick note: it’s not in necessarily in the CBD itself, but in the inner suburbs that you find the best coffee… suburbs like West End, New Farm, Spring Hill and even the formerly seedy Fortitude Valley! (more…)

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Coffee Profile – Brazilian Daterra Cerrado

Coffee_homepage boxby Rob Stewart

I have often wondered what would happen to the world if Brazil stopped producing coffee – perhaps a catastrophic melt down! The price for coffee per kilo would go up, making a cup of coffee cost more than a cocktail at a night club, sounding the death knell of the majority of cafes and coffee companies.  Shift workers, parents, students, productivity, and Italy would all come to a grinding halt. It would affect our economy and our way of life, leaving everyone with one giant headache.


Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

ECA (Anfim) KS

eca-anfim_ks_smallThe KS is ECA’s doserless offering and again is well-targeted to the home espresso market. It is slim, weighs only 5kg and stands at 38cm high, making it easily assimilated into the kitchen setting. It houses tempered stainless steel flat burr grinding blades and has a similar stepped adjustment to the Best, with somewhat large increments, although again we experienced no problem in setting the grinder to an accurate grind for espresso.

 While a little noisier than its counterpart and not quite as fast, the dispensing chute was very tidy, ensuring a minimum of mess/waste. Targeted a little more towards the mid-range of the domestic grinder market, the KS performed well and certainly had the power and finesse to grind finely enough to service a high-end domestic espresso machine without any hesitation.

 Our reviewers were impressed by the capacity of this unit to do the job with a minimum of fuss. Even though it’s nudging into the light-weight category, it kept its cool at a maximum grinder blade temp reading of 31°C through pretty rigorous testing. The consistency of grind showed in the resulting shots of espresso being very good with a clean flavour profile.

 VERDICT: a well-performing and stylish domestic unit. Recommended for the home espresso enthusiast for moderate volume.

Height: 38cm
Flat Burr (tempered steel)
Stepped, doserless
Speed of operation: 27.4gm in 30 sec
Temp of grinder blades at end of test: 31°C

 RRP: $599.00 (incl GST) 

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Grinder Review – Wega Mini Instant 5.8

wega_grinder_web-readyWe continue to showcase our line up of high-end grinders reviewed late last year and featured in the latest issue of Crema Magazine. Whether you are starting out or planning to up-grade, this review is designed to highlight the features and functions that you should be taking into consideration. 

This unit from Wega is a ‘re-branded’ Compak K3 Touch so this grinder comes from an impressive heritage of commercial grinders.

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

Grinder Review – The ECA (Anfim) Best

anfim_bestECA (Anfim) ‘Best
RRP: Silver – $699.00 Chrome – $769.00 (incl GST)


This unit has the look and build quality of a commercial grinder but with significantly smaller dimensions, which lends itself to the domestic kitchen setting. With its polished alloy exterior and weighing only 8kg, it’s slim and stylish with pretty much all the benefits of a larger, heavier commercial unit. Standing at 38cm tall, it has 500gm bean hopper with a hopper-stopper. It has tempered steel flat burr blades, a dosing chamber and utilises a stepped grind adjustment mechanism.


The Best performed very well and our reviewers were particularly impressed with the speed of operation, even when lined up against the bigger semi-commercial grinders. It showed an excellent consistency of grind and dose. The resulting espressos were excellent, with a consistent flavour profile.


There were a couple of minor niggles which were picked up by the reviewers, the main one being that the increments on the stepping collar were quite big – therefore not allowing for ultra fine adjustments to the grind setting, but in practice, this did not present a problem in setting an accurate grind for espresso. The only other main issue was that the tamping disc on the front of the unit gets in the way – in fact, it is often unscrewed and left off by operators ‘in-the-know’!


The build quality and performance make it an excellent grinder to compliment a high-end home espresso machine while its smaller dimensions make it a stylish and reliable grinder for the home espresso setting.


VERDICT: High performance unit for the serious ‘prosumer’. Recommended for the home espresso enthusiast who needs a grinder to handle a moderate to high volume. Also suitable for low volume commercial use (ie: back-up/decaf grinder).


Height: 38cm

Flat Burr (tempered steel), Stepped, Dosing Chamber

Consistency of Dose: Max variation range of 0.1gm (average dose was 5.0gm)

Speed of operation: 39.2gm in 30 sec
Temp of grinder blades at end of test: 31°C


For more information on this review and to read about other grinders click here.