Australians drink 5 billion coffees a year.
– as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 3/9/2013
That is one whopping brew of coffee machines, instant coffee and portafilter-banging baristas. And twitchy people.
Actually, make that figure 5 billion and 2 coffees. Because of…
$5 for all the coffee I can taste, made using various methods and assorted coffee machines? Guided by a professional coffee roaster who will answer all my burning questions about coffee?
“That’s right! And it’s on at our Brew Bar today,” confirmed the cordial Sonia over the phone.
My original purpose for ringing Caffé Migliore all but forgotten, I was checking bus times before Sonia had stopped talking.
Below: Caffe Migliore’s Tony and Nathan Nicotra at The Brew Lab, tinkering with their coffee makers.
The Coffee that Converted a Non-coffee Drinker
I once knew a barista (let’s call him “G”) with a shiny head and the body of a bouncer.
G had spent years pumping out espresso coffee in record time, but didn’t drink coffee. Even though he could get it free.
“I just didn’t like the taste of coffee,” G said, reasonably.
Then G started working at my local. The cafe owner used a brand of artisan coffee: Caffé Migliore Ripe Harvest.
Its makers describe it as sweet, spicy and low in acidity, 100% Rainforest Alliance, 100% Arabica.
G describes it as the coffee that made him want to drink coffee for the first time in his life. And then, for every morning of his life.
True story. That marks the time I first noticed Caffé Migliore.
About Caffé Migliore
Caffé Migliore (meaning “a better coffee”) is a 10-year-old boutique commercial roaster owned and run by a family of coffee connoiseurs.
Italian founder Tony Nicotra cut his teeth working at Vittoria, Australia’s pioneer coffee company, for many years. He started drinking coffee at the tender age of 6, though his first contact with coffee probably started even earlier:
Below: Little Tony serving the dark brew
The commercial coffee roasting business that is Caffé Migliore shares a generous, warehousey space with a separately owned cafe in the quaint Bakehouse Quarter precinct in North Strathfield.
Digression (as a local, I can’t help divulging these snippets about my ‘hood):
People who grew up around here still swear they can smell the sweet baking biscuits when driving along Parramatta Road today.
The Brew Lab
OK, moving right along. Here’s some local knowledge that might interest you more.
Every Wednesday at 1pm, Nathan dons his white coat for The Brew Lab – home of the $5 coffee tasting that got my heart pumping even before any caffeine entered my bloodstream.
It’s great fun to sample coffee made using different contraptions.
Nathan often uses The Brew Lab to try out new coffee.
When I visited, Nathan was brewing Jade Azul, a single origin coffee from Costa Rica. I pounced on the opportunity to quiz him about…
…Single Origin Coffee vs Coffee Blends
Single origin coffee has more pronounced characteristics. For instance, I found Jade Azul strong, earthy and slightly tangy. Another single origin coffee might be distinctly chocolatey and nutty.
Below: The Jade Azul flat white that I sampled.
That’s not latte art, it’s a bloomin’ latte landscape painting!
Coffee blends have more well-balanced flavours. The roaster might devise a blend:
- to highlight certain characteristics (eg. full-bodied and robust, or sweet and winey), or
- for certain uses (eg. a particular blend for making short blacks).
Speaking of the roaster….
Caffé Migliore brings in green (unroasted) coffee beans mainly from Africa and South America. It roasts single origin coffees and also its own blends of coffee on site, selling them in retail and wholesale quantities.
Below: The Italian roaster with the Italian roaster.
For readers who like statistics:
- This machine can roast up to 70 kg of coffee beans at a time.
- It takes less than half an hour to roast a batch of coffee beans.
- It takes Nathan 1½ hours to pack half a tonne of roasted coffee beans.
Cold drip coffee (or cold brew)
What’s the big deal about cold drip coffee? For all ponderers of this question, The Brew Lab is the place to try it.
Below: Signage from The Brew Lab
Without the oils normally found in heat-extracted coffee, this cold brew is extraordinarily fruity – almost like a liqueur. Some coffee devotees swear they require less sugar when drinking the naturally sweeter cold brew.
Below: My sample of cold drip coffeeHere’s a <2-minute video on how the cold brew tower works (no, I wasn’t paid to include this video and yes, I agree it gets super zen at the point you’re instructed to “set the dripper at one drop per second”):
Other Coffee Makers
As befits a laboratory, The Brew Lab has lots more coffee-making equipment, like a syphon, percolator, espresso machine, plunger and more.
Nathan describes each one and, time permitting, you can try coffee made using different methods.
Below: A wood-neck drip pot, for use with a cloth filter strainer (it’s a bit like the Singaporean/Malaysian coffee “sock”). Put ground coffee in the filter, add water to it, and let the coffee strain through.
Below: Coffee percolator.
Coffee Myths, Tips and Tricks
1. MYTH: Refrigerate coffee to maintain freshness. FACT: All that’s needed is to store the coffee in an airtight container.
2. Roasted coffee beans are in their prime and yummiest state 4 days to 3 weeks post-roast, after which time they deteriorate. All coffee sold by Caffé Migliore is in the prime state.
3. “Be pedantic about your coffee,” exhorts Nathan. Don’t let ground coffee stay in the grinder for more than 15 minutes – freshness and flavour will fly away. Make the coffee straight after grinding it.
The Nicotras know lots more about coffee extraction, temperature and crema…but you’ll have to (ahem) extract that information from them.
Link to Caffé Migliore’s website is here.
Tim Tam Slam for Your Coffee Break
Now, is it time for a coffee break?
If it’s coffee and biscuit you desire, you could do worse than a Tim Tam Slam, as demonstrated by Aussie singer Natalie Imbruglia to BBC presenter Graham “TV-is-such-a-limited-medium” Norton:
North Strathfield’s Other Local Secrets
Caffé Migliore is but one of many exciting local secrets of unassuming North Strathfield (only 12 km west of the city). To uncover its other gems, dive into the specially-themed Mid-autumn Korean Adventure on 14 September 2013.
Who knew you could be somewhere totally culturally different without jumping on a plane?
A shorter version of this article first appeared in Strathfield Scene. This is an unpaid, uncommissioned review, but Tony waived the $5 tasting fee for FITK.