North south coffee shootout

johnboy 20 March 2012 68

The strange sniping between Canberra’s lower house MPs has taken a new turn with Fraser’s Andrew Leigh challenging the champion of the Southside Gai Brodtmann to a coffee comparison:

As a first step, let’s answer a simple question: is the coffee better or the northside or southside? To test this, Gai and I will each nominate our favourite cafe. We’ll subject ourselves to the decision of a trio of members of the fourth estate.

So if you’re a coffee-loving journalist, and would be willing to judge, please get in touch. And if you’re a northsider with a favourite cafe, please let me know.

I find it hard to imagine that any cafe in the south can hold an empty coffee mug to Roasters, Wilburs or Black Pepper, but we’ll soon find out what some independent assessors think.

The irony being that the Northside is superior because it doesn’t have parliament and all that it brings.

But knock yourselves out Rioters, how does the coffee stack up either side of the water?


What's Your Opinion?


Please login to post your comments, or connect with
68 Responses to North south coffee shootout
Filter
Order
rosscoact rosscoact 5:30 am 24 Mar 12

Watson said :

After living here for over 14 years, I still don’t get Australians’ obsession with espresso and Italian coffee…

That’s ok, some people never ‘get’ it. Nothing wrong with that

EvanJames EvanJames 10:42 pm 23 Mar 12

p1 said :

pajs said :

You can stuff up great beans with a dodgy grinder, dirty equipment, wrong temperatures, or just not knowing what you’re doing, but you can’t make great coffee from sub-standard beans.

Just the other day I was telling someone how improper technique totally ruined my cup of Nescafe Blend 43.

I always, always ask the person at the checkout if the Nescafe Blend 43 is fresh. I just don’t muck around with my coffee. I will not compromise.

Russ Russ 1:20 pm 23 Mar 12

c_c said :

Yes, because only your opinion matters.

As an opinion based on first-hand, personal experience, yes, it matters more than that of an “opinion aggregator” who have no actual experience, only a set of knowledge gained from trawling the net.

As for the Silvia, dude, all day everyday? I hope you’re buying Greenchoice power because that’s sucking up a lot of juice.

Use all that power *and* pay more for it?

Watson Watson 1:02 pm 23 Mar 12

After living here for over 14 years, I still don’t get Australians’ obsession with espresso and Italian coffee…

c_c c_c 12:22 pm 23 Mar 12

Russ said :

I’ve had a Silvia for just on 10 years now, gets switched on all day every day,

That’s purely based on my experience, not on what anyone else is twittering/blogging/facebooking.

Yes, because only your opinion matters.

As for the Silvia, dude, all day everyday? I hope you’re buying Greenchoice power because that’s sucking up a lot of juice.

rosscoact rosscoact 12:06 pm 23 Mar 12

I had a Silvia but after I burnt out the second boiler I ended up with LeLit Combi which has a conical burr grinder built in. Again a machine not without it’s quirks but does make a great coffee albeit with only one boiler.

The big difference in the quality machines is brass and stainless steel fittings rather than aluminium or plastic. This makes them last longer, give better results and you are able to work on them yourself rather than simply throwing them in the bin.

I must confess however, that between the Silvia and the LeLit my wife bought a $60 Aldi version which I was keen to see die so I could buy something with more cred. Damn thing pumped out those coffees week after week, never being cleaned without missing a beat. Taste was discernibly inferior but when you’re using supermarket pre-ground coffee it all tastes ordinary anyway.

Russ Russ 11:32 am 23 Mar 12

c_c said :

Silvia is a second rate machine with a cult following, a following a lot of people laugh at and deride. It has poor, antiquated design, poor thermal properties and an obscene price tag for today’s market. It may have been for it’s time a very capable home espresso machines, but it’s days are long gone.

Just wanting to check, do you actually have any actual *real* experience with coffee machines, or are you an Internet expert whose views and opinions are based on trawling teh interwebs?

I’ve had a Silvia for just on 10 years now, gets switched on all day every day, *never* skipped a beat, takes a bit of skill and technique to use, but produces excellent results. I’ve used Cosmorex beans for 20 years as well as Wodonga for a while and more recently have tried Ona – in terms of straight espresso, I still think the Cosmorex premium blend is superior.

That’s purely based on my experience, not on what anyone else is twittering/blogging/facebooking.

poetix poetix 11:12 am 23 Mar 12

dpm said :

……
….
P.S. What coffee machine did you end up getting in the end? Hopefully I can afford that, and then save the hassle of researching the *best* machine myself!

Thanks!

Sounds like it would be cheaper to buy a house near a cafe. No, there’s no need to thank me for my advice…

c_c c_c 10:56 am 23 Mar 12

Russ said :

It’s worth noting that Cosmorex have been roasting beans in Canberra *far* longer than any other local roaster, and their “premium” espresso blend is excellent, and reasonably priced. That said, you really have to go to their place in Fyshwick to buy beans to have any hope of freshness – anything in the supermarket could have been sitting there for god knows how long.

Good grief, Gus’ has been around for over 40 years… being around the longest sure doesn’t make something the best… or even acceptable.

Russ said :

I assume the $900 Rancilio machine you’re talking about is the Silvia, and it’s a very good machine with a *long* track record. Both Sunbeam and Breville have bought new machines to the market, most recently Breville with their dual-boiler unit. Feature-wise, they’re impressive, but neither have the pedigree or track record of the Silvia, so I think it’s entirely appropriate for the Cosmorex guys to rave about it.

Silvia is a second rate machine with a cult following, a following a lot of people laugh at and deride. It has poor, antiquated design, poor thermal properties and an obscene price tag for today’s market. It may have been for it’s time a very capable home espresso machines, but it’s days are long gone.

Those in the know realise the Silvia was originally designed as an inexpensive freebie by Rancillio to be given to purchasers of their professional machines. It ended up being released in its own right, and remains their only foray into domestic machines.

The machine has a relatively small, single boiler with an average size water tank that has neither a visible gauge or low water warning, nor a cut out to prevent the thing drying up and burning out.
In fact some retailers even carry warnings like this:
“Don’t leave your Silvia switched on, especially in steam mode. Otherwise you can run the boiler dry and damage the element. This is not covered under warranty.”
Really, don’t leave my machine switched on, ready when entertaining? I have to turn it on, spend half an hour temp surfing to get it ready while people are waiting… great!

The machine does not reach optimum temperature for a long time, hence you’ll find ample guides online about the need to “temperature surf” – you’ll end up using about a third of the tank just getting the thing to operating temperature. The very poor temperature properties mean many users have physically drilled into the machine and installed temperature and pressure gauges.

The spill tray is tiny and overflows very quickly, again no visible gauge to indicate level in tray.

The boiler has insufficient capacity to swap between shots and steam quickly and the steam traditionally comes out quite wet.

The machine has received a number of revisions, but only very minor. Following a revision about 4-5 years ago, a batch of the machines was recalled because of brass fragments in the boiler causing damage.

Only has a one year warranty. And though unconfirmed, their has been word that many of the parts in the Sylvia are imported from Asia rather than from locally in Europe.

Again, back in the days before at-home espresso was as common as now, the Silvia and it’s quirks were better than anything else. But they haven’t updated the thing as the market has moved, just relied on the existing cult and pushy sales people. No one in their right mind would buy it, or have bought it in the last 6-8 years.

Choice Magazine ranked it very low, alongside a couple of Brevilles and well below better machines from brands like La Vabiemme, who make an E61 domestic machine for about $1300, which Atilio last I checked doesn’t sell.

Finally, Atillio offers Jura machines, which are high margin cash cows. I know from personal experience they do an average job at best, so that’s proof enough he sells what makes him profit, not what makes good coffee or offers the best value to customers.

He’s the Gus of Canberra coffee.

Lucky for many, Australia Post deliver awesome roasts from interstate and the booming local crop of micro-roasters are doing amazon work. Ona, Lonsdale Roasters – they’re the future.

Mysteryman Mysteryman 10:09 am 23 Mar 12

damien haas said :

i really miss hansel and gretels in belconnen. they sold to a couple who ran it down, it then changed hands and was rebranded – they did away with coffee grinding and its now just.another.cafe.

I used to work near them (in the same building) and every Thursday they’d roast/burn the beans and the whole building would reek of burnt coffee.

dpm dpm 9:34 am 23 Mar 12

c_c said :

Met him, talked to him, don’t doubt his passion. However passion is one thing, competence and ability quite another. There’s plenty of golfing tragics out there who are passionate about shooting 18 holes in the weekend, doesn’t mean they’ll win the Masters.

Fact is he’s chosen to feel second tier brands and push those on people rather than better machines out there.

I once went in and one of his senior people wouldn’t shut up about a Rancilio for around $900. I kept pointing out that I knew of an Italian brand that made an e61 model for around $1300 that the places in Sydney and Melbourne stock, and a machine from a big brand at The Good Guys for $700 that offered the same performance as the Rancilio they were pushing. I later found out the model they were pushing was a weak, high margin offering with known defects.

Just about every machine in his shop you see, including the grinders, you’ll note they’re second tier rip offs of major brands.

Wow, I certainly hope you are working in the coffee industry, and your skills aren’t wasted as just a run-of-the-mill ‘amateur’ coffee connoisseur!

However, as I know nothing about coffee machines and would like to learn more, could you please answer some questions for me?

1) How should I judge competence and ability of coffee machine shop staff? What are the criteria to benchmark them against?
2) What are the first and second tier coffee machine brands, and how do I determine if a machine meets a particular tier’s criteria? Is there a review site somewhere, or is it just personal preference?
3) What was the ‘big brand’ the Good Guys were selling?
4) How do I know what level of ‘performance’ particular machines have, so I can compare them? Do I just read stuff off the Internet, or should I give the models a test run myself?
5) How do you know about which machine(s) have ‘high margins’ and/or ‘known defects’? How can I learn that information too, so I’m not ripped off like a clueless sucker?

I hope you can help me understand more, as the only thing I have worked out is Rancilio (which is also an Italian company) has been around since the 1920’s, so they must have been knocking off the ‘major brands’ for some time – and doing pretty well out of it as they are still around?!

P.S. What coffee machine did you end up getting in the end? Hopefully I can afford that, and then save the hassle of researching the *best* machine myself!

Thanks!

Johnno Johnno 9:14 pm 22 Mar 12

I might not be “trained” but I know what I like. Early Doors Cafe in Gungahlin makes a good, and most importantly, consistent coffee.

Russ Russ 8:53 pm 22 Mar 12

c_c said :

I once went in and one of his senior people wouldn’t shut up about a Rancilio for around $900. I kept pointing out that I knew of an Italian brand that made an e61 model for around $1300 that the places in Sydney and Melbourne stock, and a machine from a big brand at The Good Guys for $700 that offered the same performance as the Rancilio they were pushing. I later found out the model they were pushing was a weak, high margin offering with known defects.

I assume the $900 Rancilio machine you’re talking about is the Silvia, and it’s a very good machine with a *long* track record. Both Sunbeam and Breville have bought new machines to the market, most recently Breville with their dual-boiler unit. Feature-wise, they’re impressive, but neither have the pedigree or track record of the Silvia, so I think it’s entirely appropriate for the Cosmorex guys to rave about it.

It’s worth noting that Cosmorex have been roasting beans in Canberra *far* longer than any other local roaster, and their “premium” espresso blend is excellent, and reasonably priced. That said, you really have to go to their place in Fyshwick to buy beans to have any hope of freshness – anything in the supermarket could have been sitting there for god knows how long.

I-filed I-filed 8:03 pm 22 Mar 12

BelcoMan said :

Why doesn’t someone get Attillio from Cosmorex involved?

P.S. Atillio’s blends are full of inferior Robusta beans.

rosscoact rosscoact 6:41 pm 22 Mar 12

pajs said :

Rosscoact, have had one visit to 2 before 10 and had an OK coffee (a flat white). Happy to give them a couple more visits and see how they go.

The roasting machine was there, but they had not used it and did not have a human roaster to run it. Have they started roasting yet and with someone who has decent roasting experience?

Sames here, no evidence of roasting but the coffee was really fresh when I had a cup in January

damien haas damien haas 6:00 pm 22 Mar 12

i really miss hansel and gretels in belconnen. they sold to a couple who ran it down, it then changed hands and was rebranded – they did away with coffee grinding and its now just.another.cafe.

pajs pajs 4:22 pm 22 Mar 12

Rosscoact, have had one visit to 2 before 10 and had an OK coffee (a flat white). Happy to give them a couple more visits and see how they go.

The roasting machine was there, but they had not used it and did not have a human roaster to run it. Have they started roasting yet and with someone who has decent roasting experience?

c_c c_c 3:06 pm 22 Mar 12

BelcoMan said :

Seriously?

I have met him and it took about 90 seconds to realise the passion he has for ALL coffee not just his own.
The temptation here is to be sarcastic and make a comment about a keyboard warrior knowing more than someone who is recognised as one of the top coffee judges in teh country, but I won’t do that.

To me, coffee is like wine, it would be boring if we all liked the same Cab Sav, Merlot or Shiraz. Different tastes – different drinks – simple really

Met him, talked to him, don’t doubt his passion. However passion is one thing, competence and ability quite another. There’s plenty of golfing tragics out there who are passionate about shooting 18 holes in the weekend, doesn’t mean they’ll win the Masters.

Fact is he’s chosen to feel second tier brands and push those on people rather than better machines out there.

I once went in and one of his senior people wouldn’t shut up about a Rancilio for around $900. I kept pointing out that I knew of an Italian brand that made an e61 model for around $1300 that the places in Sydney and Melbourne stock, and a machine from a big brand at The Good Guys for $700 that offered the same performance as the Rancilio they were pushing. I later found out the model they were pushing was a weak, high margin offering with known defects.

Just about every machine in his shop you see, including the grinders, you’ll note they’re second tier rip offs of major brands.

rosscoact rosscoact 11:32 am 22 Mar 12

pajs, what’s your thoughts on 2 before 10?

pajs said :

This isn’t a bad starting place regarding how people measure quality with cupping: http://coffeegeek.com/guides/beginnercupping/cuppingforms The Specialty Coffee Association of America has another fairly influential form/guide.

It should happen all the time at roasters and stores, but I think it is fair to say only a small number of people are prepared to put in the effort that top-quality and consistent coffee requires. Aside from coffee I can make, or people I know in Canberra that are roasters or coffee-obsessives make, I can’t say there is anywhere in Canberra that’s top-tier, as either a roaster or a cafe. The guy at Silver Hills Nursery, who is obsessive and fanatical about freshness, cleanliness & quality of coffee, is probably as close as Canberra gets to top-tier.

As for Cosmorex, I buy their beans when I have run out of better stuff, because I can walk up to my local IGA and grab them, but they are not a patch on the top-tier roasters out of Melbourne or Sydney. Alan Frew at http://www.coffeeco.com.au is probably my pick of Australian roasters, but I’ve bought great beans from other Melbourne and Sydney small-batch roasters.

Canberra could really do with a high-quality, small-batch roaster who knows their stuff. You can stuff up great beans with a dodgy grinder, dirty equipment, wrong temperatures, or just not knowing what you’re doing, but you can’t make great coffee from sub-standard beans.

p1 p1 10:34 am 22 Mar 12

pajs said :

You can stuff up great beans with a dodgy grinder, dirty equipment, wrong temperatures, or just not knowing what you’re doing, but you can’t make great coffee from sub-standard beans.

Just the other day I was telling someone how improper technique totally ruined my cop of Nescafe Blend 43.

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top

Search across the site