Category Archives: Coffee Roasting

Elixir Coffee Specialists

Elixir Coffee Specialists

Normally I’d take issue with a name like “Coffee Specialists”. It’s draws parallels with fast food chains calling themselves “Burger professionals” or “Sandwich artists”. Sure it’s a catchy title, but it in no way makes me think the person behind the counter with the pimples and the hair net knows anything about making quality food.

Of course the difference in this case (aside from a distinct lack of hair nets) is that crew at Elixir Coffee Specialists are in fact, coffee specialists. Ignoring for a moment the slight issue of another cafe recently opening with the name Elixir in it, and a need to adequately distinguish themselves, you don’t get much more of a coffee dream team than Justin Kenny and Jonny Nease.

Jonny Justin

If you’re a Perth coffee lover, you’ll have likely seen Justin’s face around town. He’s been owner and operator of many excellent establishments in their time, the likes of which include Grind in Trinity Arcade, Fix in West Perth, and most recently Velvet Espresso on King St. It was at Velvet that Jonny came on board, and now Elixir is the culmination of Justin’s long legacy in the Perth coffee scene.

A consummate professional who goes about his business without pomp or ceremony, Justin describes Elixir as the goal he’s been building to all along. A place where he has the space to do what he wants. To create a boutique cafe and a small batch roastery where he can finally do coffee his way.

Elixir is in the building formerly occupied by The Grocer (a fact they’re constantly reminded of by the regular flow of people coming in and asking where The Grocer is, expecting to buy saffron threads and truffle oil). The good thing about this though, is that not only do they pick up new business from every person who gets a whiff of the amazing smell of their coffee, but it also means that there’s plenty of storage room out the back for the new arrived roaster, a coffee lab, and hopefully soon a whole lot of interesting green beans.

With the roaster to be commissioned in the coming months it’s an exciting time for Justin, Jonny, Gemma, Ruth, and the rest of the Elixir team, who all genuinely seem to want to be there… which is a nice thing to experience. Jonny, Justin, and Gemma run the coffee, and Ruth and Jen are the girls who make the food sing. All the meals are done on site with ovens out the back to get some serious cooking going. The menu changes often and has a focus on simple cafe classics done well. My last visit included a steak sandwich with roast tomatoes and a garlic creme that really hit the spot.

Elixir coffee - espresso pour Latte art capp

Coffee is an increasingly difficult thing for me to comment on. Being involved in barista competitions and knowing more people in the industry, it would be unfair of me to start throwing out unfettered opinion on every cafe I go to. Knowing more behind the scenes, you soon start to realise that one flat white or espresso can not be assessed on it’s own, but rather appreciated knowing the various factors that have gone into it. Where the beans are from, how they’re roasted, how they’re stored, what equipment you’re using, how well it’s maintained, and how busy the cafe is at any given time of the day are all big deciders in the overall quality of the cup.

So I won’t be rating 7 out of 10′s or 4 stars or giving you a detailed break down of the flavour profile of the coffees I tried.
What I will say however, is that Elixir is the kind of place where continual improvement and the pursuit of great coffee is the underlying goal. So regardless of the make up of their blend, the single origin they happen to be using on the day, what new and zany tamping technique, or grams per shot ratio they’re using, it will be part of an evolving process that I’ll happily take part in.

Espresso pour @ ElixirCroatian CupsReflecto manFlowery lightingThe shotSexy cupperyShots for a latteJustin pours at ElixirLatte pour throughPress button to roastThe love brushJonnyPain endsJustin manages a smileElixir Coffee Specialists

Elixir Coffee Specialists
Chelsea Village, 145 Stirling Highway
Nedlands

Phone: 9389 9333
Open Monday – Saturday: 7.00am – 4.00pm
Closed Sunday

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2010 W.A Barista Competition – Day 1

2010 WA Barista Competition

It’s been a huge day today as day one of the Detpak W.A Barista Championships got underway. This year W.A has 16 awesome baristas vying for the title of the states best, and a chance to be flown to the Gold Coast to represent W.A in the national finals early next year.

The first day of competition today at the Mount Hawthorn Community Hall had 11 competitors all strutting their stuff. Everyone competing admirably and doing their bit to further the appreciation of good coffee in W.A.

Tomorrow sees a further 5 competitors round out the barista competition, and the the states best latte artists will take to the stage
to see who can take away the Pura Milk Latte Art championship.

Finally, the who’s who of Perth’s coffee palates will compete in the Fairtrade Cup Tasting competition, a fast paced race to pick the odd coffee out of 8 sets of 3 cups. The winner is whoever gets the most right in the fastest time.

The event is open to the public and everyone who is into coffee at all is encouraged to come down. We have a coffee cart selling $2 coffees made by our competitors, and coffee roasting demonstrations run by local home roaster Trevor Green.

Tomorrow’s action will get underway at 9am and run through til the afternoon, so there’s plenty of time to come along and see what the best baristas in the state have to offer.

Here’s a few shots from todays action taken by Jon Wilson:

2010 WA Barista Competition2010 WA Barista Competition2010 WA Barista Competition2010 WA Barista Competition2010 WA Barista Competition2010 WA Barista Competition2010 WA Barista Competition2010 WA Barista Competition2010 WA Barista Competition2010 WA Barista Competition2010 WA Barista Competition2010 WA Barista Competition2010 WA Barista Competition2010 WA Barista Competition2010 WA Barista Competition

Directions to Mount Hawthorn Community Hall

Vacuum Brewing with the Cona

the finished product

Vacuum brewed coffee. It’s all the rage on the greater coffee loving scene of late. Mark Prince has been into them for years, they’ve made numerous appearances in barista competitions, St Ali in Melbourne invited a Japanese syphon coffee champion to give a demonstration of the art, and snobs and geeks across the country seem to be getting in on the action in greater numbers.

My first dabbling with vacuum brewed coffee happened after I casually dropped by Fiori Coffee to pay Kam a visit and make a nuisance of myself (as I am prone to doing). Noticing a familiar looking device sitting in a box on the floor I soon found out it was a Cona Vacuum Brewer. Kam, being the gentleman he is, kindly offered to let me try it out, and I’ve been experimenting ever since.

The basic principle behind vacuum brewed coffee is that you have two chambers. Water in the bottom chamber is heated, gives off water vapour, and eventually the vapour expands so much that it pushes the rest of the water up the spout into the top chamber. The ground coffee in the top then brews until you take away the heat source, at which point the water vapour cools and the brewed coffee is drawn back down in the bottom chamber.

I am by no means any kind of expert when it comes to this kind of thing. I’ve been picking up as many tips from other people as I can. So this post is more of just a pictorial guide to one way you could do it, rather than any kind of how to.

The Cona is a very beautiful piece of equipment on it’s own. Shannon Bennett fell in love with it so much that he makes a table side bouillabaisse by infusing fish stock and shell fish using it. The process of brewing coffee in it to me seems more like a science experiment than making coffee, but that’s probably why I like it.

My process is as follows:

Filter some water and fill the bottom chamber up. This is a ‘D’ series Cona, which holds at most a litre or so in the bottom. I fill it with about 750 ml of water, and put it onto a gas burner to heat up. This isn’t strictly necessary, but the Cona’s standard heat source is a little spirit burner, which takes forever to heat this amount of water.

Once some vapours are coming out of the top of the pot, and before it starts to boil, take it off the gas, and lock the top chamber in place on top. Light the spirit burner underneath and add the coffee to the top.

I used a measurement of 8 grams of coffee per 150ml of water (I fudged that from the SCAA standard brew ratio recommendations). Which means 40 grams of ground coffee for the amount of water in this example. The coffee is ground at roughly the same level as French press coffee, though I have been varying it lately to see the effects. Obviously you should be using some nice fresh coffee for good results.

Now you basically let the Cona work it’s magic.

The water will gradually rise up into the top chamber and begin to infuse. When it’s all mostly up in the top, I give it a stir to make sure all the coffee is adequately soaked, which brings out the “bloom” some more. Then when all the water has risen to the top (there will always be some water that doesn’t come up) remove the heat source. The coffee will then slowly start to be sucked back down into the bottom chamber, and the spent grounds stay up the top.

Some people wait til the water had all risen to the top chamber before adding the coffee, namely because it infusion all happens at a similar temperature, but I can’t say I’ve tried enough to tell the difference.

Here is my pictoral view of the process:

Cona - Size DCona - pre brewmeasuringground PNG coffeeSpeeding up the processSome assembly requirednearly readyreally nearly readystarting the brewinvisible flameon the boilcoffee slowly infusingInfusingCoffee risingrise my prettyCritical massThe last dropsthe bloomreversethe vacuum working its magicspent coffeeso elegantthe finished product

Observations

- This is great way to brew coffee, it’s an interesting process and the results can be amazing

- The Cona has a glass filter rod. I’m not sure how it works exactly, but the cups I’ve had are generally very clean and without grounds. I like that it doesn’t need changing and is easy to clean, but not sure how it compares to cloth filters in brewers like the Hario.

- It works best with interesting single origins that are roasted much lighter than espresso to keep their inherent terroir characteristics.

- Measuring the coffee in the top chamber through the brew process showed I was getting temperatures around 90 – 95C, which is not boiling obviously, so should be ok. A more specific approach to temperature management would give more reproducible results.

- My experiments have yet to yield any outstanding experiences, but I think that’s due to roast level
of the coffee, and mastering the technique some more.

- There are lots of other ways to do it, here’s a list of other resources I’ve been using:

Sweet Marias
Coffee Kid
Coffee Snobs
Coffee Geek
Barismo

Also, enjoy the giant photos :)

Coffee and Cigars

Smoke Lord

Those crazy cats at Tiger, Tiger are holding the next edition in their series of coffee and cigar tastings this weekend (Sunday the 9th September from 2pm).

It’s run by Tiger, Tiger and the cigars are brought along by Josh Devlin (of Devlins Cigars), with the idea being to match quality cigars with excellent single origin coffees.

I went along to one a little while ago and spent a great afternoon smoking a lovely Cuban cigar, the Bolivar Belicosos Finos (thanks for the info Josh !). It was paired with a fantastic Indian “Selection 9″ single origin roasted by Fiori.

The tasting coming up this weekend however, will feature a single origin Cuban Altura roasted by none other than everyone’s favourite home roaster (and member of the Matt and Grendel mutual appreciation society) Grendel :)

Places are limited, and tickets are $30 each, which gets you a cigar and a whole whack of coffee… enough to have you jumped up in no time at all.

Check out the details on Tiger, Tigers (shiny new) website.

In other news

Mostly Rosetta with Heart

  • My article about Honduran coffee grower/importer/roaster Gerardo Barrios has made it’s way into this months edition of Spice Magazine, a most excellent (in my totally non-biased opinion) local food, wine, produce, anything you can think of that related to tastiness magazine.
  • Epic Espresso has a new website, which I may or may not have had a hand in creating, and the quadruple ristretto flat whites are totally kicking it at the moment.
  • Slow Food Perth has a new website (which I also may have helped put together), with updated content, rss feeds, and a bunch of other whiz bang fanciness. Slow Food Perth are doing great things in the local community to help promote producers, suppliers, and creators of quality food, and also to help educate people on where exactly our food comes from, and some of the more pertinent social issues surrounding it. I’d encourage anyone who loves food to check out their own local group, if only to score great lunches :)

Midday Inspiration

midday inspiration

Catching up on coffee:

  • Early morning meetings in the city have forced me out of my usual habit of making myself a coffee before leaving the house. Fortunately Clare and Jackson at Tiger Tiger have been keeping me well fuelled with excellent flat whites and macchiatos.
  • New purchases for my little home setup now include a tamping mat, a ‘latte art’ jug (with a new improved tip that’s supposed to make it easier to pour art… yet to be determined if this is true), and a new gasket for my Rancilio Silvia to try and stop the bit of leaking that happens occasionally. Thanks to coffeeparts.com for making my life easier when looking for bits and pieces.
  • Five Senses have recently added some of the infamous PNG PSC AA to their website for sale. This is a very rare and special grade of bean and from the double ristretto I pulled with it just now, I can see why. It’s full bodied, sweet, lingering and delicious (that’s as much as a flavour profile as I can manage). Try some if you can.
  • Grendel is going strong with his coffee fundraiser, having roasted up the beans now, it looks to be going well.
  • I also got a nice mention from Five Senses on their website. Thanks to Ashley for putting it up :)

A Taste of Origin

Gerrado

I was fortunate enough to attend a coffee talk recently facilitated by Kamran and Louise of Fiori Coffee. The talk was given by Gerardo Barrios, a 7th generation coffee grower, roaster, and cafe owner, who’s family estate in Honduras produces wonderful coffee using natural processes and innovation, coupled with techniques and traditions passed down through the years.

Gerado gave us an insight into the world of coffee growing and the importance of the crop to the economy of Honduras, as well as some idea of the work and love that is involved in creating the finest coffees, woven through the story of his families coffee, and his attempts to bring it to the rest of the world.

It’s hard not to get inspired and excited when listening to Gerado speak. His love for coffee is unshakeable, and the romanticism of it all is hard to escape, tempered only by the solemn reality that the livelihoods of so many people rely on this one little bean. As Gerado wisely says… this so called “humble bean” is not so humble.

Grown by:

Also fortunate for me was that I’ve been asked to do a write up for a local magazine, so for now, head on over to Grendels blog, and check out his excellent wrap up on the talk and some of the pertinent issues raised.