Lowdown Espresso

Lowdown Espresso Checked

I’ve been meaning to write a post about Lowdown Espresso for a long time now. They’ve recently captured my “Must visit cafe’s when in the CBD” vote, and I think the coffee they are making is some of the best in the city.

Lowdown is run by Mark and Adam Lowes, and two nicer gents you couldn’t meet, who take the flannel clad / bearded look and make it their own.

They took over the diminutive cafe in Cloisters Arcade from the previous owners and set about making it their own. Their Dad got involved used his carpentry skills to put the benches together and help get the place fitted out, and it is perfect in it’s simplicity. The guys use a customised Fiori blend for their espresso, and often have a single original filter available to try out as well. They’ve graduated from a 2 group Wega to a 3 group La Marzocco in the relatively short time they’ve been open and are pumping out more coffee’s than ever before.

I like it because they’re both down to earth guys who are obviously loving what they do and really seem to enjoy giving you a great coffee. The little chocolate button handed out with each coffee may go some way to explaining the chocolate notes I find in their espresso, but other than that it’s a rich and intense brew with a lot of body that a discerning coffee lover will appreciate.

The cafe is really too small to do any serious cooking, but there’s a few tasty sandwiches on offer every day, and on a recent visit some extremely commendable macarons.

If you love your coffee without pretense or attitude then pay these guys a visit. Be warned, it does get very popular during the morning “need caffeine before I can face the office” rush hour, but it’s worth the wait.

Lowdown Espresso FlatwhiteLowdown Espresso cupLowdown Espresso CheckedLowdown Espresso David BrentLowdown Espresso latteLowdown Espresso cardsLowdown Espresso menuLowdown Espresso AdamLowdown Espresso double shotLowdown EspressoLowdown Espresso Adam grindingLowdown Espresso MarkLowdown Espresso flat whiteLowdown Espresso Adam tampingLowdown Espresso reflectedLowdown Espresso sugarLowdown Espresso lemons

Lowdown Espresso
Inside Cloisters Arcade
16a/865 Hay St
Perth WA 6000
(08) 9226 3041


Low Down Espresso Bar on Urbanspoon

Silvana Coffee Cocktails @ 399

1/4 of an Espresso Martini Macca drops the flame

Espresso and Alcohol. Such a tantalising but deadly combination of stimulant and depressant pitted together in a vicious battle for who can do more damage to your sleep patterns. It’s not too often that I feel the limits of either my espresso or alcohol consumption tested (which is not to say I abuse either). But this little event held at 399 bar, an initiative of Silvana coffee, left my head in a state more akin to a Sunday morning after the worlds biggest bender.

Which is not to say that any of it wasn’t delicious, because it definitely was. Macca and Gary from 399 were mixing up espresso martinis, blazers made with 15 year old Glenfiddich whisky and inflused with coffee and cinnamon, and then to finish off, a coconut sorbet with limoncello over the top. Tom Wearne of European Foods Coffee Education Centre was also there behind the espresso machine, pumping out shots of Silvana and reprising his signature drink from the W.A Barista Competition last year, this time with the wonderful addition of chambord, which seemed to make the rest of the drink come alive that little bit more.

There was a who’s that of local food and coffee types around, and along with Mr Cafe Grendel, A slightly tipsy but holding it together Karen Cheng, and myself, a nice contingent of bloggers too.

We were excellently hosted by John Ferrari and Catherine Natale of European Foods who were showing off the new Silvana Exclusive blend of coffee they’ve put together, and food and cocktails flowed freely from the ever cool kids of 399.

A little tip for the casual punter though. If you’re going drink a near endless stream of coffee cocktails, each one with at least a shot of espresso in them. Be prepared to have a fitful sleep and some of the craziest dreams you’ve ever imagined, or perhaps just plan not to sleep for a week and have a couple more.

Reanne from SPICE MagazineTotally prescription glassesEspresso Blazer baseMacca drops the flameThis girl I keep running intoThe line upPost BlazeGazzaNice jugsCocktail contemplationA cautious sipperKaren Cheng !1/4 of an Espresso MartiniNat dishes the sorbetLimoncelloRows of shotsMacca - at your serviceTom's Baby Espresso CocktailTom's Baby Espresso CocktailTom's Baby Espresso CocktailTom's Baby Espresso CocktailTom's Baby Espresso CocktailTom's Baby Espresso CocktailTom's Baby Espresso Cocktail

Barista Jam II

Perth Macaron Challenge I

Eep. This is tomorrow night. I’ve been tardy I know, but If you can make it along please do. The words come from Jen @ 5 Senses

What comes after # 1? Another super cheap $15 barista competition fundraiser.

Time to re-group with Barista Jam #2 and get down to business. Consider our first get together hosted by the lovely people at Elixir Coffee Specialists a who’s who / meet and greet. Now that we are all friendlies, it’s time to talk a little bit more seriously about this year’s upcoming barista competition.

We are looking for all potential competitors, hopeful judges, volunteers and sponsors to make themselves known and come join us for another beer and pizza session at Epic Espresso in West Perth this Friday the 23rd from 5pm onwards. We obviously don’t want to waste all the prize money on advertising, so it’s up to you to get the word out there to anyone you think might be interested.

We are planning some comp focused training during the evening. We’ll aim to spend time each Barista Jam breaking down a section of the scoresheet in order to offer insight and tips on getting the best results beginning with the espresso section. On the table at 5:30pm sharp (before Pizza) will be the top ten Honduras COE samples for cupping. It will be an opportunity to discuss flavours, characteristics and pesky” Nuancessssss” with the comp blend descriptor training in mind.

Lastly, we are keen to reward some budding artists! 5 bucks in the hopper, 1 cup, judged by comp rules, winner takes home a fancy new Reg Barber.

If you’re interested in providing your venue for #3 we are keen to hear from you.

See you this Friday,


Facebook event link here: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=101782406543046

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

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


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:

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Directions to Mount Hawthorn Community Hall

2009 WA Latte Art and Coffee Cupping Competition

Tanghy limbers up WA Latte Art and Coffee Cupping Compeition

We had another great day at the Latte Art championships and the Cupping Competition last Sunday. I bravely stood up to the plate again and sacrificed my tastebuds to the cause of coffee to judge the latte art competition in the morning, because as we all (should) know, latte art is much more than just drawing hearts and flowers on top of coffee. The milk temperature and texture and the way it combines with the espresso is paramount to getting a good score. So no matter how lovely your patterns are, if your coffee tastes like microwaved nescafe, you will lose.

Fortunately the competitors on Sunday were a much classier lot than that, and after some stirling efforts from many competitors, the winner once again was Production Supervisor and latte artiste extraordinaire, Kim Godleman of 5 Senses.

Sadly I was judging the whole time of the comp, and with no minions to run around taking photos for me, I didn’t get many shots of the actual competitors during the day. The 5 Senses team did get a few shots though, that you can check out here.

Next up was the cupping competition, and true to form, I had not practiced once. Still, my steely nerves and trust in my palate was strong. I managed to get a break for lunch in between the latte art and the cupping, so I primed the tastebuds with a potato and ham calzone and a lemon lime and bitters. A lunch of taste champions no doubt. A few swirls of mineral water just to round out the bitters and we were good to go.

What is cupping you say ?
Cupping is the traditional method for breaking down the flavour profiles of brewed coffee. You roast a bunch of coffee to a certain level (generally lighter than for espresso), grind it to a specific courseness, and then let it steep in hot water (not boiling) for a set period of time. Then breaking through the crust of grinds on the top and inhaling deeply the aromas of the brew, and drawing out as much detail as you can about the nose, before slurping it as you would if you were tasting wine. Aerating the coffee across your palate and assessing the acidity, body, and length of finish etc.

The cupping competition is designed to be a high speed spectacle that mirrors this tradition. Each competitor is given 8 sets of 3 cups. 2 of the cups in each set are the same coffee, and one is different. The point then is to guess the odd one out, in as fast a time as possible.

The winner of the world cupping championships last year scored 8 out of 8 correct in less than 1 1/2 minutes. That’s 24 tastes of coffee in under 90 seconds… and 100% accuracy on what he was tasting.
Whilst I doubt I’ll ever be in that league, I’ll explain the method I use for this competition (If you can call it a method).

How I do it
Basically I taste the first cup in a set, slurp it across my palate and look for one single defining character of that coffee. Some coffees are predominantly sour, some particularly bitter, others are really earthy, or acidic, or just have some weird kind of funk to them. I then use that one characteristic to match against the other cups. If the next cup has it too, then they are likely to be the same, if the next cup doesn’t, then test the third, if the third has it, bingo. You can also try and use things like the heat profile of steam coming out of cups, and the colour of the brewed coffee if you need a little help. Though often it’s just more confusing.

So in a sense, you’re really not tasting coffee at all. You’re pulling out one flavour component that you can use to match against. Of course being a professional coffee taster, those flavour components are going to be a lot more apparent to someone who does it every day than to a weekend cupping warrior. But the concept is still the same. Of course the problem arises when the coffees all start to taste like each other, or when your mind starts to wander, and the taste you were matching against suddenly slips from your mind.

So how did I do ?
Well, not bad, but not good enough to take out the win this year. I was dead certain of the first set, which I pushed out after only one sip of each cup, and later found out I had it wrong. Which still confuses me as to how I could be so certain, but then these things happen. I managed to get 5 out of 8 sets right in a little over 4 minutes. Pipped by a stirling performance by non other than barista to the stars Ben Bicknell, who managed an outstanding 7 out of 8. A host of other competitors also came in with 5 out of 8 actually. So perhaps we’re all just talented :)

For the record, here are the results from the two days of competition:

Barista Competition Final Results

1st: Mark Chandler from 5 Senses Coffee / WA Barista Academy 546.5 points
2nd: Jespa Bood from Ristretto 454.5 points
3rd: Charles Stuart from Rocketfuel 453.0 points

Latte Art Final Results

1st: Kim Godleman from 5 Senses Coffee
2nd: Dale Fewson from Café 54
3rd: Natalie Donaldson from Epic Espresso

Cupping Competition Final Results

1st: Ben Bicknell from 5 Senses Coffee 7/8 in 3 mins 58 secs
2nd: Angela Kowalczyk from Epic Espresso 5/8 in 3 mins 32 secs
3rd: Matt O’Donohue (that’s me!) Executive Producer of Abstract Gourmet 5/8 in 4 mins 7 secs