How to find the best coffee in Sydney

SanRemo espresso coffee machine

Coffee is everywhere in Sydney. But do you know what quality coffee looks like? Next time you walk into a café, check for these espresso bar must haves. They’ll tell you how you can expect your coffee to taste. You pay $4 for your coffee – make sure it’s a good one!

Best coffee essentials

Ready to serve

The espresso machine is the trophy of any café serious about coffee. Look for it placed front and centre in the shop’s layout. Priced from around $20,000 for a state-of-the-art Sanremo Café Racer, it may be a café owner or sponsored roaster’s most significant investment. They’ll want to show it off as the number one drawcard for coffee hunters.

Quality coffee comes from well considered work flow. For efficiency, the espresso machine should be next to the cash register. Place your order and it should automatically be sent to the barista. Grinders should be the first equipment off the rank, then the espresso extracted while the milk is textured. Once poured and lidded if it’s a take away, you’ll want to see it immediately given to you before the degrees start dropping.

Coffee Group head

Setup spick and span

Eat in a restaurant and you want to know your food is hygienically prepared. The same goes for your coffee. Think clean counters, cups neatly stacked, jugs lined up, cloths ready. If you spot grounds patterning the benches, the baristas aren’t wiping down their work space. And if they aren’t cleaning the areas you can see, imagine what it looks like where you can’t see.

Without a disciplined hourly and daily cleaning routine for group heads and handles, shower sprays and grinders, then your coffee is toast before it begins.

The truth is in the hopper

Fresh beans have minimal oils. A hopper smudged with grease means one of two things: the beans aren’t fresh and/or the café doesn’t clean the rancid oils out of the hopper daily. A busy café could go through minimum 45kg of beans a week, so if the café you’re in doesn’t have a lot of customers and has a less than pristine hopper, it might be time to hightail it out of there.

Milky magnificence

Milk for coffee gets heated to 60-65°C. You should see several jugs lined up next to the coffee machine, one each for full cream, skim, soy and other milk alternatives, at the least. Look for a jug rinser too – any café worth its avo on sourdough will have one. It shows they care about hygiene and are definitely not using old milk.

Milk can only be heated once to enjoy optimal taste. If reheated again, the proteins, sugars and fats in the milk break down too much. Flavour and texture suffers – and so do you!

Danes Coffee cup in hand

Good baristas understand the impact of these changes on coffee flavour. They know to start with fresh, cold milk every time and only prepare enough milk for the coffees on order.

After each jug of milk is steamed, the barista should firmly wipe the steam wand. It should look as pristine in the afternoon as it does for the first order of the day. A filthy steam wand covered in a build-up of dried milk is unhygienic, poor practice and not going to contribute to delicious flavour.  

Many hands on deck

More than one person behind the coffee machine? Good sign! It indicates the café is busy and ready for business. Look for the controlled space where there is order – it should reflect an assembly line with disciplined processes to help staff cope with rush hour. Hopefully you’ll observe quiet confidence and attention to joyful service too. Humility is a bonus.

home barista2

Equipped for perfection  

Brands set the benchmark when it comes to coffee. Look for current equipment and renowned names like Anfim, EK43, Sanremo and Rocket. An automatic tamper like Puqpress instantly signals reliable precision and evenly tamped shots.

Scales are of astronomical significance. Any café that uses scales in its coffee making process will be light years ahead of their competitors for flavour. They’re the single most clear clue for consistency. If you don’t use scales, you don’t know what’s going in your machine.

Grinding for flavour

Do you see more than one grinder by the machine? That means the café is matching the grind to the flavour. At Danes Select Stores, you’ll see at least three or four grinders. These are our premium cafés and they will always serve a house milk blend, seasonal blend for milk or black, a single origin and decaf. A café that’s designed to serve to flavour, not format, is an undeniably strong sign that they know coffee and they do it well.

Keeping it clean

A barista should almost always have their hands on a cloth – one each for the porta filter, bench, steam wand and tray. After every extraction they should be wiping out the porta filter so your coffee doesn’t get any dregs from the previous shot. They’ll need to wipe down the counter after the grounds are dosed, weighed and tamped. The steam wand will be cleaned and purged after each dunking into the jug. And the tray will be wiped to soak up any espresso overflow so the bottom of your cup is not served dripping with old coffee.

Danes Coffee timer

Barista banter

Ask your barista about the flavour profile of the house blend, seasonal blend or origin. Can they speak about it in depth? Do you feel their passion? Chances are they’re highly trained and can help you identify other blends and origins to try that suit the flavours you most enjoy.

A barista that talks the talk is full of fascinating coffee knowledge. He or she will be happy to chat about coffee and be proud to share their expertise on how to get the most flavour out of each blend and origin.

Your internal flavour roadmap

Finally, let taste be the judge. Smooth coffee that’s a joy to drink and gently washes over your tongue will keep you coming back.

Like to learn more? Browse our SCA and DSCI courses here.

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