Sunday, August 29, 2010

flat white, bills, surry hills, sydney

bills seems to insist on their name being strictly lowercase. that is about all they have in common with silverchair. in recognition of this, this whole post shall be written in lowercase. it looks cool, but it will get difficult when i start using proper nouns that aren't "bills" or "silverchair". anyhow, last time i came to sydney (in early april this year, during one of the blog's many hiatuses) i visited single origin (i emboldened their name because this is a situation where capital letters for proper nouns can really help avoid confusion) and was highly disappointed with the coffee and quite put off by the wall-to-wall rayban wayfarers and was all but ready to write off single origin as a bit of a hipsterwarren: worth going to if you want to look cool eating breakfast for seven hours, but not worth it for the coffee. however, i wanted to give them one more chance. coffee hunter spoke quite highly of them, so i figured it was worth walking down and up a hill for.

so i trundled down the hill (one of the many hills surry hills has to offer), got lost, checked google maps, got lost again, then finally figured out where i was going. about two blocks away i remembered why i was so excited about single origin last time i was in sydney:
  1. i had only been once or twice before, and it was really very good
  2. it was so good that the photo has been the wallpaper on my phone ever since
  3. this wallpaper has served as a constant reminder that i should check them out again next time i'm in sydney
  4. every other time i had tried to go there again, they had been closed, only making the myth stronger
 that last one is the important one. they're not open on weekends, or sundays, or something. crap. i kept walking, just in case they've recently changed that policy. after all, white people sit around eating breakfast for hours on weekends usually, don't they? but no. damn. they were closed. it's sunday. i'm sure i'm not the only one who tried to drop in. where do they all go when single origin isn't open? what do they do? click here for a comprehensive list.

so i walked back up the hill. another place popped up on the left (called bang bang or something), but they had just stopped serving coffee. damn. i headed back down crown st, the lack of caffeine in my system really starting to get to me; i was surrounded by some seriously sydney-lookin' dudes and their fashion sense was confusing me. the old saying still rings true: "if you want to know what homosexuals in melbourne will be wearing three years from now, look to what straight guys are wearing in sydney today". in january it looked like everyone was on their way to a dress like lee kernaghan party. times have clearly changed.

and then i came to bills. sorry. bills. i didn't care if the name had something to do with ducks or if it was named after two guys called bill or even if it was named after one guy called bill* who couldn't use apostrophes or capital letters. i also didn't care that one cup of coffee was probably going to cost me about twenty-three dollars.

it was fantastic. thanks bills. or bill. whoever you are*. and guess whose beans they were using? single origin. those guys are alright, after all. i'm glad i gave them another chance.

* it turns out it's bill grainger.

QANTAS, Brisbane to Sydney

There was some shithouse traffic on the way to the airport today, mainly due to detours to make way for some sort of fun run. Those words just don't belong next to each other, if you ask me. There was a queue of about 100 people who had missed their flight. There's nothing fun about that.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Flat White, Campos, Brisbane

Wow, the coffee in the cup looks just like the logo on the side of the cup.

Sadly, that's about all I can enjoy here. It's pretty similar to the Campos experience I had in Byron Bay two days ago, and I think I'm pretty ready to say that Campos is just not my thing. It tasted more like a weak hot chocolate to me. Campos is great as an espresso (or a sparkling long black, if you're thatwayinclined) but it has trouble poking its head through any amount of milk, it seems. It's not terrible, and they're not doing it wrong, it's just not what I'm into. There. It's a little on the subjective side but hopefully I won't get any angry comments or emails.

Having said that, the ceiling fan arrangement here is incredible.

Piccolo, Fresh, Coolangatta

What? No. This place couldn't possibly also be called Fresh. It was something along those lines though. Slightly north of the Coffee Club I went to yesterday. Well, not technically north, but along the beach in the direction you would walk if you wanted to go north up the coast.

There's a breakfast burger on the menu, but you have to look pretty hard to find it. It's listed under "Burgers", rather than under "Breakfast". Ross was the only person who ordered one, so I guess that means he's the only person who looked at the "Burgers" section before 11.00am.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Piccolo, Coffee Club, Coolangatta

McDonald's, Gloria Jean's, and finally a Coffee Club. See what I mean about there being a lot of chains around here? The lesser of those three evils, somehow, was Coffee Club. The place always gives me a feeling that I'm going to get something that's too weak with too much milk, so I figured the best defence against that is ordering a piccolo.

It was pretty good, in the scheme of things – the scheme of things being McDonald's and Gloria Jean's. You have chosen wisely. It seemed to take about fifteen minutes to come out though. If you do plan to "meet someone at the Coffee Club" as their slogan suggests, I recommend getting there twenty minutes early. Maybe my plan for a hire car company for impatient people (Just Give Me the Fucking Keys! Pty Ltd) could do with a coffee bar too. Name suggestions are welcome.

P.S. The photo doesn't make it out very well, but yes that really does say Australian wine at it's peak on the Wolf Blass branded water bottle. Yeesh. Their website shows that they have since fixed up the apostrophe problem, but I wonder how many of those bottles got printed before somebody noticed?

Flat White, Bambi Deluxe, Tweed Heads

Wait a minute, is this Tweed Heads or Coolangatta? Am I in New South Wales or Queensland?! It gets confusing for anyone who hasn't lived in a border town. I'm just glad I'm here outside daylight saving. Y'see, New South Wales participates in daylight saving, but Queensland does not. You can cross the road and lose an hour. Yikes. But on the bright side: if you sleep in in Queensland, the kitchen's probably doing breakfast in New South Wales. Or the other way around. Fuck it.

It's good to see that the guitar shop with the insane collection of old Matons and Goldentone amps has found a new home. It's called Cool Music (clearly, it's in Coolangatta, which is a shame because I'd much rather visit a guitar shop called Tweed Heads), and you'll find it in the mall across the road from Aldi. Sorry, but that's the easiest way to describe it. I think it's sort of behind and downstairs from a Montezuma's. I managed to pick up a book called A Desktop Reference of Hip Vintage Guitar Amps, a book that appeals to a demographic whose fanaticism more than makes up for their extreme scarcity.

Oh. Good coffee, too. It's refreshing, and rare, to see somewhere to eat in this area that isn't a chain, as you'll see in my next post.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Flat White, Fresh, Byron Bay

Fresh now use Campos coffee.
I had an awkward experience here years ago returning a coffee that I was convinced had skinny milk in it, to which the barista said, "No it wasn't skinny." I should have just said it was "shithouse" instead, that would have been much more constructive. Anyhow, things have changed, and they now use Campos which is great news, if you like Campos.
I'm starting to think I don't. To be continued...

Flat White, Cliffs Café, Kangaroo Point, Brisbane

It's good to know there's actually some good coffee in Kangaroo Point. It's a long walk across Story Bridge to the good coffee district, a walk made even longer if you haven't had any coffee yet today. A word of advice though: the view of the cliffs over the river may look nice, but if it's a windy day you'll freeze your ass off, and your coffee will too thanks to Newton's Law of Cooling. The tables on the other side of the building are truly the sunny side of the street in comparison, but if you love the view that much the café also provides blankets. You'll need one.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

QANTAS, Melbourne to Brisbane

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm glad QANTAS have finally moved up to the 1990s and started recycling, but they still have a long way to go.
You'll notice that I've wound up with three serviettes on my table. That is not by choice. First, they give you one with the cookie. Then, when they hand you your coffee, they give you another one. Then, if you ask for an apple, it is handed to you via a third.
QANTAS, I don't need three serviettes. I don't even need one. Handing out less stuff could be even more beneficial than recycling. I'm sure nobody will be offended if a human hands them an apple by hand.

Also, you'll notice that the coffee comes in a recyclable cardboard cup made from 35% recycled material. I guess the jury's still out on whether that is a better idea than washing reusable cups.

Short Macchiato, Macchinetta, Melbourne Airport

Whew. I made it all the way to the airport with no caffeine in my system. Remind me never to try that again.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Espresso, Brother Baba Budan, City

I've now seen Inception*, and I really want to go on holiday in that Pariscube.

* It's good. But Christopher Nolan obviously never had any primary school teachers tell him that "it was all a dream" is the lamest possible way to end a story.

Latte, home

On dosing:
The digital scales are great, but they're a bit of a pain to balance under the grinder. They're also very light. This is sort of hard to illustrate without a photo, but as soon as I turn on the grinder the vibrations make the scales start sliding around, thereby negating their ability to accurately measure how much ground coffee they are catching. So I've simplified: it takes roughly 15 seconds to grind roughly 14 grams of coffee, so I'm going to go sans-scales from now on and just grind for 15 seconds. It's not a particularly scientific technique, but neither is my tamping. Considering I used to grind for 20 seconds before I had the scales, I'm now dosing a lot lower. That means I can drink more coffee now, I guess.

Monday, August 23, 2010

MOON8: espresso, home

As Danny Goon said on Facebook: if you like Pink Floyd and have played a Nintendo, listen to this.

The whole album is pretty easy to find on YouTube. The start of the guitar solo in Money is worth sticking around for.

Strong Latte, Hudsons, Canberra Airport

A word of warning: there is no food on the other side of the metal detector. Eat before you go through.

A second word of warning: there is not much food on this side of the metal detector. You'll probably end up getting some banana bread from Hudsons.

A third and final word of warning: they won't let you take your coffee through the metal detector. Make sure you know how long you have until boarding, and size your beverage accordingly.

I had about 8 ounces of time before I had to get on the plane. Perfect.

A bonus word of warning: the structural integrity of the banana bread is compromised if you dip it in your coffee. You might lose most of it in there. It is also highly absorbent and will drink your coffee for you if you let it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Latte, Tosalini's, Canberra

Canberra. The day after the federal election. The streets were deserted. There seemed to be a strange mood in the air; a change was coming – maybe – though nobody wanted to say precisely when, how much of a change, or from where it was coming.

Oh, who am I kidding? It always feels like that in Canberra.

Flat White, Jindabyne

I didn't take note of what this place was called, but the coffee was pretty good. Having said that, I think it's worth mentioning that EVERYTHING to do with the snow season is a complete rort. It's understandable, though. Most of the tourism up here only happens over winter (though it's beautiful here in summer too) so I guess they have to make what money they can when the people come. The coffee situation illustrates what sort of price hiking you'll find.

ME: $4.20 for a latte? 60 cents for an extra shot? But $3.60 for everything that's not a latte?
KIERAN: Hmmm. I'm getting a cappuccino.
ME: Yeah. I'm getting a flat white.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Espresso, Hudsons, Canberra Airport

Well, it was there. And probably better than any coffee I'd find on the road to Jindabyne.

QANTAS, Melbourne to Canberra

Web check-in. It's the greatest. Print your boarding pass out before you go to the airport so you don't need to queue up to get one. It makes leaving for the airport dangerously late look pretty tempting, especially if you don't have any luggage to send down the belt. Unfortunately, I cut it a bit too fine this morning: leaving home an hour before the flight. Subtract traffic, long term parking spot hunting, walking to the terminal, metal detector, random explosive checks and walking to the gate, and there's not much time to spare. It all comes down to how organised all the other passengers are: if they start boarding as soon as boarding opens, everyone will get on the plane in less than ten minutes, and your name will start getting announced pretty soon. Unfortunately that happened just after I ordered some toast.

Congratulations to whoever got my toast with Vegemite that I paid for but never picked up.

Steam fail: latte, home

The Silvia has two thermostats: one to get the temperature right for pulling shots, and one to get the temperature right for steaming. As thermostats aren't terribly intelligent ("Turn the heater on if it's not hot enough in here.") my new PID setup has replaced both of these. The PID is a box with a blue LED temperature readout that measures the current temperature and figures out whether to turn the heater on or not, taking into account a few important points:
  • What was the temperature a moment ago? How fast is it changing?
  • How far away from the target temperature are we?
  • How long does it take the heater to start heating after we turn it on?
  • How long does it take the heater to stop heating after we turn it off?
Etc. That's the gist, I think. I'd go into more detail, but honestly I tried reading a serious document about how PID works, and my brain nearly melted. But that's not what this post is about.

It turns out there is also a third thermostat in there. If, somehow, the temperature gets to 155ºC (yes, very bloody hot) then something has obviously gone wrong, and the third thermostat shuts the whole thing down to prevent anything from seriously screwing up. The "I'm heating up" light will still come on, but the heater will be disabled. Somehow, I did this today while steaming milk. Yikes. In Silvia's defence, I was trying to do five things at once this morning. If I'd just stayed at the machine and focussed on the coffee-making thing, it probably wouldn't have happened. Pressing the reset button requires a screwdriver and moving all your stacked-up glasses off the top of the machine, so it's a bit annoying. Not quite as annoying as when you have to walk outside in the rain when you blow a fuse trying to boil the kettle and cook toast and at the same time, but almost that annoying.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Espressi, home

Countless espressi. I was trying to get the grind right. Too fast: go finer. Too slow: go coarser and/or use less of it and/or don't tamp as much.

All in all, I think I made about five double shots and probably had a sip of four of them. That really adds up. I also probably didn't really need to use the word "countless" at the beginning of this post, if only three sentences later I was happy to downgrade it to a much more accurate "five".

Flat White, Sweet Source, Carlton North

This is the downside of my bird's-eye-view coffee photos: the iPhone occasionally gets confused when it is horizontal and thinks it should switch to portrait. iPhoto didn't seem to want to rotate it either. It's time like this that I think I should be putting so much faith in so many iThings.

Strong Latte, North, Carlton North

Oh get the hell out of here. I'm nineteen posts behind?! How did that happen? As I'm sure you'll understand, I'm having trouble remembering what my strong latte from North was like last Friday. I imagine it was good. I'm pretty sure I woke up with no milk or coffee in the house, and went out to find both. Preferably in one cup.
So, uh, not a particularly interesting post. I'd better move on. Eighteen to go...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ch-ch-ch-changes: espresso, home

Two new things have come along in my coffee setup recently:
  • LLL splashed out and bought some digital scales. I now know what 14 grams of coffee looks like. I thought I did before, but I was way off.
  • I installed a PID in the Silvia. The temperature is now far more stable. That means better espresso.
I'll explain both of these in more detail in other posts fairly soon, but all I want to mention right now is that both of these changes happened in the same day. I'm making much better coffee now, but it's hard to know which of the two Major Changes was more beneficial.

Picture a swimming pool. You've been swimming laps at the same pool for a year and a half. One day, you decide to shave your head AND wear flippers. Your lap times improve dramatically, but it's difficult to figure out if it's the new aerodynamic (or is that hydrodynamic?) properties of your head, or just the extra kicking power that made the difference.

Wow, I think all those episodes of Numb3rs have started to rub off on me. I just did a Charlie-style analogy without even realising.

Flat White, Lot Six, University of Melbourne

Coffee photos with an iPhone invariably look shithouse because of the way the light reflects off the milk. To rectify this, I'm just going to try it from a different angle.

A pear and chocolate danish too. Nice. On top it's easy to distinguish the pear from the chocolate, but as you delve deeper into the danish, the borders become a little less clear.

Mark Scott: latte, home

Media Watch was really, really, really worth watching this week. It was the last episode Jonathon Holmes will be hosting this year, before his job is filled-in-for by Paul Barry. Paul Barry, as you would remember if you watched the Media Watch 20 year anniversary special last year, was fired in 2000 for being too critical of the ABC's managing director at the time. As it's Jonathon Holmes's last week before long service leave, he's in no danger of being fired. He decided to bring in the ABC's current managing director Mark Scott and grill him on precisely why ABC News 24 – the new 24-hour news channel – is having such trouble covering breaking news as it happens. That Jonathon Holmes sure has balls.

Even if you don't care to watch Mark Scott squirm, the episode was still worth watching for his tie. It makes him look like a licorice all-sort.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Blogging photos: Latte, Kent St, Fitzroy

So there I was, just polishing off my second Kent St latte for the day, when I noticed I was surrounded by great black and white photos of things in Melbourne. The poster told me the exhibition was from, a site that posts a new photo from the streets of Melbourne every day. I thought to myself, "Yeah, posting something every day, that's a great idea. I should do something like that. Oh hang on. I already do something like that. Oh crap, I haven't posted on the coffee blog since the start of July! I'd better take a photo of this empty cup.

Well, that photo didn't quite work out as planned. I'd better add a better photo. Here's one from Darwin on the weekend. Waiter, there's an elephant in my coffee.

Okay I'd better get back to regular posting. I had a lot of terrific coffee overseas in the last month or so, watch the space below (chronologically) for the posts.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cappuccino, Dolce, Darwin

I figured an elephant like that deserves its own post. Whoever made this coffee is pretty into their experimental gimmicky latte art. But I saw a few other coffees come out an hour later that were a totally different story: it just depends who is behind the machine. If you're going to use Google Maps to find this place, as I did, beware: the directions will actually lead you to a post office. Ignore that, and walk one block south (ie, the diagonally opposite corner of the block to the south) to where Smith Street Mall actually is. That's what tipped me off: Smith Street Mall is more than likely to be located on Smith Street, not the post office on Cavanagh St.

They use Segafredo Zanetti beans. That only reminds me of two things:

Friday, August 13, 2010

Brunetti Stopwatch Challenge World Record!

If you haven't read this blog before, I should briefly explain the BSC. Basically, you time how long it takes to walk into Brunetti on Faraday St in Carlton, order an espresso, drink it, and then walk back out the door. Click on the bsc tag to see previous entries. With that out of the way, let's move on to my absolutely astonishing record-breaking time:

2 minutes 22 seconds.

Wow. About half a minute faster than my previous personal best. Considering it takes about 30 seconds to pull an espresso, and about 20 seconds to drink it, that doesn't leave much slack time. It's hard to imagine I'll ever beat this time. Most of all, I'd like to thank all the people who almost went to Brunetti today but decided against it: without you guys, the queue would have been much longer existent.