As many of you know, I have a bit of a hobby in the science of coffee extraction. When I started this blog in 2013 I actually wrote a (laughable) two part post entitled ‘What I Know About Coffee I & II (which I have since taken down cos it’s pretty cringe worthy). At that point I had just finished up Lindt Cafe, Miranda where my interest in the black liquid gold had been pique. Working 50/60 hour weeks during the holidays, I quickly noticed the entire cafe seemed to revolve around this steampunked hunk of metal squeezing out lil shots of brown shit. It was the pure intrigue of it’s spacial gravity that led me to coffee.
Before then I positively did not fuck with coffee (you mean that substance the lethargic and sleep deprived depend on??) I remember during the HSC being peer pressured by a study buddy to order a coffee at White Horse, Sutherland. She suggested a mocha with two sugars. The guy laughed over the counter as I ordered it. Fair call I rkn. I had no idea what I was doing. But once I got my mitts on the machine I was immediately drawn to the process and pursuit of this weird artform (pressured water through compressed coffee. waaat?).
I began drinking the stuff purely as a quality control measure but there was no going back from there. I swiftly developed an interested in the making ‘n tasting. Although my facility on the commercial machine never grew beyond rudimentary my interest in specialty coffee continued to develop post hospitality jaunt. There was a point there I was pretty deep into the specialty coffee thing. During my early uni years a group of friends and I would go on weekly jaunts around Sydtown visiting new and noteworthy cafes. We’d be accompanied by my 2013 and 2014 Fairfax cafe guide (back when they would release a physical handbook) and I would cross off cafes as we’d visit them. Nerd hey.
Those same jaunting friends bought me an espresso machine for my 21st birthday- a present I’m still very thankful for. Admittedly, The machine and I have had an off again/on again relationship- mostly fractured by my mother’s complaining and filter coffee devices. After two years dormancy it’s seen a renaissance. It’s now an integral part of our Marrickville share house, pumping out juicy ‘spros daily. We buy kgs bags of Sample coffee and those who have had our coffee know Max and I take it pretty seriously; we call ourselves ‘Calducs‘- a mash of our two last names. Black only at calducs (byo milk if you must) + Barista taste every coffee served for quality control and well yeah sure long waits but hey, worth it.
Over the years I’ve had people ask me where the best brew in a given town/city is. I don’t always know the answer. But having floated up and down the East Coast of Aus on tour for a number of years now I have built up a mental directory of my favourite coffee houses this side of the country. The idea for this post came from wanting to share that directory with musicians often on the road.
During the initial writing of this post I can say with confidence nearly all recommendations (bare two or three) have been tried and tasted by yours truly, hence why there may be some geographical gaps.
Keep in mind cafes change just like a grinder’s setting, and not always for the better. Cafes often swap hands and from experience new owners don’t always care for the quality of their coffee as much as the revenue of their cafe. It takes effort and $ to keep the quality of your coffee top notch. So yeah, a disclaimer, places change.
My vision is for this post to be a running list of sorts; as new places come to light I hope to add them in. I’d of course also relish recommendations!
Also, keep in mind: this list is focused singularly on quality speciality coffee. Food and ambience isn’t really taken into consideration with the list. If you’re looking for killer ambience and the best cafe grub, this isn’t necessarily your list (although some of these places are killer cafes in their own right). Don’t get me started on cafe grub…grrr… a number of these places I’ll grab coffee but eat elsewhere. i.e Bello there is a sick pie place next to the Federal or in Byron and Goldy I’ll eat at the local Hari krishna joints.
Anyway. Here is the list. Version 1.0. Organised by state then sub-heading of region. Hope it helps x
Sydney, Southern: White Horse, Sutherland
…Or their subsidiaries Sister Fox, Caringbah or West End, Jannali
Sydney, Northern: Salvage, Artarmon
Conveniently just off the Pacific Highway. A good place to pick up a quality brew before fanging north)
Sydney, CBD: Mecca, CBD or Normcore, CBD
Mecca is a stalwart of the Aus Specialty Scene and will forever make killing coffee, Normcore is new but take it seriously. Different sides of the CBD.
Sydney, Inner city: Paramount Coffee Project, Surry Hills
Cafe on every corner round this part but as good as any with lots seating including some outdoor
Sydney, Inner West:
Great new cafe run by friend and Syd coffee legend Junji with his master roaster partner Ben. Doesn’t get tastier than what these guys pump out from their roaster and their machine (inside the cafe) Grub is yum (kimchi toasties). Fit out is sick too, with a bit old/bit new thing going on.
Sample Pro Shop, St Peters
Sample Pro Shop is seemingly in the middle of nowhere but fuck me, it is possibly Syd’s best kept coffee secret. Incredible fit out, grub (bowl of veggies for $11 or most hectic thick cut ham and egg roll for about the same $) and undoubtedly one of Sydney’s best coffee roasters. Plus you might find one of my favourite humans there- Shea. If you got wheels check it out and relish
Double Tap, Marrickville
Nestled in an industrial backstreet you get top notch rotating coffee (ex Alchemy barista started it) and $10 sangas/sambos/wiches etc. The price that cafe grub should be.
Now an oldboy of the speciality scene but still a goodie, I reckon. If meandering round Marrickville (especially if you’re on PT ) a trustworthy hit.
If you’re on your way up the mountains and feigning a quality brew it’s worth the 5 min detour to go past this place. Also, Glenbrook is sick. Get a pie or something to boot
South Coast, NSW
Wollongong: Opus, CBD & Sifters, CBD
Opus: Possibly the most beautiful fitted cafe I’ve visited, while Sifters is good for sunny days as all outdoors. Both care about coffee. My choice weather dependent usually
Coal Coast/Illawarra: Moore St Social General, Austinmer
Sickly hip (for better and worse). Had some great tasting black coffee here. Grub is $$$ but yum.
Nowra: Hyper Hyper, Nowra
A whole in the wall off the highway. Bring your keep cups. Coffee just passable on quality scale
Mid North & North Coast
Newcastle: Esther C, Merewether
Uses Rueben Hills, tick
Bellingen: Amelia Franklin, Bellingen
Housed in an defunct petrol station, better than anything on church St for sure. Plus either get a bagel there or across the road there is a lane along the Federal that does hectic pies
Byron Bay: Bay Leaf Cafe, Byron Bay
A bit confusing but they seem to be the retail front for local Marvell St Roaster who do good shit. Not sure if Marvell St have since opened up their own brew bar?
Melbourne, CBD: Patricia’s, CBD
The hype was/is real. Standing is real. Recommended
Wangaratta: Beers @ Pinson
Barrio Collective Coffee, Braddon
On Lonsdale St, smaller and > Lonsdale St Roasters. Small but v cool and yummy things.
Serious about coffee. They will all the competitions. Bit of a weird vibe in here tho with dated fit out. Sick second hand book store in same complex. But def go here if you on the Fyshwick side of town.
CBD: Single Guys Coffee Co., Brisbane
Brisbane coffee scene still confuses me a bit. I’ve been to a lot of places and most haven’t really got me very psyched. Lots of choice in CBD. Bit of a classic one I’m presenting here
Near Airport: Camp, Albion: Brisbane being a bit of a leaping pad for the rest of S.E Qld, I’ve found myself many atime in van fanging out of the airport and right out of town. If that’s you, looking for a T/A for the road, give this place a crack. PS. Have tried Neighbourhood’s Albion outpost but prefer Camp
Fortitude Valley: One Drop Specialty Coffee, Fortitude Valley
In an office block but hey some of the best coffee is. About 500m from station. Last I knew they were doing rotational singles including from Sample so big tick. Sometimes doesn’t come up on Google Maps so here’s the address:515 St Pauls Terrace Fortitude Valley 4006. Closed weekends tho 🙁 Ps I wonder if these guys like reggae?
Gold Coast & Sunshine Coast
Gold Coast: …I gave up on the Gold Coast long ago…
Sunshine Coast: Clandestino Roasters, Noosaville
Bit out of the way in an industrial zone but if you have time off in the day highly, highly recommended. Behind an awesome (albiet exy) deli although they do some good grub. Also watch out as they aren’t open Sundays
Noosa: Padre Coffee, Noosa
So this wasn’t in Noosa last time I was there but heard about it while writing this blog and had to mention it. Supposedly ex St-Ali cats who opened in Melbourne and Noosa so I would put a safe bet to stay strong specialty game
Cairns: The Chamber Room, Cairns
Ok ok, so I haven’t actually been to this one either but putting this here for next time I’m in Cairns as I went to two other cafes and both there very meh
Hobart: Villinos, CBD.
Has never let me down. Tick of approval by other locals. I likey v much
Hope this helps! Comment/msg with any suggestions. Will mention your cafe for $ also…jokes? x
Chat little artwork by yours truly x