Gareth Sobey: A Discussion on Melbourne’s Rediscovery of Filter Coffee

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A seasoned coffee enthusiast in Melbourne could tell you that some of the most exact and meticulous practices of extracting coffee are used in this coffee mecca. Cold drip, precise grinding times, and free pour foaming techniques all exhibit the passion this city has for making great coffee.

As an American in Melbourne I was enthralled and a bit surprised at how obsessive everyone was about their cup of Joe. While it is impossible to deny that the coffee culture in the States can match what has evolved in Melbourne, it is more accurate to say that they are very different from each other, each holding different priorities. Filter coffee is the most conspicuous difference between the two. It is actually a rare pleasure to enjoy a simple cup of filtered coffee in Melbourne, whereas filtered is always an option, if not the only one, in US cafes and restaurants.

In the past few months however, I have been finding it easier to satisfy my simple cravings for filter coffee. It seems that the coffee making community has exhausted and perfected every other method of extraction and have finally turned their attention to filter coffee, or, like Industry Beans, has found an appreciation for the brewing method. Holding a large presence in the cafe and coffee scene in Melbourne, Industry Beans has demonstrated not only their dedication and skill in making great coffee, but also a humbleness and the acceptance that there are other worthy ways of making and enjoying coffee.

Industry Beans has a roster of about thirty different coffees at any given time. They like to be able to offer everyone something no matter where their coffee preferences lie. Traceability is incredibly important, because understanding where their beans are from allows them to deliver consistent quality coffee. Industry has gotten especially excited about filter coffee recently, as the rest of Melbourne is slowly warming up to the idea of quality filtered coffee. The complexity and lightness of the roasts are especially appealing, offering a wide range of flavour profiles. With this new range of flavours, Industry Beans is proud to bring their loyal coffee-drinkers the fruits of their labour, having worked with different approaches to deliver the best product. They strive for consistency, but the process to a consistent cup of coffee requires constant change on their part.

An interview with Gareth Sobey from Industry Beans enlightens us with his insight on filter coffee and Melbourne’s evolving coffee and cafe culture.

How do you feel about filter coffee and the attitude Melbourne has towards it?

A.I think that Melbourne has a positive view towards it now and especially in the most recent four years. It has opened new ideas and possibilities to what coffee means as well as what it tastes like. We’ve always been very passionate about the possibilities offered by filter brewing and we’re very glad Melbourne has decided to get excited about it. Filtered coffee is a different approach to coffee, you can let it linger and the taste evolves, flavours open up, increasing complexity. Drinking espresso can be a quick experience.

Industry has influence in the coffee culture in Melbourne, what influence do you want that to be?

We would like to be an influence for the way we roast, not just for our passion for coffee. We are excited by what we can do with a scientific approach, using our curiosity to obtain reproducible results, recording and replicating it so there’s consistency. We have a fairly rigorous process when we work out what we would like to get out of it. We use a small profile roaster that allows us to monitor and explore what we’re doing with each coffee. We are excited about the sourcing side of things as well. We spend a lot of time deciding what coffees to get, and work directly with coffee farmers, co-operatives and processing plants across the globe. We are not set in our ways and are constantly experimenting, searching for flavour and consistency. Every morning, looking at each coffee, treating it like a cooking process, we taking note of the chemical reactions going on so at the end of the day the cup of coffee is really enjoyable. Taking the scientific process to the next level, recording throughout the day what we’re doing, this allows us to critique and present each coffee in the best way. We want to present great-tasting, consistent coffee. Same for in-house service. We want to be inclusive and for people to feel welcome, and in turn take what we’re doing and do it at home.

What does Melbourne bring to the table specifically that makes it unique regarding coffee?

Excellence across the board. Cafes have the tradition of serving fantastic food with speciality coffee. Melbourne is leading the way in a well-thought approach to roasting coffee in new and exciting ways. With filtered coffee, Melbourne roasters are well-regarded for exploring different flavour profiles and complexities and having a more nuanced, more thought out approach than throwing beans in a roaster and pressing go.

What do you think is the biggest difference between the US and Melbourne regarding the coffee/cafe culture?

There are different goals in the US regarding coffee. There’s a movement in Melbourne towards what you can do with coffee in new ways, both in roasting and brewing, what can coffee taste like, what’s exciting. Australians like the social aspect of it, community aspect. We can engage with people in a different way, sitting down with friends, a cafe experience, as opposed to a solitary experience characteristic of the US cafe scene.

There are some great coffee roasters on the West Coast, we respect what they’re doing there. Making filtered coffee at home is very common in the US, there seems to be a larger market for making coffee at home. The growth of the home-brewing market is fantastic, being in the comfort of your own home and having a great cup of coffee. I don’t see it threatening to the cafe thing; there is something satisfying to making your own coffee at home, we can of course understand that! We have group brew classes coming out soon, brew guides, we like the idea of people making their own coffee at home.

Can you walk us through how to make a great cup of filtered coffee at home?

Getting a great flavoured brew on filter is easy as long as you’re careful with preparation and timing. First weigh the dose – the amount of coffee you are going to use. For our filter roast coffees we use between 14-18g. Secondly, adjust your grinder to a coarser setting and use a thermometer to the water to the right temperature – we recommend between 91 and 94 degrees. This step is really important as the particle size of the grind along with the temperature of the water will determine how quickly the flavours and oils in the coffee are released. When you’re ready, preheat the paper filter, add the coffee, and then slowly pour the water over it. Keep an eye on how much water you add and the length of time the coffee has been brewing for. With a bit of experimentation you’ll brew a cup of coffee that tastes just the way you like it!

industrybeans.com

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Exploring and enjoying the food and drink scene of Melbourne is what Feast Melbourne is all about. We love experiencing the rich culture present in the city of Melbourne and invite all to follow, collaborate, and feast.