Tag Archives: filtercoffee

Tom & Shanny Filter Roast Coffee: Interview & Review

I’ve long spoken of the need for more readily available filter roast, so I was excited recently to receive a sample from Melbourne filter coffee roasters Tom & Shanny.

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This particular roast was an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe – always a good option for filter brew methods. But this lot is not an ordinary Yirg. It’s a natural processed lot, which gives it the most incredible flavour. At this roast level the tasting notes were pretty spot on. Lots of bubble gum and citrus, and super sweet!  Not crisp and clean like a washed Kenyan for example, but plenty of body and still a transparent flavour profile for a natural coffee. Well roasted for filter brew methods, and sealed in a quality valve bag. It doesn’t get much better!

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I loved the clean white packaging with illustrated coffee tree bearing fruit, as would any coffee geek. The branding is so Melbourne.

There was accompanying materials detailing how to brew for aeropress, pour over or syphon.

Tom & Shanny have some great filter roast coffees on offer, with many more to come, available through CoffeeHead in Camberwell, Melbourne or online at www.coffeehead.com.au

 

Interview with Tom & Shanny Filter Coffee Roasters

Tell us about your background and why you’ve decided to specialise in roasting for filter brew methods?

Shanny and I have been involved in the coffee industry since about 2007 when we started our own company, Obscura and began importing origin roasted coffee from the Fairtrade & Organic Jhai Coffee Farmers Co-operative in Laos. This is the first coffee that really opened our eyes to the bold fruit & floral characteristics from coffee and that the majority of coffee brewed and served in Melbourne was a fraction of its potential.

I found difficult to get a job at the time in a serious coffee place like St Ali and didn’t feel confident enough in my knowledge or technical skill to push the point. So we created our own opportunities to learn by creating our own coffee company. We began importing 200kg of roasted coffee every three to four weeks. We would put in our order, it would be roasted, packed and put on a Thai Airways passenger jet and we would have it in our grinders 5 days later.

We progressed from selling this coffee in various markets, to a coffee cart in Kensington with several small wholesale accounts to our first full cafe in 2009 in Kensington called Elevenses. It was there we began serving Melitta style pourovers in addition to espresso from our vintage 1964 Boema lever group machine. After being flooded out 11 months in and 9 month hiatus whilst pushing the landlord to do repairs we decided to sell our house, our vintage machine and coffee cart, and take a trip to America to visit Shannys family, explore the coffee scene in San Francisco, Atlanta and Savannah and elope to Las Vegas on the way out.

We came back armed with inspiration and opened the new incarnation of Elevenses Espresso Bar in the Melbourne CBD, this time working with Tobys Estate. This is when Tobys started to offer their White Label light roasts with CoE lots and Don Pachi Geshas. Toby’s produced some of the juiciest, flavourful pourovers we’ve had, and I found it hard to find comparable filter roast style from roasters here in Melbourne.

After dipping our toes in the CBD market with Elevenses Espresso Bar we took the opportunity to start Naked Espresso Bar in a partnership, just doors up from Melbourne coffee icon Brother Buba Budan. In addition to Toby’s Estate coffee and then a contract roaster under the Naked Espresso brand, we continued to push guest roaster like Proud Mary, Axil and Padre who were providing us
exceptional espresso and filter roasts.

We stepped up the filter brew methods with a dedicated brew bar for pourovers, aeropress and syphons. However we began having major quality issues with our contract roaster. The nose dive in quality of yet another roaster and Shanny’s drive for barista competition pushed us to further understand the roasting side to understand what was going wrong. I undertook a fantastic roasting course in Brisbane with Peter Wolff.

It gave me a solid approach to roasting which has resulted in the juicy, flavourful coffees we were after. As our business relationship with the co-owner of Naked Espresso Bar came to an end Shanny took a job at Coffeehead and we began roasting on their 12 kg Probat our coffee quality skyrocketed and we began retailing exclusively through www.coffeehead.com.au and direct to Melbourne cafes.

I’ve previously blogged about how it can be difficult to source filter roast, even here in Melbourne, despite every cafe selling filter brew gear. What has the feedback been like from your customers so far? I think the branding is great.

Feedback for our coffee has been fantastic. People love the branding, and the bold juicy, full-fruit flavours. Customers are excited to see an Australian based roaster take filter seriously. Volume with filter roasts is still an issue. The guys who are going to go through the trouble of creating a filter roast are going to insist on a tight shelf life, so you need to be able to move the kilos whilst it is s
till fresh.

There are also several roasters who are producing espresso roasts that match a roast depth that I would consider perfect for pourover and aeropress and there are some who are putting out filter roasts that I consider too underdeveloped. I think this makes it difficult for the general customer to discover what is right for them, especially if the staff isn’t engrossed in the coffee world themselves. A positive filter coffee experience in store is the only way you will actually sell any of the filter brew merchandise on the shelves. Don’t have something on the shelves you don’t know how to use.

Filter roasting and filter brew methods have really gained popularity in 2012. Where to from here? Do you think we will see new filter brew method invented in the coming years?

I think the $40 domestic electronic drip filter is due for a resurgence. The cup by cup pourover method is great for those with the time and motivation, but the simplicity and volume delivered by the home drip machine (paired with an appropriate coffee) is one of the most fool proof and time efficient methods. Coffee quality and availability has come a long way. Use paper filters (not nylon mesh), keep your carafe clean and measure your dose and grind fresh each time. Consumers need something they can brew whilst half asleep. Chances are they already have one sitting in the back of the cupboard.

For those cafes without the room for a dedicated pour-over bar we have been recommending Chemex. You can serve from the brew vessel and even brew it at the table with the customer. It is something Toby’s Estate and Coffee Supreme have been pushing for a while. We are introducing Chemex to share at the table at Red Brick Road in Moonee Ponds.

The Bunn Trifecta arrived after the demise of the Clover, but I think it is way too daunting and complicated for the Australian cafe market. I don’t think there are many people who understand coffee and filter brewing well enough to take advantage of the extra programable brew parameters. You are still taking 2-3 minutes for each beverage so productivity gains aren’t really there either. A $30 Clever Dripper is more cost effective. Spend your money on high grade, fresh coffee and a little staff education.

Filter cold brew methods are probably the bigger growth area. Consumers are appreciating a milk-free cold coffee option. Cosmo Hawk from Badger vs Hawk does really well with his Machette bottled cold brew. Customers were coming in from interstate and overseas and taking bottles back with them. Countless places have cold drip towers and utilizing these in different ways from the intensely concentrated liquore style like Plantation or an open and refreshing, chilled filter-style like Coffeehead.

Lastly – who has the better coffee palette – Tom or Shanny?

I assume that it is me, but Shanny probably assumes that it is her. Either way it is something that we are continuing to develop. I am probably getting more practice at the moment. It is exciting going through sample roasts and discovering new flavours. A recent find was an undeniable strawberry bubblegum from a natural processed Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. It wasn’t just strawberry, it was bubblegum. But as we roasted this coffee further to an espresso roast, the bubblegum gave way to a mulled port wine. Pretty amazing stuff.

Naturals and pulp naturals are my preferred processing styles due to the bold, juicy fruits they produce as filter brews. We have been cupping Australian grown coffees for Shanny Barista Competition roast and we have found one estate that is producing some very good results far beyond the savoury & tabaco profiles most common to Australian grown coffees. A couple of these are presenting exceptionally well as filter roasts.

I am also working on restoring a 1950s wood panel trailer that we are transforming into a mobile brew bar along with a customised Ford Falcon ute. We hope to step up our Filter Coffee Roaster efforts and get back to our roots with some festivals, events and markets.

We have had fantastic support and advice from industry friends like Dave, Zoe and the Matts from Axil, Annie & Andreas from Reverence, Paul & Alan from Coffeehead and Arief formerly of St Ali, now operating in Jakarta. This support is representative of the coffee industry in Melbourne of recent times where techniques and blends aren’t hidden and greens are shared to the benefit of the customer and the industry as a whole. I think this attitude is responsible for enabling Australia to be a leading force globally in high-end coffee.

 

Huge thanks to Tom & Shanny for sharing their craft with BrewMethod, and for taking the time to answer a few questions about filter coffee. I found this interview fascinating and hope you’ve enjoyed it too!

Do yourself a favour and check out their coffee at CoffeeHead (Camberwell, Melbourne).

Where to find filter roast coffee

I can buy a range of filter brew coffee gear at just about any local specialty coffee cafe here in Melbourne. As of yet, only a very select few actually offer a filter roast. A filter roast is coffee that has been roasted with a roast profile specifically geared towards delicious filter brew coffee, and thus tends to be a lighter roast. The trick is roasting said coffee in a way that it is not grassy or under-developed. I have always felt that filter roast is more difficult to nail than espresso roast, at least in my own amateur non-professional and quite limited experience.

Since filter roast can be tricky to find, it leads me to believe that most coffee drinkers are probably using espresso roast through their filter gear. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily bad, but a filter roast could be a little more delicious, perhaps. Espresso roast can work well in filter coffee, but (for my taste) only if it’s on the light side of ‘espresso’.

I have an e-61 espresso machine at home, and i brew filter coffee at work using chemex or aeropress. I prefer the aeropress because i find the 1-3 cup chemex has such a long narrow shape that it is difficult to get an even extraction. I use a hario hand grinder and it’s simple, clean and pretty easy to get a delicious filter brew coffee going at work. But despite the ease with which anyone can pick up a Hario v60, a chemex, an aeropress or even a Hario syphon, it’s still difficult to find filter roasted coffee.

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Where I get filter roast coffee

Because of the difficulty in finding filter roast, i’ve been either using my own filter roast … (which i don’t like doing because i find filter roasts done in a real roaster such as a Probat are superior – my espresso roasts on the other hand, i can live with and they are actually pretty good when i get things right) … or, i’ve been getting filter roast from Market Lane or Proud Mary

Theory why filter roast is hard to find

I can understand why most cafes would shy away from adding yet another option to their roasted coffee line-up. Good cafes that only sell freshly roasted beans inevitably end up with some left-overs, and adding filter roast could mean more of this.  It’s also another batch of roasting to be done, another batch of roast cupping to be tracked, etc. It’s not as simple as just popping some filter roast into bags.

Maybe it’s a good thing that there are a select few with the focus to do filter roast – and they are doing it well.

Ministry Grounds soon to offer filter coffee

I was also delighted to read that Ministry Grounds are also now going to begin offering filter roast Australia wide through their web store. I’ve always found their espresso roasts to be around the right roast level for my own personal taste, so it will be interesting to see what they come up with on the lighter side. I’ll try to secure a sample of their filter roast to examine shortly, and see how it goes up against a typical espresso roast. 

I find that 9 times out of 10, a filter roast tastes way sweeter and has a lot more flavour clarity than the equivalent espresso roast when brewed through a filter device.

Know a cafe that sells filter roast?

If you know of a cafe who sells filter roast (I know Cup Coffee in Brisbane does a pretty awesome filter roast, for example), shout out in the comments.  I’d love to compile a list of filter roast locations!

Coffeecatcher Mesh Filter Review

In the increasingly popular world of filter brew coffee, there are two main types of filters – paper and steel. Paper filters have been around for as long as you or I have probably been alive. Heck, my parents-in-law used them back in the 60s! Granted, they have improved since then, but i’d often wondered just how good the new breed of stainless steel filters was. Could they eliminate paper filter taste, were they really re-usable and designed to last, and would they taste as good, or better than coffee brewed using a throw-away paper filter?  After acquiring the fancy new Coffeecatcher mesh filter from Wine of the Bean (which sells in their web store for a paltry $30, compared to about twice that much for competing stainless steel filter brands) I set about testing the device to see if it really did all that it promised.

First up, let’s take a real close look at the Coffeecatcher mesh filter from Wine of the Bean, using our magical macro vision digitally enhanced technology!

Examining the Coffeecatcher mesh filter

Inside:

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Outside:

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You can see in these shots the construction of the dual-layered mesh. It is stiched together using sterling silver thread, is held together nicely and the quality was excellent. It feels strong and the seams are all nice and even.


Testing the Coffeecatcher mesh filter

I decided to test the coffeecatcher using my chemex, the reason being the chemex is clear glass whereas my clever dripper or v60 brewer are not see through. The chemex will give us a nice view of the mesh filter as we brew, and fitted quite nicely into the small 3-cup chemex despite being sized for the wider mouth of the v60.

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For this test i’ve roasted some lovely Kenya ‘Mtaro’ peaberry and Guatemala ‘San Francisco’ beans to a filter roast depth, with first crack at 10:00 at 195 degrees, dumped at 12:00 at 201 degrees. 

The coffee – Kenya Mtaro peaberry + Guatemala San Francisco

In terms of grind, i found a medium filter grind setting similar to what you would use with paper filters works well. Since the coffeecatcher is designed to mimic the flow rate of paper filters, you don’t need to use a different grind setting. As usual, just adjust grind according to taste and flow rate.

Filter coffee dose

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In terms of dose, i normally use about 7.5g of coffee for every 100g of water. For this pour i was aiming for 230g of coffee (about an 8oz cup) so i dosed 17g of coffee. I’ve found in the past that 17g of coffee for 230g of water has always worked well when working with a v60 or other filter brew device of similar size.

Filter coffee pour

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Don’t forget to reset your scales at this point to zero. Your brewer should already be pre-heated using boiling water. Now we’re ready to pour. I always do a wetting/pre-infuse stage of about 25 seconds before beginning the pour. I fill, let the bed sink then fill again. Some people like to keep the bed lower, some take it higher. I find the amount of agitation is what affects the brew more than just the number of pours used or the height of the bed. Coffee is soluable and we are using water as a solvent so like any science experiment the agitation plays a big factor in how much coffee ends up in the water below your filter.

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Now we have our 230g of filter brew. Let’s take a look at the final bed of coffee.

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It looks just as you’d expect, and it performed just like any good paper filter would. Excellent!  After a quick rinse in hot water, the filter looks clean and hasn’t collected any fines. I was worried a dual layer mesh might not clean up easily but i’ve actually found it to be very quick and simple. No scrubbing or soaking required, just a quick rinse seems to do the job. Very impressed.

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How did it taste?

Let me start by saying this. Obviously, there is no paper filter taste to contend with here so you’re guaranteed that there won’t be paper filter taint in the cup.But even above and beyond that, the resulting brew from the coffeecatcher filter actually surprised me by how sweet and flavourful it was.

I think i’ll be reaching for the coffeecatcher mesh more often than my paper filters from now on.

Not that paper filters are necessarily bad, but I just think that this filter has outperformed others on so many levels. It doesn’t need rinsing (except for pre-heat), it’s easy to clean, it’s affordable at $30, the pour rate mimics paper filters and the resulting brew, to my taste, was super delicious!

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You can buy the coffeecatcher mesh filter over at the Wine of the Bean web store.

Filter roast beans – why is (almost) no one selling them?

This has puzzled me for a while. Filter brew devices are now so common that an IT dude at work came to me the other day and told me he’d picked up an aeropress. Just about every specialty coffee cafe is selling some sort of filter brew device, whether it be hario v60, chemex, syphon, clever coffee dripper or some other paraphenalia. And now it seems just about every other cafe is selling them too.

And people are buying them! Which, I think, is great.

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Are people using the new filter brewers as replacements for their old plunger devices, and using the same coffee as always? If not, then where are they buying their coffee?  I would like to think that in Brisbane, a lot of filter brew drinkers would order online from places like Ministry Grounds, or Market Lane. Cup Coffee sell great filter roast, but are they the only ones here in Brisbane?

Where is all the filter roast coffee in all of this? Sure some people might not mind espresso roast used in a filter brewer (with a shorter brew time i’d assume?). But if a filter roast tastes so much better then why settle for anything else?

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Perhaps the problem is not just lack of availability, but also lack of awareness of the treasures that filter roast brings. While most consumers would have a vague concept of what roast depth is, they may not know that it correlates to a particular brew method. And I would doubt they would have an understanding of how roast depth affects flavour. Can we teach them? Should we? Do they want to be taught?

I think we can’t insist on everyone caring as much as we do about such trivial matters as coffee flavour. But we can try to offer a better choice, if it’s viable to do so. If filter brewers continue to sell, at some point it should become financially viable for cafes to stock filter roast for their customers.

I also think that filter coffee is easier for the average joe to get right than espresso. Expensive machinery not required, and if you know the recipe, have technique and practice a little, chances are you can hit the sweet spot. Of course having a good grinder helps too.