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.
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!
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
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).