Monday, August 13, 2007

Sydney - Aroma Festival, Cafes and a Melbournite's POV (part 2)

My last post on Sydney promised a second part. Now that I sit down to type it up, I'm surprised by how little I have to say ... I'll also warn everyone that this is probably just going to be a rather uninteresting list of things that happened, more just so that I don't forget it than anything else. I also only recently recovered the charger for my camera, so no photos. All of this means that I'm not even going to pretend that this entry will be up to my usual lofty standards. So bail out, while you still can!

Faithful readers will recall that I was recently up in Sydney for the Aroma coffee festival. The idea was to relax, kick back and enjoy the latte art competition, so I turned up on the day with the three lovely people who had graciously lent me their couch over the weekend. The weather outside was unappealing, as were all of the stands, so we made our way to the latte art comp and I scabbed a few coffees for us from Corinne, the first ever Australian barista champ. The comp itself was surprisingly packed and I was distracted by a multitude of lovely people from around Australia, who I caught up with in five minute snippets. My friends and I stayed to watch Reuben from Mecca compete; his stuff looked great, but not brilliant, and I later found out that he lost to Tristan from Dalla Corte.

After leaving the barista comp a few minutes through, it was time to wander around without responsibilities and enjoy myself. We detoured over to the ECA stand and scabbed another round of coffees from Chris, then my friends bounced off to their meeting, leaving me to wander over to the Di Bartoli stand and check things out. It was great to finally meet Renzo in person and pleasantly surprising to see Aaron confidently demonstrating the Rancilio machine packages to everyone. I had sold Aaron my Silvia/Rocky package second-hand only a year ago!

Of course, it was inevitable that I would get sucked in to scoping out gear. Renzo and I played around with the Ascaso i-Mini, which is to say that we took a look at it and I pulled a single shot off it and the expobar machine that was around. Amazingly, that single shot was one of the best this trip - second only to the shots that Rube had pulled me at Mecca! This little grinder is certainly going to be a thorn in the side of honest espresso equipment retailers - I don't think that anyone can seriously contend that the more expensive domestic grinders produce a better shot, though they are superior in practically every other way. None of the new prosumer espresso machines impressed, which was disappointing because we had sold out of all of our prosumer machines at work. Still, better to sell nothing than risk selling something that we don't know about, I guess. That said, I'm not going to completely dismiss everything from two minutes' use, particularly not at a coffee festival. I also talked to Peter and Charles at ECA about their new stand-alone steam machine. This thing is basically a boiler with auto-fill and a steam wand, so I think that there's definitely a place in the market for it. It would be great for coffee carts, or busy cafes that have two benches meeting at right-angles; have one person stand at the corner pouring drinks and handing out coffee, have a barista making shots and pass them towards the corner and then on the other side have another barista steaming milk on the steam machine and passing the jugs to the corner. Perhaps a niche market, but a good idea.

The coffeesnobs shoot-out at Di Bartoli drew a huge crowd. It looked like great fun, although, again, I absconded in order to say hi to still more people that geography has conspired to keep away from me ;P

Coffee was definitely a bit better than your average coffee festival. The best of the day awards go to the unexpected coffees. I'll toot my own horn and say that the random shot that I pulled won shot of the day ... which was a pity, because no-one had kept track of what coffee was in the i-Mini, so I couldn't buy any of it! The milk drink of the day award went to Zane, who randomly presented me with a short macchiato whilst I was locked in conversation at the ECA stand. (Sidebar; I'm terrible with names and had actually forgotten Zane's, so I'll come clean now and confess that I am not 100% sure that that is actually his name. But it's a pretty cool name, so I will bestow it on him from my lofty blog, anyway. I'd welcome corrections from the bloggosphere if I'm wrong. I'll also add a further confession, which makes the whole situation even more absurd - I was actually talking to a management academic about the importance of remembering peoples' names at the time!)

Anyhoo, I'll leave this poorly structured, quasi-incoherent and disinterested account there without even making an attempt to acknowledge any of the people who I met or talked to. Chances are that I'll forget a few names ;P

... and, with that, my moral obligation to fulfil my promise to provide a second part to this story is fulfilled.

Some somewhat relevant links:

Espresso Company Australia - formerly ECM Australia, but now stocking Vibiemme instead. And a nifty steam gadget. Home of Peter Cairis, espresso machine tweakologist to the max, and a bunch of other dudely dudes.

Di Bartoli - sellers of domestic espresso equipment. By the bucketload!

AASCA - AASCA. I don't know how else to explain it. Check out the webpage for competition results.

Forsyth Coffee - Rob Forsyth is the chairman of AASCA. This is his business. I mention it because I have never actually tasted his coffee, nor have I ever heard any discussion of his coffee. Has anyone tried it?


At 11:28 PM, Blogger "Grendel" said...

Ahhh the I-mini, latest in the stepless drive domestic grinders - they look good too!

At 11:35 PM, Blogger Luca said...

Screw looking good; they're going to be pretty cheap!

At 1:49 PM, Blogger nunu said...

Good to have a small chat with you just before the comp. I see where you're coming from re: doppio ristrettos. I think the focus might be more on the intensity of flavours in the shot, than the sweetness and subtlety of an espresso. They also might be trying to ensure that it cuts through the milk.

After having a play with the VBM, I can agree that it has an incredibly long pre-infusion time. I thought I had choked it a number of times.

At 7:30 PM, Blogger Luca said...

Hi Nunu,

I don't know that "intensity of flavour" and cutting through milk is a great reason to be extracting ristretto shots all the time in a cafe; surely it would make more sense to select a blend that is capable of delivering that?



At 12:12 AM, Blogger nunu said...

Could it be they can't be stuffed "selecting?" You stick with what people have heard of, and you get by on branding alone.

Not to mention that a doppio ristretto doesn't do much in a large takeaway cup. Unless of course the customer asks for it weak.

Maybe the real reason is to conserve water (we still have water restrictions btw).

At 9:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seeing that you asked - Forsyth coffee is a disgrace! I used to live in the next suburb and on two seperate occassions (yes, I'm a glutton for punishment) purchased a latte there. If I had not had taken them away and not been in such a screaming hurry both times I would have driven back there and demanded my money back. It really irks me when a cafe promotes itself as 'industry best practice' with barista awards et al plastered to the walls and the coffee is for want of a better word - shit. My blood's starting to boil again, and this was over 6 months ago!!! I am still incensed. And the barista had no idea how to texture mik. My 'Latte' was a flat white at best, bitter and burnt. YUK!


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