As a second generation Italian-Australian espresso is the way my family started the day and ended every meal. No Italian ever said "it's too late for coffee". After dinner one would always have a short black. Even the 90 year old matriarch would stir a sugar into an espresso made on the stovetop.
My personal coffee story started later in life. I resisted the pressure to "do coffee" with friends which was prevalent in the social structure of Melbourne in the '90s. It seemed you could not talk to another human being unless you were positioned in Burke Road Camberwell (or Chapel Street) with a hot, milky latte.
A surplus of credit card points led me to "buy" a cheap Sunbeam espresso machine for entertaining. I watched the video. I challenged myself to make better coffee and soon I was captured by the challenge to make a great coffee. After 12 months of forcing guests to drink my then average lattes made with pre-ground beans from Leo's supermarket I closed down a business and my wife and I decided coffee was a great new industry to launch into.
I started working for Max Brenner and was concerned that my coffee skills would go to waste on the chocolate-centric business model. I moved from cafe to cafe until I found myself at St ALi in Melbourne three years later. It seemed that I had reached a limit of self-development and needed to work for the best coffee people in Melbourne to stretch myself further.
Working for the then World Brewers Cup Champion, being challenged to compete in-front of World Barista Championship judges, and cupping with Q-graders threw me off the deep end into an Alice in Wonderland style love affair with coffee. The rabbit hole goes really deep!
I was tasting competition coffees, I was involved in the green buying process, I was visiting, mentoring and training around 13 cafes a day. I never felt like an expert. I was surrounded by the best of the best.
I looked back to my first Padre coffee in 2008. It gobsmacked me. From memory it was a Mexican single origin with milk. I considered all the maniacal Greek, Italian and Australian cafes owners I had worked for. Many have passion for coffee, however they were not equipped with the skills or the data to make coffee great.
I realised that I was privileged to be in the centre of a world-wide revolution that was sweeping the coffee planet. Voice Systems technology (VST) opened the door to objective coffee. There was a group of pioneers, mad scientists and coffee professionals who had opened pandoras box of coffee potential.
I am still living in that world. I find it hard to drink a coffee that is not extracted properly. One of the results of objective coffee is that you train your palate to taste objectively. We now know how strong a coffee really is because we can measure the solubility of the coffee. We objectively know that espresso and filter coffee always tastes good at around 18%-24% extraction (yield / dose * TDS). We are now roasting differently, brewing differently and breaking all the rules we held so tightly a few short years ago.
My coffee story is aligning myself to the brilliant and new developments in coffee, maintaining an open teachable mind, and trying to bring some innovation and competition to an industry that is being birthed at the moment.
In the years to come we will see Melbourne considered not only as a great coffee city but as the centre for a coffee renaissance.