Lee Duffield

Edited by Lee Duffield
Freedom and Truth

Brisbane coffee makes its mark


Brisbane's best coffee?

It’s an early Monday morning and on every city street there’s business men and women clutching coffee cups as if they’re pots of gold.

For many people in Brisbane, this is a familiar scenario with coffee fast becoming an integral part of each day.

While Sydney and Melbourne have boasted distinct coffee cultures for many years, Brisbane is just beginning to hit its stride according to the city’s premier roasters.

Campos Coffee, Fortitude Valley, recently won the Lifestyle FOOD Channel award for Favourite Cafe and Favourite Coffee in Australia, which co-owner John Ronchi says is thanks to their attention to detail and a growing Brisbane coffee culture.

“Because the market is a lot tighter and has a lower population than in southern states, it’s forced that more sophisticated cafe culture to develop faster,” Mr Ronchi says.

Phillip Di Bella is another Brisbane roaster who has seen the market evolve after growing up with the espresso culture through his Italian heritage.

“The standard has raised. Even a bad cup of coffee is better then it was five years ago,” Mr Di Bella says.

Di Bella Coffee is now served in over 900 outlets nationwide after Mr Di Bella started the company by himself in 2002.  But what makes these good coffees, good?

Both Mr Ronchi and Mr Di Bella agree there are countless factors that determine the flavour of a coffee starting from the bean itself.

Where it all begins…

The green coffee cherries are harvested and then processed using either a wet or dry method.  Wet processing uses a huller (a turning drum) to rub the pulp off the outside of the cherry giving an acidic, “clean cup” flavour. Alternatively, a sweeter taste is produced by simply leaving the cherry out to dry.

The beans are then put into storage until auctioned, or sent directly to roasters.

The Roasting Process

STEP 1: Raw coffee beans are placed into a roaster preheated to between 290 and 380 degrees Fahrenheit.  Different types of beans will be grouped together beforehand if the roaster is using preblending.


STEP 2: Temperature and air flow is adjusted throughout the process.  If air is circulated around the drum a smokey flavour will develop while if it’s allowed to flow through, a cleaner taste results.


STEP 3: Around the 15-minute mark, “first crack” occurs as the bean expands and splits open to double in size. At this point the beans have lost 20 to 30 per cent moisture and are now exothermic (giving off heat). Roasting time is normally no longer then 19 minutes.  Beans are mixed to a desired ratio at this point if using post-blending.

"First crack"

"First Crack"

After nine minutes of roasting

After nine minutes of roasting

Between 10 and 12 minutes in

Between 10 and 12 minutes in

STEP 4: Roasters “cup” or check each roast every one or two days recording the method used and the flavours produced to ensure quality.


Bringing it all together behind the machine…

Both Mr Ronchi and Mr Di Bella say good coffee ultimately comes down to the barista behind the machine.

The growing, roasting and blending of beans will all be wasted, according to Mr Di Bella, without the proper appliances and a genuine passion for coffee.

“What makes it is when you nail all three.  If you source great fresh product, put it through really good equipment and the person making it is a real master, you’re going to end up with a really great cup of coffee,” Mr Di Bella says.

Similarly, Mr Ronchi says it won’t take long for consumers to identify which brands do a good job but the professionalism of staff is also a good indicator.

“We use the philosophy that whether or not someone is buying a $350,000 sports car or a $3.50 coffee, people like to spend their money with someone that is a bit passionate about what they do,”  Mr Ronchi says.