Located down the hill from Collingwood’s main Smith Street drag, on a stretch that until a couple of years ago was home to ‘For Lease’ signs and figurative tumbleweeds, is Everyday Coffee. Tables are full and a constant stream of interesting locals file in and out, greeting the baristas and each other with wide smiles and the occasional high five. It’s unmistakably a ‘cool cafe’ in a ‘cool area’, serving a range of ‘specialty coffee.’ But walking in, one feels none of the anxiety or intimidation that often comes with any of those labels.
Creating a welcoming, casual feel in the venue was important to the owners of Everyday – Mark W Free, Aaron Maxwell, Joe Miranda and Magic Johnston’s Hugo Atkins. This was especially important in the wake of the specialty-coffee movement, where the general perception of a barista has somehow become, as Joe Miranda puts it, “This wanky dude who tells you everything about coffee.” The perception is unfortunate. Because, as he continues, “Most baristas just want you to enjoy coffee because they’re passionate about it.”
You wouldn’t know it, but filter coffee is the star attraction at Everyday, as it is in an increasing number of cafes around Melbourne. Everyday serves a batch brew ‘full-timer’ and ‘part-timer’ filter coffee as a quicker, cheaper alternative to its espresso range. “We choose it to be balanced and round and not too offensive any which way,” says Miranda of the offering, sold for $2 and $4 respectively. “Then we have the pour overs which we make by the cup.”
Everyday offers a limited range of food – bagels, cookies and the odd slice of pie – so coffee is always at the forefront of what it is about. As Miranda explains, they are dedicated to providing a great product that is accessible as well as high quality. “It’s more about how consumers interact with filter coffee, so they know it’s not some wild thing,” he says.
Still north of the Yarra, but over in the University district in Carlton, the recently opened Assembly presents a similarly accessible, progressive take on filter coffee. “I think it’s a really exciting time for filter coffee here in Australia,” says Chrissie Trabucco, who co-owns the beautiful gallery-like space with her business partner Ollie Mackay. “We have a great espresso culture in Australia, and now our customers are getting to know a whole new way to drink the best coffees available here.” Trabucco encourages customers to try a few coffees between friends when they visit. As she explains, “It’s great to drink things side by side and compare them. You can really experience the nuances of each cup by giving yourself some context.” Assembly also encourages customers to recreate the filter coffee experience at home, which can be done for a fraction of the cost of purchasing an espresso machine. “You can set yourself up to make delish brews at home and it’s not too expensive,” Trabucco says. “We sell all the bits and bobs here at Assembly, and a basic set up could cost around $50.”
Auction Rooms' Counter and Small Batch Roastery founder Andrew Kelly is busy setting up his own filter coffee venue in the CBD. Unambiguously named Filter, the cafe will offer a range of filter coffee as well as Scandinavian smorrebrod open sandwiches. Kelly cites Market Lane, Patricia in the CBD and Everyday Coffee as other places he enjoys a filter coffee from in Melbourne. He also mentions influences from further afield, including G&B in Los Angeles, Paramount in Sydney, Heart in Portland, Oregon and Tim Wendelboe in Oslo, Norway.
On a visit to Everyday Coffee, I’m introduced to Tim Varney, head roaster and operations manager at roaster and filter-coffee mecca, Tim Wendleboe. He is the Melbourne boy who rose to coffee fame as ‘the other Tim’. Varney happens to be stopping by for a coffee, squeezing this visit between a range of coffee-related gigs. He is currently roasting coffee and working the bar at Patricia, acts as a roasting consultant to other operators and runs national Aeropress competitions in the lead up to the World Aeropress Championships in Rimini, Italy in June.
“It’s the norm to drink filter coffee in Scandinavia, but not in Melbourne,” says Varney. He feels the focus on the brewing method interferes with where the focus should be: the coffee beans themselves. “I think that’s [the problem] beneath the surface of the whole filter thing. It’s always on show,” he says. “I can’t wait until you can’t see the coffee being made, it just comes to your table like in a Japanese ramen place.” Miranda agrees, but feels the visibility of filter coffee apparatus at venues such as Everyday and Assembly is vital in getting the message about a product the venues believe in out to Melbourne coffee drinkers. “I would much rather not make a song and dance about it,” says Miranda, “but you have to make a bit of a fuss because you have to put it in people’s minds.”
“Currently we’re in a bit of a catch-22 situation,” continues Varney. “Specialty coffee people really want customers to embrace filter brewing as a regular, quick option, but we’re struggling to implement the resources we need to offer filter faster than espresso.” He explains that to do filter coffee well, a cafe must have staff dedicated to it, but this commitment is difficult to warrant when sales don’t reflect the investment. “We’re going to have to live with the idea that it’s going to be a really niche thing for a bit longer in Australia,” Varney says. “We’re not going to flip it over just like that.” A leap of faith is required – one that bars such as Everyday, Assembly, Patricia, Market Lane and Kelly’s Filter are making.
Cnr Little Bourke & Little William Street, Melbourne
Shop 13, Prahran Market
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109-111 Therry Street, Melbourne
176 Faraday Street, Carlton