Not long ago, if you wanted a good coffee you could just go out and get one. Now many of us are separated from each other, and we’re also separated from the companionship, ritual and convenience of our favourite coffee spots.
But that doesn’t mean you have to go without a good brew. Sydney has one of the best coffee-roasting scenes anywhere in the world and while many front counters may be closed, the roasters are firing and the experts behind them are still working to make the best possible coffee.
Here are seven of Sydney’s best. Before you buy, see our guide to brewing coffee at home to learn how to get the most from your beans.
Ask the head roasters at the other companies on this list where they started and there are two answers you’ll hear a lot: Mecca and Single O. Mecca started in 2005, long before the terms “specialty coffee”, “single origin” and “filter coffee” had entered public consciousness. Without Mecca, Sydney’s coffee scene wouldn’t be what it is today. Now it’s one of the biggest specialty roasters in Sydney, with the capacity to run its own green-bean program (most roasters buy green beans from a middle man), and get crops other roasters wouldn’t usually have access to. Mecca, Single O, Ona and Sample are probably the go-to roasters for variety. If you want to stick to one roaster but still try a lot of different beans, one of those four is a good bet. Mecca recently started selling Nespresso-compatible pods if you’re in the market.
A legend in the Sydney coffee scene, partly for longevity (it first appeared on the scene as a small Surry Hills cafe in 2003) but more for constant innovation. Not only was it one of the first roasters to bring reliably sourced single-origin coffee to Sydney, it’s still changing the game today. Last year the team installed self-serve filter-coffee taps at its Reservoir Street cafe, and it’s currently working with Ugandan farmers on experimental processing techniques for low-altitude coffee (historically considered inferior to higher altitude crops). Right now the online store is selling a generously discounted Stimulus Blend ($15 for 250 grams), and Single O’s baristas are running brewing workshops and Q&As on Instagram. All coffees available for online order are labelled with brewing tips, and Single O’s subscription service delivers every fortnight.
This Canberra-based roaster made quite a splash in 2018 when it opened a cafe in Marrickville with a “freezer menu” of rare and exceptional coffees, preserved through vacuum sealing and freezing. This kind of innovative thinking underpins the whole operation, which is steadily building a reputation up and down the east coast after years of dominating Canberra’s small scene. A key to that is sister business Project Origin, a green-bean supplier focused on sustainability and working with coffee-producing communities to develop new, experimental processing techniques. The online store is extensive, covering a wide range of origin countries and offering the occasional rare single origin for $70 or more per 200-gram bag. Ona’s blends include the fancifully named Cherry Pie and Choc Banoffee Pie, as well as the more renowned Raspberry Candy. All of these are named after the flavours they evoke.
This is one of the only coffee roasters in Australia with B Corp certification. The accreditation is only awarded to businesses that can prove all facets of their operations run according to rigorous social and environmental standards . Like all the roasters on this list, Sample roasts to showcase the inherent qualities of each batch of beans. Right now, the online shop features eight single origins and two blends, all listed with handy one-to-three scores for acidity and body (the single origins have wine-like tasting notes, too), as well as extensive notes on the farmers, the beans and the roast. There’s also a good range of brewing equipment and tips on how to use it, plus a well-stocked “staples” shop that includes flour, fresh pasta and Penny Fours pastries.
Artificer is one of the few cafes – if not the only one – in Sydney that sells coffee and nothing else. No pastries, no plated food, no tea, nothing. That in a mostly suburban street in Surry Hills. If the cafe served anything less than exceptional coffee, it would have gone out of business the year it opened. The team has its own roaster coming very soon. For now, it’s one of many great roasteries working with Coffee Roasting Solutions (CRS), a collective that provides machinery and expertise. All the names on this list roast lightly compared to big commercial roasters, but Artificer’s work is particularly delicate.
Edition Coffee Roasters
Another CRS member, Edition is the only outfit on this list that’s gotten behind omni-roasting – the idea that a particular roast can suit all brewing methods, rather than the conventional wisdom that different batches of beans should be roasted different ways for specific brewing methods. The cafe, famous for its creative Nordic-Japanese cuisine, is currently closed due to the crisis, but the online store is stocking a quintet of single origins and a small selection of brewing gear to get the best out of them.
Made of Many
Anyone who’s been to Stanmore’s Brighter Coffee, home to small-batch roaster Made of Many, will know what this place is about: honesty, community and a zen-like attention to its craft. The team only roasts single origins (which is rare – most roasters produce at least one blend for milk-based coffees) and retails a few at a time, with a focus on “vivid varietal/origin characteristics”. Of all the roasters listed here, Made of Many probably roasts the lightest. As most of its beans come from Ethiopia, Kenya, Colombia, Guatemala and Honduras (Burundi and Rwanda make regular appearances too), they’re also more acidic than others.
With Sydney’s coffee scene as strong as it is, we could easily have written a paragraph about every specialty roaster in the city. But for concision’s sake, we decided not to. In no particular order, here’s a bunch of other outfits worth buying beans from. All are excellent in their own right and match it with the names we chose to write about above.
Loggerhead Coffee Co
Paramount Coffee Project
Black Market Roasters
The Little Marionette
Barrel One Coffee
Primary Coffee Roasters
Veneziano Coffee Roasters
The New Paradigm
Grace & Taylor
The Q on Harris
Reformatory Caffeine Lab
Humm Coffee Roasters