Growing up on a coffee farm in Colombia instilled in Simon Jaramillo an appreciation for the complexity of creating premium coffee, from bean to cup. “My family has been growing coffee beans for 110 years, so I have good relationships with local farms,” he says, having just returned from an overseas trip with new stock from El Salvador, Honduras and Colombia.

At newly opened Surry Hills cafe The Reformatory Caffeine Lab, Jaramillo showcases his own carefully tested roasts in a range of blended, filter and cold-drip coffees. “The filter coffees are all about developing something crazy,” he says, noting a Costa Rican offering reminiscent of pineapples and another from Ethiopia with berry notes. Its signature and best-seller is the cold-drip. “We’ve drip-brewed our current one for 16 hours to bring out an oaky, cognac flavour. It’s one of the hardest serves to make, sometimes we do extractions for up to 30 hours.”

On the food front, the menu has been kept simple so as not to eclipse the coffee aromas. Choose from Argentinean empanadas, filled with lean beef with boiled egg, potatoes and green olives, plus a selection of Luxe cakes and scrolls from Oregano Bakery. The room’s gently sloping floor is a nod to its former life as a loading dock. All the better to house a giant bar the full length of the space, with a row of wall-mounted perches replacing the typical seating area.

“We don’t just serve the coffee,” says Jaramillo. “The way we present it is important, and we give people a lot of information about what they’re drinking and how the beans have been processed.” Beans from the Yirgacheffe region of Ethiopia have been roasted to bring out hints of jasmine and blueberries, served as an espresso with a little bowl of the grind to add another dimension to enjoying the coffee.

When it comes to creating the desired end product, testing different roasting times and temperatures is a lengthy process. “The weather is a massive influence on the farms, so I’m always experimenting and tasting,” says Jaramillo. “I’ll usually have 30 to 40 coffees everyday.”

The Reformatory Caffeine Lab
Shop 7B, 17–51 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills

Mon–Fri 6.30am–4pm Sat 8am–2pm