Despite being in a car park in Wollongong’s CBD, the atmosphere of the Sifters shipping-container co-op is fresh. With milk-crate seating and tables made out of recycled electric drum wheels, Sifters Espresso reflects Wollongong’s recent food boom – the influx of cafes and bars opening in the past two years that’s turning the city into a food destination.
The co-op also includes an independent menswear store, Minty Duds; florist and terrarium store Pepe’s Garden; and an art space run by local artist Jess Cochrane in a house at the front of the property.
Before opening Sifters Espresso, local Mel Cox spent six months travelling around Australia trying out different coffee beans. She knew she wanted to bring the third wave of coffee back to her hometown. “I wanted to offer customers that kind of range of coffee roasts and flavours,” she says.
For house blends she opts for Single Origin Roasters and for cold brew, Coal Coffee. But for black coffees customers are offered a different Single Origin on any given visit. The time Cox puts into curating the coffee list is worth it. “Although it is more expensive, because you’re not in a contract with the roaster, you get to bring in some of the most incredible coffee to showcase.” The standouts have been Sample Coffee’s Kenya Kamwangi AA and The Sailor’s Son, a New Zealand-based roaster.
Heritage Kitchen from Bulli has recently joined the family with Son of a Gun. Every Wednesday to Sunday it serves its much loved, smoked, pulled-pork and brisket rolls; smoked lamb toasties, mixed grain salads and rhubarb compote granola.
Cox says the quality of the food and coffee at Sifters is in part because of the co-op set up: “I think what works so well is everybody who owns each individual section gets to focus on the one thing. And we put all of our time and attention into that.”