Oh, Artificer! There are lots of places that I hype up for myself and set sky high expectations, that come crashing down as I realise they aren’t half as great as I was expecting. Then there’s this place. A place/two man crew that I’ve followed for a very long time now, ever since Shoji worked at Single Origin Roasters, before he was awarded SMH best barista 2012, and before I’d even heard of Dan until he popped up on my radar and then later, I learned that he’d won SMH best barista 2013. That’s a nigh unbeatable duo!
A great, hipsterish cafe that serves only coffee, I’ve always had a filter coffee that has blown me away here. I believe my first experience was a Burundi batch brew which was so sweet and fruity, it was amazing! For once I didn’t compare this to any previous Burundi experience I had, and I was very very happy with it. Though I’m not sure it was a Burundi, because all they really had was Bolivia? Either way, I found the two taste profiles to be similar as I came back to have all their other coffees – Bolivia Estanislao Pununi being another incredibly sweet coffee – some of the sweetest coffees I’ve had ever! I couldn’t believe how good the coffee tasted every time. And they serve piccolos in their espresso cups! It’s adorable!
The true test was when I had their Columbia El Triunfo, which I knew would taste very different from their Bolivian coffees. It was very nicely brewed, with a more acidic profile than the Bolivia, but also more tea like, again I was reminded of it being similar to a geisha. So, it was great, though I liked the Bolivian coffees better. I also managed to try their Brazil Santa Mariana as an espresso, and now that’s what I call a nutty coffee! Those hazelnut flavours came right out with a great finish! So basically, perfect coffee, all the time.
What’s interesting about here is that they omni-roast their coffee and use the same for their espresso and filter. I think. At least for their single origins. They alternate their serving-ware between grey and yellow cups and plates, and the place is overall very zen.
They have a unique filter setup; using funky stylish rusty looking gear from a company called Monarch Methods. It’s the most unique pourover set I’ve seen and it’s refreshing to see something that’s not a Hario, Kalita or Clever Coffee Dripper. I don’t know how they do it (because they’re awesome?) but their coffee is just absolutely perfect every time – moreso than any other place, and that’s saying something! For quality, you cannot go past Artificer.
Dan was also happy to explain more about what they do, and that they’re happy to serve coffee however we want it and they aren’t snobby and pretentious at all – apparently they get asked if it’s ok to order a flat white, or to put sugar in their coffee. He’s very much of the opinion that coffee should be served as the customer likes it, so of course they can! It’s not something they need permission from the barista for. He mentioned also that the Melbourne coffee scene seems to have the same cafes with the same tricks, there’s nothing new or innovative. This is something I’m not quite sure I grasp, since I feel Sydney is becoming quite saturated and that a lot of cafes are also doing the same thing (Artificer isn’t the first place to do coffee only; Coffee Alchemy/Gumption, and I think also Reformatory for a while. Sample also focused on coffee with a very small sweets selection) (Single Origin, Reuben Hills are very food focused as well as on coffee, John Smith would fit this description too) (PCP is not in the previous grouping because it joins the group that features guest roasters, including Steam Tank, Brewristas, and possibly other cafes).
Anyway, as long as we all enjoy the coffee at the places we choose to go, that’s all that matters. And I like good coffee, and have a preference for those places with a strong food menu too.
Aaand to complete this blog entry – we put Dan through a hilarious scenario where my brother and I were discussing if it was possible to tell the difference between a batch brew and a manual brew. He and Shoji both confirmed that they definitely taste different, but that it shouldn’t be possible to tell batch vs manual. My brother thought otherwise! Me, I’m happy with whichever method.
So here it is. Two Bolivia Carmelo Yujras, one batched, one pourovered, in a blind taste test. The one on the right started off being very fragrant, which reminded me of bubblegum, but I wouldn’t claim this to be an accurate descriptor since my sense of smell is awful, and had more prominent notes of acidity. The one on the left didn’t have a standout smell, but was sweeter and had a better mouthfeel – it was juicy and fulfilling. As they cooled, they began to taste identical as more acidity stood out. The left had a hit of sweetness towards the end, where as the right actually did the same, but it was much more subtle to the point where I wouldn’t consider it to be actually anything to note.
So yes, they were very different. I find that batch brew usually has a more plasticy mouthfeel, but I’m not sure I’m describing that right. It’s a little less harsh. In that way, I thought that the left could be batch for that reason. However, the right one had such prominent and unusual fragrance that I’ve never had in a pourover before, so then I suspected my brother might be right. Plus the fact that in a manual brew, I’ve found coffees on average to be sweeter. However, I wasn’t confident in any conclusion I drew.
My brother instantly identified the right one to be batch though, and wouldn’t drink it after a while. He also identified this correctly! Then we pretty much elaborated on our thoughts and analyses, I think both baristas were rather amused – at least I hope they were! I was intending for this to be as fun for them as it was for us. Dan didn’t believe that there should be a way to taste out batch every time, though if my brother does guess correctly every time (I hope he goes back for more blind tests!), then I think there might be some basis for it. Who knows, it’s part of the ongoing coffee adventure!
I think it’s also helped me be a better, more educated coffee enthusiast/geek, which will help in my dream quest to become a barista!