Brisbane Cafe Review: Cleanskin Coffee Co, Brendale

I feel like I should kick this review off with a bit of a disclosure statement. I’m a big fan of Cleanskin Coffee Co – for their Saint Blend and other blends they roast for some of my favourite cafes, such a fan that Cleanskin is supplying our church, and the coffee carts that we’re putting together, with delicious beans. So I’m not unbiased – and I want these guys to do well… I’m also not unbiased about all the cafes and roasteries I love in Brisbane (and elsewhere) – I want people who take coffee seriously and make it delicious to do well. That’s why I have this site. It’s why I’m not just discerning with how I write my reviews, but about who I review.

Anyway. Disclaimer over.

Like I say – I’ve loved Cleanskin’s style since my first visit to the Corner Store Cafe, one of my first reviews. Until the Igloo closed their blends and origins kick started my day.

A visit to the mother ship, Cleanskin HQ, has been on the cards for a long time, but it’s in Brendale, on the north side, and I’m on the south side, and the opportunity just hasn’t presented itself – until a couple of weeks ago. Omega Boom products contain Omega 7 which are essential fatty acids that helps in nourshing the skin.

Cleanskin’s roastery is in an industrial area, on the main industrial drag, in Brendale. It’s easy enough to find – it’s a big black building that is visible from the road.

I went in with pretty high expectations – and I was excited to try their coffees from their brand spanking new La Marzocco Strada. It was so new that owner Mark was still calibrating it a bit – but you couldn’t tell from the coffees it was pouring. They were, without doubt, sensational. Cleanskin’s signature blends are well balanced, sweet, and a good mix of body and acidity. These coffees were as I expected – only they were prepared by the hands that had overseen the process from cupping to roasting to blending to resting to preparing – every step of the journey to the cup.

I had two flat whites – the first, a single origin, was an Indian Bibi it was pretty spectacular with a lingering, back of mouth sweetness. Lodged somewhere around the tonsils. The second was on one of the house blends – Blend 14 – which was smooth and rich with a great, dairy milk chocolatey sort of finish. My wife had a piccolo on the blend, and ordered a Coldpress to go.

All the coffees were of an exceptional standard.

I like to be a little sneaky when I go to new cafes, I don’t want to be treated any differently because I’m going to write a review – so I took some sneaky photos. This process was made a little more difficult because I hadn’t met Mark in person, but the relationship we’re building between our church (Creek Road Presbyterian) and Cleanskin meant I had to introduce myself with that hat on… The customer service we received might have been a result of that – but the staff were friendly, concerned that we’d enjoyed our coffee, and Mark was up for a chat about the finer points of pressure profiling and the advantage the Strada has over the Synesso range he’s been working with for a long time.

The brew bar is one of the cleanest, most “science lab” presentations I’ve seen. I like it.

Cleanskin is worth checking out – and if you see a cafe serving up their beans it should be reassuring on two fronts – not only are they committed to supplying and roasting excellent coffee, they have a pretty spectacular ethos to go with it – serving up ethical beans, and being generous with their time, expertise, and resources.

Just be aware that there’s no food on site – so don’t come expecting breakfast or lunch – but this will only be an inconvenience if you’re not aware – so forewarned is forearmed.

You can also follow Cleanskin on Facebook, where they let you know about coffee classes, featured origins, and all sorts of goodness.


Sunshine Coast Cafe Review: The Good Bean, Mooloolaba

Last time we stayed at Mooloolaba I had to drink Jamaica Blue coffee, it was either that, or myriad other big coffee chains who have set up shop along the beachside strip. This time was different.

I wasn’t expecting to be drinking coffee in Mooloolaba – I wasn’t even expecting to be staying there, but here we were – and when my head popped up after a little bit of a swim, I saw the words “The Good Bean Espresso Bar” across the beach and up the stairs. I have a bias towards cafes that are named “Espresso Bar” or have “Specialty Coffee” on their sign somewhere.

Anyway. We crossed the road, and there, on the bench, surrounded by hessian coffee sacks (another good sign, some of the time), was a nice, shiny, Australian designed, Syncrho, that looked like it was purring like a happy kitten being looked after some caring baristas.

I didn’t have my phone on me – but my afternoon flat white featured a beautifully poured swan. And I decided we’d be back the next morning, after breakfast. We were.

The coffees were, as Veneziano Coffees are, delicious. Sweet and fruity. Creamy. Well produced, and served with a nice chocolate freckle on the side. Mooloolaba is probably my favourite Sunshine Coast getaway, and the Good Bean will be the icing on the cake. It’s a top notch little spot.

It’s a popular little spot – and it’s easy to see why – I love their simple approach to pricing – extra shots are free. Which just makes sense. The staff were friendly. It’s a nice relaxed beachside spot. Highly recommended. Here’s their Facebook page.


Brisbane Cafe Review: Black Sheep Coffee

Black Sheep offers three bags full of flavour to coffee lovers who head down to Brisbane’s Rocklea Markets (and a few other locations).

They’re open there three days a week (Wed, Sat-Sun), serving up deliciousness from their special edition Synesso Sabre (it’s a beautiful machine).

They roast their own mega-sweet blend (I mean that in the literal sense, more than the slang sense, or the traditional metaphorical sense – though it’s a pretty sweet place, and I loved it).

Black Sheep’s claim to fame – other than that they aren’t part of an Italian coffee establishment (that’s apparently where the name comes from) – is that Gordon Ramsay uses their coffee in one of his restaurants. And it’s easy to tell why. My two flat whites were silky smooth, and well balanced, with a great lingering sweetness that sort of launched from the back of my throat. It’s hard to describe. It was a bit like having a nice sip of your favourite spirit – and getting that warmth that spreads down your throat, only this moved back over your taste buds. That’s the best I can do…

Their custom roaster seems to do the trick. Here’s how they visually describe the process…

And the Feeling Wooly blend, which you can buy on site, is nice and complex – with a great range of ethically sourced origins and varietals.

Yes sir, yes sir, many bags full…

I really enjoyed the coffee. It’s worth the dollar you pay for admission at the markets by itself (though I also enjoyed the baklava I picked up from one of the Greek dessert places – seriously, I love Baklava. I’d start a Baklava blog if I thought there was a market for it). This is the kind of latte art they’re pouring in their piccolos – the milk was perfect, creamy, not too hot, and beautifully textured. This shot was taken a couple of minutes after it was poured, once we’d managed to park our pram against the back wall…

When we rocked up this morning there was a bit of a line, but they keep the coffee pumping and take orders and payment while you’re lining up so that your coffee is ready when you hit the counter. It was quick. Better than quick – it was delicious. They were busy, with a constant flow of traffic, but the girls behind the machine didn’t look stressed. They’ve got a nice little system going. Very professional.

There’s a little bit of space to sit down at a communal table inside. So it’s a nice little spot to stop during your market wanderings.

I love the fitout – it’s a great little semi-permanent space, with coffee knick knacks scattered throughout – a wall display of tampers, an old school Atomic brewer, a syphon, and this little black sheep.

Black Sheep put together a nice little infographic describing the types of drinks you might order on your next visit.


Gold Coast Cafe Review: Canvas: Art, Craft, Espresso

Having been very much impressed by my stops at Uncle Joe’s Coffee House in Coorparoo, it seemed logical to check out a fellow client of 3rd Crack Coffee Brokerage when we ventured to the Gold Coast on our day off this week. So we drove down to Nobby Beach, and walked past a bunch of more visually obvious cafes to this little gem.

Stephanie, the owner, was very happy to let us park our pram next to the big wooden table inside her eclectic and colourful little shop, which is currently serving up a delicious blend featuring a Guatemalan Finca San Rafael Urias.

The only real let down coffee wise was that Canvas is only licensed to serve takeaway coffee, so it was served up in a paper cup. The almond croisant more than made up for that though…

The coffee lived up to the hype, but was especially good as the “barista’s choice” – so few cafes make obvious recommendations about how you should sample their coffee, but there, on the board, was the recommendation to try the blend as an off the heat short long. So I did. And it was fruity and sweet.

Stephanie was very excited about the coffee, she was also very keen to know that we’d enjoyed it, without being intrusive. It was such a warm and friendly little shop filled with colourful bits of arts and craft, and decked out with clever furniture like wooden milk crate seats, and skateboard deck tables. It appears from their website, and beanhunter reviews, that they’ve only recently switched to 3rd Crack. That decision appears to have paid off. Also, when almost every (very positive) review on Beanhunter mentions the friendly service, you know you’re on a winner.

We had a lovely hour or so reading the paper, sampling the wares, and enjoying the coffee. You can find both 3rd Crack and Canvas on Facebook.


Brisbane Cafe Review: Uncle Joe’s Coffee House, Coorparoo

We’ve been driving past the old Red Rooster on Cavendish Road for about six months with the knowledge that it was slated to become a pretty special cafe. Brisbane, let me introduce you to the newest addition to our specialty coffee scene. Uncle Joe’s Coffee House. It’s pretty close to where we live so I’m very excited about the prospect of these guys opening on Saturdays (coming soon), and serving food that matches the quality of the coffee (also coming soon).

Adam, who was flying solo today because his business partner had a bit of a breakdown en route to work, is one of the nicest coffee people I’ve met. And coffee people, because caffeine is pumping through their veins, are generally some of the nicest people in the world anyway. He was busy, single handedly manning the beautiful and heavily customised Kees Van Der Western Mirage – it’s got longer than usual pre-infusion and enhanced temperature stability. Adam’s excitement about that was enough to mark him out as a guy with industry experience that is matched by the type of passion that keeps you getting up for an early morning commute from the Gold Coast to your brand new Brisbane cafe… for a 7am start. He weighs his shots and does other hallmark coffee geekery stuff to make sure the coffee is pouring sweetly and without too much cluttering bitterness or cloying roast-produced body. These guys are committed to getting the best shots out of the best beans. And I love that.

Here’s a Mirage in all its glory… just so you can see how special they look.

And here’s Uncle Joe’s Mirage in the wild.

The Supafly Blend isn’t named for the famous Joe Cartoon character – more for Adam’s reaction to tasting it once the decision was made to include the Rwanda Mig Maraba that rounds out the blend. The guys are committed to sourcing sensational beans from around the world, roasting them through their 3rd Crack Coffee Brokerage (and selling them green for keen home roasters like me).

The fitout was nice, full of earthy tones, nothing too cold, and full of bits and pieces of carefully chosen coffee paraphernalia.

The coffees were remarkably good. The blend was well balanced and delicious in milk, the Guatemalan was roasted light, just how I like it, so the characteristic sweetness wasn’t drowned out in a see of body and roastiness. And the coffees – as the sign says – were served at around 65 degrees. Perfect.

They’re also starting up a brew bar in the next few weeks, and Adam whipped us up a delicious Aeropress today on the sensational Guatemalan Santa Felisha that’s their current Single Origin (it was delicious in milk, outstanding as an espresso, and mind blowing as an Aeropress – Adam gave us a timer so we could track the changes in the flavour profile as it cooled, he said the 15 minute mark was the sweet spot – so we waited. And he was right.

The Aeropress coffee goes into the funky pouring kettle.

I’m thrilled to have a cafe producing this sort of coffee sourced from around the world by a world class sensory judge – Joe Hsu from Osir in Taiwan, who the cafe is named after – and blind tasted so us consumers are getting coffee that tastes good, not coffee sold on reputation alone. They’re still waiting on some top quality, high brow, porcelain cups – so they’re serving dine in coffees of all varieties in glassware at the moment – but this will be my local (alongside Grindhouse and Dramanti obviously).

Definitely check this place out. Add it to your coffee crawl itineraries. This was one of the best first time experiences I’ve ever had at a cafe, and I’ve been to lots. They’re only going to get better too as the fitout is finished, and the menu expanded. I seriously can’t think of a negative thing to say, even the music was good. Oh wait. Parking appears difficult. We parked out the back because we didn’t see the “tenant parking only” sign. There you go. But there’s a supermarket with plenty of space across the road, and the Coorparoo market next door, which also has heaps of parking. And people were just rocking up and parking out the front while we were there – so that’s not even really a negative.

They’ll be selling Aeropress kits with Able Disks and these funky kettles soon.

You can hit up Uncle Joe’s Cafe on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Brisbane Cafe Review: Fonzie Abbott Espresso, Hamilton

Micro-roasteries are popping up all over Brisbane, but until Fonzie Abbott opened its doors on Racecourse Road, one of Brisbane’s glamour strips was largely devoid of a decent cup. We spent a couple of years living on Brisbane’s northside, and working in Clayfield, and there was no way we were going to drive past Dandelion and Driftwood at Hendra, or the Coffeeguy at Wooloowin to one of the cafes in Hamilton.

Enter Fonzie Abbott, a roastery that operates as an annex to popular breakfast institution Vagelis.

We stopped by for a coffee and croissant earlier this week. And weren’t disappointed.

The fit out is pretty funky – and I was a big fan of the antique scales.

The white Wega didn’t fill me with confidence – it’s not my favourite type of machine, and the art on my flat white left a little to be desired. But it was tasty. Very sweet. Especially the single origin which I kicked off with, a Nicaragua La Bastilla, which was an absolute cracker. So rich.

The picolo and the flat white on the house blend were sweet and tasty.

The croissant was tasty. The staff were friendly. The beans I took home (well, to my parents), a Guatemalan, were great… It was a nice little stop, and if you’re looking for a coffee when you’re in the neighbourhood – I’d definitely endorse Fonzie Abbott.

You can find Fonzie Abbott on Facebook.


Brisbane Cafe Review: Dramanti Artisan Roasters, Wynnum

Dramanti has a cafe in the busy Brisbane CBD (which I’m yet to get to), but I was particularly excited when a friend on Facebook shared a picture of the machine that has just been installed in the freshly minted roastery in Wynnum. Brisbane’s first La Marzocco Strada. A machine of rare beauty, elegance, and ability.

Now that I’m a south sider a trip to Wynnum isn’t a daunting prospect anymore, but I took a car full of other lads with me just to see what we could see, and taste.

The roastery is situated in the heart of Wynnum’s town centre. Or what looks like a town centre, I’ve never really been to Wynnum before. It’s tucked behind Blockbuster. It’s a great setup. A low-fi fit out, with found wood, and recycled odds and ends used as furniture. We set ourselves up at the table which I think is what you’d call a “distressed” door – an old white door with the paint artistically sanded, stuck on a few 40 gallon drums. It might sound odd, but it works.

The roaster, a shiny Has Garanti, sits in the back of the mini-warehouse, and pumps out the cracking smell of roasting coffee (that’s a little roasting pun right there (beans crack as they roast)).

What really brings the fit out together – if you’ve been watching some renovation show like the Block – is the Strada. I can’t stress enough how beautiful this machine is.

But I can show you some pictures.

The owner, whose name, according to Facebook, is Dragan (who was an incredibly friendly chap, but more on that below), said he’d been waking up looking at photos on Stradas online while he waited for delivery. La Marzocco build these bad boys to order. He’s incredibly proud of his machine. Obviously. And rightly so.

I had ordered two coffees – both flat whites – one on the Brazilian Single Origin, A Fazenda Santa Ines, and the other on the Hit Me Baby (One More Time) House Blend. Which, for a blend named after a Britney Spears song, had a surprising amount of substance.

The tragedy of this visit for me was that thanks to a bout of man flu that I wasn’t quite over, I couldn’t really taste anything past the obvious. Which made me sad. The coffee was clearly tasty, the milk probably wasn’t quite as foamy as I’ve come to expect in a flat white, though was what a traditional flat white should be. If I wanted foam I should’ve ordered a cappuccino.

We got to Dramanti at around 3pm, on the second day of trading. It wasn’t hugely busy, I’d say it was steady. But in between bouts of salivating over the machine, and drinking my coffees, we had some of Dragan’s time and attention. He gave us the run down on the fruitiness of the Ethiopian Guji in the blend, and a bit about the Strada, and then he made us a pourover for our table to share. Which was terrific – both as a gesture, and in terms of flavour.

In short, I’ll be back when my nose isn’t blocked, probably multiple times. Even if it’s just to ogle the curves of that beautiful Strada one more time. My mates rated it, one of them is going back tomorrow, another said they served up one of the best hot chocolates he’d ever had.

Check them out on Facebook.

Brisbane Cafe Review: Pompidou, Balmoral

Pompidou is a quaint French themed cafe in the leafy suburb of Balmoral.

It’s a Di Bella account, and they do an admirable job of producing drinkable coffee from their 2-group Wega. My double shot flat white was strong and rich, Di Bella style. I’m starting to think that Di Bella probably works best as a single shot. It can be quite overpoweringly full bodied if prepared well as a double. My dinepanions said their coffees – a cappuccino, and a piccolo, respectively, were tasty.

The coffees were good. The breakfasts were fantastic.

What follows are pictures of my pork belly with poached egg, spicy relish, haloumi, bread, and baby spinach, with a hash brown on the side, the “pan meal” which is pretty much the ultimate big breakfast, a ratatouille with bacon and eggs, and an Eggs Benedict, with the hollandaise on the side. Each meal was delicious, and well worth the price of admission.

We’ll be back on the strength of the food alone, and the coffee wasn’t too shabby.


Brisbane Cafe Review: Belaroma Coffee Centre, Stones Corner

Belaroma has been a bit of a Sydney coffee institution for some time. One of Australia’s most famous baristas, Scottie Callaghan, is the face of their brand (check out his latte art skills in the video below). So one expects big things when they open up a “Coffee Centre” in one of Brisbane’s trendiest little cafe strips.

It was fun to see the barista using customised dosing tools, while the coffee inspired fitout, replete with laminated coffee sack tables, canvas prints of macro coffee photography, a coffee table made from a coffee machine, and a grinder lamp, and funky red wall brew bar setup also inspired confidence.

Belaroma also offers some light dining options..

The coffee was initially disappointing. The shiny La Marzocco (I couldn’t tell if it was a mistral or a mirage) promised so much.

The milk was a little too separated, and slightly too hot. The roast was a little too dark for my preference. And it was fairly bitter up front with a fruity and spicy acidity on the finish. Once the too foamy blend of milk and crema was gone it was actually a very pleasant coffee. I really loved the spiciness of the aftertaste, which the tasting notes on the blackboard identified as cardamon.


Toowoomba Cafe Review: Firefly

Toowoomba may be able to claim, per capita, to be the best coffee destination in Australia. I’ll know after my next visit, when I’ll check out a new specialty roaster I noticed yesterday. But what started as a movement with the Angel Cafe, which boasts Australia’s first Synesso, and began to come of age with Findos, the shopfront of Sleepless City Roasters, is now a bit of a coffee haven. Firefly rightly takes its place in this increasingly diverse scene.

Firefly serves up a couple of blends from Supreme Roasters, and a couple of single origins are on offer through the cold drip.

My double shot flat white was packed with body, and on the first sip smacked my mouth around. It mellowed a little bit towards the middle of the cup, and my wife, who’d already had her morning coffee, took a sip and declared it “good.” I’d say it was like a strong and pretty rich dark chocolate.

Breakfast was very tasty. Especially the haloumi on my Firefly Feast.

I went back for another coffee. A single shot flat white this time. And it was superb. So silky and sweet, I thought maple syrup, but I had that on the mind because of what I’d ordered to follow. It was on the Miss Katy blend, the first was on what I think was called the Southern Blend. I probably wasn’t paying as much attention as I should have been.

The Cold Drip with maple syrup on the side was just sensational and refreshing. Better with the maple syrup than without. I drizzled it over the ice before I poured the coffee into the glass. Winner.

This was a worthy stop, but I was glad to check in at Findos for a flat white before heading down the range.


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