Wednesday, 30 July 2014

All stations to Grind Espresso

Grind Espresso was recently awarded the ‘Local Hero’ award by The Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Café Guide 2014. Since moving to Cronulla a decade ago, I have seen the café evolve from a slither of a space on the Kingsway into an institution that has been well and truly colonized by the local community. And while most of the action at this warm and convivial cafe takes place behind the gleaming La Marzocca machine manned by senior barista Dan Lumb, owner Richard Calabro also enjoys the theatre of turning out artisanal brews from his tricked-out coffee science lab.  I recently caught up with Calabro who demystified the various brewing methods. Here is his beginners' guide for home baristas keen to create hand-crafted java at home.

 The Japanese siphon.

Japanese siphon
The trick when it comes to crafting coffee using the Japanese siphon method is you need to make sure you can create the right vacuum. A Japanese siphon has two vessels, one of which you add water to, and the other one you add coffee to. A lightly roasted coffee is recommended. When the water heats up to the right temperature it starts to almost evaporate before it rises into the next chamber, which is only connected by a cloth filter.

The Japanese siphon method works on the principle of expansion and contraction, which enables the contraption to brew an infusion-style coffee. This water mixes with the coffee and you then need to stir it together with a bamboo spatula to agitate the coffee and release all the flavours. When you turn the heat off, it creates a vacuum effect. The brewed coffee then cools down and starts to siphon back into the original bowl where the water initially sits. And there you have the brewed coffee, ready to serve.

Richard Calabro, of Grind Espresso, demonstrates the pour-over method.                                     Photo: Carla Grossetti

A pour-over (filter coffee)
Filter coffee is going off. Why? Because it's childproof. It’s simple for anyone to make at home. Forget about the average coffee served in American diners as that is usually made using low grade coffee that is not of export quality. This makes it affordable to offer bottomless cups of coffee. In Australia, we use premium grade coffee and it is fantastic. A lighter roast is recommended. 

With a pour-over, you use 20-30g of ground coffee. You need to use 200-300ml of water just off the boil, pour into a little filter pot and then pour water over the top. You must then agitate the water with a paddle to release the flavours and it will filter through into another vessel or a cup and then you drink it. It’s as simple as that.

Chill with a cup of cold-drip coffee.

Cold-drip coffee 
Cold-drip is an interesting one. It’s a cold brew, a chilled coffee. We use cold water to brew the coffee by leaving it to drip over the ground coffee for 6 to 14 hours. It’s done with cold water and is one you can do at home. It will cost you about $200 for the unit and it’s a good little method.

With the cold-drip coffee, it takes so long to brew that it becomes thick, syrupy and sweet and almost tastes like a coffee liqueur without the alcohol. 
While many different origins would give you different flavour profiles, my favourite bean to use for this type of brew is the Burundi and the COE cup of excellence. The taste profile is insane: like chocolate and dark cherry.

The AeroPress uses the ideal water temperature and total immersion brewing that extracts the full coffee flavour. AeroPress uses a paper filter and a medium-roasted coffee. The formula is 20g of coffee and 100ml of water and the way it works is you pour the water into the vessel that contains the coffee. Under that is a paper filter. Under the paper filter is the metal sitting onto a cup. When you push down on the plunger, the machine creates air pressure similar to an old lever espresso machine. It creates a hydraulic pressure with water and air squeezing through the coffee, through the filter and into a cup and it makes for a clean brew with less grounds. 

An AeroPress costs about $50 and comes with about 50 filters. I could show someone in two seconds how to use it. It’s a simple winning machine for dummies to use. Some home baristas go out and spend $2000 on an espresso machine and they still don’t know how to get crema because mastering the machine requires preparation and a bit of artistic passion. However, if you focus on an alternate brewing method, like Aeropress, all you need to succeed is fresh coffee.  

Grind Espresso has an eclectic collection of stovetop contraptions for brewing coffee.  Photo: Carla Grossetti

Italian Stovetop
The Italian stovetop is still extremely popular with Europeans. Many people believe the stovetop gives the coffee a metallic, burnt taste so they use a cloth or paper filter. It’s mainly the eastern Europeans and Mediterranean who go for the unfiltered coffee. If you are making a stovetop espresso, you must add fresh coffee, ground to espresso, and wait for it to start to boil. When it starts to boil, it starts to percolate and that’s when you turn the heat off. The water will then be vacuumed up to the top chamber. If you don’t turn the water off after the coffee has boiled it will be so hot that it will go through the coffee too fast, release the bitterness and burn the coffee.  If you turn off the heat, it will still release, but it will just slow down the speed of the water, which will eliminate a lot of that burnt, bitter taste.

Turkish coffee encapsulates the exotic Eastern European experience.                 Photo: Carla Grossetti

Turkish coffee
Turkish coffee uses a centuries-old traditional method. Turkish coffee originated some 500 years ago in Turkey and is now enjoyed everywhere from Arabic and Mediterranean countries to eastern European countries, such as Romania and Croatia. It’s a very old method and it's also unfiltered, so you’re going to get the grounds at the bottom, but you are going to get a lovely sweet tasting coffee, too. It’s quite a pure form of coffee because of the fact that it is unfiltered. 

There’s a lot of debate around the brewing method behind Turkish coffee. Again, coffee brewed the Turkish way is simple and idiot-proof: use a three-cup pot ibrik, which is the traditional Turkish coffee pot; a four-cup ibrik; and even a 20-cup ibrik. The basic rule is one heaped teaspoon per cup and one for the pot. I would add sugar and I would also add spices such as cardamom. Turkish coffee is exotic, appealing and intriguing and bit more romantic because it offers something that traditional brewed coffees will not give you.

Senior barista Dan Lumb is the maestro of La Marzocco machine.                Photo: Carla Grossetti

Grind Lane is located at 4/15 Surf Rd, Cronulla. For more information about how to produce great-quality coffee at home, read my article in The Sydney Morning Herald's Good Food.  

Monkeying around on Zoo2Q

Australia’s most prominent skyline is at its glittering best at dusk. As daylight fades, and the sun glances toward the horizon, it streaks the sky with light, as if applying last-minute touches to a painting. This splendid sun-washed view is rendered even more dramatic when it’s accompanied by the violent shrieks of chimpanzees or distant hooooonk of an elephant’s ‘trumpet’. Zoo2Q is an all-new ‘adults-only’ luxe two-day guided walking package with enough surprises and adventures along the way to woo the most cynical ‘seen-it-all’ Sydneysider. 

The two-day tour starts at Taronga Zoo, which clings tenaciously to the hillside at Bradley’s Head, just a short 15-minute ferry ride from a very crowded and corporate Sydney CBD. After whizzing up to the top of Taronga via the Sky Safari cable car we meet indigenous guide Leon Burchill, who performs a heartfelt Welcome to Country ceremony, a ritual that has been part of Aboriginal culture for thousands of years.

Leon also plays a song on the didgeridoo, another requisite mark of respect for indigenous Australians, before breaking into an enormous smile and saying, ‘You’ve got your visas now. Welcome to Cammeraygal country’. 
Leon goes on to explain that the spirits of the Cammeraygal clan now know we’re here and welcome us to their land, in Sydney’s Lower North Shore. Despite the fact Leon belongs to another clan – more specifically Mossman’s Kuku Yalanji mob in Far North Queensland – he shares the Cammeraygal’s profoundly spiritual connection to the land.

Zoo2Q's indigenous guide, Leon Burchill.  
Zee-Zee at the zoo
Leon, who has worked as an actor and entertainer, has been guiding visitors through the zoo since 2006. His tour reveals the flora and fauna that has flourished for thousands of years and provides invaluable snippets of information about the area’s indigenous heritage. 

As Leon loops us around Taronga he picks out plants that offer medicinal and nutritional qualities. He also steers us to the macropods’ yard where we encounter redneck wallabies, kangaroos and cassowaries as well as a few bush turkeys (which he refers to as ‘freeloaders’) that have flown into the enclosure from outside the zoo. 

Having Leon on hand to add an indigenous perspective adds another layer to the experience: he shares stories about his spiritual animal totem, the white-bellied sea eagle, shows us how to filter silt from water using a grevillea flower, introduces us to Zee-Zee, the bearded dragon and explains why the echidna’s hind feet point backwards: “It’s to help push the dirt away when burrowing,” he says, matter-of-factly.

Monkey magic
Leon also points out the noisy pitta bird, which is on a constant efficiency drive with its distinctive ‘walk to work, ‘walk to work’ call and invites us to inhale the scent of the SouthEast Asian binturong, which whiffs of popcorn.

More wilderness awaits back at the main tent at the Roar ‘N Snore site, where, true to the spirit of luxury survivalist adventure, we are given flutes of sparkling wine and canapés to enjoy while the keepers cradle blue-tongue lizards and carpet snakes. 
After passing up the offer of a taste of wiggly mealy worms, the roast dinner is most welcome.The Zoo2Q package also includes a night tour of the zoo with head keeper Todd Rollins, where we gingerly pick our way along the path toward the lion’s den and leopard enclosure to watch the males prowl and preen.

Nearby, monkeys screech and our necks crane skyward as we hear what sounds like giant pterodactyls taking flight. 
As the colours in the sky desaturate, the noises and songs seem amplified as we observe the nocturnal creatures under the cover of darkness and listen to Todd talk about Taronga’s ‘pride’ and progress when it comes to conservation.  

 believes that through education and research we can inspire and create behaviour change to support species conservation and habitat preservation. Taronga is committed to helping animals in the wild through numerous research grants and in-situ projects," says Todd. 
After the tour’s end, we drag our carcasses up the hill to our luxury tents, where we are lulled to sleep by the squeaks, snuffles, screeches of animals.

Giraffes know how to strike a pose. 
Wild things
The view over Sydney and its Harbour the next morning inspires an air of calmness, brought on in part by the cool pinky-blue hues of the sky. Such airy musings are again shattered by a mob of monkeys who scream out an alarming volley of abuse at sun-up.

 After a light breakfast, we hotfoot it to the giraffe enclosure to feed them carrots for breakfast. If only we had time to groom ourselves with as much care as these slender-necked creatures, with features so gorgeous it’s hard to look away. 

They are like the Kardashians of the animal kingdom, all stylised poses, liquid brown eyes and long, fluttering lashes.  
As well as his encyclopedic knowledge of animals, keeper Todd has a healthy repertoire of fun facts. “Did you know that a giraffe weighs a tonne, but its poo is the size of an olive? A giraffe’s tongue is also 45 cm long and a new-born giraffe is taller than most humans. And, just like snowflakes, no two giraffes have the same spot pattern,” says Todd.

Guests at Roar 'N' Snore are lulled to sleep by the squeaks, snuffles and screeches of animals.     Photo: Carla Grossetti

It's really easy to escape the hustle and bustle on a Sydney Coast Walks' tour.                         Photo: Carla Grossetti 

The inside track

At about 8.30am we say goodbye to the tangy smells of Taronga Zoo to start our journey to Q Station. Our guide Ian Wells, of Sydney Coast Walks, has been sharing Sydney stories with visitors around Sydney for the last five years.

As well as helping us to interpret rock art that is of great significance to the area's original indigenous inhabitants, Ian takes us along a deserted track where we walk for kilometres without seeing another soul.  

Even long-time residents of Sydney agree this guided walk offers a fantastic perspective on their city. Around every other bend, Ian urges us to listen as he whispers stories about disgraced military men and interprets the panorama through the eyes of the early settlers.

As the day warms, we punch out of the grey-green bush past Chowder Bay and plonk down on Balmoral Beach, where we enjoy a picnic on the talcum-soft sand. After lunch, we hoist ourselves up and over the hills that hug the harbour until we hit Reef Beach. After boarding the Eco Hopper for a spot of impromptu whale watching, we skid across the bay to Q Station. Despite being situated just seven minutes’ by bus from the Manly Ferry, it’s really easy to escape here (despite what the convict graffiti will tell you). 

A baby humpback whale spotted in Sydney Harbour. 
A night in isolation
That glass of bubbles on arrival is made all the more seductive while watching a blood-red sun stain the sky. After getting in touch with our inner Attenborough all day, we convene for dinner at the Boilerhouse, where we hear countless colourful stories about disease and death and the haunted happenings at the former Quarantine House.

While staying in a place where hundred of people died doesn’t sound overly cheerful, in reality, the 4.5-star hotel has been loving brought back to life and the rooms are cute and comfortable, providing a soft landing after a day on the hoof.  Yeah yeah, of course every Sydney guidebook will mention Taronga Zoo, the spectacular walks along the harbour, and the seductive spooky heritage of Q Station. But the beauty of Zoo2Q is that it embroiders all these experiences together.

Under a blood-red sky... the view from Q Station.                               Photo: Carla Grossetti

Carla Grossetti was a guest of Zoo2Q. The three-day two-night package is on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month. Cost: $1200 per person. Exclusive tours on request. For more information, visit Zoo2Q