The DeLonghi Test

Let me say upfront that I always prefer drinking coffee with someone else in a cafe, restaurant, coffee shop or wherever. Although they represent the most significant components, there is more to a good coffee experience than simply the taste, aroma and presentation of the coffee – the venue, the cup (!!), the people you are drinking coffee with, etc. But that said, there are many times that you will want to drink coffee at home and unless you have a very friendly and accommodating barista in your life, that is going to involve a coffee machine of some description.

Most people are not in a position to purchase a commercial-grade machine and so, having moved on from filter-coffee and plungers, there has been an amazing uptake of coffee machines that have specifically designed for in home use. I have had three such machines over the journey – a Saeco automatic machine, a built-in Miele automatic (I hope the people who bought my house appreciate that little bonus!) and my most recent purchase – a DeLonghi ECAM23.210.B (see image above – retail value approximately $1300 when I bought it about two years ago).

The good thing about this machine is that you can adjust the amount of coffee to be ground (beans are ground freshly each time) and the volume of coffee dispensed. Once you have programmed those into the machine, you can almost guarantee a consistency of strength and, depending on the brand of coffee purchased, flavour. Typically, for price and convenience, I purchase either Vittoria or Lavazza coffee from my supermarket.

And, here’s the crunch question – does it make a good cup of coffee? The answer is – yes, it makes a good cup of coffee. Not a brilliant cup of coffee but a good cup of coffee. On the existing Geelong Coffee 5-star scale, I would give it a 3.5.

That means that, by my reckoning, 18 of the 65 cafes I have visited to this point of the journey have provided a coffee experience that is not as good as the one I can have at home with my DeLonghi. Another 23 scored the same 3.5 star rating as my DeLonghi. That’s basically two-thirds of the cafes I have been to exceed the performance of my home machine – disturbing to say the least.

And here’s an example of what I mean. In the two photos that appear below, you can see the two cups of coffee I have had today. In the first photo, you will see the coffee that I purchased at Customs House on the Geelong Waterfront this morning. It’s hard to see from the angle of the photo but the coffee was served in a cappuccino cup. And look at the crema – or more correctly, look at the complete lack of a crema. That photo was taken within 20 seconds of the coffee arriving at my table, so there had been no chance for an existing crema to have dissipated before the photo was taken. In the other photo, a cup of coffee made by my DeLonghi machine – no human intervention, using standard supermarket-grade beans. Great crema and, of course, served in a tulip cup.

poorcrema delonghi

Coffee from Customs House

Coffee from my DeLonghi

It became apparent this morning, when that coffee was presented to me by the waitress – not only is there a severe shortage of top-line baristas in Geelong, there appears to be a serious shortage of people who even know about coffee. If I had been the waitress this morning, I could not have served that coffee to a customer. Whilst the taste was satisfactory, the presentation was poor. Imagine if your bacon and eggs was served with the yolks broken and running all over the plate. The chef would insist on re-making the dish before serving. Why can’t baristas and wait staff take the same pride in their presentation?

You can imagine that my review of Customs House won’t be that good but if you want to read it, click here

Geelong baristas – life your game!

Geelong Fresh Foods

 

One thing that I have found since moving to the area is that there are a few stand-out shops in which you can buy really good fresh food ingredients. If I’m in Geelong West, one such shop is Geelong Fresh Foods, located right in the heart of the Pakington Street (Geelong West) shopping precinct. Clearly, their expertise is fresh fruit and vegetables but they also have a wide range of delicatessen items, breads and plenty of other great stuff. Most recently, they have adjusted the store layout on the Pakington Street side of the shop (the shop has a back entrance onto a supermarket car park as well) to include a small – and I mean really small – cafe area.

In total, the seating area accommodates six or seven people at rather narrow benches. Apart from coffees, they also serve light meals such as focaccia, wraps and the like as well as cakes and slices – all sourced locally from Born and Bread Bakehouse. I ordered my requisite long black and was surprised to see it served in what I can only describe as a tea cup – the sort that you might see at a CWA afternoon tea. I must say that it felt really weird drinking coffee from a cup like that!

The coffee tasted really good with a good crema but I couldn’t feeling like I was sitting in the vegetable department of a local grocery store. The checkout area is immediately adjacent to the cafe area and only separated by waist-high benches. In fact, I think if I had been designing a cafe for that area, I probably would have moved the registers to where the cafe is and tucked the cafe in the corner where the registers are currently. That would have allowed a more intimate, cafe like experience rather feeling a little exposed right in the centre of the action.

If you are planning to head to Geelong Fresh Foods for a coffee, there are also a few tables out on the footpath where you can partake but because of the design of the building (i.e. solid window across the front of the building and the door door at one end), the outside area just doesn’t feel like it is part of the cafe.

That said, the coffee was good (albeit it in a weird cup!) and worth a second one if you are there.

 

Address: 171 Pakington Street
Suburb: Geelong West 3218
Web Site: www.geelongfreshfoods.com.au
Telephone: 5221 6004
Recommended By: @jinakula
Open: Seven days per week
Price: $4.00
Coffee Suppliers: Unknown
Headline: Better-known for its fruit, veggies and other fresh foods, the coffee is really good. Unusual cups for coffee. Space is VERY tight.
Coffee Rating: Four stars

Spontaneous Express Cafe

 

Sometimes, you order coffee knowing that it is going to provide a caffeine hit without delivering a fantastic taste experience. Such is the case when it is early on a work day and you are standing on the rail platform, knowing you have an hour on the train ahead of you and you are ordering a take-away coffee to blow away the cob webs.

So, there I was at 7:30am, standing the in the queue at Spontaneous Express Cafe at Geelong Railway Station with a few other semi-slumbered commuters, ordering a caffeine-laden pick-me-up, get-me-started, take-away coffee. The happy smiling attendant was a good start and apart from insulting my coffee snobbery by asking whether I wanted a small, medium or large long black, the interaction was positive. One of the down sides of the very excellent insulated take-away coffee cups is that they hold their heat really well, which means fifteen to twenty minutes of balancing the coffee, trying not spill any, whilst travelling in a north easterly direction on a regional train, waiting for the temperature to drop sufficiently to allow consumption.

I am like one of those farmers who complains about the lack of rain and after about what seems to be about one hour’s rain, complains that the paddocks are too wet – I complain that cappuccino cups make the coffee cool too quickly and that insulated coffee cups keep the coffee too hot for too long! There’s no pleasing some people!

And so, to the taste – quite frankly, it was an ordinary cup of coffee. Not disgracefully awful but certainly not the place that you would take someone if you wanted to display the best coffee in the Geelong region. I am sure that there are lots of people who buy their first cup of coffee each day from the good folks at Spontaneous Express and all power to them.

I’m guessing I won’t be one of them …

One other thing before I go – look out for another post later today, relating to service in coffee shops!

 

Address: Railway Terrace (inside Geelong Railway Station)
Suburb: Geelong 3220
Web Site: N/A
Telephone: 0410 062 270
Open: Seven days per week
Price: $3.50
Coffee Suppliers: Unknown
Headline: It is what it is – a take-away coffee, designed primarily to kick-start the day for hundreds of rail commuters as they head off to Melbourne. Satisfactory in that context but not somewhere you’d go to have a great coffee experience.
Coffee Rating: Three stars

Sea Eyes

 

The good folks at Sea Eyes in Anglesea might have been a bit fortunate that I chose to visit on a day which simply couldn’t be any better suited to sitting in the outside dining area and enjoying lunch and a coffee. Sunny, 28 degrees and a light breeze just gave whatever followed a real leg-up before we started. That said, this is a coffee review site and not a weather report and so, I should focus on that which was served!

The menu at Sea Eyes is what I would describe as “family-friendly beachside restaurant” – many cafes restrict their menu to sandwiches and other similar snacky foods whereas Sea Eyes extends this to meal that involve the use of knives, forks and chips. You can choose to sit inside the cafe or under umbrellas out the front. The cafe has big windows and so, with them fully open during my visit, even being inside gave you a feeling of being a bit “inside outside”. An address like Great Ocean Road suggests sweeping views and cars and caravans whistling past within inches of your table but be not concerned – this is more like a small suburban shopping strip, separated from the highway by a car park.

And so to the coffee.

I’ve have state up front that I’ve never been a great fan of Grinders coffee. A number of cafes near my previous address used to use Grinders and generally speaking provided a sub-standard cup of coffee. That may have been the baristas. That may have been the coffee. Either way, I’ve generally avoided Grinders where possible in recent times. But at Sea Eyes, I was caught on the hop – I had already ordered my lunch before I’d noticed the brand and so Grinders it was.

Imagine my surprise, then, when my long black arrived and it was certainly worth a four-star rating. It wasn’t the absolute best coffee I’ve had but certainly worth a rating that exceeds “good”. The cup wasn’t exactly the right shape but it also wasn’t a cappuccino cup. The crema was really good and the taste really good, too!

All in all, a great place to have lunch and, of course, to have a really good cup of coffee too!

 

Address: Shop 12-14, 86 Great Ocean Road
Suburb: Anglesea 3230
Web Site: www.facebook.com/Sea-eyes-418971054935969
Telephone: 5263 1010
Open: Seven days per week
Price: $4.00
Coffee Suppliers: Grinders
Headline: No doubt assisted by the first really warm, sunny day since my move, but just a great place to sit outside and enjoy a really good cup of coffee.
Coffee Rating: Four stars

Customs House

 

Let me talk about the venue first – what a beautiful, historic building, right in the heart of the Geelong CBD. As the name suggests, the Customs House has played a significant role in Geelong’s maritime history. Built in the 1850’s to replace a temporary building on the foreshore, it has been restored in the early part of this century and now houses a restaurant and bar. The area immediately out the front of the building is also available as an outdoor dining area, overlooking a grassed area and, in the distance, the Carousel building on the water’s edge.

poorcrema

I ordered some breakfast and the usual long black coffee. The food was really tasty and beautifully presented. The coffee, however, was a massive disappointment. Served in the wrong sort of cup, it had virtually no crema – take a look at the photo and see for yourself! It had no visual appeal and, while it tasted OK, it was a really poor cup of coffee – in fact, if the surroundings weren’t so pleasant, my rating would have been even lower.

If we are to believe the plethora of so-called reality television programs, chefs rush about making sure that the presentation of their food is absolutely perfect or else the dish is simply not served. How often do we hear these self-styled culinary experts on Masterchef and similar programs getting themselves all hot under the collar about how the food looks before they even taste it? And yet, many baristas – the coffee equivalent of a chef – seem to have no concerns about how their coffee is presented. In all seriousness, based on how it looked, today’s coffee could well have been made by a dripolator or even from instant coffee.

And once again, we are talking about an iconic Geelong landmark in, arguably, the most tourist-focussed area of the CBD.

This morning, I visited two waterfront cafes that weren’t open at 9:00am (on a Saturday!). I could have chosen a cafe that has received a one-star review from me here at Geelong Coffee and another (today’s) which has only got a two and a half because of its surroundings. Based on my experience thus far, only the Sailors Rest (which to be fair received a four-star from me) could have given me a coffee that I would rank as good coffee or better.

Everyone keeps telling me that we want to see people out and about spending money in Geelong and yet, right there on the waterfront, I have a 20% chance of getting what I would describe as a good coffee – two venues closed and two serving less than satisfactory coffee in our premium tourist precinct.

Strange days indeed

I have every reason to believe that the menu at the Customs House would be really good – just don’t go there for the coffee.

 

Address: 57-59 Brougham Street (facing the Waterfront)
Suburb: Geelong 3220
Web Site: www.customshouse.biz
Telephone: 5246 6500
Open: Seven days per week
Price: $3.50
Coffee Suppliers: DiBella
Headline: Arguably one of the most beautiful locations in Geelong. Historic. Classy. Intimate. Food was good. Coffee wasn’t.
Coffee Rating: lessthanthree