I’ve been a busy little beaver these past few weeks. Two new jobs getting me up at 5am, 7 days a week. My various bicycles have been letting me down, making for nervous train rides in peak hour, shoved into nooks, crannies and armpits. The golden rule I have found is, if you need to be on time, you wont be. Missing connections, sprinting from one platform to the next. Metro is no longer my buddy.
Following one of these frantic mornings and a busy Sunday service at the Duchess, the crew downed some after work beers and watched Eoghan, the new recruit as he piled ripe peaches precariously atop his “Devonshire Syphon Infuser”. Shane, Andy and I stood around in the back kitchen throwing around ideas about how to make it work without a) Falling apart b) Dripping everywhere c) Spilling great chunks of ripe peach into a perfectly brewed syphon. What Eoghan eventually decided on was made with haste but came up with the best tasting signature drink of the evening. A gently peach and caramel flavored, very clean tasting brew(I think this was achieved by using a second paper filter in the pouring process).
The following is an extract of what I wrote for Beanscene, figuring it would be a wee bit foolish to write all the same information twice. The broad overview of the event was that it was a great turn out with some amazing creativity in the signature drink department. Sadly four of the competitors went over time(I don’t blame them, the Japanese competition allows 15 minutes for the same presentation) and that spilled over into the rest of the event. It was safe to say that when the judges finally came to a decision at 11:45pm on a Sunday evening and I had to be at work at 6:30am the next day, I was more interested in my pillow than the winners.
Three customers walk in the door of your cafe, they look serious. They stride directly to the counter and ask for two identical Syphons of the Nicuraguan La Esperanza Cup of Excellence #19 and for their third beverage, they want you to show your creativity and suprise them. After ordering, the trio also let you know that they only have ten minutes in which you can make all of these and on top of that, “Could you tell us everything you know about La Esperanza?”.
Seven competitors experienced exactly that on Sunday as Auction Rooms hosted the first Syphon Championship ever to be held in Australia.
Johnny Vroom from Proud Mary walked away with the title of Victorian Syphon Champion, a ticket to the nationals in Syndney and a swag of Hario products. He was true to his name and sped through the ten minute presentation time with skill, never lacking on keeping the judges informed. He described the coffee as having a lemon acidity with a sweet, long, caramel finish. His brew parameters were 25 grams of coffee with 250ml of water with a 30 second crust break. He began by infusing toasted coconut and coffee in his first Syphon, left it to chill in an ice bath and went on to prepare his comparative Syphons. When the judges were sipping happily, he added vanilla syrup, a cherry reduction and a small amount of brandy. He then placed it in a soda stream to be carbonated. What was produced was a lightly sparkling, chilled, balanced Syphon, enhanced by the warmth of the Brandy.
Proud Mary certainly was proud as it took second place also with Kris Wood breezing through with his competition veteran calm. Sticking to his penchant for minimalism, he produced what the judges recognised as the most technically perfect Syphons of the evening. For his signature drink, he wanted to enhance the already present lemon acidity, so Kris increased his dosage significantly and upped the brew time to 50 seconds. It was a brilliant demonstration to the judges of a coffee presenting differing flavors when produced in a radically contrasting manner. He was also the only competitor to briefly brush on the history of Syphon coffee and the Japanese desire for low levels of turbidity.
New kid on the block, Eoghan Fitzpatrick from The Duchess had been up all night constructing his, “Devonshire Syphon Infuser”. A wooden tripod that supported hollowed out peaches, crammed with home made caramel. Once his higher dosed and more agitated Syphon had been brewed, he poured it through the center, creating the most beautiful signature beverage of the evening. A gently peach flavored, sweet and floral brew.
Jamie Elfman from Eclipse had a unique technique that produced the most exceptional tasting indentical Syphons of the evening. He used a finer grind with a 16 gram dose and a 36 second infusion, looking for orange blossom. He agitated using eight turns and pointed out his three layers of gasses, ground coffee and liquid in the brewing process. He also let the brew cool significantly before allowing the judges to taste. For his signature drink, he infused anise in the bottom bowl of the Syphon then proceeded to make liquid chocolate bullets. I would have drank the whole thing but that may have been a little greedy. Unfortunately due to going overtime, Jamie was disqualified.
Emily Ch’ng from Monk Bodhi Dharma is one talented lady. Her name is on the roll call for every Australian coffee event so the Syphon competition would be no different. She found notes of pineapple when she was cupping the Nicuraguan and tried to recreate with a 45 second extraction and a crust break at 20 seconds. She also employed a popular move of the evening, using a cold cloth to speed up the drop down process. For her signature, she infused hibiscus syrup, raspberry essence , orange blossom water and jasmine flower tea. Emily also rimmed the judges glasses with crushed rosewater toffee, creating an elegant, delicate and delicious signature beverage. Pulling the unlucky first spot, sadly Emily also went over time.
Kiril Shaginov’s routine was supremely polished and rehearsed on his home turf of Auction Rooms. He began with presenting a purified Norwegian water to the judges, spoke in depth about where the coffee had come from then proceeded to prepare his signature beverage within a Hario hand grinder. He ground cacao and panela sugar, asking the judges to take in its aromas and made a Syphon using the grounds. His Syphon recipe was 21 grams of coffee for a 43 second brew time, using the cold cloth method. He then poured his beverages through an aerator, commonly used in wine. When probed about this method, he said he couldn’t put his finger on what it did to the coffee, just that it added an element that he believed it couldn’t be without. Kiril was stalled a little when his burners took longer than expected to heat and for his overtime, was disqualified.
Head Barista from Auction Rooms Will Glover brought decent tunes and a wry humor to the evening. The first thing that attracted the eye while he set up was the peculiar use of Seven Eleven slurpee cups. It all became apparent when for his signature beverage, he prepared a coffee style slurpee, using Panama Geisha ice cubes. He prepared his Syphons using 25 grams of coffee, a 37 second brew time and a cupping grind, highlighting the lemon acidity. He also spoke about turbidity and Syphon quality but juggling the ice and slow burners also meant that Will lost time and was also disqualified for being over time.
As midnight on Sunday drew closer and the beers were running out, the trio of judges nodded to one another and called out the winners, bringing to a close what promises to be a revolution for Australian coffee competitions. Keep an eye on the AASCA website for further details on the National Syphon Championships being held in Sydney later this year.