Decoding the Caffeine Code

By Ella Stening
27th Jul 2013

There is nothing simple about getting a coffee in Melbourne. For the most part, any café that's worth its salt will have a coffee menu that reads like a cocktail list, with flavour analyses, different brewing methods, and beans imported from this place, that place and the other place, all casually placed next to the few words we can understand - like '$3.80', 'soy' or 'coffee'.

It's overwhelming; it was never explained to you before; and it's embarrassing asking your hipster barista about it because you can almost feel him smirking at you from behind his beard when you say, "What the hell did I get this sparkling water with my coffee for? Am I going to be charged for this?"

Most people chicken out at the mere thought of steering away from their habitual brew, and I'm not going to be the one to tell you that there's something wrong with that. However, if you want to feel the satisfying ego-stroke that is understanding coffee jargon, we've taken a few little recurring menu demons and decrypted them for you, as well as sought out the best spot for certain brews around Melbourne. You're welcome.


Essentially, single-origin coffee is coffee grown within a single known geographical origin. Sometimes this is a single farm, or a specific collection of beans from a single country. The name of the coffee is usually the place it was grown. When you get a cup of coffee that is described as 'house-blend' or they haven't directly addressed the fact that it is single origin, this means there are beans from a few different places, i.e. farms, making up the blend. Blends are made to give a variety of flavours to a coffee, whereas a single origin is stand alone on the one type of bean.

Whether single-origin is purely marketing genius, or has an actual difference on your palate, it's probably only worth asking for it if your coffee is as black as an Arabian night.

Where to Get It

Proud Mary
172 Oxford Street in Collingwood / 03 9417 5930
Mon to Fri 7:00 am - 4:00 pm / Sat to Sun 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

The blend mecca, Proud Mary has a serious reputation amongst the coffee clubs of Melbourne. If you frequent breakfast haunts, then you would've undoubtedly tasted their blend somewhere in the city, as they are one of the major coffee suppliers in Melbourne. However, to get the best options, head to their home store in Collingwood; the list of single origins is a mile long, and the knowledgeable staff will help you sort out which will best suit your palate.  


Cold-drip is a bit of a fad right now across cafes in Melbourne, but rightly so.
To make it, your barista will drip chilled, filtered water over coarsely ground coffee for up to twelve hours. What you get at the end of it is a liqueur-like beverage with very low acidity and great sweetness that feels thick and mouth-coating. A refreshing change from your average Farmer's Union.  

Where To Get It

St Edmonds
Rear 154 Greville Street in Prahran / 03 9525 0473
Mon to Sat 7:00 am - 4:00 pm / Sun 7:30 am – 4.00pm

This cute and quirky little café hiding round the corner from Greville Street is actually quite a notable and knowledgeable coffee house. Everyone forgets they have cold drip here and, for that reason, it's the sweetest, most decadent brew you can get. Served in a cute little bell shaped glass on ice in an old San Bitter bottle, pair it with the house porridge served with caramelized banana, quinoa and pecans.


Pour-over refers to a type of brewing that is for serious coffee snobs. Basically, it's a method that was developed in Japan where water is poured in a thin, steady stream over a filter cone. It can take up to five minutes to brew it properly, but the liquid is prized for its lack of bitterness.

Where to Get It

Fifty Acres
65 Bridge Road in Richmond / 03 9421 0296
Mon to Sat 7:00 am - 4:00 pm / Sun 8:00 am - 4:00 pm

Fifty Acres offers the famous Dukes Coffee Roasters' pour-over, alongside the house blend. The place is simplicity in the best sense, with minimalistic interiors inspired by French countryside, teamed with the iconic Melbourne café cardboard cut-out. Enjoy your fancy coffee alongside a plate of balsamic roasted mushrooms on toasted brioche smothered in chilli butter. Drooling.


This is one for those who favour drinks that look like they've come straight out of the lab. With syphon coffee, the beans are roasted at a much lower temperature than other types and remain fairly green, even after being in the oven. Post grinding, the powdered beans are steeped in hot water and stirred. The coffee drink is then pulled through a fabric filter from its pot, into a clear receptacle, using a natural cooling and vacuum process. Syphon coffee comes served in a glass beaker and is more like having a glass of wine – it's a method that brings out the abstract flavours in coffee, like lavender, raspberries, or even buttered toast.

Where to Get It

Auction Rooms
103-107 Errol Street in North Melbourne / 03 9326 7749
Mon to Fri 7:00 am - 5:00 pm / Sat to Sun 7:30 am - 5:00 pm

Recently voted the best café in Melbourne for the billionth* time in a row, Auction Rooms has syphon coffee down pat. You can get it there on any average day at their specialised coffee bar, but if you're looking for a little special treatment they hold cuppings on Monday nights, where the talented baristas will brew the latest blends in all the fancy ways. Make sure you drill the baristas on the coffee types, as this is the crèma de la crèma of Melbourne coffee houses.

*(Totally accurate counting).

Editor's Note: Click here to find out where the TUL team get their daily cup(s) of Joe.

Image Credit: Pinterest

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