Strange Brew: A seasonal Crack of dawn

When it comes to coffee, Crack Kitchen aims to have an offering for all seasons, and by roasting their beans in-house according to season, the Franklin Street cafe can keep coffee-lovers happy whatever the weather.

Every Tuesday morning atop the Crack Kitchen’s mezzanine level, the cafe’s owner and master roaster Kim Palmer gets to work on his carefully selected batch of specialty grade coffee beans. Hailing from various places in Africa and South America, the onsite roasting allows for high quality specialty coffee to be sold fresh-poured or in wholesale packages.

Palmer says one of the first steps he takes to produce a flavoursome brew suiting the season is to roast the beans lighter in the warmer months and darker when the weather’s cool. To do so he uses a manual roasting process without relying on the pre-set digital technology found in some modern roasters.

“One of the arts of being a coffee roaster is trying to maintain a consistent blend per season knowing that coffee itself is seasonal,” Palmer says. “It’s a fruit, you can’t always get the same coffee so you need to first of all source that coffee, plan ahead for the roast that you’re trying to produce and always have an end in mind.

“I roast in the artisan style in small batches, relying heavily on the senses (smell, sight and sound), making continual adjustments that account for variables such as ambient air temperature, bean varietal, density and expected bean flavours. This ensures the specific properties of a bean can be realised and pronounced.”

Kim Palmer

To procure premium beans, Palmer sources them directly and ethically through Lattorre & Dutch Coffee Traders and Melbourne Coffee Merchants, who have close relationships with overseas coffee growers. Palmer says both traders work closely with farmers to improve their crops, cultivation methods and general maintenance of the produce. While this procurement process comes at a higher cost than most alternatives, Palmer states it enables him to maintain the quality of his seasonal coffee.

“In winter, you’re really looking to pronounce the chocolatey, caramel, vanilla-type flavours, extending the body,  so after you’ve had the coffee you can still taste it half-an-hour later. And that goes with the milk, so you get that really creamy flavour, it sits well in your stomach and warms you from the inside out,” Palmer says.

“In summer, people don’t want that bulkiness in the coffee, so we tend to steer towards really acidic, bright, fruity coffees like Kenyan or an Ethiopian (coffee beans) and that’s essentially what you’re tasting in the cup.

“Quite often people will steer away from the milk-based coffees and have long blacks, or cold drips because they don’t get that heaviness from the milk and they can really taste those fruity, bright flavours in the cup that don’t weigh them down on that summer’s day.”

Palmer uses a Probat coffee roaster, which enables him to roast 5kg batches of coffee beans at a time to obtain specific flavours and textures in his brews. The gentle aromas of the freshly roasted coffee permeate through the cafe, adding a light touch to the customer dining experience.

Crack Kitchen derives its name from the term ‘first crack’, which is the name given to the first temperature threshold for roasting coffee beans. The café’s elegant interior incorporates minimal decorative ornaments that neatly complement its clean white walls. Unpretentious, yet modern, sleek and charming, large windows invite natural sunlight to highlight the space.

With numerous flavour combinations and coffee variations to experiment with, Palmer says “coffee roasting is part art and part science” and enjoys tinkering with different specialty grade coffee beans to create unique blends and different tastes.

“You can trick profiles up and extend the palate by introducing coffees such as the Sumatra Wahana Estate [coffee bean], which by itself can be quite offensive almost [in terms of coffee flavour],” he says. “It’s got strong leathery tones, but if you add a small portion of that to your winter blend it really extends the palate and really rounds out the body.”

Palmer says his go-to coffee from Crack is the ‘magic’. Emanating from a trip to Melbourne a couple of years ago, it consists of textured milk served over double ristretto in a smaller cup.

“The ristretto shots pronounce the sweeter component of the shot,” Palmer says. “Two shots of sweet coffee in less milk make for quite a hit of flavour and caffeine.”

With an appetite for broadening the flavour of Crack’s coffee, Palmer says he is looking to test out an exclusive range of beans that will offer a distinct taste compared to that of his current offering.

“We’re always looking to excite… I’ve got my eye on a couple of little-known coffee beans that are more controversial that I’d like to start experimenting with and introducing to customers,” Palmer says. “It is important that you introduce it and not just serve it to a customer and expect them to like it because customers know what they like already.”

Crack Kitchen
13Franklin Street, Adelaide
Hours: weekdays, 7am to 4pm, weekends, 8am to 3pm
crackkitchen.com.au

Photography: Sia Duff

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