But first, coffee
The world of coffee can be all-consuming, overwhelmed by extraction, bean density and solubles. What happened to just making a great-tasting cuppa? Brent Deller has the answer, creating a recipe for consistency through knowledge and training – resulting in the perfect pour, every time.
Well balanced in acidity and medium in body, with notes of wild berries and a sweet milk chocolate finish, it’s hard to believe First Batch’s Noosa blend, almost never made it past Brent Deller’s lips.
It was just something I developed for myself, I liked the taste profile. I’m a firm believer that taste is king, regardless of grade,” he says, taking another sip of his espresso.
“We’re roasting the Noosa blend every day now, which is more of a specialty style coffee, designed for your educated coffee drinker, whereas our Venture blend is a good all-rounder; it’s amazing as a white base and black base and for someone who just likes good coffee. It was the first blend we developed here on Venture Drive.”
Not only a hit with Brent’s regular customers, independent judges at the Hobart Fine Food Awards were also impressed, hailing the Noosa blend overall coffee champion of 2017.
The secret behind First Batch Coffee Roasters’ award-winning coffee is a unique air roasting system, which controls all of the variables and roasting parameters to ensure every single roast is consistent.
There’s no human error with our roasting. The only variable is the green beans, and that comes down to our responsible sourcing. We don’t blend blends, we don’t need to try and hide inconsistencies between batches that we roast, and that’s purely because of this system,” he says.
“And our 2kg recipe is scaled to the 25kg roaster perfectly. A traditional roaster might have a 500g sample roaster and roast until they achieve the numbers they want, and then need to replicate that on their production roaster, which is more product and time; whereas for us, the roasting parameters are exactly the same between our two roasters. It’s a game changer in my opinion.”
Having worked for one of the world’s largest coffee roasters, Brent’s forward-thinking approach to business draws on his experience in ruling out variables to ensure consistency through knowledge and training – which is applied the whole way through, from bean to brew.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned in this industry is people pay $4 for a coffee. Why pay $4 again tomorrow when it’s a very different cup? It’s frustrating, and that’s the message I’ve heard for the last 17 years. Loyalty is not price driven, it’s attitudinal and the whole experience and knowing what you’re getting is a big part of that,” he says.
If we can provide exactly the same quality whole beans to our shops with the same quality training and support to every single café we supply, then every First Batch coffee brewed should be amazing. I believe 50 per cent of the cup of coffee is the person who makes it, so we put a lot of energy into educating and fostering the talent of the baristas in the shops we supply. They don’t only represent the café they work in but they represent our brand and someone will walk in and say, ‘Your coffee is amazing, we just bought a cafe, where do you get your coffee from?’ That’s why we don’t knock on doors, we let our shops do the talking.”
Every week when Brent delivers the coffee, he also checks the equipment and calibration, and seeks feedback from the customers. And given the watertight nature of the roasting system, if there is an issue with the coffee, they can drill down into that specific batch and pull the data from it.
“That’s what we did for the big multi-national I worked for and when I started First Batch Coffee Roasters two years ago, I wondered why we couldn’t do that on a smaller level and really help the mum and dad cafes, people who are passionate about coffee, by taking that variable away so they can focus on growing their businesses,” says Brent.
First Batch also offers contract roasting for business owners who want to develop their own blends.
You can have your own signature blend. Come in on Monday and take home your fresh coffee, knowing you’ve blended it, you’ve roasted it. Once we develop and save your recipe, it recreates it instantly because we roast it in the same ecosystem,” Brent says, explaining this service will be available early next year.
“Our coffee roasting capacity is huge. We can roast four to five tonnes a week 9am to 5pm, without the normal roasting variables, achieving exactly the same bean colour internal and external.”
In 2009, Brent launched his first business baristatools.net, selling wholesale equipment out of his garage, then in 2014, he opened The Coffee Training Co. which has become a sister company to First Batch Coffee Roasters operating out of his Noosa roastery.
“We love the Sunshine Coast, there are a lot of good roasters here, but particularly at this end of the Coast, there are three or four good roasters and more have come along since we opened. It drives performance and quality, and more people seem to gravitate towards that,” he says.
Considering coffee is the second most traded commodity after oil, the skills of a well-trained barista are highly sought after. And with the industry evolving at a rapid rate, even teachers are having to undergo regular training, for example milk is now textured to have the consistency of wet paint, rather than aerating to create foam.
The Coffee Training Co. has also recently partnered with United Synergies to help unemployed youth find employment.
“It’s been really exciting to see these kids come in, with a real checkered past, and they start making coffee and start opening up, they’re different people. Three weeks later they’re in the industry working and it’s given them purpose,” says Brent.
With Australia being one of the leading countries for innovation in coffee, Brent says the boundaries need to continue to be pushed, without compromising on taste.
“Looking back, in the late ‘90s where there was a 60/70ml extraction and a rep would come in and calibrate your grinder and tell you not to touch it and they’d be back in two weeks. Whereas now, we calibrate every shot, it’s come such a long way, it’s really exciting,” he says.
The coffee industry follows the wine industry; seven years ago everyone had a little wine fridge at home and were doing wine master courses, now everyone has a one group coffee machine and mini grinder at home, and are coming along to courses at our training company to make better coffee at home. But at the end of the day, is it a good cup of coffee, does it taste good?
“We now do that with wine; if it tastes good, we’ll go back and buy it, and I think coffee will get back to that point, there’s only so far you can push it – weighing coffee in and out, reading soluble; how much science do we really need to know it’s a good cup of coffee?
“And that’s what I like about our Noosa blend, it just tasted really good, the roast profile was awesome, the numbers add up, it tastes good, nominate, it was that simple.”