We sat down with Hugh Kelly from ONA Coffee moments before being titled the Australian Barista Champion for the second year in a row.
Looking around here at the Melbourne International Coffee Expo, there are so many new ideas and innovations in the coffee industry, how is that important to what you do day to day?
An important part of my presentation this year was that there is all of this crazy innovation and there is heaps of interesting stuff that is happening within the coffee industry but it’s hard to connect that with customers, like if I start talking to my Mum about particle distribution or keeping my coffee degassed for the right CO2 percentage she is just going to look at me blankly and 99.9% of customers are going to do that as well.
I guess all of this innovation and effort is to make it easier and more consistent to produce delicious tasting coffee. Making it simple and easy is what the goal is and having people actually able to subscribe to the idea of specialty coffee. Innovation is leading to the ability to replicate a perfect cup every time and build trust with customers.
Do you ever see the innovations and inventions that are made for the Australian Coffee Championships, come into the cafes when you get home?
Yes, definitely. The EK43 grinder being used for espressos, that was popularised in competitions and we see that grinder a lot now in specialty coffee. Specific dosing tools that have been made for competitions are used in a lot of cafes now too. There is the Ona Coffee Distributer (O.C.D) which Sasa used when he won the World Barista Championships in 2015, we use that in all of our shops now to get the best consistency of our coffee between different baristas.
It was created basically to make coffee even in the basket before you tamp it, instead of using your hand you use this puck-shaped metal device that you spin on top of the coffee which makes everything even so your water flows through the coffee perfectly.
Are there any areas in the coffee industry that you would like to see more innovation?
Machinery needs to go a long way, we’ve gotten to a stage where the barista making coffee has progressed beyond where the machines are at. Having the ability to control all of your parameters and replicate stuff easily is something I would like to see a lot more of.
I also want to see a lot more understanding of bags, packaging and degassing of coffee so people understand when the right time to use it is, the why and how rather than guessing when the coffee is at its peak.
Processing at farms for consistency, so many coffees out there that could be extraordinary but they are ruined by something so simple as fermenting it for a little too long, but we starting to see innovative producers coming in and coming up with new techniques to control that, it would be grat to see that on a wider scale though.
Innovation is extremely important in the coffee industry. For a long time there hasn’t been complete control of all the variables involved at each stage from farm, roastery to café but were now starting to understand what these variables actually mean for us when the right knowledge and research is applied.