Kim Loupus is reviving the craft of wood-roasted coffee. Loupus, owner and roaster at the Wood Roaster in Marrickville, was on the hunt to find something different when he discovered that no one in Australia was wood-roasting coffee. His facility has been operating since 2012 with a one-of-a-kind roasting machine that he had custom built in Italy.
“Back in the old days they used to manufacture coffee this way,” he says. “But then when gas was invented, they abolished this method because it was too expensive. Gas fires up right away and in 15 minutes, you’re roasting. With wood fired, it takes about an hour and a half to start the machine and you’re burning a lot of timber.” To Loupus, taste is more important than speed. “The cost of actually manufacturing the product is double compared to anyone else and the quality of the product is superior to anything else,” he says.
Loupus uses local iron bark from sustainably managed forests that has been dried to burn hotter and cleaner. “There’s probably 15 companies in the world still manufacturing over timber today,” he says.
“Wood roasting coffee dries it out really well. It caramelises the beans and it makes a distinct flavour. The roasting machine roasts around 60 kilos every 80 minutes. We roast about 1.5 tons every week.”
Loupus only uses specialty-grade green coffee beans sourced from farms in Colombia and Ethiopia as well as Brazilian beans sourced from other suppliers. Different kinds of beans are roasted separately in order to make sure they are made just right. “We make sure that the Ethiopian beans get a different discharge temperature; Brazilian beans get a different discharge temperature. The roasting curve is different. Bigger beans, smaller beans, more humidity – these are big factors in all of this.
“Wood roasting doesn’t give a full smoky flavour like you get out of a smoke oven; you can taste more flavour of the actual coffee,” says Loupus. Time Out Sydney’s Restaurants and Cafés Editor Freya Herring can still detect the smoke though, and loves it. For her, the coffee is “deep in smoky, chocolaty tones. It’s not like any other coffee I’ve had in Sydney.”
You can get your hands on wood roasted coffee at several cafés around town including at Loupus’ own café, Il Espresso in Darlinghurst, La Petit in Glebe and Koi Dessert Bar in Chippendale. You can also order wood roasted coffee beans, decaf beans, and pods online from the Wood Roaster.