Single Origin Roasters - Sideshow

Becca Johnstone

52-58 Reservoir Street


As promised, this week in Bon Vivant land is all about part deux of our Single Origin Roasters 2-fer. Last week it was all about the Café and Chef Matt Rothman’s delicious winter menu, but now it’s time to bring it back to what first sparked my curiosity with this place: glorious, glorious coffee. I make no efforts to hide my straight up caffeine addiction. I daresay that when I gave up coffee for Lent this year I nearly lost my mind. But luckily I soon had the loving arms of the Single Origin Roasters Sideshow to fall in to – a place that is sheer decadence for a real coffee lover.

If you go for a wander down Reservoir Street, just past the Café you might do a double take and think you’ve stumbled upon a rather brazen meth lab (with elegant fittings and less… well… meth). On closer inspection of the Kono syphons and halogen heat lamps you will realize you have stepped into serious coffee territory (just in case you hadn’t noticed the monster espresso machine to your right). Housed in the front part of the Fracks showroom, Sideshow is a purpose-built coffee haven, specializing in Slow Brew methods to help showcase a plethora of single origin beans and of course, doing a roaring takeaway trade. Baristas Joe Cutcliffe and Charles Cameron generously gave up some time to give me the rundown on the ins and outs and the who’s and why’s of the Single Origin Roasters Sideshow.

Having opened up late last year, the 8 metre square space that is Sideshow has been making waves – and not just of the ‘Third’ variety. Arguably one of the best places in Australia (and most certainly Sydney) to experience coffee, the space was custom built for flexibility with no expenses spared on obtaining the finest, best-suited gear for the many extractions on offer. Unlike other boutique coffee establishments around town, there is a strong Japanese influence both in technique and equipment at Sideshow – something that must be attributed to Head Barista, Shoji Sasa and his extensive research. The guys exclusively import Kono syphons and pair them with locally produced, hand blown glass chambers. These balance over a rather nifty halogen heating system that is all about precision, allowing them absolute temperature control. It is a true science – and for a gal that did 12 units of major works and essays for the HSC, it really does wrinkle my brain. The latest addition of an industry-first milk tap, connected to a 20L tank in the fridge, full of farm-direct milk has also been getting quite a bit of attention. Removing plastic bottles from the equation means less stress on the old environment, which in turn means I won’t judge you as harshly for having milk in your coffee. Win/win.

Single Origin Roasters are obviously known for just that: premium, sustainably produced beans from a single origin (and if you’re lucky, a single Estate). While they have a pretty cracking house blend that has seen me through many a boring meeting, the singles and their stories are what intrigue me. Just this week alone my palate has been to Panama, Sumatra, Tanzania and Colombia. The team at Single Origin Roasters is uncompromising on the quality of their beans, it just so happens to be a major bonus for us ethically minded folk that their imports are always some form of certified organic, forest friendly or Fair Trade (and occasionally a combination of all three).  In this respect they are certainly echoing a shift in the industry – it’s all about building relationships with the producers. It’s about being hands on, visiting the coffee regions regularly and not just picking up the best beans at the best price, but looking at what they can do for the entire community.  Like everything that falls into the sustainable/ethical/happy category, you may pay a little more. But when you consider that 100 people have handled your coffee before it even hits the cup, it truly is a bit of a miracle at $4.

Charles and Joe are examples of a new generation of Baristas – these guys have picked coffee as their career. They are not just a couple of dudes who ‘work in a café’. They are Baristas of the highest quality and all the power to them I say. For the guys down at Sideshow it’s always about quality over attitude, it’s never about the ego. Joe and Charles believe being a good Barista is all about possessing grace under pressure. When push comes to shove though they know that their reputations are dependent on a solid takeaway coffee trade – especially now given Sideshow’s exposure and diverse clientele. On an average day they work through about 10kg of beans each, manage the Slow Brew methods and more often than not educate and explain them to their customers. All the while with a couple of cheeky grins and intimidatingly eclectic iPod selections. 

SO what exactly is on offer at Sideshow??? Well aside from your takeaway espresso trade…


The syphon method of brewing coffee has been around since the 1800’s and involves heat and vapours and vacuums (oh my!). As the water heats in the lower chamber it travels up a nifty little pipe, and is combined with your tasty coffee. After a bit of stirring and a bit of cooling the end product coffee makes it’s way back down. Well that’s the way I understand it anyway – for all the facts it’s best to ask the guy making it! Shoji very kindly took me through three different singles in a bit of a syphon extravaganza last week (that left me buzzing for hours). For me, the Sumatran was off the chain.

Pour Over

The beauty of a pour over is that it’s effectively all about gravity and heat, and of course the adept skill of a Barista. A filtered style, it’s about the subtle introduction of water at a steady pace. The result is a coffee of great clarity that really brings out all those little nuances you would probably miss in your espresso.

Cold Drip

Cold Drip coffee is just one of those things that I think is pretty rock and roll. And a good starting point perhaps if you’re not too familiar with it all. Coffee is steeped in water and effectively left to drip through a filter overnight. I find it actually quite sweet but remarkably refreshing – perhaps something to do with the fact that it never comes in to contact with heat, which in turn intensifies flavours. In the words of my 15-year-old brother, ‘It’s like coffee flavoured water – but good.’


The guys actually sell these little machines at Sideshow. It was invented by the guy who invented Frisbees (I thought Joseph was lying to me about that one, but you can A Current Affair FACT Stamp that… if you must). It’s similar to a plunger style of brewing but using air and pressure. The guys do things a little differently and actually invert the chambers. What results is a coffee that is lighter in colour but I think more complex in flavour, and with just a bit more clarity and brightness. Pretty nifty if you ask me!

So that’s the who, what, where, how and why of Single Origin Roasters Sideshow. A big thanks to Shoji for a fantastic syphon experience and of course to Joe and Charles for giving up their precious time, knowledge and patience for Miss Becca! You guys are bloody legends. It’s important to note that all of these extractions are available at the cafe also! So next time you’re in Surry Hills head down Reservoir Street, pop in and see the guys and let them rock your caffeinated world.

Been to Sideshow? What’s your favourite brew? Let me know or on Twitter @bonvivantblog. And don’t forget to check our Facebook – more pictures, more laughs… just more.

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