Single O's bold plunge: how black coffee is the new black
One of Sydney’s landmark cafes — Surry Hills’ innovator Single O — has reopened following a substantial renovation, with a new menu and a heightened focus on … black coffee.
The new look includes more tables and the installation of a user-operated Single O prototype “batch brew bar”, where customers will be able to make their own coffee in 15 seconds. The brew bar is based on the concept of a craft beer bar, where customers merely select a coffee profile and press a button to access the coffee instantly.
The push into black coffee is backed by a remarkable statistic — 23 per cent of the Single O coffee trade is now in black coffee, a rise from 2 to 3 per cent of trade when the cafe first opened in 2003.
Despite the already growth in black coffee sales, Single O co-founder Emma Cohen says there is huge room for more development.
“Most people are yet to experience a single origin (black) coffee,” she says. “This batch brew bar is set to change that, bringing choice of origin — be it from Nicaragua, Kenya, Ethiopia, Colombia — front and centre of the cafe, akin to a craft beer bar.”
The brew bar will open with four initial brews: the Sweet Sixteen Birthday Blend with flavour profiles of peaches and cream, sugar and spice; the San Martin Colombia (juicy plum and crisp red apple); Giathugu Kenya (blood orange, tamarind and red lollies); and Nicaragua Cup of Excellence #5 (mango, pineapple and guava).
“Even though the batch tap bar has auto-serve features, this doesn’t mean there’s a lack of coffee skill behind batch brews,” says Cohen. “There’s a rigorous R&D process that starts with sample roasting and continues through to expert brew parameters.
“The ‘dial in’ barista starts each day with an hour dedicated to brew perfection before any service begins.”
The new menu by chef Ben Hopkins, meanwhile, leans into a Japanese influence, including “croc-ettes” with yes, crocodile, potato and corn croquettes offered with warrigal greens, Japanese curry sauce, poached egg and pickled ginger; fried tempeh with sea parsley, black rice, edamame, asparagus, nukazuke pickle and sesame dressing; and banana bread with vegemite butterscotch sauce and ricotta.
The cafe has also expanded from the minuscule four tables it has had since 2003 to a generous space seating up to 40 inside.
Cohen says the batch tap bar prototype is being tested with Single O’s customers to “gauge their feedback on user experience, speed and choice”. They are also looking to evaluate whether there is a future cost-saving model for cafes around Australia, "who are slugged with some of the highest rents and labour costs around the world”.
60-64 Reservoir St Surry Hills; singleo.com.au