Single O Raises the Batch Bar

Self-serve batch brew bar at Single O. Photo: Single O

Off the back of the rising consumption of black coffee and in a move to slash waiting times, Sydney-based coffee roaster Single O has installed a self-serve batch tap prototype at their newly renovated Surry Hills flagship café.

The intention is to deliver a morning brew up to 40 times faster than espresso. Customers simply tap to pay and press a button to get their fill, all within around 15 seconds.

“Traditionally, batch brewing in an airpot takes place behind the counter and has low visibility at the point of sale—compared to, say, the fancy espresso machine that customers have learned to recognize,” says Single O retail manager, Angus Lindsay.

Positioned at the front of the café, the four batch-brew taps, currently serving the Cup of Excellence Nicaragua #5, Giathugu Kenya, and San Martin Colombia, resemble a set of craft beer taps.

“One of the key inspirations for improving visibility and delivery was taken from the service of craft beer. Lots of choices, lots of flavors, interesting styles, and tap heads to entice the customer to try,” explains Lindsay. “We thought that if we could showcase a range of origins in a much more visible way, it would be more engaging and exciting for the customer and more easy to serve for the barista.”

At any given time, there will be four coffees on tap, and these may change every day or couple of days depending on what Single O is roasting and tasting well when the baristas dial in each morning. Single O intends to rotate through coffees so that each origin is featured and customers get a variety of options.

Four options at the brew bar. Photo: Single O

Since opening in 2003, black coffee consumption at the Surry Hills café has steadily risen from around 2–3% to up to 23% today.

“We are continuing to offer milk-based coffees on our house blend, Reservoir, plus a rotating feature single origin or seasonal blend as an alternative option,” says Lindsay. “Our goal is to keep educating our customers on the nuances of flavor profiles and how they vary due to region, variety, and process, no matter how the coffee is brewed.”

But utilizing auto-serve doesn’t mean the company is letting go of face-to-face customer service.

“At any given time, our barista will be within a meter or two of the batch bar, freed up to talk taste, guide with the taste selection, and strengthen the communication around single origin coffee overall,” says Lindsay.

The batch tap concept was in development for about a year, with the idea coming about after a trip by Single O founders Dion and Emma Cohen to the U.S., where they started playing a game of “spot the espresso machine.”

The Cohens hypothesized that there was a gap in the perception of batch in an espresso-driven Australian market verses the reality of the product.

“Here at home, it’s generally associated with ‘bad American diner coffee’ and under-indexes in sales,” explains Lindsay. “The reality of the product is a coffee that’s brewed to be super tasty, light, and shows the origin nuances—plus it’s fast and efficient to serve to the customer.”

The Batch Brew Bar prototype isn’t the only change in the newly renovated space. The café has also increased from seating 10 or so customers to now around 50, and the takeaway counter now features the La Marzocco Modbar, taking things under the bar to open up barista and customer conversation further.

On the waste front, Single O recently cut their single-use cup waste by 47% and created “Rinsey,” a reusable cup rinser.

“We set out to disrupt the coffee counter format and get more customers drinking black coffee, by putting batch brew in the spotlight to rival the espresso machine,” says Lindsay. “For all the effort, joy, and reward that specialty puts into and derives from single origin coffees, most customers are still yet to try one.”