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A Newcomer’s Guide to Coffee in Australia

A Newcomer’s Guide to Coffee in Australia
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Australia has a unique coffee culture of it’s own that is influenced mostly from the large Italian immigrant population. One of the wonderful things the Italians brought with them is their love of coffee, and you can find some of the best in Sydney.

Recently there has been a boom of local cafes roasting their own coffee and distributing it in the city. The top and best in my opinion are Campos Coffee, Toby Estate and Single Origin. At almost any cafe serving any of these coffee brands you’ll be sure to get a really good cup of coffee.

Because of the strong Italian influence in Australia you will also see many Italian brands of coffee such as Vittoria, Lavazza and Segafredo Zanetti. I tend to favour the Australian coffee brands as they are fresher and local.

Australian Coffee Decoder

Coffee Drinks in Australia

Take a look at the coffee decoder image above, you might need it as ordering coffee in Australia is not the same as in the States.

They still have the standards (cappuccinos, lattes, mochas and macchiatos) but have added “flat white” to the mix and changed the Americano to a “long black”, or “short black” if you would prefer a stronger cup of coffee.

Now for the double and single shot, that seems to vary from cafe to cafe. I have had someone tell me that a flat white is a double shot always and that a latte and cappuccino are single shots. But that doesn’t hold for all cafes. So if you want a double shot just go ahead and ask for it.

Coffee sizes are usually limited to regular and large, or mug for a large depending on the cafe. If you usually get a double tall skinny latte back in the States, then you’ll be ordering a large skinny latte double shot in Australia. The barista might take it upon themselves to correct your order to a doppio or may say that all their coffees are a double shot. That’s fine just be aware that it varies from cafe to cafe so if you’re particular about how you like your coffee be sure to make it clear.

One thing to note is that regular drip coffee is hard to find, you’ll have to switch to a short black or long black, and they do not have half and half, or cream for that matter at cafes, just milk. You will usually be able to find skim milk, soy and rice milk at most cafes. They do not have 2% milk, instead regular milk is usually “full cream” and will taste a bit heavy. 2% milk has only recently been introduced to Australia.

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About The Author


Hi, I’m Lauren, and I LOVE being an expat in Sydney but am fed up with all the misinformed and useless expat guides out there, not only giving bad advice but also charging for it! So I created Sydney Moving Guide written by expats, for expats. Click here to read my story.


  1. Erin

    Hi Lauren,

    I just moved to Sydney and have figured out my coffee order at cafes, but what do people do for coffee in their own homes? I haven’t seen or heard of any auto-drip coffee makers, a french press, or anything. Is it just instant, or do people always get their coffee out?


    • Jeff evans

      Most Australians who really like their coffee have coffee machines which give cafe quality coffee.
      Look at Choice magazine for the best makes and prices. Subscription is quite cheap and they test
      virtually anything you buy in Australia.

  2. JMR

    I spend about 3 days each month in Melbourne (from the U.S.) I have yet to figure out how to order a cup of coffee so I always end up with a flat white or latte or cappuccino just to get some caffeine in me. I want what is called a coffee with cream in the U.S. or a white coffee in the U.K, but I can never seem to communicate that to the server in a way that is understood. How do I order that in Melbourne? Or does such a thing not exist? Is it a “long black with milk”?

    • Mario

      coffee with cream, ha ha good question! so far, I haven’t found any coffee shop in Melbourne having cream.
      the closest taste perhaps will be cappuccino without the dash of chocolate.

    • Alan Beagley

      We were in Melbourne earlier this year and found the same problem: no cream — or even “half and half” — for the coffee.

      • michaeluts

        Starbucks has cream, just say you want “pouring cream” instead and they’ll know what your talking about :-)

        I love pouring cream in my coffee (sometimes) and am disappointed that most cafes only have milk or skim or whipped cream, when I mention just cream they get confused and almost always think I mean whipped cream.

  3. zora

    Not sure how you define “recently”, Lauren, but we’ve had low fat (ie 2%) milk here since the 70s. Not a criticism, just FYI – I know you’re a new arrival. All coffee bars I go to have had low fat milk on offer for quite some time.

    • Chris Blackman

      Here in Melbourne we tend to call low-fat milk “skinny”. And skinny milk can be anything from 2% to 0.1% fat.

  4. Keaton Hulme-Jones

    Sorry but you have it all wrong and are a bit confused. Good coffee shops out a double ristretto in the flat whites. This gives a better flavour without the burnt taste.

  5. David

    Thanks for the clarification, Lauren! We are travelling in Australia for the first time and it took me awhile to figure out what was going on re: coffee! This really helped. Thanks.

  6. Brendon Pyle

    “changed the Americano to a “long black”, or “short black””… actually it is a espresso, short black or long black, remember America didn’t invent everything (ie coffee was around before starbucks).

    “One thing to note is that regular drip coffee is hard to find,” that is because dip coffee is like drinking crushed up ants that has been boiled for three hours and then watered down, it’s basically insulting the coffee beans. If anything should be an Americano it’s this.

    • Nicholay Sunburn Roald

      Mr. Pyle, by the tone of your ignorant comment, you can’t have had a proper cup of brewed coffee. You would most likely benefit from thinking twice before insulting how half the world drink coffee.

      Being from one of the top 3 countries that consume the most coffee per capita pr. year and been drinking coffee before I drank coke, I most certainly know what I’m talking about and you sir are simply wrong. The only bad coffee I’ve had back home is from automatic and dirty coffee machines in 7/11, while here in Oz, disgusting and burned coffee seems to be the norm more than the exception. Luckily this seems to be changing.

      I dare you to visit a place who does brewed coffee properly, chances are you won’t regret it. And for all you know it might open your eyes and finally grow you some pubes as well

    • Glenn Stewart

      Not sure where Nicholay is getting his coffee in Oz, but his points are valid. I think in many ways the US and Australia are tackling coffee from two ends. Australia has been focused on espresso for 40+ years mainly because of Italian immigrants (there are over 1 million Italians who came post war, and spent the first 20 years trying to convince us that tea was boring – it worked).
      The US has come from a filter coffee culture and has moved to espresso far later.
      In the past 5 years, filter has really made waves (finally) in Australia, but will nearly always only every be served with single origin beans chosen specifically for filter. Cold drip, aeropress, pour overs, siphons are more common – french press is barely seen. Say percolator, and you’d be thrown out.
      Re Americano versus long black – they aren’t the same. Americano if made with espresso is always coffee first, then water. This may or may not preserve the crema – and more often than not, it doesn’t. A long black is always served with water first, then the espresso on top. This ensures you get the crema.
      Long black or espresso is a way to judge the burned coffee that Nicholay is talking about. If you burn your beans, you’re only going to get customers who don’t care. And they certainly won’t be buying black from you (anyone worth their weight should know milk is only there to buffer a bad coffee, or for a breakfast only cappuccino).
      Melbourne is still the benchmark in Australia. 1 in 4 consider themselves proud Italians and of course, espresso drinkers. Sydney would be a close 2nd (1 in 8 are Italian).
      We’re not tea and beer drinkers. Coffee certainly rules over tea, the same way wine is drunk in far more volume than beer.

      • Lea

        Australia has the best coffee in the world, so very unsure of what Nicholay has been drinking, this is why some cafes in other countries are proudly shouting that they’ve secured Australian baristas…. or perhaps he just doesn’t know what ‘good’ coffee is? However, we can recognise bad coffee. There’s a reason Starbucks failed in Australia, and that’s because everyone knew of at least 10 independently owned cafes within walking distance of any Starbucks store that did better coffee.

        • Darcy

          We just got back for Australia and I was not disappointed by any cup of joe I had there. We never went to Starbucks and we don’t at home either. I would love to go back and learn how they make them so good. I drink americanos or long blacks. No milk no sugar. And everyone I met was so nice. Loved both the coffee and the country.


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Hi, I’m Lauren.

Photo Lauren

And I LOVE being an expat in Sydney but am fed up with all the misinformed and useless expat guides out there, not only giving bad advice but also charging for it! So I created Sydney Moving Guide – written by expats, for expats. Find out more about me here.

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