From a humble space just off Smith Street, Plug Nickel celebrates the blessed coffee bean, turning out beautiful brews at speeds unseen elsewhere. The small venue operates on the idea of doing one thing really, really well, and luckily for locals and all who work nearby, that ‘thing’ is specialty coffee.
There are six brains behind the venture, but Lucien Kolff and Chris Graham are the two bodies on-site regularly. Lucien and Chris have been colleagues for years, and with 25 years of experience between them, they were well placed to bring specialty coffee to the north.
The team’s collective experience meant they knew what to look for when it came to selecting a coffee roaster. They chose Canberra-based ONA Coffee, recognising the expertise of owner, Sasa Sestic. As a former World Barista Champion, Sasa was perfectly placed to collaborate with the team, ensuring they were getting the best out of every drop.
This collaboration also extends beyond the beans. Plug Nickel’s baristas, led by Chris and Lucien, use the lesser known San Remo Opera for their coffee machine. Sara and a number of other world-class baristas helped design the contraption, incorporating useful technology such as built-in scales for dependable extractions.
Plug Nickel uses ONA’s Raspberry Candy for all their milk based coffees. It’s based on Sasa’s World Barista Competition winning coffee and not surprisingly scores 90+ in Q grading. With notes of mixed berries, caramel and a raspberry-like acidity it cuts perfectly through milk to produce a balanced and beautiful brew. Black coffees are made using rotating single origins, with beans sourced from some of the globe’s leading coffee-growing regions, including El Salvador, Honduras, Ethiopia and Nicaragua.
While their espresso game is strong, there’s much more on offer than just your regular brews. In the warmer seasons a sparkling cold brew is available on tap and, unlike most other kegged coffees, is brewed and gassed in-house to ensure complete quality control, resulting in a juicy and refreshing cold brew. In winter a nitro cold brew offers a more intense and dessert-like choice.
All year round ‘coffee cherry soda’ is available on tap with a medley of fruity notes. It’s made by cold brewing the fruit of the coffee (known as cascara, Spanish for ‘shell’). The final coffee gem is the batch brew filter coffee – made in smaller than usual batches and of pour over quality.
When it comes to food, Tyler is the man in charge. The menu is geared to be eaten on the go and includes roti wraps, sandwiches, toasties, noodle salads and pies. Standouts include the brekky roti, massaman beef roti wrap and the NZ King salmon soba noodle salad.
With such a large offering, it is no surprise that Plug Nickel has cultivated a community around it. With a hairdresser as resident of the same building, visitors are constantly coming and going, enjoying all that the site has to offer – including a delicious brew or two.