BeanScene Magazine

Bar 9 Specialist Coffee Boutique

From the January 2011 issue.
Bar 9 Specialist Coffee Boutique

Leading barista, Ian Callahan’s Bar 9 is a premier specialist coffee boutique in Adelaide with some unique thinking behind it, but one customer prefers to call it “a coffee nerd’s shed.”

It does attract what Ian Callahan calls “a bunch of geeky, passionate baristas who love experimenting and tasting coffee in absolutely any way, shape or form we can.” Bar 9 is a coffee fanatic’s magnet.

“It’s really not uncommon to walk in at any point and see owners, baristas, sales reps and roasters from many of Adelaide’s better coffee establishments, all intermingling over our primary common interest – great coffee,” Ian says.

Bar 9 is unique in many ways. For instance, there is no full-time staff. The person you will see making coffee works as a full-time barista elsewhere. “They’re here to play and learn and basically have fun with new coffees and different brewing methods,” Ian says. This innovative concept sees state barista champions and latte art champions in residence on a weekly basis and a resultant wide range of techniques. “At the same time, it curbs some outdated techniques or theories that staff may be employing. It keeps us fresh and learning as opposed to having the same old faces who have been making coffee the same old way for years on end,” Ian says.

“Staff” members at Bar 9 take any new techniques back to their usual workplace and train others. “It all comes back to our key goal of helping push the Adelaide coffee scene forward.”

Ian’s personal journey is at the heart of his Bar 9 philosophy. Ten years ago his coffee making career started in restaurants and he became a training manager for a small coffee franchise. He confesses to having known very little about coffee or how to make it. He moved on to another franchise outlet where he was rapidly shown just how much he didn’t know, but it sparked a great appreciation for the bean. He started studying as much as he could and quickly realised “how much I had to unlearn, how much technique had to be retaught and how much further I had to go.”

A fanatical pursuit of blogs, forums, websites and emails followed as part of the learning curve. “Then, after tasting my first Ethiopian Yirgacheffe at the then newly opened roaster café, Simply Coffee, I had my first ‘wow’ moment that really changed the way I looked at it,” Ian says. His attachment to specialty coffee had begun. But “as one little barista in a big chain, ” basic things such as suggesting grinding coffee on demand, fell on deaf ears. Ian took his newfound knowledge to Adelaide’s fine dining end and became involved in the competition circuit to enhance his credibility. He butted heads with inspiring baristas and chefs, won the 2008 South Australian barista championships and competed in the nationals.

He started working with roaster, 5 Senses Coffee, and began planning to open a dedicated espresso bar. Leases that fell through, council approvals and infrastructure hassles left their mark. Instead of a city location, Ian found himself heading to a small, boatshed style space in outer suburban Eastwood. However, the slower pace meant he could implement a first for South Australia – a location for alternate brewing styles.

Bar 9 opened with three simple goals – to increase awareness and reach of specialty coffee; to help drive the Adelaide coffee scene forward and ”to serve amazing coffee every time.  “I can’t think of a single person who thought that serving anything other than espresso would be commercially viable.” Ian says.

On a daily basis, Bar 9 offers siphon, abid, plunger, ice drip and pour over along with the espresso that is either pulled through a Synesso or one of three lever piston machines. The coffee is roasted by 5 Senses Coffee with “black label” as the house blend and “Barista’s Blend.” The latter can change daily, weekly or monthly, depending on what is available and tasting great. “Quite often it will be out there and in your face, with big flavours that aren’t necessarily balanced, but are always interesting.” There is also a range of single origins, with the emphasis on lighter roasts.

Nor has Ian forgotten about the food, since many of the patrons gravitate there because they want to enjoy the buzz and be able to ask for a specific, personally preferred coffee. A new menu offers fresh Panini, piadina and pizzas along with some great brunch items. And, if you think it would be a bit like walking into a heated barista competition, then think again. “We have a stern rule in place to ensure that all our baristas leave any ego at the door!” Ian says. The aim is to let people relax over a coffee made the way they like it or allow them to explore new flavours.

Bar 9
91 Glen Osmond Road
Eastwood, SA
Mon-Fri 7.30-5 Sat 9-2

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