Merlo Coffee launches its first specialty coffee capsules

Merlo Coffee

Merlo Coffee discusses the launch of its first specialty coffee capsules and why it’s the next best thing to barista made coffee.

For a long time, Brisbane-based coffee roaster Merlo Coffee wouldn’t entertain the thought of capsule coffee, as it never delivered against its high expectations of quality over format.

But Founder Dean Merlo persisted in the search and development of a better tasting capsule experience, trialling, and trialling again, until he finally found the perfect blend.

“This has been a development many years in the making. Over 15 years ago, my business partner James Wilkinson and I opened a dedicated capsules store in Brisbane – well ahead of its time. Back then, the coffee landscape was a simple offering: espresso and cappuccino with your choice of black or full cream milk, nothing else,” says Dean.

“So much has changed since then: taste profiles, dietary needs, brewing methods and of course, how and where we all enjoy our daily ritual. As coffee purists who love espresso coffee freshly made, we weren’t enthralled with how the capsules tasted.

“Now, with three decades of coffee roasting experience behind us, Merlo Coffee re-engineered our signature roasting philosophy to develop our new specialty coffee capsules. We are proud to offer the best tasting specialty coffee capsules on the market.”

Launched in December 2022, Dean describes the capsules as full flavoured, with a smooth finish, in the convenience of a capsule, for when a barista isn’t close at hand.

“Mastering the art of Merlo coffee still begins with a curation of specialty coffee beans with a cupping score of 80 or above. Hand-selected from all over the world, the beans are evaluated by our licenced Q-Grader to meet the strictest standards of excellence, including aroma, flavour, body, acidity, aftertaste, and are free from any defects,” he says.

“Our artisan roasters then painstakingly fine-tune the roasting profile to accommodate the specifics of our capsule technology, balancing grind size, water ratios and extraction times to deliver against our high-quality standards.”

Merlo Coffee roasters then apply multi-stage precision grinding, a sophisticated de-gassing and oxygen modified encapsulation process, and seven-layer foiling technology to lock in the full flavour and richness of each coffee until it’s ready to be brewed.

“The grinding technology is really what took the capsules from great to best in market. Using sophisticated Italian roller grinders allowed a very powerful and precise grind. It enabled us to grind to the right degree to get the best flavour for our coffee,” says Dean.

The capsules are made with aluminium packaging, meaning they come with multiple functional and environmental benefits.

“We use aluminium capsules for infinite recyclability and to ensure there is no moisture or oxygen transfer. Capsules are compatible with all original line Nespresso machines, or machines of the same standard from other manufacturers,” says Dean.

The use of aluminium capsules highlights the roastery’s continued focus on operating sustainably. Among other initiatives, Merlo Coffee has shifted all of its takeaway cups and lids to compostable alternatives.

“No one likes to use cups that end up in waste. It’s terrible and the reality is, while the cups can be composted, unless they’re disposed properly, they all end up in the same place. We go to a lot of trouble to operate our own composting service at our cafés, where everything we use from the cutlery and serviettes to food packaging and coffee cups are compostable,” Dean says.

“Everything is thrown in a compost collection bin, which we have to pay extra for, but it’s important to us. It’s amazing how much waste we’ve saved in the last couple of years.”

The company is also improving its energy usage, with solar panels installed at its two main roasteries in Bowen Hills and Eagle Farm.

Merlo Coffee capsules are based on two of its most popular blends, Forza and Organico.

“Forza is our strongest, boldest blend. It packs a punch with the smoothest finish you never saw coming. Italian for strength, Forza delivers a strong, rich, and intense caffeine hit. Earthy sweet aromas and full body profile, rounded out with warm toffee and oak flavours,” Dean says.

“Organico involves unearthing a richer tasting, full flavoured organic coffee capsule that’s naturally better. A complex aroma with notes of brown sugar and hazelnut, chocolate flavours, excellent balance, and depth. Full bodied with a lingering finish, this blend is 100 per cent Certified Organic.”

Dean says after Merlo Coffee’s cupping panel conducted countless tests over many months, Forza and Organico presented the best flavour profile in the capsules.

“Forza is our only blend with a small amount of Robusta in it, perhaps that’s why it came out so well. And now we have an organic capsule that’s 100 per cent Certified Organic, which is fantastic,” he says.

While Dean believes nothing beats espresso coffee, he says COVID-19 has unveiled a fresh outlook on convenience and affordability.

“Coffee drinkers are wanting to mirror the coffee tastes and experience they usually get from their local café, at home. Merlo Coffee has adapted to provide offerings for the at-home market to reflect this,” he says.

“Also, the need for fast beverages has expanded. Probably the most important and powerful advantage of single-serving coffee capsules is that they save a lot of time. One thing you can be sure of with these coffee capsules is that you’ll always get the same taste of your favourite brew.”

The capsules come in a 10-capsule pack for $11.50 or a 60-capsule carton (six 10 packs) for $63.00.

“To celebrate the launch of the capsules, Merlo Coffee has also launched a Coffee Capsule Starter Pack, which includes 20 Forza capsules, 20 Organico capsules and a set of two of the popular Merlo ‘Tulip’ cup and saucer sets,” Dean says.

Dean describes the specialty coffee capsules as an artform, an intimate knowledge balancing science, trial, error, persistence, and patience.

“It’s only taken 30 years of roasting experience, a curation of specialty green beans, multi-stage precision grinding, oxygen modified encapsulation, and years of development to perfect,” he says.

“The next best thing to barista made coffee has arrived.”

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This article appears in the February 2023 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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