When customers at Sub-Zero Coffee peer into the coffee bar’s gelato freezer, rather than a range of ice cream they are greeted by row after row of sealed frozen coffee packs.
Every coffee served at the café is individually dosed, vacuum sealed, and frozen. The brainchild of two former St Ali head baristas, Kirk Pearson and Todd Souter, Sub-Zero Coffee was launched with the goal of making amazing coffees always available.
“Todd and I both love coffee, especially that upper echelon, but we couldn’t really go just anywhere in Melbourne and find the particular coffee we felt like. Sometimes I might want a Costa Rican filter coffee, but there’s no guarantee you can just go to a coffee shop in Melbourne and get that,” Kirk says. “We’re not settling for 30 to 50 coffees. We want to eventually have 200 on the menu, a real library of sorts.”
Sub-Zero Coffee started as a monthly popup in 2019, with plans to take the concept overseas in 2020. With COVID-19 grounding the pair, they decided to set up a permanent shop in a coworking space in St Kilda.
“Despite the tragedies that unfolded at the beginning of the year, there were a few positives for us that came out of it,” Kirk says.
“We’ve embraced a minimalist design, but people are coming here to have a pretty awesome sensory experience and we have everything we need to offer that.”
Sub-Zero brand coffee is roasted exclusively by 2018 Australia Roasting Champion Ben Toovey. But thanks to the freezing process slowing down the ageing of its coffees, it also carries a diverse selection from roasters around the world. This includes the first Ethiopia Cup of Excellence runner-up from Single O in New South Wales and single origins from Coffee Collective and April Coffee Roasters in Copenhagen, Denmark.
“In the past, if you’re a coffee shop owner, you’ve got two weeks to serve this coffee before it declines in quality. With the power of freezing we never waste anything,” Kirk says.
“That’s empowered us to make this wide list of coffee.”
Espresso is prepared with a Mahlkonig EK43 and Slayer Steam LPX, chosen because its manual mode allows the baristas to customise recipes for each coffee. For its milk-based drinks, Sub-Zero has partnered with Riverina Fresh to make its coffee shine.
“I’ve been to their farms and seen what they do. Having grown up in the country, exposed to a lot of dairy farms, I know what it takes to produce good milk,” Kirk says.
“They’re really looking after their farmers, who have endured pretty strenuous conditions in the last few years, and in the coffee industry that’s something we all really understand.”
The premium end of Sub-Zero Coffee’s offering has attracted a following of coffee enthusiasts, but Kirk says the shop is starting to connect with its neighbours too.
“The locals are quite happy there’s a coffee shop in the area doing the quality of coffee that we are,” Kirk says.
“They can indulge on a Panamanian Geisha if they want, or we’ve got coffee for a good latte. That’s the beauty of what we do, anyone can come in here and get the coffee they like.”
245 St Kilda Road, St Kilda, Victoria, 3182
Open Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm