I spend a lot of time in Collingwood, both walking through on my way to somewhere else or visiting some of its many great cafes, restaurants, and bars. That also means drinking a lot of coffee in the area, which isn’t a hardship: the standard here is exceptional.
Of all the areas in Melbourne trying to outdo each other when it comes to third-wave coffee, I think that Collingwood, right now at least, is at the top of the list. Even more than next door Fitzroy, the number of places doing super-interesting things with caffeinated beverages is remarkable.
Having now tried so many of them, I figured it was time to put together some recommendations. Whether you’re after a perfectly-extracted espresso with just the right amount of crema, the perfect flat white served in a cup you can eat(!), or a smooth, interesting pourover made from a bean you’ve never heard of and probably can’t find anywhere else, you’ll get it in Collingwood.
All of these places are very much coffee-focused, although most have a small food menu as well if you’re looking for an excuse to stay longer. Most sell beans by the bag and can grind them for you if that’s something you need, and some sell a small range of coffee equipment as well.
This isn’t a long list: it’s meant to highlight the best of what’s available, not just mention everywhere that sells coffee in the area. As new shops rise up and existing ones inevitably fall, this article will change over time, but there’ll never be more than a handful of places on it.
For the sake of comparison I’ve listed prices and included photos of oat flat whites below unless they simply weren’t available, but in most cases I’ve tried the black coffee options as well. Trust me, they were just as good!
Taken as a whole, the global coffee industry isn’t particularly great for the environment. There’s been a small but growing trend towards acknowledging and doing something about that in recent years, and I don’t think I’ve come across anywhere making a bigger effort than Into Coffee.
Tucked away down an alleyway off Wellington Street, the frontage is understated, to the point where you may not even notice it. That all changes the minute you step inside, however: as you can see from the photo above, from pot plants to pianos, there’s a lot going on.
It’s a popular place to work, whether you’re just hanging out in the cafe downstairs or taking things a bit more seriously with the co-working offices upstairs. Whether you’re engrossed in your laptop screen or not, though, it’s hard not to notice the zero-waste ethos that runs through the entire operation.
There’s a sign inside that outlines the various reuse and recycling efforts throughout the supply chain, from creating soap from waste milk and coffee grounds to recycling plastics, turning milk containers into sign boards, and having reusable bowls and cups that you can pay a small deposit for and take away to bring back another day.
Or if you’d rather, you can get an edible cup instead.
Of course, as laudable as that is, it’s not (only) the cafe’s environmental credentials that bring people here for their morning coffee. The milk drinks here are consistently excellent, with the oat flat white I had on my most recent visit among the best I’ve had anywhere: strong, smooth, and perfectly steamed.
Into Coffee uses beans from Industry Beans for its espresso, and has a rotating single-origin roast for its filter coffee that changes each month and is brewed in an old-school Mochamaster. Toasted sandwiches and locally-made baked goods round out the selection, and you can buy beans to take home as well.
I can’t not discuss that takeaway cup: as I mentioned above, it’s edible if you so desire, and compostable if you don’t. You’ll pay an extra buck for it, which serves as a subtle nudge to take your time and drink your coffee in the cafe instead. Better for the environment, more relaxing for you.
The cup looks like a compacted Weetbix, and to be honest, it pretty much tastes like it too. It wasn’t bad, exactly: it just wasn’t a taste or texture I’d be likely to seek out again. Let’s just say that I sampled it for you so that you don’t have to.
If you’re really serious about your coffee, you owe it to yourself to visit Auntie Peg’s. This espresso bar is an offshoot of local roasters Proud Mary, whose ever-popular cafe is just down the road. It’s also virtually impossible to get a table there on weekends, but that’s a story for another day.
First and most important thing to note: Auntie Peg’s doesn’t do milk. No lattes, no flat whites, no “just a splash, thanks”. If that’s what you’re after, you’ll need to go elsewhere: half a dozen people did so just while I was seated at the bar.
Speaking of sitting at the bar, that’s pretty much your only option. There’s one small, low corner table beside the window, but other than that, you’ll be perched up on a high stool within eyeshot of an array of high-end grinding and brewing equipment.
That probably makes the place sound pretentious, and I guess you could argue that it is, but it doesn’t feel that way. The staff are super-friendly and welcoming, and despite knowing absolutely everything about the coffee they’re offering, they don’t wear that knowledge like a badge.
Instead, they’ll happily share as much or as little detail as you care to know, make some recommendations if you want them, and then just quietly serve you some of the best (black) coffee you’ll have in your life. Not even exaggerating.
You’ve got the choice of pourover or espresso-based, choosing between the standard and deluxe menus. My wallet has only allowed for the standard option so far, but if you’ve got fifteen bucks to spend on a super-rare coffee that you almost certainly won’t find anywhere else in the country, I suspect you won’t be disappointed by it.
Last time I visited, the standard menu had a snap chill option plus three varieties from El Salvador that were being used for espresso-based drinks and pourovers. If you can’t decide which you like the sound of, go for a flight of all three instead.
My SL-34 pourover was exceptional and unusual, with tasting notes of grape and tropical fruits. My unrefined palate could certainly taste the latter, but I’m not so sure about the former. That’s a me problem, though: I’m not going to hold it against the barista.
In any case, he was busy slicing up a compressed cake of tea leaves for Lauren, who doesn’t drink black coffee but being British, definitely does drink tea. Bearing her nationality in mind, the statement a few minutes later that it was the best she’s ever had in her life was more than a little surprising, but there you have it. If you have a tea drinker in your life, bring them along to Aunty Peg’s as well.
To round things off, the small retail section at the front has several different beans by the bag, and a range of coffee equipment that’s pretty reasonably priced. If you need advice on any of the gear they sell, I found the staff to be just as knowledgeable about that as they were about the coffee itself.
Tucked away on Sackville Street, a world away from the traffic on nearby Johnston Street, Everyday Coffee is a deceptive place. Sitting in what looks like (and undoubtedly once was) a row of light industrial buildings, it doesn’t seem like much as you wander past it.
Step in the door, however, and it’s a different story. It’s larger than it seems from the outside, with a much nicer fitout as well. At least on the days I’ve visited, it’s also managed to walk that perfect line between “bustling” and “so loud you can’t hold down a conversation” that many cafes strive for but fewer achieve.
In an unusual touch, Everyday varies the beans it uses based on the type of milk you choose. Most recently, for instance, if you wanted soy milk in your latte, you got the Mucho Gusto blend. Any other espresso-based drink, and you ended up with the All Day blend. Different milks (especially soy!) impart their own flavour to the coffee, so it’s nice to see somewhere that tries to compensate for it.
With that in mind, I had high hopes for my oat flat white, and I wasn’t disappointed. Unlike many I’ve ordered, the taste of the beans wasn’t overpowered by the milk. I like to be able to taste the individual flavour profile of the coffee, especially when it’s a place that roasts its own beans. For me, there’s not much point seeking out interesting new varieties and seasonal blends if you can’t taste them!
Of course, as you’d perhaps expect from a company like this, espresso isn’t the only thing on the menu here. There’s a batch-brew filter option (hot or chilled), a couple of iced coffee options, plus an iced chocolate and some kind of ice-cream and coffee experience that I didn’t dare get too close to.
As good as the coffee is here, Everyday isn’t solely dedicated to it: there’s a small food menu as well, based mostly around breads and bagels. I like the approach: they’re not trying to compete with the other million full-service cafes in the area, but you can grab a quick breakfast or lunch if you’re looking to linger.
Everyday roasts its own beans, and there’s a wider selection than usual available in-store. There’s also a small selection of equipment, alongside a few souvenirs for when your coffee was so good that you need a decorative teaspoon or branded mug to remind you of it at home.
This Collingwood location is very much the flagship store, but there’s also a small outpost on Collins Street in the city as well. If you love the coffee here and want a reminder of it before heading into the office, you’ve got the option.
It’s easy to miss Allpress Espresso. I was looking specifically for it and still strolled obliviously past the entrance: it wasn’t until I doubled back that I realised what I’d mistaken for an alleyway was actually a path leading to a large, greenery-filled courtyard and bustling indoor space.
Despite being hidden away, Allpress is clearly no secret: last time I visited, mid-morning on a random Thursday, there was a line of people ten deep waiting for takeaway coffee. That meant a longer wait than usual for mine to show up, but it was worth the small time investment.
I’m not surprised it’s popular. These guys and girls take their coffee seriously: there’s a large roastery operation that takes up the entire rear of what was once an abandoned warehouse, and a variety of beans (in different bag sizes) to take home and brew yourself. You’ve even got the option of buying an air-tight container, full or empty, and refilling it at a discount.
The usual range of black and white espresso-based drinks are on offer, but the Allpress fun doesn’t stop there. I picked up a can of chilled oat flat white at the counter the other day: unfortunately I’d already ordered a hot version by the time I noticed, but I’ll be heading back to sip it in the courtyard next time the sun’s out.
I’ve always had very good coffee here: as with Everyday Coffee (above), the oat milk hasn’t drowned out the taste of the beans in my silky-smooth flat whites, and the batch brews have had strong (which doesn’t mean bitter or sour), distinct flavours.
Cold brew is also on the menu, with the option of adding tonic water. If you’ve never had a coffee and tonic on a hot day, you’re absolutely missing out: I first encountered it in a hipster cafe in Vietnam, of all places, and have been keeping an eye out for it ever since!
There’s a range of enormous sandwiches and pastries at the counter if you’re peckish, and it’s not a bad place to work either: it’s big enough, with enough free tables during the week, that you can likely park up with a laptop for a couple of hours and happily caffeinate yourself enough to power through your latest project.
Allpress supplies beans to a number of cafes around Australia, and also has outposts in Sydney, Brisbane, and Byron Bay for when your travels take you further afield than the 3066 postcode.
Found a new coffee place in Collingwood that you absolutely love and think we should check out? Let us know about it in the comments!
All images copyright Everything Victoria