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Australian Coffee Culture Explained

Australian Coffee Culture Explained

September 25, 2023
australian coffee culture explained

Why does Australia, and Melbourne in particular, have such a famous coffee culture? Melbourne is known as the coffee capital of Australia. It is world-renowned for its eclectic café scene. From small artisan cafes in the suburbs to the iconic Brunettis, you are sure to find a coffee to suit your tastes in Melbourne.



degraves coffee
Degraves St Melbourne, well know for its Coffee and cafes

In order to fully appreciate and understand the unique Australian coffee culture, the history of coffee in Australia should be understood. 


Coffee has a rich history in Australia, dating back to the early 19th century.

Coffee was introduced to Australia by European settlers in the late 18th century, but it took some time for it to gain popularity. Tea was the dominant beverage during the early colonial period due to the large volume of English settlers, and coffee was initially considered a luxury.

Coffee houses however began to emerge in the major cities of Australia in the 19th century, but primarily catering to wealthier members of society. 

The post-World War II migration of Italians to Australia had a significant impact on the coffee culture, which can definitely be seen to this day.

Italian immigrants brought with them their espresso culture, which included a preference for strong, short black coffee. This influence played a crucial role in shaping the modern Australian coffee scene. 

Initially, instant coffee was popular in Australia during the mid-20th century.  By the 1970s, there was a growing trend toward freshly brewed coffee like what the Italians preferred. Café chains like The Coffee Club and Gloria Jean’s Coffee began to open, making espresso-based coffee more accessible to Australians.

The late 20th century and early 21st century saw a significant shift towards specialty coffee in Australia. Melbourne, in particular, gained a reputation as a global coffee destination, with a thriving café culture that celebrated high-quality, artisanal coffee. There was a move away from café chains, and small local cafes became the choice for many Australians. 

Now, Australians have embraced and even invented various coffee trends, including flat whites, cold brew, and single-origin coffees. 



coffe culture in australia explained
Babyccino and a cappuccino

Australians have developed their own unique coffee culture with distinct preferences and terminology, miles away from the original Italian customs. 


Many Australians still enjoy espresso based coffees, such as a Short Black. This is a shot of espresso, served without any milk or sugar. It’s a strong, intense coffee, just like what would be found in Italy. A Long Black is similar to a short black but with more water, resulting in a larger and milder coffee.


Milk-Based Coffees are the more commonly consumed option, and there is a wide variety.

  • The Latte: is espresso mixed with steamed milk, typically topped with a small amount of foam.
  • A Cappuccino: is espresso with equal parts of steamed milk and foam, often sprinkled with cocoa or cinnamon on top.
  • A Flat White: is espresso with steamed milk and a thin layer of microfoam, creating a smooth and velvety texture. It’s similar to a latte but with less foam. This variety is an Australian invention, with some contention as to whether it originates from Melbourne or Sydney. 
  • Iced Coffee: is especially popular during hot Australian summers, iced coffee is made with espresso, milk, and ice, often sweetened and sometimes flavoured.


It should be noted many Australians now prefer alternative milk options, such as almond, soy, or oat milk, in their coffee due to dietary preferences or lactose intolerance. There is a wide variety available in most coffee shops. 

australian coffee culture explained
cold brew coffee

Other varieties of coffee include:

  • Cold brew coffee, made by steeping coffee grounds in cold water for an extended period, which has gained popularity for its smooth, less acidic taste.
  • A Mocha is Espresso combined with hot chocolate or cocoa powder and steamed milk, often topped with whipped cream. Some refer to this as a beginner coffee, and many start out drinking mochas since they are much sweeter.
  • “Babyccinos” are frothy, warm milk with a sprinkle of cocoa powder or cinnamon, usually served to children.


All of the mentioned coffee varieties can be found at any café in Australia. Cafes are the location where most Australians would enjoy their coffee, due to the strong café culture. Although, this is not only to enjoy high quality coffee, but to appreciate it with family and friends. 



ristretto bianco
ristretto bianco

As mentioned previously, Australians have some unique coffee preferences. 

Here are some of the most common orders

  • Flat White
  • Cappuccino
  • Latte
  • Long Black
  • Mocha
  • Iced Coffee
  • Chai Latte

Remember that coffee culture in Australia is highly customisable, so you can often specify your preferences for milk type, sweetness level, and any additional flavourings or modifications when ordering your coffee. Australian cafes are known for accommodating a wide range of tastes.




Ordering coffee in Australia is relatively straightforward, but there are some unique terms and options you should be aware of to ensure you get the coffee you want. Here’s how to order a coffee in Australia:

Choose Your Coffee Type: for example a flat white, cappuccino, long black.

Specify the Size: small, medium or large

Select Your Milk: full cream, skinny, soy, almond, coconut etc.

Additional Options: double shot (stronger), or half shot (weaker)

Depending on your taste, you can customize your coffee further: sugar, or flavourings

Sugar: Specify if you want your coffee with sugar, and if so, how many teaspoons.

Flavourings: Some cafes offer flavoured syrups like vanilla, caramel, or hazelnut to add to your coffee.

Decaf: If you prefer decaffeinated coffee, you can request “decaf” when ordering.

Takeaway or Have there: Let the barista know whether you want your coffee for takeaway (to-go) or if you plan to sit and enjoy it in the cafe. In Australia, it’s common to hear people say “for here” or “to go” when specifying this.

Payment: In most Australian cafes, you pay for your coffee at the counter when you order. Some cafes also accept mobile payments or cards for added convenience.




Melbourne, Australia, is renowned for its vibrant and diverse coffee culture.


It’s often considered one of the coffee capitals of the world, with a thriving scene that caters to a wide range of tastes and preferences. Here are some key aspects of Melbourne’s coffee culture:


Coffee Roasters: Melbourne is home to numerous coffee roasters, both large and small, that supply coffee beans to local cafes and beyond. These roasters are known for their commitment to quality and often have a strong emphasis on direct trade and sustainability.


Barista Culture: Melbourne’s baristas are highly skilled and passionate about their craft. Many baristas have undergone extensive training and participate in competitions to showcase their expertise. Latte art is a common sight, with baristas creating intricate designs. 


Café Culture: Melbourne’s cafes are not just places to grab a quick coffee; they are social hubs where locals gather to relax, socialize, and enjoy good food along with their coffee. The café culture is deeply ingrained in the city’s lifestyle. Many Melbournians can be seen walking to their favourite café on a Saturday or Sunday morning, to enjoy coffee with their loved ones. 


Coffee Events and Festivals: Melbourne hosts various coffee-related events and festivals throughout the year, celebrating the city’s love for coffee. These events often feature tastings, competitions, and opportunities to learn more about the coffee industry.


Coffee Tours: Tourists and coffee enthusiasts can join coffee tours in Melbourne, where they visit multiple cafes, roasteries, and learn about the coffee-making process from bean to cup.



coffee culture australia

Making coffee at home has become increasingly popular among Australians. Many have chosen to invest in high-quality home coffee machines. These machines range from simple drip coffee makers to more advanced espresso machines, allowing people to brew their own coffee according to their preferences. This has led to a trend of creating barista-quality coffee at home, including espresso, cappuccinos, lattes, and more.


Driving this shift is the rising cost of living. The average cost of a cup of coffee in Melbourne and other major Australian cities can be relatively high, often around $5 or more. Over time, this cost can add up significantly. Making coffee at home allows individuals to enjoy their coffee daily without the recurring expense. 


Another benefit is having the freedom to choose your own coffee beans, and experimenting with different origins, roasts, and flavour profiles to find their perfect blend. As well as tailoring your own milk variety and/or additional flavourings. 


Breville’s coffee machine range is particularly popular among at-home baristas in Australia. Breville offers a range of espresso machines, coffee grinders, and accessories designed to help users create coffee shop-quality beverages. 


It must be acknowledged that while at home coffee making is becoming more popular, café culture still remains a prominent part of life in Australia.



local Australian roasted coffee beans

Many local coffee shops sell the coffee beans they use in house. So if you are wanting to experiment with brewing your own coffee at home, buying coffee beans from your favourite café is an excellent option. 

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