ON MOST of Warrnambool's CBD blocks there is at least one store where a hissing milk wand and bang from emptying used grounds can be heard as thousands of coffees are made each week.
Baristas and cafe owners know how well-loved the bean-based caffeinated drink is, but some also ask if the number of sprouting cafes is sustainable.
Warrnambool City Council data shows 27 more cafes and restaurants open compared with five years ago, a jump from 225 to 252. In another possible sign of our changing food and beverage expectations, there are 13 fewer service stations, milk bars and home kitchens than in 2013.
Wyton Events owner and chef Dan Myers recalled cafe culture changing about 13 years ago and said he had seen a "saturation" of coffee shops since.
"You look at 10 o'clock in our shop, there are four plumbers and accountants. Gone is the smoko where you would have a pint of Big M, now it's an almond latte," Mr Myers said.
Rough Diamond owner and barista Henry Bird has owned cafes in Melbourne and now Warrnambool in a 15-year period, but said while quality had increased profits hadn't.
"When I first started we were selling $1.50 cappuccinos out of styrofoam containers, and there was a lot of profit in that," he said. "Now coffee is in excess of $4 but there is a lot less margin in that."
He said sourcing premium ingredients that gave farmers a fair cut, and having two baristas working a coffee machine while weighing every shot had increased costs.
"It is less profitable and there is more competition," Mr Bird said.
Brightbird Espresso co-owner Mark Brightwell said while coffee had grown in Warrnambool, specialty coffee remained a niche market.
"We pride ourselves in using coffee which is ethically sourced," Mr Brightwell said. "To make coffee well is not as easy as it looks, you need people who are highly skilled we need to train them. It takes a fair bit of practice."
Patloch Lane Cafe and Bar co-owners Wendy and Ian Robb said they opened their Liebig Street eatery last year with an evening and wine menu to diversify in the competitive cafe scene.
"I knew in my mind that a cafe wouldn't pay as just a coffee shop. That's why we did it," Mrs Robb said.
Mr Robb said the diversity of eateries and cafes in Warrnambool was "extraordinary", but increased competition and slow economic growth meant profits were small for most owners.
"There are too many places and the competition is very intense. Mostly because the cost of living has risen very substantially," he said.
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