James Thompson.
Loading Dock Espresso co-owner James Thompson is introducing the system to his coffee shop. Photo: Michelle Smith

They wanted to change the world one cappuccino at a time.

But the global charity movement that promised to turn a caffeine fix into a meaningful one has flopped in many Sydney cafes that introduced the ''suspended coffee'' scheme.

The idea was simple: customers could pre-purchase a coffee for a homeless or needy person, who could claim a free beverage at a later date. But Daniel Strickland, a program manager at Mission Australia, said homeless people were reluctant to ask for a free coffee.

Freya Montefiore.
Freya Montefiore at Goods Brother's Espresso in Newcastle where customers can pay for another coffee which can then later be given to somebody who can't afford one. Photo: Max Mason Hubers

Sugarloaf Patisserie in Kogarah was one of more than 30 cafes in NSW that took up the idea, but owner Kurt Bieder now has more than 100 coffees unclaimed.

The owner of Gibbo's Truck Wash and Cafe, Mark Gibbons, also concedes there are not many rough sleepers in the industrial suburb of Revesby. Of the 30 pre-purchased coffees since April, only one has been nabbed.

"Instead of the coffees just sitting there, I'm thinking of passing them on to a cafe in the city. I want to continue being part of it, helping the homeless," he said.

Esther Han