As I have written elsewhere about Sheffield’s coffee scene, it very much grew up independently and spontaneously about three years ago. This holds true as much for its cafés as it does for its roasters, typified by the subject of today’s Meet The Roaster series, Foundry. Set up almost three years ago by founder, Lee, Foundry is content to do its own thing, in its own way and at its own pace.
Concentrating on roasting solely single origins and on selling primarily directly to the consumer through the internet, Foundry initially focused more on the filter market than espresso, which makes up the bulk of a typical roaster’s sales. Then again, there’s nothing typical about Foundry! Foundry diversified into espresso when the second member of the team, Callum, came on board.
These days, Foundry roasts five or six single-origin beans, looking to extract the flavours that Lee identifies in the green bean. The aim is to get the optimum roast profile and then work out what extraction method best suits it, with a focus on the clarity of the taste. You can find Foundry’s output on its website although the coffee’s also available in a limited number of coffee shops.
January 2017: Foundry now has a coffee shop of its very own on Bank Street in Sheffield City Centre. You can see what I made of it when I visited in February 2018.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
I’d been aware of Foundry for a while, but it really burst onto my radar at Cup North when Callum pulled me a shot of an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe natural which was just out of this world. It had a syrupy mouth-feel and an incredibly sweet, smooth taste. So, when I went up to Sheffield in February on behalf of Caffeine Magazine, it was only natural that I went to see Lee and Callum at Foundry HQ.
Over several cups of coffee, both filter and espresso, Lee told me the story of Foundry. He’d started roasting at home on his stove-top, before progressing via a customised barbeque in his garden to the five kg Toper that now graces Foundry’s roastery on Nether Edge Road. The roastery, by the way, isn’t normally open to the public, but I’m sure if you ask nicely, Lee and Callum will be happy to see you.
For Lee, Foundry is, and has always been, driven by his passion for excellent coffee. Quality, and quality control, are at the heart of what Foundry does. There is also a mantra of quality over quantity, with Foundry happy to go at its own pace, not driven by, or pulled by, customers, wholesale or retail. In a refreshing attitude, Foundry’s stance is that if it roasts good coffee, people will buy it. This has led to Foundry concentrating on direct sales through its website rather than chasing wholesale contracts, spreading its name through word-of-mouth.
Initially Foundry roasted two or three single-origins, but has now moved up to a typical five or six at a time, two of which are, in Lee’s words “out there”, the rest being slightly more mainstream. Eschewing blends, Foundry takes the line, similar to that of Round Hill Roastery, that rather than blending to achieve a particular taste, one should find a particular bean to achieve that taste. This does mean, however, that’s lots of time’s spent cupping green beans, from a variety of importers, before undertaking numerous sample roasts, before settling on the one roast to extract the exact flavour Lee’s looking for.
Lee joined forces with Callum to expend the espresso side of Foundry. Callum employs a problem-solving approach to making better coffee, although, in common with most I’ve spoken to in the industry, he thinks he will never truly crack coffee, always finding new things to learn. Callum has brought a new dimension to Foundry, supplying and refurbishing espresso machines and grinders. Since Foundry’s not tied to a specific manufacturer, it can sell a café, in Callum’s words, “the machine it needs, not the machine I want to sell them”.
While I was there, Lee and Callum plied me with a variety of coffee, staring with a Rwandan that was still in profile roasting. I found it a little too bright for my tastes and rather sharp as an espresso, but when Lee made it for me as a V60, it was lovely, a much smoother, well balanced coffee. I often find this with single-origins, finding them too intense when concentrated as an espresso shot.
Before leaving, I tried an Ethiopian bean as a flat white which went beautifully with the milk, the fruitiness of the coffee blending with the sweetness of the milk, which simultaneously took the edge off of its intensity.
December 2015: Foundry was a runner-up for the Coffee Spot Best Roaster/Retailer Award for 2015.
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