Ancoats Coffee Co, Royal Mills

The words "Now Open! (just...)" written in blue pen on the window of Ancoats, Royal Mills.Once upon a time, in Ancoats, Manchester, a man called Jamie opened Ancoats Coffee Company. Roasting some fine coffee, including some of my favourite decafs, Ancoats went from strength-to-strength, until, on Monday, the Ancoats Coffee Co Coffee Roastery and Café Space (which is a bit of a mouthful, so we’ll stick with Ancoats for short) opened its doors in a magnificent new space in the Royal Mills. We’ll look at the roastery in a future Meet the Roaster; today we’re concentrating on the new café.

Superficially reminiscent of Sheffield’s Tamper Coffee at Sellers Wheel, Ancoats is housed in an old mill building, with a low, brick-arched ceiling and bare brick walls. Potentially a rather dark, unwelcoming space, with only borrowed light from windows at either end, Ancoats is made warm and welcoming by the clever use of lighting. You can also sit outside in the amazing, glass-ceilinged courtyard.

Ancoats, naturally, showcases its own considerable output, with the Warehouse blend, plus a decaf and a different single-origin every week on espresso. There are also three single-origins on filter, which change on a daily basis. If you ask nicely, chances are that you can have any of Ancoats considerable output of single-origins.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The magnificent setting for Ancoats new cafe/roastery, the Royal Mills in Manchester.
  • Not too obvious from the outside, but the A-board tells us we're in the correct place...
  • ... and more importantly, lets us know that Ancoats is open for business!
  • It's hard to get a shot of the whole building, but just inside is this handy model.
  • These are the magnificent arched doors in the opening picture. That's Gene Hunt, giving Sam Tyler an earful by the way (Google 'Life on Mars' if you have no idea what I'm on about).
  • A convenient plan also helps: Ancoats is between the Old & New Sedgwick Mills.
  • This handy plaque also gives you details of the site's history. More of this sort of thing  later.
  • In the meantime, back to Ancoats. Once inside, head for the far corner...
  • Don't get sidetracked by this intriguing corridor (unless you're going to the courtyard).
  • You're aiming for this bit, over here, which, helpfully, looks a bit like a cafe.
  • Not technically Ancoats, you can sit out here if you like. The door is between the tables.
  • Finally, we're there. Take a moment to savour the view. Magnificent, isn't it?
  • The counter's to the left as you come in, the roastery behind it and to the right.
  • Meanwhile, the seating runs away in rows to in front of you.
  • The view from the diametrically opposing corner. The low ceilings add to the atmosphere.
  • I was particularly taken the long bar against the back wall (to your right as you enter).
  • The row of tables down the middle was also of interest.
  • The only drawback of the bar is that it does mean you're sitting with your back to everyone.
  • But just look at those bricks!
  • These cast iron pillars hold up the ceiling, so there's not much Ancoats could do about them.
  • Instead, they were put to good effect as part of the seating/tables.
  • All very clever!
  • Beyond the rows of seats is Ancoats' second entrance, which leads to/from the courtyard.
  • What courtyard? This courtyard, the magnificent space between the Old & New Mills...
  • ... enclosed by this soaring, glass roof, so you can sit outside even when it's raining.
  • The view back towards Ancoats from the other side of the courtyard.
  • The corridor on the left leads back out to the main entrance.
  • Let's skip back to the model for some context. The entrance we came in is on the left...
  • ... while Ancoats, as seen from here, is on the far side of the courtyard.
  • Back to the courtyard, looking in the same direction. You could argue it has the best seating.
  • There's this coffee table off to the right...
  • ... and these two free-standing tables a little way into the courtyard.
  • Meanwhile, flanking the door to Ancoats, two lovely pairs of armchairs: these two...
  • ... and these two. The courtyard's technically not Ancoats', but you're welcome to use it.
  • There's also a reassuring sign on the window by the door.
  • The view from just outside the door, looking down the long bar...
  • ... and a wider view of the seating, with the counter in the far corner.
  • Before we get down to business, there are some lovely light-fittings.
  • I particularly liked these ones...
  • ... although these fellows on the pillars and some of the walls were my favourites.
  • So, to business. The counter, with the roaster behind it.
  • A man and his roaster. Or is that a roaster, and his roaster? Confusing langauge, English.
  • The green beans are tucked away to the right behind the counter.
  • There's also a fully kitted-out kitchen at the back of the counter area behind the roaster...
  • ... but it's not yet in use. Until then, there's a small range of sandwiches, salads...
  • ... and, of course, cake!
  • The coffee menu, meanwhile, is chalked up on these boards on the corner of the counter.
  • There's a particular emphasis on the single-oriign offerings.
  • That might be the shortest distance from roaster to espresso machine I've ever seen...
  • The other business end of Ancoats.
  • Cup in place, and we're off!
  • Am I the only one who wants to nudge the cup over to the left a bit?
  • There's also filter coffee, showcasing Ancoats' range of single-origins.
  • Serving suggestion: the carafe neatly stacks on top of the upturned glass.
  • Anyone for coffee?
  • Just in case anyone thinks its only glasses, I'll leave you with these lovely, lovely green cups.
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Royal Mills is a group of five mill buildings on Ancoats’ western boundary, just north of the Rochdale Canal. Built between 1820 and 1913, they were renovated 10 years ago for use as offices (20%) and flats (80%). Ancoats occupies a ground-floor space just off the massive, covered, interior courtyard, which was always intended as a coffee shop/social space for residents, office workers and the public. As well as opening the new coffee shop, Jamie being Jamie, brought his roaster with him, shifting his entire operation to Royal Mills.

It’s a bit of a rabbit warren, but coming in from the canal, go through the massive, arched doorway (past Ancoats’ A-board) and head for the bit that looks like it’s a coffee shop (but ignoring the furniture which looks like it should be a coffee shop, but isn’t). Ancoats is at the far end, on the right, occupying a rectangular space, consisting of five long, low, brick-ribbed ceiling-vaults. Each rib has an arch at either end and is supported by three cast-iron pillars, giving structure to what could otherwise be a large, open space. The arches of the first rib have doors to the entrance foyer and courtyard respectively, while the others either have windows or are bricked up.

The coffee-shop part of Ancoats occupies the first three ribs, with the roastery occupying the back two. This symmetry is disturbed by the counter, all white tiles in stark contrast to the exposed brick and stone tiles of the rest of the building, which protrudes into the third rib on the left-hand side, nearest the door from the foyer.

Entering by this door, the counter’s to your left, while the seating runs ahead of you in three rows, starting with a bar against the back wall. The next two rows make good use of the pillars, stringing tables between them, while the pillars themselves form small, round tables. The first row of pillars is joined by two low tables, with benches for seating, while the second row only has one table joining the second and third pillars, the first pillar forming the corner of counter. Beyond this is six-person communal table against the courtyard wall, which, coincidentally, is where only power outlet resides.

Talking of the courtyard, this is six storeys high with an amazing sloping glass roof, so you can sit outside even when it’s raining (and since this is Manchester, it’s always raining). Recognising this, the landlord has put some furniture just outside the doors, including two amazing pairs of armchairs and some tables. Alternatively, three coffee tables and chairs are “outside” the foyer-end of Ancoats.

The counter partitions the coffee shop from the roastery. There are cakes front and centre, along with the till, plus plenty of space to make pour-overs. Espresso machine and grinders are to the back on the right, while pride of place, right in the centre, is the roaster itself, Ancoats’ 6kg Giesen. Behind that is an impressive, well-equipped open kitchen that should be put into use next year. For now there’s a limited range of sandwiches and salad. The rest of the space, at the back on the right-hand side, is taken up with the storage space for the green beans, etc.

Coffee-wise, I was spoiled for choice, with all of Ancoats output at my disposal, so I asked head-barista, Mani, to surprise me. For my pains, I had a Nicaraguan natural through the Aeropress, brewed using a low-temperature recipe (65C). It turned out to be a subtle, complex coffee, which was really smooth and the ideal way to christen Ancoats’ new place.

December 2015: Ancoats won the Coffee Spot Best Roaster/Retailer Award for 2015 and was a runner-up for both the Best Physical Space and Most Popular Coffee Spot Awards.

ROYAL MILLS • 17 REDHILL STREET • MANCHESTER • M4 5BA
www.ancoats-coffee.co.uk +44 (0) 161 288 3211
Monday 07:00 – 18:00 Roaster Ancoats (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:00 – 18:00 Seating Tables, Bars, Armchairs (outside)
Wednesday 07:00 – 18:00 Food Sandwiches, Cake (for now)
Thursday 07:00 – 18:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 07:00 – 18:00 Cards Cash only (for now)
Saturday 08:00 – 16:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 08:00 – 16:00 Power Limited
Chain No Visits 6th November 2015

If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, check out the rest of Manchester’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Manchester.


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10 thoughts on “Ancoats Coffee Co, Royal Mills

  1. You’ve got to go to Barbecue cafe in Chorlton (next to Out of the Blue Fishmongers) They’re a roastery and cafe too. Staff are lovely, music’s great.

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