Filament Coffee

A cup of filter coffee, seen from above, next to a handleless jug, on a white, round table at Filament Coffee.Filament Coffee is another of the new places that have opened in Edinburgh in 2015 (May, to be precise). Originally a pop-up that appeared on Victoria Street in 2014, it has now found a permanent home on Clerk Street, not far from Cult Espresso, helping the slow spread of speciality coffee southwards from the city centre.

Housed in an old fishmongers, Filament is long and thin, with an eclectic range of benches and tables along both walls. The focus is firmly on the coffee, where there are various single-origins from an interesting cast of roasters (during my visit, an El Salvador from Has Bean, with a Guatemalan from Square Mile and an Ethiopian from new roasters, Obadiah, on filter).

If it’s food you’re after, Filament has a selection of cake and a very comprehensive bagel menu, perhaps one of the most comprehensive I’ve seen. Like toast, you can’t really go wrong with a good bagel.

And finally, with a name like Filament, you’re really holding yourself hostage to fortune unless you have some seriously good light bulbs on display. Fortunately, Filament does not disappoint! Coffee Spot Calendar anyone? Although this year’s is already at the printers, so can’t feature Filament…

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • On Clerk Street, the narrow front of Filament, with its solitary bench, hides great things.
  • The view from just inside the door...
  • ... where you're greeted by these two cheerful chaps.
  • Want to catch some sun, but don't want to sit outside? Try the window bench.
  • The view towards the back of Filament, narrowing as it goes.
  • The only really conventional table. But what's that in the floor next to it?
  • A trap door! For getting rid of awkward customers? No, just the store room/cellar. Pity.
  • Lovely old pew/bench seat.
  • The seats right at the back: the ones on the right have power sockets underneath.
  • These two are only really good for perching.
  • The view from the back of the store...
  • ... and the view from my seat.
  • You can't have a shop called Filament without some serious light bulb action.
  • Lovely patterns on the ceiling...
  • ... and lovely light bulbs themselves.
  • Light bulbs in the window and instructions left for the cleaner of the shop opposite.
  • These, however, hanging over the counter, might be the best of all. Guess what they are.
  • Have you guessed yet? They're the tops of old immersion heater cyclinders!
  • As well as the light bulbs, I really liked the shelves.
  • This, obviously, is the retail shelf.
  • So, to business and back to the counter.
  • Hungry? Good, because Filament has cake...
  • ... and biscuits...
  • ... and comprehensive bagel menu.
  • Looking over the top of the espresso machine at the filter bar.
  • Nice takeaway cups.
  • There are some very nice real cups too.
  • The menu, written on the wall behind the counter, is concise and to the point.
  • The coffee: a Has Bean El Salvador on espresso...
  • ... and offerings from Square Mile and Obadiah on filter.
  • The filter bar is small, but effective.
  • Moving to espresso, each shot is carefully weighed out...
  • ... tamped...
  • ... and then extracted.
  • I love watching espresso extract.
  • I also love watching a latte artist at work.
  • The steady pour...
  • ... the development of the pattern...
  • ... and the finishing touch.
  • Look at that beauty. Mind you, that's not the best angle...
  • Let's just go around here and... Woah! Where'd the espresso go?
  • Ah, wait. It's a macchiato.
  • As someone who can't do latte art in a bucket, let alone an espresso cup...
  • ... I am always impressed with the skills of a good latte artist.
  • Especially those who finish with a flourish!
  • That's better.
  • After all that espresso and milk, I had filter. Black, of course.
  • And a bagel.
  • A lovely, toasted bagel.
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Long and thin, Filament doesn’t quite have near-neighbour Cult Espresso’s advantage of actually being a coffee shop in a corridor, but nonetheless, it’s very corridor-like, with possibly the greatest ratio of depth to width of any coffee shop I’ve been in. It’s not so narrow that I could touch both walls with outstretched arms (it’s maybe twice that wide) but it goes back a long way. Naturally, this raises concerns about the light, but fortunately, the front’s all glass, with a window at the back, so it’s surprisingly bright, with plenty of bare light-bulbs (which you’d expect from somewhere called Filament) to supplement the natural light. Sensibly, the walls and ceiling are painted white, which helps immensely, and, since it’s almost as tall as it is wide, it feels really spacious.

The furniture’s very much dictated by the space. There’s a window-bench on the right, which runs from the door (on the left) to the wall. The counter takes up the front third of the store on the right-hand side, with the short end facing the window. This holds the EK-43 and filter bar, while the length of the counter holds the cakes/bagels (on the corner) followed by till, grinder and espresso machine. Just behind/beyond the end of the counter are some shelves which look suspiciously like planks resting on scaffolding poles sticking out from the walls. These hold jars of loose-leaf tea, fresh vegetables (for the smoothies) and bottles of water/glasses. These.

Opposite the counter is a long, narrow bench against the left-hand wall. The bench (which looks for all the world like a plank supported by scaffolding poles) has two equally-narrow tables, each of which looks suspiciously like a plank stuck on top of two scaffolding poles.

Next, beyond the retail shelves (planks resting on scaffolding poles, anyone?), the store narrows slightly on the left, just in time for a single, round table, followed by an old wooden bench seat. Opposite these, beyond the end of the counter against the right-hand wall, is another long bench with another two narrow, scaffolding/plank tables, plus fixed benches (I’m sure you can work out how these have been constructed).

Filament narrows even further opposite the second of these two tables. The space is taken up by the toilet and there’s a little bench seat (scaffolding/planks, anyone?) running along the left-hand wall and across the window at the back. All these seats are comfortable enough, but if you have any problems with your back, they’re really not for lingering on (and I speak from experience!).

I’d just come from having one too many cups of coffee at Stag Espresso and, needing to soak up the excess caffeine, had the very last onion bagel which was toasted to absolute perfection. For my coffee, I was drawn to Obadiah, a relatively new roaster, which is based in Edinburgh, but with the coffee roasted in Sofia, Bulgaria.

I had an Aeropress of Obadiah’s single-origin Ethiopian. This was a perfectly acceptable cup, which held its own even when cold (I stretched it out, having really overdone it at Stag Espresso; with hindsight, I should have ordered and eaten the bagel and then gone back for the coffee). It definitely evolved as it cooled, being quite fruity and punchy when cold, which came as a pleasant surprise.

38 CLERK STREET • EDINBURGH • EH8 9HX +44 (0) 131 281 5140
Monday 08:00 – 19:00 Roaster Roaster (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:00 – 19:00 Seating Benches, Tables
Wednesday 08:00 – 19:00 Food Bagels, Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 19:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:00 – 19:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 08:00 – 19:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 08:00 – 19:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits 20th October 2015

Liked this? Then don’t forget to check out the Coffee Spot Guide to Edinburgh for more great Coffee Spots.

You can also see what Edinburgh-based blogger Claire makes of Filament on her blog, There Goes Claire.

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