Upstairs Coffee

An old-fashioned, heraldic shield, in white, with a black diagonal line running through it, bottom left to top right, with a handle added on the left to turn it into a coffee cupThe latest addition to Birmingham’s growing speciality coffee scene opened in April, excellent timing considering that I was passing through at the start of May. A few weeks later, there I was on Water Street, home to Upstairs Coffee, where I had my first (temporary) disappointment: it’s on the ground floor! However, my profound disappointment was short-lived as I discovered that it was indeed correctly named, being upstairs from a (soon-to-be-opened) basement cocktail bar.

That little misunderstanding successfully resolved, I quickly fell in love with Upstairs Coffee. It’s a tiny, corridor-shaped space, about as wide as London’s Goodge St Espresso, but not quite as long, making it one of the smallest places I’ve been. Lovingly decked out in reclaimed materials, it’s also one of the best looking! The counter’s at the back and there’s space for a couple of seats at a bar on the left, but other than the bench outside, that’s it as far as seating goes.

The coffee is from Oxfordshire’s Ue Coffee Roasters, plus there’s loose-leaf tea and croissants/brownies from the local Peel & Stone Bakery, but that’s it. A word of warning: Upstairs Coffee only has takeaway cups, so don’t forget to bring your own!

February 2018: Upstairs Coffee closed in 2017, but the site has been taken over by SHOTS Espresso Bar, an off-shoot of the nearby Saint Kitchen.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Birmingham's Water Street, home of Upstairs Coffee. It's on the left, opposite No 64.
  • And here it is seen from outside No 64, looking across the street. It's on the right-hand side.
  • The building, by the way, says it's No 32-35, regardless of what Google Maps says!
  • The view of Upstairs Coffee approaching from the (south) west...
  • ... and the view approaching from the (north) east...
  • And the view head-on. Disappointingly (initially), Upstairs Coffee is on the ground floor!
  • Stepping inside, it's not the biggest place in the world. This is the view from the door...
  • ... and this is the view looking back from the counter!
  • There is seating though: these two chairs and a bar to the left as you enter!
  • Worth a second look, don't you think? The bin (on the left) is a recycled old drawer!
  • The business end of Upstairs Coffee, counter on the left, mirrors on the right.
  • I was very taken with the mirrors. Happy barista.
  • Contented barista.
  • Perplexed barista(s)! Where'd the other one come from?
  • The mirrors actually hide a hatch in the wall! What's that in there?
  • The clue is to the right as you enter: a massive, steel door that slides to the left...
  • Revealing a secret passageway with an amazing light-fitting (and another mirror)...
  • ... and steps going down! So that's why it's called Upstairs Coffee!
  • Back in Upstairs Coffee, it too has its own amazing light-fitting.
  • Isn't it a beauty? The ceiling is pretty cool too!
  • Both lights are reclaimed, as is almost everything in the store, including the wood cladding.
  • There are also (slightly) less fancy light-fittings :-)
  • These holders to the left of the door are also reclaimed, from an old pottery factory.
  • Upstairs Coffee has strong, clear branding...
  • ... which is prominently displayed.
  • There's also a little retail shelf at the back next to the menu.
  • The business end of Upstairs Coffee with the trusty La Marzocco taking centre stage.
  • The beans, from Ue Coffee, are helpfully in the hopper...
  • ... and there are even croissants (and brownies, but they were all gone) from a local baker.
  • It's takeaway only though, so bring your own cup. Here my Kaffeeform cup tries an espresso...
  • ... while my Keep Cup has a go at a flat white.
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Just around the corner from the lovely Saint Kitchen, and not far from the now-closed Brewsmiths, your biggest challenge might be finding Upstairs Coffee. At the time of writing, Google maps refuses to acknowledge its existence and even puts the address the other side of the railway tunnel! Despite this, Upstairs Coffee is between Livery Street and Ludgate Hill, and, once you’ve located the correct part of the street, it’s easy enough to find thanks to its A-board and bench outside on the pavement.

As I’ve said, it’s a tiny spot, with just enough room for the counter at the back, while at the front, to the left of the door, there are a couple of chairs at a small bar. However, Water Street is quiet (and sunny) enough that sitting on the bench outside is an option. To the right of the door, a large metal door on runners slides back to reveal an intriguing flight of stairs. These head down to the basement, home to an upmarket cocktail bar. The plan is that this will open in the evenings, once Upstairs is closed. Now, cocktails aren’t my thing, but if you get the chance, do go because the fit-out down there (I got a sneak preview) is amazing!

Back upstairs and Upstairs Coffee is the sort of place where you really can’t help but interact with the barista, so it’s just as well that Upstairs’ barista/manager, Marcell, is a lovely chap. I met with him and the owner, Andy, who gave me the run down on Upstairs Coffee, his plans for the cocktail bar, as well as his philosophy of doing a small range of things, but doing them exceedingly well.

Andy also explained the use of reclaimed materials to fit the place out. The amazing ceiling is actually wallpaper, stained with turps. The mirror, which takes up the entire wall on the right-hand side by the counter, is actually an old, multi-paned window, while the door to the cocktail bar and all the wood are reclaimed from local buildings. Even the lights, including the awesome central light-fitting, are recycled.

Into this beautiful setting comes some lovely coffee from Witney’s Ue Coffee Roasters. Given the space limitations, there’s only a single espresso (which will change every few months), a fully-washed single-origin Finca Liquidambar from Honduras. I tried it as an espresso in my Kaffeeform cup, and thought it was excellent: smooth, well-balanced and subtle, but with plenty of flavour. I was slightly less impressed with it as a flat white in my KeepCup, where it was similarly smooth, but a little lost in the rich, creamy milk. A cortado or 6oz flat white might have worked better.

December 2016: Upstairs Coffee has won the 2016 Smallest Coffee Spot Award and was a runner-up for the 2016 Most Popular Coffee Spot Award.

32-35 WATER STREET • BIRMINGHAM • B3 1HL
twitter.com/upstairs_coffee
Monday 07:30 – 16:00 Roaster Ue Coffee (espresso only)
Tuesday 07:30 – 16:00 Seating Bar, Bench Outside
Wednesday 07:30 – 16:00 Food Croissant & Brownies
Thursday 07:30 – 16:00 Service Counter
Friday 07:30 – 16:00 Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Saturday CLOSED Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday CLOSED Power No
Chain No Visits 4th May 2016

Liked this Coffee Spot? Then check out the rest of Birmingham’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Birmingham.


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5 thoughts on “Upstairs Coffee

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