MacIntyre Coffee

The store front of MacIntyre Coffee on St John's Road, London.MacIntyre Coffee, on St John Street, just south of the Angel tube station, is the permanent home of what was originally a pop-up in Shoreditch, followed by another at Old Street Roundabout. Heritage aside, what makes MacIntyre stand out from the crowd is the equipment: home to one of (I believe) just four Modbar espresso and steam installations in London, it’s also the only UK speciality coffee shop that I know of which uses the Alpha Dominche Steampunk machine for filter coffee and tea.

There’s not a lot to MacIntyre, just a simple rectangular layout, window at the front, counter at the back, seating at bar along the right-hand side, all of which puts the focus firmly on the coffee, which is supplied by Modern Standard. There’s a single-origin on espresso and another through the Steampunk, the grinding done on demand by the ubiquitous EK-43. The options change every week or two, while there’s a wider selection of beans for sale.

The coffee is backed up with a selection of breakfast options baked on-site. There are pastries, cookies and sandwiches, most of which are gone by lunchtime, plus Mörk hot chocolate from Australia and an interesting selection of loose-leaf tea.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • What's that across the road, just south of the Angel in London? It's MacIntyre Coffee!
  • A better view from directly across the busy St John Street. Compact, isn't it?
  • Apropos of nothing, if you're looking at this amazing building, you're in roughly the right place.
  • Back to MacIntyre, the layout's really simple. Here's the view of the counter from the front...
  • ... and here's a view of the front from the counter.
  • An alternative view of the front, showing the bar along the right-hand side.
  • A proud barista with his counter, plus more of the seating along the right-hand side.
  • The decor is similarly simple, mostly consisting of hanging plants...
  • ... and hanging plants along with lights.
  • Obligatory light-fitting shot.
  • The sign says it all...
  • ... and a lot better than the food shelf. It was still morning, but it had almost all gone!
  • So, to business.
  • The coffee is from Modern Standard. The bags along the front of the counter are for sale.
  • Meanwhile the hot chocolate, from Mörk in Melbourne, has a similar pedigree.
  • The menus hang up on clipboards above the counter.
  • These three on the right are the all-important drinks menus...
  • ... while this is the coffee/hot chocolate menu.
  • Right, time to put the happy barista to work.
  • MacIntyre had, I believe, the UK's first Modbar, with the espresso and steam modules.
  • Next to the Modbar, a very neat system for holding the portafilters when not in use.
  • The ubiquitous EK-43 at the counter's far end does all the grinding using pre-weighed doses.
  • At the other end of the counter is MacIntyre's other technological masterpiece, the Steampunk.
  • MacIntyre has two Steampunk machines, one for tea, and this one, dedicated to filter coffee.
  • Step one, put the ground coffee into the top cylinder.
  • Step two, press go. And that's about it. Now the Steampunk takes over with a pre-infusion.
  • The amount of water and its temperature are programmable as is the resting time...
  • ... before the main infusion.
  • Then, suddenly, it's all over and the coffee starts to drain into the bottom chamber.
  • All of this is automatic, following a pre-selected programme.
  • All done. Now we just have to serve it, which is the only other manual step.
  • Just place the serving vessel underneath the Steampunk, turn the tap and out it comes.
  • And that's it.
  • My coffee, in a glass flask, cup to one side, glass of water to the other.
  • Here it is, on the bar, ready to drink. I'm a big fan of the handleless cup.
  • I'll leave you with the Instagram view for good measure.
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I came across the original MacIntyre Coffee in Shoreditch. Back then it had a very temporary feel, but, as it turned out, it was even more temporary than anyone thought. I made my notes, took my pictures and, a few weeks later, just as I was about to write it up and publish it, an insurance company bought the building and booted out everyone, MacIntyre included, with something like ten days’ notice! The new MacIntyre has a more permanent feel about it, but nevertheless I approached it with more than a little trepidation. If this one shuts unexpectedly, I think I shall stop visiting…

MacIntyre Coffee occupies a high-profile spot, just south of the Angel crossroads, near the likes of Saint Espresso and the original Coffee Works Project. On the east side of the street, it catches both the eye and the sun, particularly in the afternoon. The layout’s very simple, just a rectangle, narrow side facing the street. The door’s on the left, with a window to the right and a bench out front on the pavement of the (very) busy street.

Inside, the counter occupies the back of the store, while seating is at a simple scaffolding-built bar running along the window and up the right-hand side of the store. You can fit a couple of people in the window and maybe six along the wall. The left-hand wall has been kept free of seating, instead housing a shelf with the pastries and sandwiches. It’s a bright, uncluttered space, with plenty of natural light from the generous window, supplemented by long bulbs which hang vertically from the high ceiling, along with several pot plants.

The counter’s given over almost exclusively to the coffee/tea side of the operation, with even the till, a neat tablet-based system, relegated to the counter’s far left-hand side. First comes the twin Steampunk machines, with the left-hand one dedicated to tea, the other to coffee. If you’ve not come across one before, it’s a fully-programmable, automated filter coffee (and tea) machine. I first ran into one at La Colombe in Philadelphia, enjoying a full demo a few months later from Alpha Dominche at the 2014 London Coffee Festival.

To the Steampunk’s right is the Modbar, two gleaming group heads rising out of the counter. Between these and the twin columns of the Steampunk is a solitary steam wand. I did ask why MacIntyre hadn’t gone the whole hog and installed Modbar’s pour-over module: the answer is that the Steampunk’s greater automation won the day. Finally, at the far right-hand end, is the ubiquitous EK-43 which does all the grinding for both espresso and filter, along with a neat system for holding the portafilters when they are not in use.

Having recently experienced the Modbar in action at Modern Society and before that at Gracenote, I decided to put the Steampunk through its paces. The coffee on offer was a washed Ethiopian, which wouldn’t necessarily have been my choice. The Steampunk uses a metal filter which gives the coffee more body, but also less clarity, which, I felt, robbed the Ethiopian of its delicate notes. The coffee was also very hot, so I had to let it cool down for a long while before drinking.

There was nothing wrong with the resulting cup, but it didn’t particularly wow me. On the plus side, the Steampunk really is fully automated. To make a pour-over would have taken a dedicated barista for four/five minutes, but the Steampunk did it all by itself, freeing the barista to serve several other customers, which is just as well since it was very busy.

428 ST JOHN STREET • LONDON • EC1V 4NJ
http://macintyrecoffee.co.uk
Monday 07:00 – 16:00 Roaster Modern Standard (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:00 – 16:00 Seating Bar, Bench Outside
Wednesday 07:00 – 16:00 Food Breakfast
Thursday 07:00 – 16:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 07:00 – 16:00 Cards Amex, Visa, Mastercard
Saturday 09:00 – 16:00 Wifi No
Sunday 09:00 – 16:00 Power No
Chain No Visits 26th August 2016

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6 thoughts on “MacIntyre Coffee

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  4. Hey Brian,

    Few comments on your post:
    1. There are 4 Modbar systems in Lonodon, I believe the one you missed is located in Mast Brothers Chocolate (few meters away from Modern Society) – it is not used for brewing coffee but it is there… Other 3 are in: Modern Society, Macintyre, and The Brass Rail (which actually using their Modbar system as a stand for snacks whilst the coffee is brewed on their La Marzocco Linea PB – every time I pass by this place it amazes me agian)
    2. The coffee served by Macintyre can be found on Sainsbury’s shelves… Although speciality coffee finds its way to the supermarkets I still expect something else from the independent places… Especially those who are trying to stand at the forefront of the coffee scene whilst using the top end brewing technology for coffee and tea.
    3. Macintyre guys used to pre-weigh all coffee doses and keep them in small metal tins (in Shoreditch times) but now they have a newly developed system (by German company) that is fitted to the EK-43 allowing them to use the hopper like in every other cafe…. making the operation a bit more reasonable and scalable… (the operation in Shoreditch did not really made sense… They had to open a small metal tin holding the amount of beans required to brew a shot of coffee for the drink ordered.
    4. Amongst the brilliant cafes around Angle you missed Apestat, great place 2 doors down from Coffee Works Project which is worth a visit

    Keep on drinking coffee and writing about it

    • Hi!

      Thanks for the detailed feedback. I’ve updated the post accordingly and I’ll add Apestat to my (very long) list of places to visit.

      I’m not sure I agree with your argument about Modern Standard and the supermarkets though. Complaining when speciality coffee manages to reach out to a wider market that just speciality coffee shops seems somewhat self-defeating.

      Thanks,
      Brian.

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