2016 Awards – Best Filter Coffee

From a black board behind the counter at Saint Espresso: "Crafting Coffee with Religious Care".We continue the second day with the next shortlist for the 2016 Coffee Spot Awards, the “Best Filter Coffee” Award, which was won (somewhat ironically) last year by Saint Espresso. A major revelation since starting the Coffee Spot is that filter coffee isn’t that over-brewed, stewed muck that bad coffee chains serve out of urns. It’s actually an amazing, delicate drink that has opened my eyes to a whole new world of coffee.

This award celebrates those Coffee Spots which continue to help me on my journey of discovery. To give you an idea of how far I have come since starting the Coffee Spot, I initially owned a cafetiere and an espresso machine and either drank my coffee at home with milk (cafetiere) or as espresso. Now I make the bulk of my coffee with my Aeropress and have a grinder dedicated to filter coffee. I always drink my filter coffee black and increasingly think that if I have to put milk in my coffee to make it drinkable, I’m drinking the wrong coffee!

You can see the shortlist after the gallery.

  • Silhouette, in Hackney, serving up some awesome pour-overs.
  • Origin's flagship London store on Charlotte Road, where the brew bar is front and centre.
  • Taylor Street Gallery, small, yes, but still space for a brew bar on the counter.
  • Portland's Five Points Coffee Roasters, Division, where the Chemex rules.
  • Roasted Brown in Dublin, which served me an awesome Kenya through the Kalita Wave.
  • Root Coffee, Liverpool, which has an interesting take on preparing its V60s.
  • Philadelphia's Double Knot, putting the Modbar pour-over module to good use.
  • Birmingham's Faculty, which has yet to let me down when it comes to filter coffee.
  • Copenhagen's Forloren Espresso, which, despite the name, serves an awesome pour-over.
  • Blue State Coffee, Thayer Street, showing some love to the humble Aeropress.
  • Press Coffee, Scottsdale Quarter, my first experience of the Seraphim in a coffee shop.
  • Grindsmith Media City, another excellent Kalita Wave pour-over, beautfiully presented.
  • Manchester's Idle Hands, another one showing some Aeropress love.
  • Stir Coffee Brixton, where my V60 looked like red wine in its glass.
  • York's Kiosk: Project Space, serving up an awesome Panama from Dark Woods.
Silhouette, in Hackney, serving up some awesome pour-overs.1 Origin's flagship London store on Charlotte Road, where the brew bar is front and centre.2 Taylor Street Gallery, small, yes, but still space for a brew bar on the counter.3 Portland's Five Points Coffee Roasters, Division, where the Chemex rules.4 Roasted Brown in Dublin, which served me an awesome Kenya through the Kalita Wave.5 Root Coffee, Liverpool, which has an interesting take on preparing its V60s.6 Philadelphia's Double Knot, putting the Modbar pour-over module to good use.7 Birmingham's Faculty, which has yet to let me down when it comes to filter coffee.8 Copenhagen's Forloren Espresso, which, despite the name, serves an awesome pour-over.9 Blue State Coffee, Thayer Street, showing some love to the humble Aeropress.10 Press Coffee, Scottsdale Quarter, my first experience of the Seraphim in a coffee shop.11 Grindsmith Media City, another excellent Kalita Wave pour-over, beautfiully presented.12 Manchester's Idle Hands, another one showing some Aeropress love.13 Stir Coffee Brixton, where my V60 looked like red wine in its glass.14 York's Kiosk: Project Space, serving up an awesome Panama from Dark Woods.15
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There are 15 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.

A flat white, seen from above, with tulip pattern latte art in a white cup on a white saucer.Silhouette

The sadly-missed Silhouette in Hackney was the creation of owners Lee and Syirin. Despite the original name of “Silhouette Espresso”, it excelled at pour-over filter coffee, winning it a place on this year’s shortlist. While Silhouette is back with a new branch on Cheapside, lack of space means no pour-over (for now)… Silhouette is also shortlisted for the Most Passionate About Coffee  Award.

A glass Kalita Wave Filter sitting on a glass Kalita carafe which itself is on a pair of black Acaia scales. The ground coffee has been put in the filter paper, ready for brewing.Origin, Charlotte Road

Cornwall’s Origin has made great strides in taking over London, one shop at the time. Its flagship branch on Charlotte Road in Shoreditch features a pour-over bar in the window and, while all of Origin’s London branches that I visited this year, do pour-over, none of them make it a feature like Charlotte Road. Pull up a chair and take a seat at the bar! Origin is also shortlisted for the Happiest Staff Award.

A latte-art style fern above the words "taylor st baristas" with "finely crafted coffee" written underneath, all in white on a black oval.Taylor Street Gallery

Despite its size, Taylor Street Gallery still managed a wonderful pour-over bar, where you could sit at the counter and watch your coffee being made. Taylor Street Gallery is also shortlisted for the Best Basement Award.

Five Points prepares two Chemex at a time rather than using a bulk-brewer. The coffee is either served immediately or kept warm in flasks.Five Points Coffee Roasters, Division

As much for its use of large Chemex as a replacement for America’s obsession with bulk-brew, Portland’s Five Points Coffee Roasters gets a spot on the Best Filter Coffee shortlist. It is also shortlisted for the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot Award.

Light bulbs, hanging in glass lampshades, above the counter at Roasted Brown, Dublin.Roasted Brown

Dublin’s Roasted Brown, in the Filmbase Building, roasts all its own coffee and served me an exquisite washed Kenyan Kainamui AA, through the Kalita Wave. It was a lovely coffee, quite bright, but well-balanced, with just a hint of sweetness. It also matured nicely as it cooled. Note that since my visit, Roasted Brown has moved on from the Filmbase Building.

The words "Root Coffee" written in an arch in black capitals on white, tiled wall. "EST / 20 / 15" is written in red in a box below.Root Coffee

Liverpool ‘s Root Coffee served me a V60 of a Panamanian coffee from Round Hill served at exactly the correct drinking temperature, allowing the subtle, delicate, fruity notes to come to the fore immediately, a process which only improved as it cooled.

The words "Double Knot" written with the picture of a piece of rope tied into a Double Knot in the middle.Double Knot

Philadelphia’s Double Knot uses the Modbar pour over module, a semi-automated pour-over method that allows the barista to use any existing manual pour-over method (eg V60, Chemex, Kalita Wave). This was put to work to make me a with Costa Rica pour-over, using the Kalita Wave, a really sweet, incredibly well-balanced coffee (roasted by Elixr). Double Knot is also on the shortlist for the Best Basement Award.

A series of vertical wooden boards with the words "Faculty" and "speciality coffee & tea" written horizontally across them, with a blue division sign in the centre.Faculty

I have had several excellent filter coffees from Faculty, next to Birmingham’s New Street station. One that particularly stood out was from Round Hill Roastery, a  Kenyan (Kiriaini AB) through the V60. The first sip was exceptional, really juicy and very complex, but at the same time beautifully rounded. Faculty regularly rotates its beans and roasters and has yet to disappoint me! Faculty is also on the shortlist for the Best Coffee Spot Near a Railway Station Award.

A flat white with tulip latte art, seen from directly above in a white cup on a white saucer.Forloren Espresso

Despite the name, Copenhagen’s Forloren Espresso served me a Karimikui from Kenya, roasted by La Cabra, using an interesting Kalita Wave technique, where the barista makes a 200ml filter coffee, before topping it up with hot water to avoid over-extraction. The result was one of the best, most complex coffees I’ve had in a long time. Even when cold, it was still pretty awesome!

The Blue State Coffee motto, "Beans to an End", from a framed drawing on the wall of the Theyer Street branch in Providence.Blue State Coffee, Thayer Street

Despite its popularity in the home market, the Aeropress isn’t always that popular in US coffee shops. However, Blue State Coffee in Providence is an exception, serving me an excellent Aeropress. Blue State is also shortlisted for the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot Award.

A beautiful cappuccino in a classic, hard-to-photograph black cup on a black saucer, made at Press Coffee Roasters, Scottsdale Quarter.Press Coffee, Scottsdale Quarter

The Seraphim is another  automated pour-over system and the one in Press Coffee was the first I’d seen in a coffee shop, so I had to try, receiving a sublime Guatemalan pour-over. Press Coffee is also shortlisted for the Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot Award.

A beautiful Grindsmith glass, with a Nicaraguan single-origin filter coffee from North Star, served at Grindsmith Media City.Grindsmith Media City

The Media City branch of is Manchester‘s Grindsmith chain, served me a Nicaraguan from LeedsNorth Star Micro Roasters through the Kalita Wave. This was a smooth, well-rounded brew with a subtle flavour, served in a carafe with a small, and beautiful, Grindsmith-branded glass on the side. Grindsmith is also shortlisted for the Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot Award.

The Idle Hands logo, taken from the A-board outside the pop-up on Dale Street.Idle Hands Pop-up

I finally caught up with Manchester‘s Idle Hands in its new (temporary) location on its first day. This didn’t seem to create any problems as Idle Hands hit the ground running with a wonderful Guatemalan El Potrero from Finland’s Good Life Coffee, through the Aeropress. Served in a carafe with a wooden stopper and a cup on the side, it was superb: smooth, sweet and with great body. Idle Hands is also shortlisted for the Most Passionate About Coffee Award.

A lovely decaf Brazilian Cortado in a blue espresso cup at Stir Coffee BrixtonStir Coffee Brixton

Brixton’s Stir Coffee provided me with a V60 of a honey-processed coffee from El Salvador roasted by Assembly. Served in a carafe with a glass on the side, it looked like red wine in the carafe and had an almost wine-like quality on the first sip. Very rich, fruity and well-balanced, I never quite recaptured that first mouthful, leaving me chasing the taste to the bottom of the glass. Stir  is also shortlisted for the Most Passionate About Coffee Award.

The modest front of Kiosk: Project Space, on York's Fossgate.Kiosk: Project Space

Kiosk: Project Space is a recent addition to York’s speciality coffee scene. I had an amazing Panama Geisha from Dark Woods, served as a V60. I immediately knew I was in for a treat since it smelled amazing, while the first mouthful was outstanding. A rich, fruity coffee, I thought that it had peaked with that first sip, but as it cooled, it really started to come into its own. Kiosk is also shortlisted for the Smallest Coffee Spot and Happiest Staff Awards.

A special mention also needs to go to the following:

Avenue Coffee Roasting Co, roasting and serving some amazing single-origin filters
Ezra & Gil, where I had an excellent V60 from local roasters Heart & Graft
New Row Coffee, turning out excellent pour-over despite its small size
Fix 126, another excellent V60, this time from local roasters Climpson and Sons
London Coffee Festival, where I had my first coffee from the Seraphim
Panna, another excellent V60 from local roasters Neighbourhood Coffee
Bop, another V60, this time from local roasters Vernazza
Compass Coffee, another excellent pour-over through the Modbar automated system
La Colombe, Blagden Alley, where the Silverton filter was in action
Portland Roasting, The Cupping Room Cafe, where I had a Guatemalan Cup of Excellence through the Chemex

And the winner is Kiosk: Project Space
Runners-up: Faculty and Press Coffee, Scottsdale Quarter.

Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2016.


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