Welcome to the third and final part of my detailed write-ups from the third Glasgow Coffee Festival, which took place earlier this year. In Part I, I looked at the venue itself, the wonderful, soaring hall that is the Briggait, before continuing with a round-up of those exhibitors who had travelled from outside of Scotland to attend. I followed that in Part II with arguably the person who’d travelled the furthest to attend the festival: me! I’d just come back from Japan and brought loads of coffee with me. Using the coffee, we held a Japanese coffee cupping on the last day of the festival.
In part III, I’m going to look at everything else that I got up to at the festival. This includes a round-up of Scottish coffee shops and roasters at the festival, including plenty of old friends and several new ones. There’s also a look at various bits of kit, including tampers, grinders and a shiny espresso machine. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a coffee festival without lots of glorious food!
As usual, there was never enough time to see everyone and visit all the stands, so if I have missed anyone out, I apologise.
You can see what I found after the gallery.
The Glasgow Coffee Festival was, unsurprisingly, full of Scottish coffee shops and roasters. Many of these are old friends of the Coffee Spot, but there were several new friends to be made as well. With my Therma Cup in hand (hint: always bring your own cup to coffee festivals), I set off to explore, starting with the large Glasgow contingent.
First stop was, appropriately enough, at old friends Dear Green Coffee, which was there in its own capacity, as well as in the role of festival organisers. I started off with a flat white, ably made for me by Ant of Wandsworth’s The Black Chapel, who also ran the Japanese coffee cupping for me The coffee was made with a Brazilian single-origin using Mossgiel milk (more of this later). The result was a rich, creamy coffee with chocolate notes that went supremely well in milk. I followed that, at Ant’s recommendation, with a sample of an Ethiopian single-origin batch-brew, which was top-notch and very fruity.
Staying in Glasgow (so to speak) and next stop was Avenue Coffee Roasting Co, which was showing off Sanremo’s new Café Racer espresso machine. This one was looking particularly smart in its custom racing-green kit. However, Avenue’s big news was that its Great Western Road café/roastery had been undergoing a major overhaul which should be complete around about now. Due to Avenue’s continued success, the roastery is being expanded and moved down from its rather cramped mezzanine level to the main floor of the building. This will result in the café scaling back its operations, becoming more of a coffee bar than a fully-fledged café. The old roastery will become a training room, enabling Avenue to offer more support to its wholesale customers, as well as public training and cupping sessions. Expect a Coffee Spot Update or two as soon as I can get back to Glasgow.
I also had a chance to catch up with Spitfire Espresso and Danny, who along with his wife, Emily, set up Spitfire a couple of years ago. I first came across them at the last festival and was keen to see how they were getting on. The answer? Very well indeed! Spitfire now has an alcohol licence, and stays open until ten o’clock from Wednesday to Saturday, which is excellent news if you like beer or just want a late-night coffee fix.
There was also time to make some new friends in the shape of The Steamie and owner, Stephen. The Steamie graces Finniestan, to the west of Glasgow City Centre, and has a reputation for excellent food as well as great coffee. However, it was using the festival to showcase its latest offering: its own coffee! In what was to become something of a theme, The Steamie had started roasting its own coffee and Stephen extracted a promise from me to visit the following day and try some for myself.
Finally, on the (potential) new friends front, I also briefly ran into Katerina and Tomas, the couple behind Buchta, a new Czech coffee shop on the south side of Glasgow, serving Avenue coffee and Czech-inspired cakes. Sadly there wasn’t enough time for a visit, but Buchta’s on the list for next time!
My round-up continues after the gallery when you can see what I got up to as I crossed over (metaphorically) to Edinburgh.
First stop was Cloud Coffee, a new curated coffee service, offering a monthly subscription providing coffee from the finest roasters around Europe. Cloud Coffee, based in Edinburgh and run by a father and son team, Alastair and Matt, works closely with Sweden’s Johan & Nyström, which was the first featured roaster. Cloud Coffee offers subscribers one of three different single-origins (from the same roaster) each month, with Cloud selecting the specific coffee depending on the subscriber’s profile. You can also get Johan & Nyström coffee direct from the Cloud Coffee website.
Next up in Cloud Coffee’s rotation (which is, I believe, last month’s coffee) is from Edinburgh’s Fortitude, which I visited soon after it opened three years ago. Back then it was a multi-roaster, but Fortitude has recently started roasting its own coffee. I tried samples of a really chocolatey Colombian from Fortitude and a really fruity Kenyan from Johan & Nyström, both batch-brews and both excellent.
Another old friend of the Coffee Spot is Machina Espresso. I knew Machina when it was just an equipment supplier, then a coffee shop. Now there are two Machina Espressos in Edinburgh and its realised a long-standing ambition by joining the ranks of coffee shop/roasters. Sadly, I didn’t have the chance to try any of the coffee, but it’s top of my list for when I visit the second Machina Espresso on my next trip to Edinburgh.
More old friends turned up in the shape of Cult Espresso which is bucking the trend by not roasting its own coffee. Instead, Cult was on the pop-up café with some samples from favourite roaster, Bath’s Round Hill Roastery.
However, it wasn’t all coffee, as you will see after the gallery.
There weren’t many equipment manufacturers at the festival, which is not that surprising given that the festival’s target audience is the home user. However, there were a few, along with some interesting product launches.
We’ll start with a quick visit to Conti and its 60th Anniversary machine, a gorgeous lever espresso machine which I first came across at the World of Coffee in Dublin this time last year. I then had a full run down on this beautiful piece of engineering later on that year at the Manchester Coffee Festival. I don’t have too much to add except to say that it has now been officially launched and is doing the rounds of the various coffee festivals and events. The plan is to make 60 of these machines, one for each year of Conti’s existence, with 10 of them ear-marked for the UK. If you want to know more, please see my report from the Manchester Coffee Festival.
Next up is Clockwork Espresso and its PUSH tamper. I first met Pete, the man behind PUSH, at the London Coffee Festival in 2015. Since then, we’ve run into each other at various events. Last year Clockwork Espresso launched PUSH, marketed as the world’s most precise tamper. PUSH’s aim is fairly simple: to produce a consistent, level tamp each and every time.
The idea for PUSH came while Pete was at his day job and making espresso for other members of staff. No matter how much he trained them, they always came back to him to make coffee. He realised that poor tamping was at the heart of the problem: as a part-time home barista, I know the problem well. With a traditional tamper, it can be hard to get a level tamp, without which you’re going to have problems, with one side of the coffee thinner than the other. Water under pressure will always find the quickest way through the coffee and what you’ll find is that more water goes through the thinner side, leading to uneven extraction.
Enter PUSH, an adjustable fixed-depth tamper. It’s effectively two concentric steel cylinders, the narrower one protruding from the wider one. The trick is to match the cylinders to the portafilter, the narrower one fitting cleanly inside the portafilter and the wider one resting on top. All you then have to do is adjust how much the inner cylinder extends beyond the outer cylinder (using a small tool like an Allan key) so that it matches the depth of the coffee below the rim of the portafilter. Now you have the perfect tamper: simply rest it on the top of the portafilter and push, resulting in a firm and even tamp every time.
The prototype saw the light of day in April 2015, when Maxwell (of Colonna & Small’s fame) used it in the World Barista Championships. The impact was immediate, with people approaching Pete to buy it there and then. However, he resisted the temptation to rush things, finally launching PUSH a year later in April 2016.
Since then, Clockwork Espresso has gone from strength-to-strength, selling several thousand tapers to over 50 countries around the world. I can attest to its success, having seen it in numerous coffee shops in my travels. From designing the PUSH in his spare time during his day job, Clockwork Espresso now employs two full-time staff and, despite an increase in production capacity, there’s a still a backlog of orders, which just shows how popular the PUSH tamper is.
After the gallery, you can find not one, but two, new launches from Edinburgh’s Knock.
Knock first made its name (literally) with a range of handmade knock boxes and tampers. However, real fame came with the launch of a gorgeous range of hand-grinders, with 38mm metal burr sets, now available in a range of sizes and finishes. These are the flagship hausgrind and feldgrind grinders which will be joined later this year by the Aergrind, the end of a logical progression from Knock which has seen its grinders get progressively smaller without losing any of their grinding ability. The Aergrind, as the name suggests, will be small enough to fit inside an Aeropress and is aimed firmly at the travel market (ie, people like me who take their coffee-making kit on aircraft and trains).
Funded by a successful Kickstarter which was fully subscribed in less than a day, the first Aergrinds should be delivered within the next month or so as long as all goes well with the pre-production run. Like Clockwork Espresso, one of Knock’s problems has been meeting demand, with orders for the previous grinders outstripping production capacity. Knock has spent the last year or so streamlining the production process and increasing capacity. The Kickstarter was also capped to ensure that orders could be fulfilled.
The Aergrind keeps all of the hausgrind and feldgrind’s main features. This includes the same metal burr set and the adjustable grind size, although this time the numbering, which shows you the grind setting, is no longer on the grinder shaft. Instead, the numbers are around the outside edge of the lid on the top of the grinder, with a notch in the handle indicating the setting. I had a try with a prototype at the festival and can confirm that grind quality is as good as ever. Keep your eyes peeled over the next few months for a full review, which will be coming your way as soon as I get my hands on one! In the meantime, you can follow the Aergrind’s progress through the regular updates on the Kickstarter page.
The new Aergrind is not the only change at Knock. Peter, the mainstay at Knock, has been joined by an apprentice, Owen, who has played a large part in new product design. This has seen Knock unveil a second product this year, a new adjustable, fixed-depth, spring-loaded tamper, which was launched at the festival. Similar in concept to the PUSH tamper, the tamper contains two innovative features.
The first is the adjustment mechanism, which involves a simple twist of the tamper. The second is the spring-loaded element, which gives tactile feedback when tamping the coffee. The strength of the spring is adjustable, allowing you to tailor it to the firmness of the tamp required. As far as I know, there is no fixed launch date for the tamper, but it should be out towards the end of the year.
Like the PUSH tamper, Knock is only planning on producing a single size (fitting a VST basket), with the tamper aimed at the professional market.
That’s almost it, but no festival would be complete without lots of lovely food, as you can see after the gallery.
Food is one of the most important parts of any coffee festival, particularly if you are going to be there for an entire day. Fortunately, the Glasgow Coffee Festival has always had a strong food offering, with plenty of local suppliers to draw upon. There was a cluster of food stands at the front of the festival on the left, easily accessible, and with plenty of space, plus tables and other places you could sit and eat. Having been to a few festivals where the vegetarian choice was down to a single stand, it was good to see lots of options here, although in the end I found myself gravitating to old favourite, McCune Smith, and its sizzling grill. I had the Sicilian, a goat’s cheese bagel.
There were plenty of other options if you wanted something sweet, with Meadow Road Coffee turning up with an entire stand full of cake (last time it had some savoury options too). And, of course, there was always old friends Cakesmiths (who got a mention in Part I of this round-up) and Spitfire Espresso, which was mentioned at the top of this post. I also bought some chocolate from local producers, Rebel Chocolate, which makes reduced sugar, lactose-free chocolate. I passed it on to one of my chocolate-loving friends who gave it the thumbs up.
There are two other exhibitors who I want to mention. The first is Mossgiel Farm, the official milk supplier to the festival. Having made such a fuss about milk in my coverage of this year’s London Coffee Festival, I was annoyed that I didn’t get to visit the stand, but every time I went over there, it had a queue three or more deep, so I kept thinking I’d catch it later, only later never game. Mossgiel is a single herd farm, providing unhomogenised milk. Based on my limited experience (the flat white I had from Dear Green and a second I had the following day at The Cran’), it’s excellent milk for coffee.
Finally, a quick shout-out to the Independent Coffee Guide, which was there with the second edition of it’s Scotland Guide. There are now four guides covering various parts of the UK: the South West (which is onto its third edition), Northern England (second edition), Scotland (second edition) and the most recent guide, Ireland, which was launched last month. For more on the guides and their philosophy, here’s something I wrote when the guides were launched.
So that’s it for this year’s Glasgow Coffee Festival. I’m already looking forward to next year’s though, which takes place on 19th/20th May 2018.
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