Grindsmith Cross Street

When visiting Manchester for the Manchester Coffee Festival, it’s traditional that I start one of my days at Grindsmith. Two years ago, it was the original, the Pod on Greengate Square, while last year I called in on the second branch on Deansgate. This year it’s the turn of the latest branch, on Cross Street. Bizarrely, this means that I’ve done all four Grindsmith branches in the order that they opened, having previously visited Media City, Grindsmith’s other opening this year.

Grindsmith’s always has interesting spaces. The Pod is just that, a pod/container with a coffee shop inside. Deansgate is at front of an amazing old warehouse, effectively the house-café for the Central Working/Rise co-working space. Meanwhile Media City is a bright, light-filled spot with a cosy mezzanine above the counter/kitchen.

The latest Grindsmith is a joint-venture with Chop’d, the London-based salad-bar chain, now rapidly expanding with this, its first branch outside London. The two share the space upstairs on Cross Street: if it’s food you want, the Chop’d counter is to the left, while if it’s coffee, the smaller Grindsmith counter is tucked away to the right, by the stairs down to the basement, where you’ll find additional seating.

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Manchester Coffee Festival 2016 Part III

A flat white from Carvetii in my Therma Cup at the Manchester Coffee Festival, 2016.Welcome to the third and final part of my round up of this year’s Manchester Coffee Festival. In Part I, I took a look at the venue itself, and also my favourite coffee competition, the UK Cup Tasters’ Championship, won this year by Freda Yuan from Caravan. Then, in Part II, I focused on all the coffee roasters who were there in force this year. Today I’m going to finish things off with a look at the non-coffee stuff (equipment, reusable cups, milk, cake, tea…), although there’s also one coffee-related item that got missed out last week… Oops.

I had a chance to look at the Conti 60th Anniversary espresso machine which I’d first seen at World of Coffee in Dublin earlier this year, plus there was a chance to catch up with some reusable cup manufacturers. As usual, there was lots of food at the Manchester Coffee Festival, including three street food stalls, a bakery, and my friends from Cakesmiths (which now has its own café, Bakesmiths). Then there was milk and I even had a look at some tea, before rounding things off with a coffee cupping…

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Detail from the wooden board outside the ManCoCo coffee bar and roastery in Manchester.The concept of the railway arch as home to a coffee shop (The Fields Beneath or Doctor Espresso  – Mama V’s spring to mind), roastery (Neighbourhood Coffee), or, indeed, bakery (Hart’s Bakery), is well-established. For the last couple of years, their ranks have been swelled by Manchester’s ManCoCo, which is, as far as I know, the only combined coffee bar/roastery in a railway arch. Tucked away on Hewitt Street behind Manchester’s Deansgate, ManCoCo takes a little bit of finding, but once you find Hewitt Street itself, ManCoCo is pretty obvious, on the north side of the street.

ManCoCo is both roastery (established five years ago) and coffee bar (18 months). Occupying a single arch, the roastery’s to your left, while the coffee bar’s on the right, the two separated by a fairly heavy-duty wooden partition. The coffee bar is no afterthought, by the way. A substantial operation in its own right, there’s plenty of seating, a decent selection of coffee, including a blend and single-origin on espresso, while you can have any of ManCoCo’s range of single-origins as a pour-over through the V60. While I was there, the choice extended to 11 different beans. If you’re hungry, there’s sandwiches and cake.

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Manchester Coffee Festival 2016 Part II – Meet the Roasters

A flat white in my Therma Cup in front of the Carvetii logo at this year's Manchester Coffee Festival.Welcome to Part II of my round up of this year’s Manchester Coffee Festival (the festival previously known as Cup North). In Part I, I took a look at the venue itself, and also my favourite coffee competition, the UK Cup Tasters’ Championship, won this year by Freda Yuan from Caravan. This time I want to focus on the coffee, looking at the various roasters who were there in force this year. I’ll finish things off in Part III with a look at the non-coffee related material (equipment, reusable cups, milk, cake, tea…)

I tried to focus on people I don’t often get to see, so while I stopped by to say hello to the likes of Origin (which I’ve written about three times this year) and my friends at Allpress, I didn’t linger too long. I also ran into Glasgow’s Avenue Coffee and Dear Green Coffee who were visiting but not exhibiting. Talking of Scotland, I failed utterly to visit Artisan Roast, which had come all the way down from Edinburgh. And Union Hand-roasted, although at least I caught up with Union at the London Coffee Festival this year, so I don’t feel too bad.

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Manchester Coffee Festival 2016 Part I

thumbnail-manchester-coffee-festival-2016-part-i-dsc_0004Last weekend saw my annual visit to Manchester for the Manchester Coffee Festival. If anyone is confused, this is what was, for the past two years, Cup North. It’s been interesting to watch the evolution of the festival. In its first year, Cup North was my favourite coffee festival, small, friendly and intimate. Last year, it had taken things up a notch, with a new venue, the Victoria Warehouse, and a significant increase in size. This year, it’s gone one better, all while retaining its friendly, relaxed nature, particularly when compared to London Coffee Festival.

All the usual suspects were there, with the roasters out in force, backed up by some equipment manufacturers and coffee kit suppliers. There were various food-related stands, including cake, bread and milk. Everything you need, really. Popping outside, there was also a range of street food in case you got too hungry. Making a triumphant return from last year was my favourite coffee competitor, the UK Cup Tasters’ Championship, while Tamper Tantrum was back with a series of talks. As usual, over the two days, I saw almost everyone I wanted to, but there’s quite never enough time to get around all the stands!

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Idle Hands Pop-up

The Idle Hands logo, taken from the A-board outside the pop-up on Dale Street.Idle Hands started as a long-term pop-up by Manchester’s Piccadilly Station. I had a hit-and-miss relationship with Idle Hands, constantly turning up when it was closed before finally visiting during last year’s Cup North. Idle Hands moved out earlier this year, finding a temporary home with barbers Mr Beardmore in the building on Dale Street that will become its permanent home. Eventually.

The building’s being redeveloped, and, in a tale of woe which you can read on Idle Hands’ website, the opening date has been pushed back and back. Originally scheduled to move in permanently by the end of October, this now looks like early next year. In the meantime, the developer has allowed Idle Hands to move into 32 Dale Street, in the space next door to its future permanent home of 34 Dale Street. It’s a bit makeshift, but at least Idle Hands is back and serving coffee!

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Grindsmith Media City

A beautiful Grindsmith glass, with a Nicaraguan single-origin filter coffee from North Star, served at Grindsmith Media City.Grindsmith has expanded rapidly since its successful Kickstarter launched the pod just three short years ago. The third of its (for now) four branches is in Media City, which opened six months ago, following on from the original Pod and Deansgate. Media City is the probably the most traditional coffee shop setting of all four (the Pod is, well, a Pod, while the other two, Deansgate and Cross Street share space with other organisations. Meanwhile, this one stands alone on a corner to the west of the new Media City development in Salford.

Grindsmith has always built its reputation on coffee excellence, but in Media City, it has added a large kitchen, enabling it to expand its food offering. There’s a full and impressive brunch menu, served until four o’clock, plus something entitled “food on the go”, including breakfast, lunch and sandwich options. Finally, there’s plenty of cake. The coffee offering is centred around the (white) Black Eagle espresso machine, with a single-origin from local roasters, Heart & Graft, on the main grinder and decaf on the second grinder. This is backed up with a single-origin on bulk-brew and another available through the Kalita Wave, both from guest roasters.

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Manchester Coffee Festival 2016 Preview

A stylised outline of a white cup on a black background with letters cupnorth written above it (also in white).In two weeks’ time (Saturday/Sunday, 5th/6th November), Cup North will return, although this year it’s re-branded itself the Manchester Coffee Festival. Once again gracing the halls of the Victoria Warehouse in Stretford, where last year it spread itself out over a rabbit warren of interconnected spaces, you’re in for a real treat.

I’ve watched the Festival evolve over the last three years. Starting out as Cup North in 2014, it was a modest, relaxed affair in a pair of adjoining rooms in Manchester’s Artwork. Last year it expanded to Victoria Warehouse, occupying a number of rooms on the first floor, feeling more like a mini London Coffee Festival, although on a much more manageable scale. Even so, I still didn’t have time to get around all the stands I wanted to!

Whether it’s your first time or you’re wondering what this year’s festival will hold, this preview is for you. There’ll be plenty of speciality coffee and related kit, with numerous cafes, roasters and equipment suppliers amongst the exhibitors. Food, as always, will play a big role, with a range of local street food traders on hand. Finally, the Festival will once again host a series of Tamper Tantrum talks.

With weekend tickets for just £18, or £10 if you only want to do a single day, it really is a bargain. Get your tickets now!

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Ancoats Coffee Update

Freshly-roasted coffee beans cooling in the pan of Ancoats' Giesen roaster.I never done this before, updating a Meet the Roaster… Technically, this means it’s a Saturday Update, but also a Meet the Roaster… Fortunately, I suspect that I’m the only one who actually cares about these things…

I first visited Ancoats in August 2014, when it occupied the corner of a small unit in the corner of an industrial estate in Manchester’s Ancoats district. Fast forward 18 months, and Ancoats, after only two years, was doing so well that it could move not only into bigger premises, but into an amazing café/roastery in Manchester’s Royal Mills development.

The Coffee Spot covered the café-side of things back in November last year, so today I’m focusing on the roastery. Ancoats has long been a favourite of mine, roasting some fine coffee, including some of my favourite decafs. This is joined by its ubiquitous Warehouse espresso blend and anything up to nine single-origins. You can get the Warehouse blend, decaf and a different single-origin every week on espresso at the café, while three single-origins are on filter at any one time. These change on a daily basis and, if you ask nicely, chances are that you can have any single-origin that’s in stock.

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Federal Café & Bar

Detail from the A-board at Federal Cafe & Bar, proudly proclaiming the serving of "Brinner" of Friday evenings.I swear that the good people of Manchester were waiting for me to leave…  I’d been visiting for the inaugural Cup North back in 2014 and no sooner had I left, than it seemed a slew of new coffee shops opened, led by Federal Café & Bar, which, by the way, does what it says on the tin. By day, it’s a café, while by night, it morphs into a bar, although, as I discovered, the staff will happily serve you coffee long into the night (and, I suspect, alcohol during the day).

The coffee side of the equation is handled by Kiwi transplants, Ozone, supplying the Hodson blend and decaf on espresso, with a couple of single-origins on pour-over, impressive when you consider the (lack of) available space. There’s a small selection of wine (five) and beer (four), plus loose-leaf tea, hot chocolate and soft drinks.

Federal’s other main strength is food. This is prepared on-site in an impressively compact kitchen which takes up half of the (not very much) space behind the counter. There are decent breakfast (until noon), lunch (from noon) and brunch (all day) menus, plus, on Friday/Saturday nights, one of the greatest inventions ever, Brinner!

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