Manchester & Salford

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The Coffee Spot Guide to Manchester

An espresso, made by my Rancilio Silvia espresso machine, in a classic white cup and saucer from Acme & Co., New Zealand, distributed in the UK by Caravan Roastery.Manchester, one of the great cities of England and home to the lovely Manchester Coffee Festival. There are only a few cities that can, after London, genuinely claim to be the UK’s second city of coffee, places such as Edinburgh and Brighton & Hove. And Manchester. Yes, Manchester.

However, when I first went there, just four years ago, you could count the number of speciality coffee shops using your thumbs. A year later, and the scene had improved enough that it was featured in Issue 11 of Caffeine Magazine. By the time I returned at the end of 2014 for the inaugural Cup North, there was another handful of new places for me to visit.

While planning my trip to Cup North (now the Manchester Coffee Festival) in 2015, I made a list of all the new speciality coffee shops I needed to visit in Manchester. I stopped when I got to 10… Add to that the handful of micro-roasters that are dotted around the city and you have a coffee scene that is really booming. As with all these guides, I need to stress that it’s not definitive, particularly given how many new places keep opening!

As to the city itself, you only really need to know one thing. It always rains.Without fail. Except for the day when I went and it snowed. That it was sunny for the first Cup North doesn’t count. That’s just the exception that proves the rule…

For another take on Manchester’s speciality coffee scene, take a look at local blogger Carla’s piece, while friend of the Coffee Spot, Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato, also has a mini-guide.

Header image: Old Trafford cricket ground, England vs India, Day 2 of the 4th Test, 2014. Look at that sky. And the floodlights are already on (this was at 10.30 in the morning). You know what’s coming next!

Coffee Spots

Ancoats Coffee Co, Royal Mills

The words "Now Open! (just...)" written in blue pen on the window of Ancoats, Royal Mills.Once upon a time, in Ancoats, Manchester, a man called Jamie opened Ancoats Coffee Company. Roasting some fine coffee, including some of my favourite decafs, Ancoats went from strength-to-strength, until, on Monday, the Ancoats Coffee Co Coffee Roastery and Café Space (which is a bit of a mouthful, so we’ll stick with Ancoats for short) opened its doors in a magnificent new space in the Royal Mills. We’ll look at the roastery in a future Meet the Roaster; today we’re concentrating on the new café.

Superficially reminiscent of Sheffield’s Tamper Coffee at Sellers Wheel, Ancoats is housed in an old mill building, with a low, brick-arched ceiling and bare brick walls. Potentially a rather dark, unwelcoming space, with only borrowed light from windows at either end, Ancoats is made warm and welcoming by the clever use of lighting. You can also sit outside in the amazing, glass-ceilinged courtyard.

Ancoats, naturally, showcases its own considerable output, with the Warehouse blend, plus a decaf and a different single-origin every week on espresso. There are also three single-origins on filter, which change on a daily basis. If you ask nicely, chances are that you can have any of Ancoats considerable output of single-origins.

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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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Ezra & Gil

The Ezra & Gil motto "Coffee & Provisions" from one of the signs outside.Ezra & Gil’s one of the many Manchester Coffee Spots that popped up in 2015. In Ezra & Gil’s case, it’s in good company, sitting on the corner of Hilton and Newton Streets, almost equidistant between TAKK and Foundation (which I still haven’t visited with my Coffee Spot hat on). The likes of Fig + Sparrow and North Tea Power are also nearby. You could do a coffee-crawl taking in all five, while walking less than ½ km!

I discovered Ezra & Gil, which opened in late July, primarily through social media, where I was tempted by picture after picture of some lovely-looking food. Unsurprisingly, Ezra & Gil is as much about the food as it is about the coffee, as well as selling a range of groceries on the side. In this respect, it reminded me of Bridport’s Soulshine Café. Ezra, by the way, is Hebrew for “helper”, while Gil means “happiness”.

The food, with an impressive all-day breakfast range and lots of other goodies, is cooked on-site in a large kitchen behind the counter, while the coffee is from local roasters Heart & Graft. The famous Barnraiser blend’s on espresso, with a single-origin on V60 for filter fans.

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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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Fig + Sparrow

The Fig + Sparrow logo painted in white on the window, rain lashing down on the street outside.Just a block down the street from the mighty North Tea Power, and a few steps along Oldham Street from its junction with Church Street, is relative newcomer to Manchester’s coffee scene, Fig + Sparrow. Established in 2013, it’s half life-style shop, half café, but 100% excellent. Serving an espresso-based menu using beans from London’s Climpson and Sons, with guest filters on Aeropress and Chemex, plus loose-leaf tea from Newcastle’s Ringtons, Fig + Sparrow also does food. There’s a small but excellent range of cakes, an all-day breakfast menu, lunch, with various specials, sandwiches and a separate toast menu. You have to admire a place that has a separate toast menu.

The front half of the store is given over to the retail arm, selling gifts and various items for the home. The back half houses the coffee shop, with two rows of seating and the counter right at the back. It’s beautifully laid-out, uncluttered and spacious, with wooden floorboards and whitewashed walls and ceilings. Although not much natural light reaches the back, the high ceiling and multiple light bulbs make it surprisingly bright. The result is a very relaxed atmosphere, with quiet, easy-listening music in the background.

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Grindsmith, on a rainy day in Manchester. A rainy day? Well, I never!A relatively recent addition to Manchester’s coffee scene, Grindsmith opened in February 2014. Just across the river in (say it quietly) Salford, it’s a pioneer, funding itself via Kickstarter. I should confess that I have a vested interest, having funded Grindsmith sufficiently to get the Coffee Spot a prime spot on the counter-front, just below the espresso machine.

Grindsmith isn’t big, on the scale of Manchester’s very own Caffeine Cube, aka the original Caffeine & Co on St James’ Square (now Pavé Coffee). However, it’s surprisingly spacious and comfortable, dispelling my original misconception that it was little more than a glorified container. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth: Grindsmith’s lovely, bright and gloriously-appointed shop would grace any open space in Manchester and beyond. Frankly, if it weren’t for the fact that someone would be bound to notice its absence, I’d be tempted to relocate it to my back garden…

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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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Grindsmith Deansgate

A diamond light-bulb hanging over the counter in Grindsmith, Deansgate.When I go to Manchester for Cup North, it’s traditional that I start at least one of my days by visiting Grindsmith. Last year it was the original, the Pod on Greengate Square, which I help fund through Grindsmith’s successful Kickstarter campaign. Back then, the staff were talking excitedly about Deansgate, then the home of the Grindsmith Trike and soon to be the second permanent Grindsmith. Disappointingly (for me) it opened shortly after Cup North, so no prizes for guessing where I went on my return this year…

My initial reaction to the Deansgate Grindsmith is its size. A more traditional coffee shop setting than the pod, what it loses in intimacy, it more than makes up for in space, seating, an expanded food offering and gorgeous, brick arches. I know that might not appeal to everyone, but really, brick arches! How cool is that?

The same Grindsmith dedication to quality coffee is still there, though, with a single-origin from Heart & Graft as the house-espresso, plus decaf and a regularly-rotating guest espresso. There’s also a dedicated brew-bar, with Kalita Wave and Syphons on offer, plus bulk-brew filter for those in a hurry, and, of course, loose-leaf tea.

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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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Idle Hands @ Grub

The Idle Hands logo, taken from the A-board outside the second pop-up on Dale Street.Idle Hands, run by the very wonderful Dave & Lucy, started life as a pop-up next to Manchester’s Piccadilly Station. With the building due for redevelopment, this was always going to be a short-term arrangement, but the good news was that about a year after leaving the Piccadilly site, Idle Hands found a new and (at the time) permanent home on Dale Street, moving in on a temporary basis while waiting for the space to be refurbished.

However, just before Dave & Lucy started fitting out the new shop, the landlord abruptly terminated the lease, leaving Idle Hands homeless. For a less determined couple, that would have been the end, but Dave & Lucy picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and, with a ground swell of support from the wider coffee/independent sector in Manchester, found a new temporary home at Grub’s Mayfield site, where I visited one rainy Friday afternoon.

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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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North Tea Power

The North Tea Power logo on the door of the shop in Manchester. Fortunately, it's not just about the tea!North Tea Power, in the centre of Manchester, is dead easy to find. Start at the Market Street tram stop. Turn your back on the Costa and Nero that face you as you step off the tram and gird your loins when you see the Starbucks on the other side of the road. Head down Tib Street, past the Starbucks, and, after a short walk, you’ll reach the crossroads with Church and Dale Streets. On the other side, on an elevated colonnade running along the right hand side of the street, you’ll find North Tea Power.

Since the summer of 2010, when it opened, many people have considered North Tea Power to be the place to have fine tea and coffee in Manchester and I can see why. It’s lovely and the owners, Wayne and Jane, have poured their passion and attention to detail into every aspect of the place. Come on, you have to admire that level of dedication: they even have rhyming names! This infectious love has rubbed off on everything, including the rest of the staff, making North Tea Power one of the nicest spots I’ve been to for a long while.

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Pavé Coffee (Caffeine & Co Update)

The sign above the door at Pavé Coffee: the words "Pavé Coffee" in black on white shield on a black background, with the words "Espresso Bar" underneath in white capitals.On my first ever Coffee Spot trip to Manchester, the very first coffee shop I visited was this tiny place which I christened the Espresso Cube. Back then, there were only two speciality coffee shops in Manchester, the Espresso Cube (aka Caffeine & Co) and the venerable North Tea Power. Less than three years later and a lot has changed: the Manchester scene is booming, with multiple places opening up in the last year alone.

Caffeine & Co has also changed, opening (and closing) various stores along the way. Throughout all this, the original on St James’s Square has soldiered on with Dan, one of the nicest, cheeriest baristas in an industry full of nice, cheery baristas, at the helm. I was therefore delighted when I visited Manchester at the end of last year for the inaugural Cup North to learn that Dan was negotiating to take over the Espresso Cube from Caffeine & Co.

Dan’s plans finally came to fruition in May this year, when he renamed the coffee shop Pavé Coffee (what, I ask you, was wrong with the Espresso Cube?). Back in Manchester for this year’s Cup North, I naturally made a bee-line for Pavé.

January 2017: Sad news. I've recently learnt that the lovely Dan has had to leave Pavé.

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Pot Kettle Black

The Pot Kettle Black logo, the letters PKB in a black circle over a red espresso cup, flanked by coffee beans and a pair of portafilters.Continuing a theme of Coffee Spots in glorious Victorian shopping arcades, I present Pot Kettle Black (PKB), which has been gracing Manchester’s coffee scene since the start of October 2014. The Barton Arcade, home of PKB, is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen and PKB takes its lead from there, with gorgeous external features and some of the most ornate and sumptuous window art there is.

Stepping inside, PKB is one of the most beautifully-appointed coffee shops I’ve ever visited. It’s a spacious delight of glass, wood and ornate ironwork, with some great tiling thrown in for good measure. There’s a wide range of seating options and, with the laptop/smart phone generation in mind, power outlets have provided at every possible opportunity. While this might be at odds with its Victorian heritage, it’s a welcome addition.

However, a beautiful environment is not much use without some decent coffee to serve in it. Fortunately, PKB scores highly here too, with Workshop’s Cult of Done and decaf on espresso, plus guest filters through Aeropress and V60. There’s loose-leaf tea as well, with a tempting selection of cakes, sandwiches and a small breakfast menu, including porridge and toast.

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Detail from the TAKK sign which hangs outside on Tariff Street: the TAKK logo, a cut-out T over the words "TAKK Coffee House", etched in wood in black .In Manchester’s Northern Quarter, five minutes’ walk from Piccadilly Station, there is an unprepossessing street on which, about half way down, is an unprepossessing store front, part of a tall (four storey) terrace of solid, brick-built buildings. This in turn proclaims itself to be the home of TAKK, a relative newcomer to the Manchester coffee scene. Perhaps this is down to innate modesty (although given the A-boards, I doubt that) or maybe it’s a cunning ploy to lull you into a false sense of security, but the exterior really gives no clues as to the delights that await you when you step inside.

TAKK, which is “Thanks” or “Cheers” in Icelandic, is a friendly, welcoming place, its size concealed by what appears to be a relatively small store front (it’s got roughly the same floor area as Manchester’s North Tea Power). The coffee is excellent, with a bespoke house-blend from Bristol’s Clifton Coffee Roasters (NorthernProjekt) and regularly-rotating single-origins from various guests on filter, with Berlin legends The Barn as a mainstay. Add to that an increasing focus on food, with locally-sourced ingredients, regular specials and simple menus, part of TAKK’s push to be the place for breakfast, lunch and coffee.

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