Full Court Press

A cup of filter coffee from Full Court PressThe latest in the recent explosion of speciality coffee shops in Bristol, Full Court Press, or FCP Coffee, burst onto the scene on 1st May. I gave it a day to settle down and then went in to see what all the fuss was about.

Bristol has a number of top-notch coffee shops that would grace any city in the country and FCP has leapt right in there with them. Reminiscent of (the sadly now closed) Didn’t You Do Well in both decor and coffee attitude, owner Mat has created something special here. From the moment you walk through the door, you know you are going to get some special coffee. Two white boards on the walls behind the large counter list the four beans available, along with tasting notes and preparation methods. Unusually, FCP has no preferred roaster, and while that may change when things settle down, currently each of the four beans is from different roasters and regularly change.

While I was there, Chris, from Small Street Espresso came in and while he sat at the back chatting with Mat, barista Dave gave me a tour of the premises and a quick demonstration of the art of making coffee (see the gallery).

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • On Broad Street, in the heart of Bristol, you'll find the latest addition to the growing coffee scene: Full Court Press.
  • Generous windows from the 19th century store-front let in loads of light.
  • The well-laid out and uncluttered counter... Well, it had only been open for two days when I visited!
  • The tables opposite the bar.
  • More of the seating opposite the bar... Look at that mess though. You can't take a coffee blogger anywhere!
  • Look who popped in! It's Chris from Small Street Espresso. Mat (left) goes over to say hi.
  • While Mat and Chris put their feet up and shoot the breeze at the back of the shop (it's a hard life), I carry on with my look around.
  • If the tables aren't to your taste, there are also a couple of little bars at the back. This one houses the water and the copies of Caffeine Magazine, but you can sit at the others.
  •  That, however, is it as far as seating goes. But wait! What's this? A spiral staircase, leading temptingly down...
  • Looks interesting! Shall we go down?
  • Sound advice! When I first visited in May 2013, the basement at FCP was just a storeroom.
  • However, when I returned in September 2015, it had been convered to this amazing seating area! With a lovely, stone-flagged floor.
  • A panoramic view from the foot of the spiral staircase.
  • There's not a great deal of seating down here: just this table opposite the stairs...
  • ... and these three comfortable chairs.
  • Another panorama of the basement, this time looking back towards the stairs.
  • The other interesting feature is a collection of three prints of Bristol through the ages.
  • Each one is a print of an old map, showing how Bristol has evolved through the centuries.
  • The third one is above the bookcase in the corner. Ask Mat if you want to know more!
  • Before we head back upstairs, let's take a last look at the amazing spiral staircase.
  • Back upstairs, this beautiful fireplace is at the back of the store...
  • Along with this glorious stained-glass window...
  • And this rather more modern clock...
  • While Didn't You Do Well is rightly proud of its Slayer, Mat and FCP fly the La Marzocco flag with equal pride!
  • So, what's the coffee like? Well, there's plenty of choice. Here are the two filter options.
  • There's also two choices on the espresso machine, except that the Konga 1 had just run out. Here's Mat rubbing it off the board...
  • ... and there it is, gone :-(
  • There's still plenty of coffee around the place though...
  • Here Peter James rubs shoulders with Workshop.
  • Look! Even more coffee!
  • There are also shelves of coffee-making equipment for you to purchase.
  • So, here it comes... The flat white first...
  • And then my filter, which was excellent, a real delight.
  • If you're very nice, you might even get to see the cold brew (don't tell anyone, but it looks like tea to me... Or tawny port...)
  • There is also cake from the wonderful Hart's Bakery.
  • And pastries...
  • I went for the cinnamon bun. Forget the sticky things you get in the supermarkets, this is a cinnamon bun like no other; rich, soft, not too sweet, definitely not sticky. If there's a better cinnamon bun out there, I've not had it!
  • Afterwards, I got the barista, Dave, to give me a coffee tour, starting at the espresso machine. Have you noticed how all the best baristas (and coffee bloggers) have beards?
  • First the grinder.
  • Like many in the field, Dave weighs his shot to the nearest 0.1 gram.
  • Next the portafiller is fitted to the La Marzocco and we're ready to go.
  • Looks lovely... Check out the cunning placement of the business card!
  • Next we move to the brew bar. Naturally the two different beans have their own grinders...
  • Here Dave is preparing a couple of Clever drippers. When I first saw one of these, I didn't know what they were called, but after seeing it in operation, I said 'Ohh, that's clever!'
  • Next we move onto the Aeropress. Dave uses the inverted method. Here the grounds go into the Aeropress.
  • Then the water goes in and the timer is started. No fancy kettles for FCP though; the water comes straight out of the boiler at exactly the right temperature.
  • When the Aeropress is full, Dave gives it a quick stir to ensure that the grounds are fully mixed with the water.
  • The top is attached and then we wait... In this case for exactly one minute from when the water started pouring.
  • Our minute is up! Dave puts a jug on top of the Aeropress and then inverts the lot!
  • Now for the press...
  • This is not like pressing the plunger on a cafetiere... It requires a lot more pressure and forces the water through the coffee grounds for the final extraction.
  • And there we have it, a jug of coffee, ready to be served.
  • Preparation for the final step: warming the cup
  • Then comes the pour...
  • I forgot to say how much I like the cups, not so much to look at, but the handles are great!
  • And there we have it, the perfect cup of coffee.
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FCP joins near-neighbours Wild at Heart (also sadly closed), a few doors down on Broad Street, and Small Street Espresso (next street over), to form the nexus of Bristol’s emerging speciality coffee scene. Ten months in the planning, it looked at one point as if FCP was going to open before its neighbours and the other newcomer, Didn’t You Do Well. However, delays in gaining access to the shop put things back and, incidentally, led to an increased sense of anticipation as word spread, particularly on twitter.

Therefore expectations were extraordinarily high, but I have to say that FCP has, on first showing, more than lived up to them. I can see why Mat stuck to his guns, despite the difficulties in actually getting into the premises. He’s created something special: large windows at the front let in a generous amount of light and Mat has been careful not to cram too much in the interior. There is a spacious bar on the left as you come in, with three square tables opposite it. Beyond that, the building narrows a little and there is room for one more table by a fireplace and two small bars opposite it. A stained-glass window provides light at the back, while a spiral staircase just inside the front door leads to a basement that one day might become additional seating space.

Mat explained that it’s an Arts-and-Crafts movement building, with roots that might go back as far as medieval times. The lovely fireplace and stained-glass window date from the 19th century, as does the storefront. Mat confessed that working in such an old building limited his options, but he’s worked with what he’s got to make a magical space.

The coffee is equally special. FCP offers four beans, two as espresso and two as filter (one Clever dripper, one Aeropress). One of the espresso beans, Extract’s Konga 1 Yigacheffe had just run out (to be replaced the next day by Square Mile’s Red Brick). The other, which my friend had as a flat white, was Round Hill’s Mugomera. I had Workshop’s Irupana (the Clever dripper option), while the other filter bean was a Tolima Vista Hermosa from Peter James (Aeropress option). To round things off, FCP keeps a bottle of cold brew below the counter, which is whipped out, like a speakeasy in Prohibition days, to tempt the more refined customer.

I tasted the flat white, which I’d have loved to try as a straight espresso, but I needed to pace myself (having promised Kit from Wild At Heart that I’d pop over there afterwards). Meanwhile, the Irupana was delightful, easy on the palette, smooth and full-bodied. FCP (like Didn’t You Do Well) is quite insistent that you don’t put milk in its filter coffee and sugar in any of its coffee. On this offering I can see why: it would have been a crime to put anything in the coffee I had.

To round things off, FCP is another Bristol coffee spot offering Hart’s Bakery’s range of outstanding cakes. I had a cinnamon bun, while my friend had a chocolate brownie which went so quickly that I never got a chance taste or photograph it! Not that it mattered, since the cinnamon bun was so good that I thought I’d died and gone to bun heaven.

October 2015: see what I found when I explored Full Court Press Coffee’s basement

www.fcpcoffee.com +44 (0) 7794 808552
Monday 07:30 – 17:00 Roasters Guests (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:30 – 17:00 Seating Tables, Bar; Bench (outside)
Wednesday 07:30 – 17:00 Food Cake
Thursday 07:30 – 17:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 07:30 – 17:00 Cards Visa, Mastercard
Saturday 09:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free
Sunday 10:00 – 16:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits Original: 2nd May 2013
Update: 20th September 2015

You can see what fellow coffee-blogger Alison (now owner of BLK Coffee in Newcastle) made of Full Court Press.

If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, check out the rest of Bristol’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Bristol.

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18 thoughts on “Full Court Press

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