The logo from the door at Fortitude in Edinburgh: Espresso & Brew Bar, plus Coffee Merchant.When I first visited Edinburgh’s Fortitude in April 2014, it had been open all of four weeks. A self-titled espresso & brew bar, plus coffee merchant, Fortitude lived up to the billing back then. These days it’s added a decent food offering and has turned itself into a pretty decent roaster. Originally using London‘s Workshop and regularly-rotating guests, these days all the coffee is roasted in-house (but sadly not on-site, where there’s no room for a roaster), Fortitude sourcing some exceptional single-origins, with two options on espresso and four on pour-over through the Kalita Wave.

It helps that Fortitude’s a lovely spot in which to drink your coffee, with its high ceilings and uncluttered layout. There’s not much seating, but it’s well laid-out and very laptop friendly, with free Wifi and power outlets at every table. You’re also assured of a warm welcome from husband and wife team, Matt and Helen, although when I returned at the end of December 2018, they were off roasting. Instead I was equally well-looked after by Cristabel and Niall.

If you’re hungry, there are small breakfast and lunch menus, with a tempting selection of toast, sandwiches and soup, plus a decent range of cake.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Fortitude, up a flight of steps in Edinburgh in April 2014, four weeks after opening...
  • ... and looking remarkably similar on my return in December 2018.
  • The A-board makes it clear what Fortitude is all about.
  • Stepping inside, you'll find a long, thin, hgih-ceilinged space, the counter at the far end...
  • ... with the rest of the space occupied by the seating, including this table at the front...
  • ... and a bar along the left-hand wall, complete with high stools for seating.
  • This view, meanwhie, gives you an idea of how high the ceilings are.
  • There's not much more seating, just are a pair of these three-person tables...
  • ... against the right-hand wall. The second one is here in the corner at the back.
  • All those photos were from 2014, while this is the (very similar) view from 2018.
  • The main change is the counter (that's owner, Matt, back in 2014).
  • These days the counter extends forward in an L-shape on the left...
  • ... although the La Marzocco is still tucked away in the corner!
  • All the extra counter space is needed though.
  •  The front of the counter is...
  • ... home to Fortitude's considerable food offering, including sandwiches and soup...
  • ... while down the side, there's room for a pour-over set-up of kettle & Kalita Wave filters.
  • All of this is reflected in the menus, with combined breakfast and lunch options.
  • Turning to coffee, there's lots of choice: two single-origins on espresso, four on pour-over.
  • Meanwhile the drinks choices are displayed on the clipboard menu to the counter's left.
  • The right-hand wall is home to the retail shelves...
  • ... where you'll find the massed ranks of Fortitude's coffee beans for sale.
  • There are more of these above the counter...
  • ... while there's plenty of coffee-making kit off to the right-hand side.
  • Obligatory light-fitting shot. I did like the bare bulbs in Fortitude.
  • More bare bulbs, this time hanging above the pictures on the left-hand wall.
  • On my first visit in 2014, I had a piccolo, made with an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Peabery...
  • ... which I paired with this lovely looking Pain au Raisin.
  • On my return, I was keen to try Fortitude's coffee. I had this single-origin Colombian...
  • ... as a flat white and liked it so much that I went back for more. I wanted espresso...
  • ... but was torn between trying the Colombian on its own...
  • ... or going for the Brazilian instead. You'll have to read on to find out which this is!
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Fortitude is at the western end of York Place, not far from the terminus of Edinburgh’s tram line. It’s a lovely little spot, up a broad flight of stairs from the street. Inside, it’s long and thin with the typical high ceilings you find in Edinburgh. The half-glazed door is on the left-hand side, Fortitude stretching away from you towards to the counter, extending forward a short way along the left-hand wall from a square opening in the back wall.

Immediately to your right, in front of the solitary (and very tall) window, is a round four-person table with chairs. Two small tables project from the right-hand wall, supported by brackets, each with three small stools that are far more comfortable than they look. Completing the seating is a bar on the left-hand wall with four tall plastic stools. The herringbone-patterned wooden parquet floor goes well with the wooden shelving and whitewashed walls and ceiling. The large window and door provide plenty of light, supplemented by neat, bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling.

The coffee merchant aspect of Fortitude is in the form of a row of Ikea-like bookshelves on the right-hand wall, holding retail bags of its coffee. There’s more coffee on the shelving above and behind the counter, with pour-over kit (carafes, pour-over filters, Aeropresses and the like) on the right.

Given its small size, Fortitude packs a lot in, with its two single-origins on espresso and four on pour-over. The form is pulled on a two-group La Marzocco Linea, tucked away through the opening in the back wall on the left, while the latter is available via a pair of Kalita Wave filters on the right-hand side of the counter.

On my first visit in 2014, Matt recommended that I try an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Peaberry from Edinburgh’s very own roasters, New Town Coffee (who, I believe, are no longer trading) which he described as “very interesting”. I asked for a piccolo (which Matt made despite it not being on the menu), the result being, as promised, very interesting. It was a sweet coffee, the fruity notes combining well with the milk to make for an excellent cup. I think without the milk to take the edge off, it would be very far out there indeed (and not to my taste!).

On my return in December 2018, I was keen to try some of Fortitude’s coffee. I’d been fortunate to have already tried some of its filter roasts when I was in Glasgow in 2017 (I had a sample at the Glasgow Coffee Festival and a superb Rwandan pour-over at The Kaf), so I opted for something espresso-based. Of my two options, a washed Colombian and a natural Brazilian, Cristabel explained that the Colombian went better in milk, so I had that as a flat white, it’s fruity nature (surprising from a washed coffee) coming strongly through the milk.

By then I was torn. I wanted to try the Colombian as an espresso, but the Brazilian looked interesting and was also available as a pour-over. Sadly, I only had room for one more, so Cristabel offered me the Braziian on the house as espresso, which was a lovely, fruity coffee, totally unlike the typical Brazilian flavour-profile. Sadly, Fortitude was out of retail bags, otherwise I’d have bought one to take home!

March 2019: this is an updated version of the original post which was published in May 2015. You can see what has changed in my Coffee Spot Update.

December 2019: Fortitude was a runner-up for the 2019 Best Flat White Award.

3C YORK PLACE • EDINBURGH • EH1 3EB +44 (0) 131 557 3063
Monday 08:00 – 17:00 Roaster Fortitude (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:00 – 17:00 Seating Table (with chairs), Table (stools), Bar
Wednesday 08:00 – 17:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 17:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:00 – 17:00 Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 10:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 11:00 – 16:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits Original: 28th April 2014
Update: 10th December 2018

Liked this? Then don’t forget to check out the Coffee Spot Guide to Edinburgh for more great Coffee Spots.

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