Flat Caps Coffee Update

An espresso in a classic white cup, plus a glass of water, on an oval wooden platter, separated by a tea spoon.Flat Caps Coffee, brainchild of the lovely Joe Meagher, is not only one of my favourite coffee shops in Newcastle, but it’s one of my favourites in the whole country. The only problem is that I don’t get to Newcastle very often… However, whenever I’m in town, I make a point of popping in to say hello.

I first wrote about Joe and Flat Caps in April 2013, writing a longer piece after I visited in October that year for Caffeine Magazine. So, what’s changed since then? Well, honestly, not a lot. Joe’s still Joe, Flat Caps is still Flat Caps and the coffee’s still excellent.

However, since I published my Coffee Spot on Flat Caps, Joe has, in the way that coffee shop owners do, redecorated and also started using single-serve Kalita Wave pour-over filters. And every time he sees me, he nags me that the photos on the Coffee Spot are out-of-date…

March 2017: I’ve just learnt that Ridley Place is closing at the end of the month. Sad news, but I understand Joe’s reasons for taking this step. If you’re interested, this is what I wrote about the closing of Ridley Place. The good news is that Flat Caps will continue at Flat Caps Carliol Square and Flat Caps Campus North.

You can see what the new-look Flat Caps Coffee looks like in the gallery.

  • Flat Caps Coffee on Ridley Place. Not sure about Joe branching out into massage though!
  • As ever, you enter Joe's via this spiral staircase in the far corner...
  • ... while the bulk of the seating is to the right of the staircase.
  • The table in the corner nearest the counter.
  • There's also some interesting seating to the left of the staircase, including this little niche...
  • ... plus this table between it and the counter (photo from 2013, when it was still green).
  • Talking of green... this is what the decor was like back in early 2013...
  • ... and this is the same corner with the new, lighter, colour scheme. I know which I prefer...
  • So, to business: the counter (from April 2013).
  • Joe's rearranged his trophy collection since I was last here. There's a lot more of them now!
  • Magazine/book display around the base of the cold-brew aparatus.
  • The revamped food menu is arranged around the cold-brewer (complete with notes).
  • Talking of cold brew, here are the options.
  • The main coffee menu, meanwhile, is chalked up on the back wall.
  • The two Has Bean choices.
  • Another change from April 2013: an EK-43. This gives Joe a lot of flexibility...
  • ... as witnessed by the little board with all the grinder settings.
  • Joe still offers the trusty Aeropress...
  • ... but he's replaced his big pour-over filters with these neat one-serve Kalita Waves.
  • Joe much prefers these to the larger Kalita Waves that many people use.
  • If anyone asks what's the difference between a Kalita Wave and a standard cone, it's this.
  • Presentation is important. Joe also makes his own tonic water now.
  • However, that filter coffee wasn't for me. I was having espresso.
  • All gone. But very lovely. Espresso of the year? We'll see!
  • The EK-43 is at the heart of a lot of what Joe does. It ground the beans for my flat white.
  • Joe doing his latte art.
  • I'll leave you with my lovely flat white.
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I was up in Newcastle last weekend for BLK Coffee’s launch party, so I took the opportunity to pop in to see Joe, who had recently had a party of his own to celebrate Flat Caps Coffee’s fifth birthday. Flat Caps is much as I remember it, still just as hard to find (unless you know where it is), the postage-stamp sized sign the only indication that there might be a coffee shop around. However, have faith, head through the shop and down the spiral staircase and there you have it, Flat Caps Coffee.

The layout is much that same and there’s Joe, behind the counter, the same as ever. There are few coffee shops which are as closely associated with one person as Flat Caps is with Joe (Charlie’s Coffee Shop in St Albans springs to mind) and I’m convinced that most of Joe’s customers come as much to see Joe as they do to drink his (excellent) coffee. Indeed, most of them greet him like an old friend when they come in.

Having said that nothing much has changed, looking back over my old photos, I will admit that the décor has changed and, I have to say, I much prefer the new decoration. I can see why Joe was so keen that I get some new photos up!

Of course the important thing is the coffee. Here, it’s still the same successful formula: a continually rotating set of beans (three beans, any choice of preparation method) from mainstay Has Bean, supplemented with occasional guests. Although it’s fair to say that BLK Coffee is the only true multi-roaster coffee shop in Newcastle, such is the range of Has Bean’s output (and the speed with which Joe rotates through the beans) that you could argue that Flat Caps is the equivalent, a multi-roaster in all but name.

While I was there, Joe had Workshop’s Cult of Done on espresso and, having asked for a recommendation, Joe pulled me a shot. It was amazing, an instant contender for espresso of the year. Seriously well-balanced, but at the same time possessing a complex, fruity taste, it’s roasting like this that has redefined espresso for me, taking me a million miles away from the typical, dark, bitter espresso that I used to like when I started the Coffee Spot a mere three years ago.

Joe also made me a flat white with Has Bean’s Ethiopian Sasaba, another smooth, well-balanced cup, which also had a natural sweetness that came from the milk as much as the coffee. If you can’t decide whether you’d like your espresso straight up or with milk, Joe will happily do you a split shot. He’ll also do any of the beans as an Aeropress, Kalita Wave filter or, if your sharing, syphon. Sadly, I was already seriously over-caffeinated and still had to pay a visit to BLK, so I drew the line at sampling the filter coffee.

Next time.

Don’t forget the original Flat Caps Coffee Coffee Spot, which includes the original write-up and an updated gallery. Flat Caps, which won the 2013 Coffee Spot Award for Best Filter Coffee, also won the 2015 Coffee Spot Award for Best Espresso.

December 2016: After a successful Kickstarter, Flat Caps has now opened not one, but two new coffee shops, Flat Caps Carliol Square and Flat Caps Campus North. Meanwhile, this, the original Flat Caps Coffee, has been renamed Flat Caps Ridley Place.

www.flatcapscoffee.com +44 (0) 191 232 7836
Monday 10:00 – 17:30 Roaster Has Bean + Guests (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 10:00 – 17:30 Seating Tables, Padded Benches
Wednesday 10:00 – 17:30 Food Cake, Sandwiches, Lunch
Thursday 10:00 – 17:30 Service Order at Counter
Friday 10:00 – 17:30 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 10:00 – 17:30 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday CLOSED Power No
Chain No Visits Original: 20th April 2013
Update: 22nd August 2015

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

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