Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters

The Giesen roaster at Quarter Horse, Birmingham.Quarter Horse Coffee started life on Oxford’s Cowley Road (where the original Quarter Horse Coffee has become Peleton Espresso), where it used coffee from Square Mile. However, in 2015, Quarter Horse moved to Birmingham, setting up a café/roastery. Nathan, who founded the original Quarter Horse with colleague James, hails from Normal, Illinois, and was a roaster before he came to the UK, so this marked a return to his (roasting) roots.

Quarter Horse created a lovely spot on Bristol Street, the roastery sharing the space with a large, open café (which features in its own Coffee Spot), Originally, this was behind a waist-high counter, which meant that the roastery was visible from pretty much every part of the building, but a major remodelling during the enforced COVID-19 shutdown saw the roastery enclosed in its own room. The roastery is still going strong, with the roaster, a 15 kg Giesen (which has been the mainstay of the operation since it opened in 2015), visible through a window in the wall dividing the roastery from the café.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Quarter Horse Coffee, as was, with the roastery on the left, coffee shop on the right.
  • Since the refit in the summer of 2020, the left-hand windows have been whitewashed...
  • ... and the door, which once led to the coffee shop, is now exclusively for the roastery.
  • Originally the roastery was behind this counter on the left-hand side...
  • ... where it was visible from pretty much anywhere in the coffee shop.
  • Now, however, it's behind the wall on the left...
  • ... with access through this sliding door near the front of Quarter Horse.
  • Stepping inside and the 15 kg Giesen roaster has pride of place directly in front of you.
  • The space between it and the windows is a store for the (unopened) sacks of green beans.
  • This was the extent of the original roastery before the refit.
  • Now there's a lot more space, with admin at the back and a ...
  • ... bagging area to the right, with opened sacks of green beans stored underneath...
  • .. and a bean counter and sealing machine on top.
  • The left-hand wall, meanwhile, is a lab area, with space above...
  • ... for bagged up coffee...
  • ... and Indian peppercorns, an interesting departure from coffee!
  • While I was there, one of the regular (internal) cuppings was being prepared...
  • ... which meant that it was time for me to leave.
Quarter Horse Coffee, as was, with the roastery on the left, coffee shop on the right.1 Since the refit in the summer of 2020, the left-hand windows have been whitewashed...2 ... and the door, which once led to the coffee shop, is now exclusively for the roastery.3 Originally the roastery was behind this counter on the left-hand side...4 ... where it was visible from pretty much anywhere in the coffee shop.5 Now, however, it's behind the wall on the left...6 ... with access through this sliding door near the front of Quarter Horse.7 Stepping inside and the 15 kg Giesen roaster has pride of place directly in front of you.8 The space between it and the windows is a store for the (unopened) sacks of green beans.9 This was the extent of the original roastery before the refit.10 Now there's a lot more space, with admin at the back and a ...11 ... bagging area to the right, with opened sacks of green beans stored underneath...12 .. and a bean counter and sealing machine on top.13 The left-hand wall, meanwhile, is a lab area, with space above...14 ... for bagged up coffee...15 ... and Indian peppercorns, an interesting departure from coffee!16 While I was there, one of the regular (internal) cuppings was being prepared...17 ... which meant that it was time for me to leave.18
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Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters occupies a double unit on Birmingham’s Bristol Street, 10-minutes’ walk south of the centre. The two parts of the business occupy their own unit, each with its own front door, the café on the right, the roastery on the left. These days the roastery is enclosed by a wall which doesn’t quite reach the (admittedly very high) ceiling.

Running along the line dividing the two units, it goes about two-thirds of the way back, beyond which is additional seating space for the café. There’s a small window in the wall near the front, next to a sliding door which provides access from the café. Inside, pride of place goes to a very modern-looking 15 kg Giesen roaster, all angles in contrast to the conventional wisdom which says that drum-roasters should be, well, drum-shaped.

Located directly opposite (and facing) the door, it’s been the roastery’s workhorse ever since it opened in 2015 and is still going strong. It stands near the front, unopened sacks of green beans stacked between it and the windows. Meanwhile, the back half of the roastery houses the packing area (on the right, with open sacks of green beans underneath), admin (against the back wall) and a lab area (left) where Nathan was preparing one of his regular (internal) cuppings during my recent visit.

From day one, Quarter Horse has been roasting its seasonal Dark Horse espresso blend. These days it’s joined by a second blend, Roan, which is also for espresso (I tried this when I was in the café and it was divine, both on its own and in milk). Originally, Quarter Horse just roasted a small selection of single-origins for both filter and espresso, but these days, the single-origin range has been expanded, although they are now exclusively roasted for filter. At the time of writing, there were nine single-origins on the webshop), along with a single-origin decaf (currently the La Serranía, which is from Colombia and is decaffeinated in the country using the EA sugar cane method).

On my most recent visit, Nathan told me that Quarter Horse is increasing the amount of coffee it buys through direct trade. To that end, Nathan went to Southern India at the end of 2019 to visit coffee farms, purchasing a honey-processed coffee from the Venkids Valley Estate and a naturally-processed coffee from Mooleh Many, a fifth generation farm in Coorg (which was on filter over in the café during my visit).

He’d also bought some peppercorns, which come from tall trees grown side-by-side with the smaller coffee trees to provide them with shade. If you’re interested, you can buy both the peppercorns and the coffee from Quarter Horse’s webshop. I look forward to seeing what else Nathan brings back from his origin trips in future years!


October 2020: this is an updated version of the original post which was published in September 2015. You can see what has changed in my Coffee Spot Update, while the original post contains more details about Quarter Horse’s journey into roasting and how it came to establish itself in Birmingham.

88-90 BRISTOL STREET • BIRMINGHAM • B5 7AH
www.quarterhorsecoffee.com +44 (0) 121 4489660
Monday 08:00 – 18:00 Roaster Quarter Horse (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:00 – 18:00 Seating Tables, Bar; Benches (Outside)
Wednesday 08:00 – 18:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Sandwiches, Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 18:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:00 – 18:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 09:00 – 18:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 09:00 – 18:00 Power Limited
Chain No Visits Original: 30th, 31st July 2015
Update: 25th August 2020

Liked this Coffee Spot? Then check out the rest of Birmingham’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Birmingham.


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