Nottingham’s speciality coffee scene has come a long way since I first visited 2½ years ago, coming away disappointed. Now there’s a flourishing café scene, led by the likes of 200 Degrees, Wired Café Bar, The Pudding Pantry and, out in Beeston, Greenhood Coffee House. However, a good coffee scene needs local roasters too, and Nottingham is now blessed with both 200 Degrees Coffee Roasters and, more recently, Outpost Coffee Roasters.
Although a new name to the speciality coffee world, Outpost brings a wealth of experience in its founders, Greg and Alex. Greg has a long and distinguished history in coffee roasting, having owned Café Boutique, while Alex used to manage The Bean, a family-run coffee shop in Beeston (Alex’s mother still owns it). Greg wanted to take things to the next level and start roasting speciality coffee, while Alex wanted to branch out from the role of barista/shop manager. Together with Liz, who does the all-important admin, they make the perfect team.
Outpost has a training facility/espresso lab in a lovely first-floor space on Stoney Street, in Nottingham city centre, while the roasting takes place in an industrial estate on the city’s outskirts, using a 10kg Petroncini from Italy.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Outpost’s split location set-up is quite unusual, since most roasters I know have their training facilities in the roastery. In an ideal world, Outpost would have done this as well, with the roaster installed at the training facility. However, the roaster was never going to fit up the stairs, so Outpost got a small unit on a nearby industrial estate instead.
An obvious alternative would be to relocate the training to the industrial estate. However, while the roastery is a fairly typical example of the type (big open space, roaster in the corner, sacks of green beans…), the training facility is something else! Having safely negotiated the stairs, you arrive in a large, open, high-ceilinged room, flooded with light from the generous, south-facing windows. I can see why Outpost didn’t want to give it up!
As a training space, it’s magnificent (and conveniently-located). With work-benches on either side, three broad tables line the centre, separated by cast-iron pillars which support the ceiling. These (tables, not pillars!) are ideal for cuppings, while the worktops are kitted out with a brew-bar and espresso machines and grinders. There are also a couple of sample roasters. Currently, Outpost only provides training for the trade, but the aim is to expand into public barista courses and open cuppings.
Alex, who has passed his Q-graders exam over the summer, sources and cups the green beans, as well as handling all the roasting. Outpost has an espresso blend, “Bear in a Chair” (which I’ve been enjoying at home through both espresso machine and cafetiere) and a handful of single-origins (which I’ve also tried). While I was there, for example, there was a Kenyan, an Ethiopian Rocko Mountain and a Colombian micro-lot from Raw Material. Once the coffee’s been roasted, this is where Greg, very much Outpost’s public face, comes in, going out to sell the coffee. Job done.
Of course, it’s never that straightforward. From the outset, Outpost focused on quality, aiming for the top-end of the market. An awful lot of coffee was discarded as the roasts were developed, until, in the summer of 2015, Greg and Alex had something that they were happy to sell.
Outpost is largely focused on the East Midlands, and surrounding areas, primarily seeing itself as a local roaster. Mainly supplying the wholesale market, you can find some retail boxes in the likes of Wired Café Bar and Greenhood Coffee House (both of which have taken Outpost as a guest) and on Outpost’s website.
As well as actually selling coffee, training plays a crucial role, hence the importance of the training room. It’s not enough just to sell people great beans and expect them to make great coffee. They need the right equipment and even then, you can’t just install the kit, train the baristas and walk away. It’s an on-going partnership of continual training and education.
This is particularly true in a small market such as Nottingham where there isn’t a pool of experienced baristas to call on. The market is growing and Outpost is committed to helping it grow, moving people up the quality chain as it does. However, that takes a lot of work and dedication. As Greg told me “You can’t just sit at the top of the mountain and expect people to climb up to you.”
|4 STONEY STREET • NOTTINGHAM • NG1 1LG|
|www.outpostcoffeeroasters.co.uk||+44 (0) 115 837 0290|
|Chain||No||Visits||9th August 2015|
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