Meet the Roaster: Allpress Espresso

Bags of Allpress Espresso's Guatemala La Espreanza for sale at the roastery.The subject of today’s Meet the Roaster, Allpress Espresso, is at the opposite end of the scale from Weanie Beans, the roaster we met last week. Allpress can be said to be truly international, with roasteries in New Zealand (where it all started in 1986) Australia, Japan and the UK. It’s also pushing the (self-imposed) boundaries of what I started the Coffee Spot to write about. For me, speciality coffee is all about small-scale, independent operations. On the other hand, Allpress, despite its size, still very much has those qualities at its heart.

Allpress has been in the UK since September 2010, when the original roastery/coffee shop opened on Redchurch Street. Redchurch is still going, but only as an espresso bar, the roastery moving out to its new site in Dalston in May 2015 after four years of continued growth. The new roastery has plenty of room for expansion and includes a full café on site, with an upstairs that opens at the weekend for brunch. During the week, you’ll just have to “squeeze in” downstairs.

The café is the subject of a Coffee Spot in its own right: today we are just looking at the roasting side of the operation.

You can see what I found after the gallery.

  • The Allpress roastery in Dalston, as seen approaching from the east...
  • ... and seen here approaching from the west, where there's a handy nameplate...
  • ... which is just as well since the name's not anywhere else on the building!
  • Stepping inside, the site is both a cafe (ahead and to the left) and a roastery (to the right).
  • There's also an upstairs...
  • ... which is only open at the weekends. Fortunately, I'm on a tour...
  • Upstairs, beyond the espresso counter at the back is a training room (to the left)...
  • ... and a lab/cupping room (ahead).
  • This is the lab/cupping room, which has all sorts of goodies (as one would expect).
  • There's a sample roaster, grinders, a one-group espresso machine and this...
  • ... which is a protoype automatic pour-over machine.
  • The offices are also at the back, although I think that they heard I was coming & ran away!
  • The Allpress map, showiing where in the UK Allpress is served. That's an impressive spread!
  • Back downstairs and the obligatory sacks of green beans (you can buy the used sacks).
  • The roastery is behind this large glass screen to the right. Let's go in, shall we?
  • Things start off at the front with these four massive silos for the green beans...
  • ... which are loaded by this automated lifting system. Just as well; it's a long way up!
  • It's all controlled by this touchscreen panel which determines which silo is used.
  • The green beans come out of the selected silo and into this hoppper...
  • ... at which piont they are whisked away along a vacuum tube...
  • ... and onto the next stage of the operation: the roaster.
  • This beauty was custom-built for Allpress and designed by Michael Allpress himself.
  • It too is computer controlled, with details of the roast being displayed real-time...
  • ... and with the ability to call up any previous roast to see what happened to it.
  • The roaster itself uses hot air rather than the more traditional heated drum.
  • When each roast is done, it is dumped into the cooling tray.
  • This is perhaps the most traditional bit of the whole process! When the beans have cooled...
  • ...  a hatch is opened, the rotating arms sweeping the beans ownard in their journey.
  • Usually, this is a sack or bucket under the cooling pan, but not at Allpress.
  • This is an automatic bagging machine. The beans arrive down the chute, a bag is attached...
  • ... and the hopper slowly fills up to the correct weight.
  • In this case, it's 3 kg.
  • When the hopper is full, the beans are delivered down the chute to the bag...
  • ... and the bag is removed, simple as that.
  • And then the bag is put on the shelf, ready to go. Compare that to manually weighing out...
  • ... and bagging each one by hand when you have this many to dispatch!
  • You can drink the coffee at the cafe, or you can buy bags of it take take home with you...
  • Allpress also has a neat baggnig system for home users.
  • Allpress is very hands-on: a scooter's on standby in the yard for emergency bean deliveries!
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Allpress is a well-known name in the UK speciality scene. As well as attending numerous coffee festivals (London Coffee Festival, World of Coffee and Manchester Coffee Festival in the last year alone), Allpress supplies coffee shops up and down the country, from the lovely Kalm Kitchen in my home town of Guildford to the likes of Edinburgh’s Castello Coffee.

The backbone of the company is the ubiquitous Redchurch blend which accounts for the bulk of Allpress’ output. This is joined by a second espresso blend, Three Bells, a decaf and a pair of single-origins (currently a Kenyan and a Guatemalan) roasted for filter. And that’s it: no bespoke blends for select cafés, no single-origin guest espressos and no extensive range of filters. Allpress believes in doing a few things and doing them exceedingly well. While others strive to extract the very pinnacle of the coffee’s flavour, requiring precisely-timed shots on perfectly-calibrated equipment, Allpress aims to provide a robust, well-rounded espresso which will reliably pull a good shot on a range of equipment under all sorts of conditions.

To me (and these are definitely my words, not those of Allpress), Redchurch is the workhorse of speciality coffee. Whenever I visit somewhere serving Allpress, I know that I’m going to get a solid cup of coffee. It might not excite everybody, but up and down the country, that’s exactly what a large part of the speciality industry needs.

I toured the roastery with Dani, who, for the last 18 months, has been nagging me to suggesting that I visit. In many ways, Dani epitomises Allpress; an Aussie from Sydney who has made her home in London, she joined Allpress a few weeks after it opened. Initially working as a barista, she moved into training and is now in sales. All 50+ staff in Allpress are expected to be able to do everyone else’s job, be it answering the phones, training customers or pulling shots.

The roastery is state-of-the-art, with a custom-built 70kg roaster which uses heated air rather than a rotating hot drum. This has many advantages, not least its environmental impact, using far less gas in a week than the 30kg Petroncini roaster it replaced at Redchurch Street. The whole system is impressive, with manual handing minimised at every stage. Having seen roasters haul 30kg coffee sacks up flights of stairs or manually bag hundreds of 1kg bags at a time, I can appreciate the value of this, particularly when there’s a 70kg roaster going nine-to-five, five days a week.

Allpress sources many of its green beans directly, using the economies of scale of roasting around the world. Although there are similarities between each country, each Allpress operation does its own thing. For example, Dani told me that the UK roasts the lightest of all four countries, testament to the growing Scandinavian influence on the British coffee market.

Like Aussie-imports, The Roasting Party, Allpress puts a strong premium on working with (and looking after) its customers rather than just selling them beans. It holds regular barista days which it encourages its customers to attend. As well as technical sessions, attendees get to roast their own coffee (and drink it), with everything rounded off with a barbeque at the end of the day. I wonder… do coffee bloggers count as customers…?

55 DALSTON LANE • LONDON • E8 2NG +44 (0) 20 7749 1780
Monday 08:00 – 16:00 Roaster N/A
Tuesday 08:00 – 16:00 Seating N/A
Wednesday 08:00 – 16:00 Food N/A
Thursday 08:00 – 16:00 Service N/A
Friday 08:00 – 16:00 Payment N/A
Saturday 09:00 – 16:00 Wifi N/A
Sunday 09:00 – 16:00 Power N/A
Chain International Visits 13th January 2017

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

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