Fortitude Update

The logo from the door at Fortitude in Edinburgh: Espresso & Brew Bar, plus Coffee Merchant.When I first visited, at the end of April 2014, Edinburgh’s Fortitude was the new kid on the block, having been open for all of four weeks. When I returned, at the end of last year, it had been going a bit long than that, but at first glance, not much had changed, particularly not when viewed from the street. Even when you go inside, the layout and décor is much the same, a small, high-ceilinged space, single window at the front, counter at the back, with the espresso machine tucked away around the corner.

However, look more closely and you’ll start to see the differences. The shelves on the right-hand wall, once lined with retail bags from the likes of London’s Workshop and Glasgow’s Dear Green Coffee, the bags now say “Fortitude”. That’s right, Fortitude started roasting. In 2017… That’s what I get for not visiting Edinburgh for over three years…

You can see what else I found 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, which previously proclaimed Fortitude as Espresso Bar & Coffee Merchant...
  • ... is now subtly different, although the sentiment is the same.
  • 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.
  • Meanwhile, against the right-hand wall are a pair of these three-person tables.
  • All thsoe photos were from 2014, while this is the (very similar) view from 2018.
  • However, things are different when it comes to the counter (that's owner, Matt, in 2014).
  • It's still at the back, but which now extends forward on the left.
  • The original counter, with the two-group La Marzocco Linea tucked away in the corner.
  • Now it's much bigger, extending along the left-hand wall.
  • ... although the La Marzocco is still tucked away in the corner!
  • All this extra space has been put to good use 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, where there are now breakfast and lunch options.
  • The coffee offering has also been expanded. These were the options in 2014...
  • ... whereas now, while there are still two espresso options, there are four on pour-over.
  • The innovative clipboard menu on the wall to the left is still there. This is how it looked in...
  • ... 2014 and while the designs have changed a little, it's still recognisably the same now.
  • The other change is on the retal shelves along the right-hand wall...
  • ... where before you could find the likes of Dear Green Coffee and Workshop.
  • Now all the bags say Fortitude on them. That's right, Fortitude now roasts its own coffee.
  • But what's the coffee like? Well, I tried the single-origin Colombian espresso...
  • ... 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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In terms of layout, little’s changed, although the counter is much bigger. Before it was a simple bar across the gap in the back wall. Now it extends forward in an L-shape along the left-hand wall, the extra space being put to use to house Fortitude’s expanded food offering which is displayed along the front. Breakfast and lunch menus, including toast, sandwiches and soup, now go with the existing selection of cakes. Meanwhile, the side of the counter holds the pour-over set-up, where you’ll find a couple of Kalita Wave filters, each with its own pair of scales.

The seating, which occupies the rest of the space, is pretty much unchanged. The door is on the left, with a very tall window on the right, in front of which is a round four-person table with chairs. Two small tables project from the right-hand wall, 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 real change is with the coffee. When Fortitude started, it used Workshop with a regularly-rotating cast of guest roasters on espresso and pour-over, plus an even wider range on retail. Back then, you’d find owners Matt and Helen behind the counter, but in 2017, they took the decision to start roasting. These days, they spilt their time between the roastery, where they roast three times a week, and the coffee shop. And juggling looking after their young family. I managed to arrive on one of the roast days, so missed them, being expertly looked after by Cristabel and Niall instead.

All the coffee, including the retail coffee, is roasted in-house, Fortitude only offering single-origins. There are two on espresso and whereas before there was a single pour-over through the Kalita Wave, now you have a choice of four!

I’d already tried Fortitude’s coffee at the 2017 Glasgow Coffee Festival, as well as having a superb pour-over at The Kaf in Glasgow, 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!

There’s a full write-up of Fortitude, including a complete gallery, in its main entry. You can also see what I made of it in my original write-up, from April 2014.

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 take a look at the rest of Edinburgh’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Edinburgh.

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2 thoughts on “Fortitude Update

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