Brew Lab Update

Detail from the menu board at Brew Lab in Edinburgh, showing one of two espresso choices, this one (a washed Guatemalan from Union) for use in drinks with milk.I first visited Brew Lab in December 2012, part of the Coffee Spot’s first-ever road trip to Edinburgh. Back then, I found it all rather bewildering, Brew Lab playing a large part in my transition from an innocent coffee lover to my headlong descent down the rabbit hole that is speciality coffee. Over the years, Brew Lab has gone from bewildering to familiar, almost a home-from-home. Along the way, there have been a few changes, some of which I wrote about when I returned in April 2014. However, the biggest change occurred when London roasters and speciality coffee pioneers, Union Hand-roasted, bought Brew Lab in 2018.

Naturally I was keen to find out what, if anything, had changed as a result of the new ownership, popping back at the end of last year to check out the “new” Brew Lab (annoyingly, I missed visiting exactly six years after my first visit by a single day). The good news is that Union seems to have taken an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, leaving Brew Lab to carry on much as I remember it, providing great coffee on espresso and filter, including guest roasters, which is an excellent sign.

You can see exactly what I found after the gallery.

  • Brew Lab, a shining beacon of brightness on a dark December evening in Edinburgh.
  • Inside, and not much has changed. The Black Eagle espresso machine is still there...
  • ... as are the Kalita Wave filters.
  • In fact, the first real sign of change is with the retail shelves, where it's mostly Union.
  • The menu boards have changed since I was last here: they are clearer now. There are...
  • ... two filters (one batch brew, one pour over) and two espressos (black and with milk).
  • There's also cold brew, and, if you don't want coffee, tea and hot chocolate.
  • However, this is new: I don't remember beer and wine on the menu before!
  • You order at the counter and get a numbered wooden peg to take to your table.
  • It was late in the evening, so I decided to have the decaf pour-over.
  • I'll leave you with my pepito, an awesome custard and chocolate filled pastry.
Brew Lab, a shining beacon of brightness on a dark December evening in Edinburgh.1 Inside, and not much has changed. The Black Eagle espresso machine is still there...2 ... as are the Kalita Wave filters.3 In fact, the first real sign of change is with the retail shelves, where it's mostly Union.4 The menu boards have changed since I was last here: they are clearer now. There are...5 ... two filters (one batch brew, one pour over) and two espressos (black and with milk). 6 There's also cold brew, and, if you don't want coffee, tea and hot chocolate.7 However, this is new: I don't remember beer and wine on the menu before!8 You order at the counter and get a numbered wooden peg to take to your table.9 It was late in the evening, so I decided to have the decaf pour-over.10 I'll leave you with my pepito, an awesome custard and chocolate filled pastry.11
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Starting with the physical space, not much has changed in terms of the layout, although Brew Lab has slightly moderated its undecorated look, but otherwise, it’s still much the same, with the counter in a separate space on the left, the seating on the right, with more seating at the back. These days, there’s also a training lab in the basement (although that long pre-dates the take-over by Union Hand-roasted).

Brew Lab made its name primarily through its excellent coffee, but these days there’s also a choice of beer (three) and wine (two), while, if you’re hungry, there’s breakfast, lunch which join the excellent range of cakes and pastries which have been there since day one (the range, that is, not the individual cakes and pastries: they’d be a bit state by now!).

Turning to the coffee, the Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machine (which, when it was installed in 2014, was one of the first in the UK) is still there, Brew Lab offering two options on espresso, one black and one for milk. There are also two options on filter, one batch brew, one pour-over through the Kalita Wave.

In what I take as a good sign, there is always one espresso and one filter from Union, while the other coffees are supplied by guest roasters. During my visit the pour-over was from Denmark’s La Cabra, while the espresso was from Workshop. There’s also decaf (from Union) on pour-over and a selection of four cold brew options (black, white, chocolate and nitro), plus a cold-brew cocktail.

Since it was towards the end of a long day, I decided to have the decaf pour-over. Served in a metal jug with a cup on the side, this was very smooth and drinkable, going down a treat. I paired this with a pepito, a long, rectangular pastry with a custard filling and chocolate chips. It was every bit as delicious as it sounded.

In conclusion, when a coffee shop is taken over, there’s always the nagging fear that the new ownership will spoil it, particularly when it’s somewhere as loved as Brew Lab. Fortunately I can report that this is not the case, Brew Lab turning out to be just as lovely as ever!

 6-8 SOUTH COLLEGE STREET • EDINBURGH • EH8 9AA
www.brewlabcoffee.co.uk +44 (0) 131 662 8963
Monday 08:00 – 18:00 Roaster Union + Guests (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:00 – 20:00 Seating Tables, Sofas, Bar
Wednesday 08:00 – 20:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 20:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:00 – 20:00 Cards Yes
Saturday 09:00 – 20:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 09:00 – 20:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits Original: 11th December 2012
Updates: 26th April 2014, 10th December 2018

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


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3 thoughts on “Brew Lab Update

  1. Pingback: Brew Lab: Update | Brian's Coffee Spot

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