Quarter Horse Coffee Update

The Quarter Horse Coffee logo: a profile of a knight from a chess set, surrounded by an oval with the words "Quarter Horse Coffee" written around the outside.While the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly hit the speciality coffee industry hard, it has also provided unforeseen opportunities for some. Quarter Horse Coffee opened its café/roastery in Birmingham in early 2015, but in recent years, Nathan, the driving force behind Quarter Horse, has wanted to make some major modifications. However, the question was always how to justify the disruption caused by the required structural work, which would inevitably shut both roastery and café for several weeks. Then along came COVID-19, with its enforced shutdown, giving Nathan his opportunity…

Originally the roastery was behind an open counter on the left of the café. While this had the obvious advantage that customers could see the roaster in operation, the layout had some serious operational disadvantages. The resulting remodelling has seen the roastery remain in place, but enclosed in its own room, the café being reworked to provide more seating in a slightly reduced space, a clever trick if you ask me. And, of course, the excellent coffee is still there, along with an enhanced food offering.

Today’s Coffee Spot Update focuses on the café, which reopened on the last day in July, while the roastery has its own update, which will be along in due course.

You can see what’s changed after the gallery.

  • A familiar sight on Bristol Street in Birmingham: Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters.
  • Although it's not quite as familiar as all that. This is how it looked before the makeover.
  • Now the windows on the left are greyed out and the door points you to...
  • ... the other set of windows and door on the right-hand side. This looks very familiar...
  • ... until you get to the door, although in fairness, the changes here are COVID-related.
  • I do like coffee shops which post clear instructions before you get inside.
  • And talking of going inside, this is the view from the door. It's quite a change...
  • ... thanks to Quarter Horse's recent makeover. The counter and retail shelves...
  •  ... are new, which you can see from this, a pre-makeover view from the other door.
  • Back then, you could come in either door and there were a couple of four-person tables...
  • ... in the windows at the front, now down to three two-person tables.
  • Perhaps more obviously, the roastery, which was clearly visible over this counter...
  • ... is now behind this wall, although you can still see the roaster through the door. Bonus!
  • Quarter Horse used the new wall to create this seating bay opposite the counter.
  • It's home to two of these six-person tables which seem to be suspended from the ceiling!
  • And here's the new counter, which we'll return to. For now, let's check out the seating...
  • ... at the back, where there are probably the fewest changes. This is pre-makeover...
  • ... and, as you can see, the two tables are still there, this one against the right-hand wall...
  • ... and this one against the back wall.
  • Meanwhile, the little bar against the stub of wall is still there as well...
  • ... although this table, in the middle, is new. There's more seating on the left...
  • ... with this four-person table, plus two more two-person tables out of shot to the left.
  • When I first visited in 2015, this was the view from the doors at the back.
  • Now there's a neat seating area, with these benches on the right...
  • ... and a shorter bench and some cycle racks on the left.
  • Back inside, and there's a new set of retail shelves just as you come in.
  • There are all sorts goodies here, from retail bags of coffee to all manner of coffee kit.
  • The counter itself is also new, although
  • ... there are no longer any stools at the back of the counter for you to sit on.
  • The kitchen is new, but the kit upgrades mostly pre-date the makeover.
  • There are a pair of Marco SP9 automated brewers, displaying the day's coffee choices...
  • ... while beyond them are the grinders, an EK43 and Mythos 2, and the espresso machine...
  • ... a new La Marzocco KB90. That's Rory, who I met at last year's Birmingham Coffee Fest.
  • To business. You are greeted as you enter by the new customary COVID-19 stickers.
  • The short side of the counter faces the door, where you'll find a display cabinet with...
  • ... the cakes and pastries on top and...
  • ... the soft drinks and sandwiches down below.
  • The coffee menu is still in its customary place on the wall to the right of the counter.
  • There's also an all-day light food menu...
  • ... which is next to the card reader, complete with Perspex screen.
  • Other COVID-19 precautions include the provision of hand sanitser, which is welcome.
  • I certainly made use of it before tucking into my breakfast...
  • ... which consisted of the avocado toast...
  • ... and this beauitfully presented espresso flight, made with the Roan Blend...
  • ... and consisting of an espresso shot and a piccolo, which is where I'll leave you.
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Quarter Horse Coffee occupies two adjacent units on Birmingham’s Bristol Street, each with large, multi-paned windows, a half-timbered door inset on the right. Originally, you could see the roastery through the left-hand windows, while either door led to the café, where the roastery was on the left, clearly visible behind a waist-high counter.

Since the remodelling, the lower windows of the left-hand unit have been whitewashed, the door politely pointing to the door in the right-hand unit, now the café’s sole entrance. Inside, the remodelling is more obvious, a wall running along the line dividing the two units, stretching about two-thirds of the depth of the units, separating roastery from café, while not quite reaching the (admittedly very high) ceiling.

Those of us who enjoy watching roasters in action might rue the loss of the view, although a window in the wall near the front offers partial compensation. Meanwhile, the sliding door next to it, which provides access to the roastery has its own thin, tall window inset in the middle, looking straight across at the Giesen roaster, so all is not lost. For more on the changes to the roastery, keep an eye out for its own Coffee Spot Update, which is out in due course.

The counter which the wall replaces used to run to its left, which means that the roastery is slightly bigger than before, while the café is correspondingly smaller. Despite this, there is more seating in the new Quarter Horse Coffee, spread out in a number of distinct spaces which has the added advantage during the COVID-19 pandemic of providing better social distancing. There are three two-person tables in the windows at the front, two six-person tables in a bay on the left, opposite the counter, with more seating at the back, including a small outside seating area.

Beyond the counter, which runs back roughly level with the extent of the roastery on the opposite side, the seating spreads the full width of the two units. There are three four-person tables on the right, plus a three-person bar against a stub of wall. On the left, a smaller seating area has a pair of two-person tables along with a single four-person table. Two doors in the back wall (one for each unit) lead to the outdoor seating area, where you’ll find a couple of benches and some cycle racks.

The counter is also new, although it’s in the same place, set back from the door on the right-hand side, with a new set of retail shelves in front of it against the right-hand wall. The new counter is slightly wider than the old one, the extra space occupied by an open kitchen. There are the obvious COVID-19 modifications, with a Perspex screen at the till, while Quarter Horse provides clear instructions, asking you to wear a mask if moving around the café, as well as providing several hand-sanitising stations. If you don’t have a mask, one can be provided, free of charge.

Quarter Horse has an all-day light food menu and plenty of cakes, while from Wednesday to Sunday, it serves a full brunch menu from 10:00 – 14:00. Since I was there on a Tuesday morning, I was limited to the light food menu, selecting the excellent avocado toast.

However, I’d really come for the coffee, with a pair of blends on espresso and a single-origin pour-over option via the Marco SP9 automated brewers. As well as a standard espresso menu, Quarter Horse offers an espresso taster (one shot of each blend) and an espresso flight (one blend as an espresso shot and piccolo).

I had the espresso flight, choosing the Roan blend (natural Ethiopian and natural Rwandan) over the Dark Horse blend (Colombian and Brazilian). My reward was an excellent pair of drinks, the Roan achieving that rarest of things: being superb both in milk and on its own. In my piccolo, milk and coffee combined to provide a rich, smooth drink, while on its own, the same richness was there, but the fruitiness of the naturals came through much more strongly for a really beautiful espresso.


There’s a full write-up of Quarter Horse Coffee, including an updated gallery, in its main entry. You can also see what I made of it in my original write-up, from July 2015.

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, Bars, 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 Only
Saturday 09:00 – 16:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 09:00 – 16:00 Power Limited
Chain No Visits Original: 30th, 31st July 2015
Update: 25th August 2020

If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, then take a look at the rest of Birmingham’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Birmingham.


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