Quarter Horse Coffee opened its Birmingham café/roastery in 2015, the roastery operating on one side of the space, the coffee shop on the other, the two separated by a waist-high counter. While this arrangement had the obvious advantage of making the roastery very visible to the customers, it had its drawbacks. As the roastery became busier, the inevitable interruptions that come from having such an open and visible roasting operation began to have an impact on productivity.
Nathan, the driving force behind Quarter Horse, decided that he need to make some major modifications to improve the roastery. However, the question was how to accommodate the disruption that the structural work would cause, which would inevitably shut both roastery and café for several weeks. Then along came COVID-19, with its enforced shutdown, giving Nathan his opportunity…
The results of the remodelling were plain for all to see when Quarter Horse reopened on the last day in July. Although it would be more accurate to say that they weren’t plain to see. Although the roastery hasn’t gone anywhere, it’s now enclosed in its own room, leaving Nathan and his team free to get on with the important business of roasting in peace.
This Coffee Spot Update focuses on the roastery, while the café has its own update, where you can find more details of the physical changes.
You can see what else has changed after the gallery.
Quarter Horse Coffee occupies two adjacent units on Birmingham’s Bristol Street, one each for the roastery and café. Each unit has its own large, multi-paned windows with a half-timbered door inset on the right. Originally, you could see the roastery through the left-hand windows, but since the remodelling, the lower windows of the left-hand unit have been whitewashed, while the door, which previously led into the café, is now reserved solely for the roastery.
During the remodelling, the original counter which separated the roastery from the café was replaced with a wall which doesn’t quite reach the (admittedly very high) ceiling. Running along the line dividing the two units, the wall is slightly further over than the counter, giving the roastery a little more space than before. There’s a small window in the wall near the front, which gives a glimpse of the roaster, compensating a little for the loss of the view. Meanwhile, the sliding door next to it, which provides access to the roastery from the café, has its own thin, tall window inset in the middle.
Inside the roastery (and with thanks to Nathan for the tour), pride of place goes to the 15 kg Giesen roaster, located directly opposite the door. This has been the roastery’s workhorse ever since it opened in 2015 and is still going strong. It stands near the front of the roastery, with the unopened sacks of green beans between it and window. Meanwhile, the back half of the roastery houses the packing area (on the right, with open sacks of green beans underneath), admin (against the back wall) and a lab area (left) where Nathan was preparing one of his regular (internal) cuppings during my visit.
Talking of which, Quarter Horse is still roasting its seasonal Dark Horse espresso blend, while there’s a second blend, Roan, which is also for espresso (I had tried this earlier and it was divine). These days, Quarter Horse also roasts a wide selection of single-origins for filter (at the time of writing, there were nine on the webshop), along with a single-origin decaf (currently the La Serranía, which is from Colombia and is decaffeinated in the country using the EA sugar cane method).
One of the things that Nathan told me was that Quarter Horse is increasing the amount of coffee it buys through direct trade. To that end, Nathan went to Southern India at the end of last year to visit coffee farms, purchasing a honey-processed coffee from the Venkids Valley Estate and a naturally-processed coffee from Mooleh Many, a fifth generation farm in Coorg (which was on filter over in the café during my visit).
He’d also bought some peppercorns, which come from tall trees grown side-by-side with the smaller coffee trees to provide them with shade. If you’re interested, you can buy both the peppercorns and the coffee from Quarter Horse’s webshop. I look forward to seeing what else Nathan brings back from his origin trips in future years!
December 2020: Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters has won the 2020 Best Roaster/Retailer Award.
|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, Bar; 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
Liked this Coffee Spot? Then check out the rest of Birmingham’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Birmingham.
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