I first came across Made by Knock (technically the company is Knock, but goes by “Made By Knock” on the web) and its fabulous hand-grinders at last year’s London Coffee Festival. Several people told me about these wonderful wooden grinders that I had to see. So, on the final day of the festival, I made my way to Knock’s stand and spent a happy hour with Peter, Knock’s co-owner, playing with the grinder, the hausgrind, and watching various demonstrations. From my enthusiastic write-up, you could tell that I had already fallen in love with the hausgrind.
My next encounter came later that year at Cup North, where I ran into Peter and Knock on the Dear Green Coffee stand. Here I discovered that Knock had a smaller, lighter (and cheaper) version of the hausgrind, the feldgrind. I fear that in a moment of madness, I may have agreed to buy one.
Fast forward a few weeks and I was on a train to Edinburgh and, before long, was making my way down to Portobello, the home of Knock, where I had an appointment with Peter and, unknown to me, a very endearing little chap called Woody…
Continuing my theme of visiting Edinburgh and calling in on a coffee shop shortly after it opened, I present Cult Espresso. Unlike my previous victim, Fortitude, which opened four weeks prior to my visit, Cult Espresso opened on Monday and I was there on Thursday! I was already aware of Cult Espresso from social media, and when I heard on twitter that it had opened, I pencilled it in as a must-visit on my first day.
Run by father-and-son team, Kevin & Gary, Cult Espresso is, I think, the first to bring coffee from Bath’s Round Hill Roastery to Edinburgh on a permanent basis. Before setting up Cult, Gary ran a coffee kiosk on Dalmeny station. Originally using Lavazza coffee, it wasn’t long before Gary progressed to Round Hill, so was natural to continue the relationship when Cult opened.
I’ve been to several coffee shops that are corridor-like in layout (Goodge St Espresso and, in particular, NYC’s Gasoline Alley spring to mind). However, Cult takes this one step further by seeming to actually be built inside the corridor between two tenement buildings! While this sounds an unpromising set-up, it results in a lovely space, full of multiple, intimate little areas.
Printworks Coffee on Leith’s Constitution Street vies for my attention with the famous Mimi’s Bakehouse, itself just a couple of streets away. In terms of character, the two are miles apart, but you know a place has to be pretty decent to drag me away from my beloved Mimi’s!
In many ways, Printworks is the sort of neighbourhood café that you can find on any street in any town or city in the country. However, by serving Monmouth coffee (from London) and loose-leaf tea from Pekoe Tea (all the way from Edinburgh!) and by doing it well, Printworks proves that you don’t have to be a speciality coffee (tea) shop to serve decent coffee (tea). It also goes to show that there’s no good reason why this sort of friendly, neighbour café can’t do decent tea and coffee, although judging by the numbers, far too many fail.
Printworks has great food too, using local, independent suppliers. There is a limited, but excellent, breakfast menu, served until 11.30 (it includes porridge and a scrambled egg breakfast bap, so I’m happy) plus a wide-ranging lunch menu from noon onwards. At weekends there’s a separate brunch-menu until three. Plus cake, of course.
Stepping into Edinburgh’s second branch of Artisan Roast, on Bruntsfield Place, there is a distinct sense of déjà vu. In look, feel and layout, it’s similar to the original on Broughton Street, right down to there being a back room called “The Mooch”.
Bruntsfield Place, which started life in 2011 as a Festival pop-up, is similar in size to Broughton Street, perhaps a little narrower and a little longer. Here the espresso machine is in the back right-hand corner rather than the back left-hand corner, and the passage to The Mooch is similarly reversed, but other than that, the similarity is striking.
What you get, of course, is the same Artisan Roast excellence. Everything is roasted in-house, and all the beans are available to buy. However, Artisan Roast seems to be moving away from the “any bean, any method” model that I first came across at Broughton Street. At Bruntsfield Place, specific beans are tailored to specific methods; during my visit, a Kenyan was on offer through the Kalita Wave filter, a Brazilian through the Aeropress.
Naturally there’s the traditional espresso-based menu, along with tea, hot chocolate and the usual range of cake, plus soup for lunch.
Machina Espresso might just be the perfect coffee shop. Set a little back on a wide pavement on Brougham Place in Edinburgh’s west end, it’s not a huge place, with just enough room for a few tables, a counter and multiple displays for coffee equipment. However, there’s an atmosphere about the place that just feels right, a certain calm that even an intransigent toddler (who was swiftly taken home by an indignant parent) couldn’t ruin.
Machina Espresso started life in Lock-up Coffee, a city-centre, weekend pop-up run by Ben Wylie, a barista at the late, much lamented Freemans Coffee. Back then, Machina Espresso was just an equipment supplier, but in November last year it moved into its current premises to become a fully-fledged coffee shop. The equipment is still here: (very) shiny espresso machines from Rocket and Expobar; compact grinders, great cups, tampers, pouring kettles… Everything, in fact, that you need to make great coffee at home.
However, if you can’t wait, Machina Espresso will happily serve you coffee (and cake). During my visit, the espresso was from nearby Steampunk Coffee and London’s Nude Espresso, with three single-origins on filter (all made through the Chemex). Spoilt for choice!
Continuing from last week’s update on Wild & Wood Coffee, I present another of my Coffee Spot Updates, this time from my recent trip to Edinburgh. I first visited Brew Lab during my Coffee Spot tour of Edinburgh in December 2012. Back then, Brew Lab had just opened and it had a real impact on me. With its emphasis on filter coffee and various brew methods, each chosen for a specific bean, I felt the sort of sense of confusion when looking at the menu that someone who wants a “white coffee” must experience in a modern coffee shop…
When I returned at the end of April, a mere 16 months later, I was keen to see what had, and hadn’t, changed at Brew Lab. Well, the answer, much as it had been with Wild & Wood, was “very little”. The Slayer was still there, looking very sexy on the counter (although it’s since been replaced by a Black Eagle), Brew Lab was as busy as ever, and the interior still looked as if the decorators had downed tools and walked off mid-job…
However, there have been a couple of significant changes and one of them is quite important…
When I first visited Edinburgh’s Fortitude in April 2014, it had been open all of four weeks. A self-titled espresso & brew bar, plus coffee merchant, Fortitude lived up to the billing back then. These days it’s added a decent food offering and has turned itself into a pretty decent roaster. Originally using London‘s Workshop and regularly-rotating guests, these days all the coffee is roasted in-house (but sadly not on-site, where there’s no room for a roaster), Fortitude sourcing some exceptional single-origins, with two options on espresso and four on pour-over through the Kalita Wave.
It helps that Fortitude’s a lovely spot in which to drink your coffee, with its high ceilings and uncluttered layout. There’s not much seating, but it’s well laid-out and very laptop friendly, with free Wifi and power outlets at every table. You’re also assured of a warm welcome from husband and wife team, Matt and Helen, although when I returned at the end of December 2018, they were off roasting. Instead I was equally well-looked after by Cristabel and Niall.
If you’re hungry, there are small breakfast and lunch menus, with a tempting selection of toast, sandwiches and soup, plus a decent range of cake.
The Coffee Spot goes from strength-to-strength. When I started, I intended to publish once a week. Four months on, I am publishing twice a week and averaging over 500 views a week, with over 200 regular visitors, which is amazing! However, real life occasionally raises its head, so for the next four or five weeks, I am going to have to go back to publishing once a week.
It’s nothing serious, just that I’m very busy and then off to America two weeks today. Much as I love the Coffee Spot, I don’t want to spend half my holiday blogging, so going down to once a week makes sense. While I’m away, I’ll try to blog at least one Coffee Spot from the three main places I’m visiting: Boston, New York City and Montreal. Any recommendations gratefully received, especially Montreal, since it’s my first visit there.
In the meantime, I thought you’d enjoy a brief round-up of my recent Coffee Spot tour of Edinburgh, plus a couple of my old favourites, all in the form of a slideshow (click on the picture for the full Coffee Spot)… If this proves successful, I might do a few more roundups on Mondays, with the regular Coffee Spots published on Thursday as normal.
In the heart of Edinburgh, on the corner of George and Castle Streets, you’ll find a Starbucks. Ignore that and head down Castle Street towards the castle. Just before you get to Princes Street, you’ll find a Costa Coffee on the left. Go past that and a few steps later you’ll find Castello Coffee, possibly Edinburgh’s best kept coffee secret and one of its more recent additions, having only been open since the summer of 2012.
I’d walked past it twice before without giving it a second thought, but everyone I’d talked to about Edinburgh coffee had said excellent things about it, so I thought I’d better give it a go, making it my last stop on the Coffee Spot tour of Edinburgh. It’s a tiny place, with just enough room for a couple of tables and a bar opposite the counter. There are also a few tables outside and another tiny bar space by the window.
Despite its tiny size, it packs a lot in: breakfast, sandwiches and soup for lunch, cake, and three grinders, one for the regular, one for the guest blend and (a little) one for the decaf. I was duly impressed.
Blink and you might miss it could be a good description of Wellington Coffee, which has been serving excellent coffee to the good folks of Edinburgh from the corner of Hanover and George Streets since 2008. It’s located down some steps in a basement and if you didn’t know what you were looking for, you could easily walk right past, which would be a shame.
It’s not big, although it squeezes the seats in: I reckon it could hold 20 at a push, which is surprising, given its size, and there’s room for more outside. The end result is a surprisingly pleasant, intimate place, which, while not built for lingering all day, is nevertheless great for an unhurried coffee and cake. While I was there, there was a steady stream of visitors, with the vast majority sitting in rather than coming for takeaway. Clearly, the place has its charm.
Wellington really is all about the coffee though. There’s none of the accessories of your modern coffee shop: no power, no wifi, no fancy brewing methods; just an espresso machine, three grinders (for the regular, guest and decaf beans) and a limited range of excellent cake.