Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters Update

The 15 kg Giesen roaster at Quarter Horse, Birmingham.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.

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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.

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Whaletown Coffee Co.

A lovely flat white, made with the Dark Horse blend from Quarter Horse, and served in a gorgeous, handleless cup at Whaletown Coffee Co. in Sheffield.Since I was last in Sheffield, the city’s speciality coffee scene has undergone quite an expansion. Amanda and I were driving past a couple of weeks ago, so we decided to call in and see what was going on. Sadly, we only had time to visit a single shop, choosing Whaletown Coffee Co, which opened at the start of last year, one of several places I’ve found through Instagram (and in particular Coffee Girl Needs).

Whaletown is in Crookes, in the hills to the west of the city centre, which made it relatively easy to get to as we were driving through. A simple, minimalist, Scandi-inspired place, Whaletown is a multi-roaster with a different roaster each month on espresso (two options) and filter (two or three options) although sometimes (as it was during our visit, when Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters was in the house) the same roaster appears on both.

Whaletown offers the usual espresso-based options, batch brew and pour-over (V60 or Chemex for two) as well as several specials. This is backed up by a small but tasty food offering based around sourdough bagels, rye bread, sausage/vegan rolls, granola (for breakfast) and cakes (for those with a sweet tooth).

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Steam Coffee Shop Worcester

A lovely flat white made with the seasonal Dark Horse espresso blend from Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters and served in the Steam Coffee Shop in Worcester.Worcester’s Steam Coffee Shop (not to be confused with The Steam Room, in nearby Birmingham), was a chance discovery from earlier this week. Amanda and I had stopped in Worcester for lunch, intending to visit another coffee shop, when we walked past Steam Coffee, the display of lightbulbs in the window initially catching my eye. A quick perusal of the menu increased our interest and, on discovered that the coffee was from old friends Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters, our decision was made.

Steam Coffee occupies the final shop on the eastern flank of Worcester’s Corn Market, a large, open space opposite St Martin’s Church on the eastern side of Worcester’s compact, medieval centre. Four outside tables on the broad pavement compliment another eight in the cosy interior, which has a simple layout, with the counter at the back. There’s a standard espresso-based menu, the coffee provided by Quarter Horse’s Dark Horse blend, along with a decaf option, while there’s also a wide range of loose-leaf tea from Golden Monkey Tea Co. in nearby Warwick. However, the real draw is the food, with innovative breakfast, sandwich and lunch menus, plus a range of cakes, all made using local ingredients wherever possible.

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Detour Espresso

Detail from the Detour Espresso sign, taken from outside the shop in Edinburgh.When you’ve been away from Edinburgh for as long as I have (an embarrassing three years!), everything is new, even places that have been open for ages, like Lowdown Coffee. However, today’s Coffee Spot, Detour Espresso, is genuinely new, having only opened in August this year. Located on the south side of the Meadows, an area bereft of speciality coffee since the closure, long ago, of Freemans Coffee, it’s a welcome addition.

There’s not a lot to Detour Espresso, but it’s well worth making a detour to visit. Essentially a large, open cube (bless those high Edinburgh ceilings) you’ll find Birmingham’s Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters on espresso with its Dark Horse blend, along with a guest single-origin, plus a further single-origin on pour-over/batch-brew from a different guest roaster. These guest roasters change every month or so, depending on how quickly Detour goes through the stock.

If you’re hungry, there’s a simple all-day food menu with breakfast and lunch options. This includes my favourite option of toast, plus a range of toasted sandwiches and soup of the day, while, for a change, you can have a warm savoury tart with side salad. There’s also plenty of cakes from old friends Cakesmiths.

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Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters

The Giesen roaster at Quarter Horse, Birmingham.Quarter Horse Coffee started life on Oxford’s Cowley Road (where the original Quarter Horse Coffee has become Peleton Espresso), where it used coffee from Square Mile. However, in 2015, Quarter Horse moved to Birmingham, setting up a café/roastery. Nathan, who founded the original Quarter Horse with colleague James, hails from Normal, Illinois, and was a roaster before he came to the UK, so this marked a return to his (roasting) roots.

Quarter Horse created a lovely spot on Bristol Street, the roastery sharing the space with a large, open café (which features in its own Coffee Spot), Originally, this was behind a waist-high counter, which meant that the roastery was visible from pretty much every part of the building, but a major remodelling during the enforced COVID-19 shutdown saw the roastery enclosed in its own room. The roastery is still going strong, with the roaster, a 15 kg Giesen (which has been the mainstay of the operation since it opened in 2015), visible through a window in the wall dividing the roastery from the café.
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Quarter Horse Coffee, Birmingham

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.Quarter Horse Coffee opened its Birmingham café/roastery in February 2015, having moved from its original home in Oxford (which is now Peleton Espresso). Located on Bristol Street, a few minutes’ walk south of the centre, it underwent a major remodelling during the summer of 2020, making the most of the enforced shut down due to COVID-19. This saw the roastery, which had been in an open area on the left, enclosed in its own room, while the café on the right expanded its seating, even though the actual space is slightly smaller. This post is all about the café, by the way, while the roastery has its own Meet The Roaster feature.

Bright and spacious, Quarter Horse has a simple, extremely effective décor, being predominantly white, which, along with high ceilings, an uncluttered layout and windows front and back, make it feel even brighter and more spacious than it is. The coffee is all roasted on-site, with the house-blend and a second option on espresso, plus a single-origin on pour-over through the Marco SP9 automated brewers. There’s an all-day light food menu and plenty of cakes, while from Wednesday to Sunday, a full brunch menu is available from 10:00 – 14:00.

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