Review #5 – Fire Station Coffee Roasters

This is going to be a bit of a mixed review.  So without further ado, let’s get into it.

Fire Station Coffee are a Roastery based in Suffolk and it looks like they’ve been in business since 2013, but only begun roasting beans since last year.

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The shop design is straightforward enough and I had no issues picking what I wanted. One thing to note is that they don’t have a house blend of their own, only offering a selection of single origin coffees.  Currently they have the following to choose from –

  • Burundi (currently listed as Coming Soon)
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • Rwanda
  • Ethiopia
  • Mexico (decaf)

Prices vary between £6 and £9 for a 250g bag depending on the type of bean you want.  Shipping is £2.40 (UK 2nd class post) or you can collect from the roastery itself. I chose the Ethiopian beans as I’m a fan of their coffees such as Yirgacheffe and Peaberry.

It took four days from placing my order (the 19th of October) for the coffee to arrive, hence my posting the Union review in the interim while waiting for this delivery to arrive.

 

 

Again, a resealable bag, always a big fan of this for folks who don’t have a convenient place to store their beans, but here’s where the first little wrinkle shows up. If you look at the roasting date on the bag, these beans were already three weeks old by the time they reached me which is a fair bit of time.  There’s nothing on the Fire Station Coffee website or on their twitter feed (that I could see) that specifies their roasting schedule.

I reached out to them by voicemail first to verify if the date on the bag was correct, if they only had a limited roasting schedule or was this a mistake and an old bag had been sent to me, left my details and order number and asked for them to get back to me. If this is simply how often they roast, then fair enough! I’m not going to make a fuss about it, but it would be nice to have clarity so I could pass that information along to those folks who read my blog.  A couple of days passed and I received no reply.

I then reached out to them on twitter, quoting my order number and asking if someone could get back to me.  It’s been another two days and I’ve not received a reply and you know what?  That’s a real shame because regardless of how long ago it was roasted, this coffee was bloody lovely.

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This was most definitely a bit of a Jekyll/Hyde coffee, and by that I mean that if you use it with water you get one flavour, and with milk you get another, both are bloody good.  So am I actually saying this is a Hyde/Hyde coffee? That doesn’t make much sense. Maybe it’s more of a Gandalf/Dumbledore coffee.  Both wizards, both very good at what they do, but very different in how they go about it.

Okay, that works. This is a Gandalf/Dumbledore Coffee. And I’m going to stop before I torture this metaphor any further.

When you make it with hot water, the blueberry tasting notes come through LOUD and clear. It was sort of like eating a blueberry muffin and then taking a mouthful of coffee right after. It was really, really nice and this is coming from someone who’s not a massive fan of blueberry.

But if you put it in milk, then the toffee flavour is much more prevalent and the fruity notes all but disappear, it’s almost like a completely different drink. In either cup, it’s a genuinely lovely coffee and one that I would normally not hesitate to recommend…except for the issues with contacting the company.

I’m really disappointed nobody bothered to get back to me regarding either the voicemail or the tweet so it makes it hard for me to recommend that you order from this roaster, as lovely as this bag of coffee has been (and let me state this again, it WAS lovely).  All I can say is that if you do order from them and you have any issues or any questions, getting a response from them might be difficult going by my own personal experience.

That’s it for now, folks, thanks for taking the time to read this review.  I’ll be back with another review in a week or so.

 

Review #4 – Union Coffee Roasters

Hello again folks.

I’m back sooner than expected with this review, but the issues I had with my grinder sadly meant a lot of the Goldstone blend ended up in my knockout box and then into the garden for my plants.  I found myself between orders, waiting for one to arrive from Fire Station Coffee in Suffolk.  So, in the meantime I went to my local Waitrose to see what was on offer as they’ve usually got a pretty decent selection of whole bean coffees.

I chose a bag from Union Coffee as I’ve not really tried their coffees before, though I was aware of them as a roastery, and had chatted to someone at their stand at the London Coffee Festival earlier this year.  They appear to be one of the larger UK coffee roasters, based in London.

As well as coffee and brewing equipment, they also offer training courses. I actually hope to attend one of these courses myself at some point to work on improving my milk texturing and presentation. My latte art is…well…it’s not great. Really not great.  There are those who witness it who say they will be forever changed by the abominations I’ve left in their mugs.  Burn it, they say.  Burn it all.  Cleanse the…ahem. Sorry about that.

But anyway, let’s move on to the review of the coffee itself!

I can’t exactly talk about the buying process in this specific review as I purchased it from a local supermarket, but there’s a few things I can bring up.

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I decided to try the “Natural Spirit” blend because, as stated before, I tend to veer away from really dark roast blends so this one sounded like a good choice.

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I really like that they put a roasting date on the bags, you hardly ever see that in shop-bought coffee. So as you can see, this one is roughly two months old which is getting up there for coffee, you ideally want it to be less than a month for the best flavour.

I reached out to Union on Twitter (@UnionRoasted) to ask if they had an idea about how long it takes their coffee to reach supermarket shelves from roasting.  They confirmed that it can be as little as a week from roasting to being sent to the shops, but then it’s entirely dependent on that shop’s stock rotation schedule. So it’s possible I could have found one more fresh if I’d looked at every bag, or gone somewhere else.

If you want the beans fresh, you can go to Union direct through their website and order them there. as they roast to order. I’ll definitely try that sometime soon, I think, and update my review with my thoughts on that order.

Interesting they also state that you should store your beans in the freezer to keep them fresh, I know a lot of sites that would vehemently disagree with that! I’m ambivalent about the whole thing, honestly, but my preference is either in the hopper of my grinder, or in the original packaging on my kitchen counter.

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I was a little surprised when I opened the bag as the beans were darker than I was expecting.  Sadly, the light in my kitchen doesn’t entirely put that across in the photo above.  There was a lovely, rich smell on opening the bag, but it was harder to detect specific notes. It was very…coffee smelling.  I suspect again that this is the price you pay for buying at the supermarket.

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That said, it made a lovely shot with a heck of a crema on it!  This is another coffee I would strongly recommend be used for milk-based drinks. As an americano it was perfectly nice, but really nothing I would write home about. I really struggled to detect any of the tasting notes that the bag suggests and instead I just had a very nice but very forgettable mug of coffee.

As a latte it was richer, but noticeably….LESS than the coffees I’ve had before it.  The flavours were muted and while it was, again, a lovely cup of coffee, the tasting notes were much harder to detect. There was a hint of toffee, but the lemon was completely lost.

I am aware I’m being a little unfair to Union with this review as all the other coffees arrived fresh and were all used within two weeks of being opened and I’m comparing those to a supermarket coffee which is never going to be as fresh.  But as so many of us DO go to our local Tesco, Asda or Waitrose for our coffee, I felt it wouldn’t be fair for me to only cover artisan roasters as not everyone will go to them.

That said, as mentioned above, I will place an online order for this same coffee and will update this review with my findings!

To sum up, if you ARE shopping in your local Waitrose, I’d definitely recommend Union over Lyons or Lavazza or the like. It’s lovely, tasty and you can clearly see when it was roasted so you can rummage to try and get the freshest bag you can. If I find myself between coffee orders then I’d definitely pick this one again.

I hope there’s some of you out there who find this review helpful and I’ll be back soon.

Review #3 – Small Batch Coffee Roasters

Hello again folks.

Hopefully by now you know the format, so let’s get stuck into things and take a look at my latest purchase.

Small Batch Coffee Roasters are based down in Hove/Brighton, with multiple branches, through the actual roastery is located in Portslade. Their website follows the trend of a lot of third-wave roasters with a nice, simple white background and a clean layout that makes it simple to find whatever you need. I had no problems at all finding the coffees and the information about them that I wanted.

 

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As per the previous reviews we’re going to look at the house blends on offer here.  We have two for espresso, one called the “Throwback Espresso” and the other called “Goldstone Espresso” which is the one I went for in the end.  Costs for the Goldstone Espresso are as follows –

£5.95 for a 250g bag.
£2.00 – 1st class postage

Dispatch and delivery was very quick, the coffee dispatched on the same day I ordered it, and it arrived the next day which was perfect timing as I’d just run out of the Rounton Granary Blend! No problems with the checkout process here, I was able to use Paypal to pay for everything, no fuss at all.

 

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Four things I want to note here.

  1. Yay for flat bags that fit through letterboxes! I love these, and wish every roaster used them as it just makes things simple. No waiting till the next day to run the sorting office or rescheduling a delivery. I guess maybe it’s an issue of cost?  Or maybe just personal preference.
  2. I also like it when you get these cards with the coffee that give you more information about where it’s come from, how it’s been processed, etc. It’s good to learn about the source of the beans.
  3. Woooo for resealable bags! Just a nice-to-have rather than a necessity, but still appreciated for those who may not have somewhere else to store their beans.
  4. The bag that arrives is different from the one on their website which is black on the front and doesn’t look like it’s resealable, so perhaps those are the ones they sell in their shops?  Not a complaint, just an observation.

 

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My apologies but for this review there’s not going to be any pictures of the actual ground coffee, I had a few issues with my grinder so let’s move straight on to the actual finished shot once I sorted all those problems out.

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As per the advice of the website, I used this to make myself a latte and I have to say it was a really enjoyable drink that only improved as I got further into the mug.  The chocolate and citrus notes were very much in evidence here though they weren’t overpowering and, like the Rounton coffee, there wasn’t a hint of bitterness anywhere to be found.  All in all a lovely drink!

The next morning I tried it with hot water and I gotta agree with them, it’s not a BAD drink as an americano, but (no offence, guys) there’s nothing that really makes it stand out either.  As with the Granary, I’ll say this one is lovely from the first sip to the last and I’m already thinking about making my second coffee of the day.  However, it’s definitely one to use with milk based drinks if you want to get the best from it.

Has it toppled Rounton from it’s Number 1 spot? Not quite. There’s something about the Granary Blend, a depth that was just slightly lacking from the Goldstone, but this has taken a very well deserved number 2 spot in my list.  I’ll definitely be placing another order in the future and maybe I’ll try the Throwback next time as well.

Once again, thanks for taking the time to read my review, I hope you find it useful!

Review #2 – Rounton Coffee Roasters

Hello again folks.

I come to you today with a confession.  I really love this roaster.  In fact, their in house Granary Blend is my current all time favourite coffee.  You can have your Kopi Luwak, your Geisha, your Blue Mountain or your Hawaiian Extra Fancy, I’ll take this over any of them.

In fact, I’ve bought nearly 2kgs of this single blend over the last year more than any other single roaster, it’s just that good (Please note, I am not sponsored by Rounton Coffee Roasters, this fangasm is brought to you completely free).

Without further ado, let’s do what we’re here to do and dive in to my latest experience with ordering from them.

Rounton Coffee Roasters are another Yorkshire roaster, and I swear this isn’t just a trend of me liking coffees from Yorkshire.  Or is it…? Now I need to check the locations of my other favourite coffee suppliers!

Rounton

The shop design, once again, is clean and easy to navigate, with everything you need only a click or two away.  As per my last review, we’re going to look at the house blends offered by this roaster.  Rounton only offer one and as I mentioned above it’s called “The Granary Blend” and the costs for it run as follows –

£5.90 for a 250 bag.
£3.30 – 1st class postage
£3.00 – 2nd class postage

The checkout process was reasonably straightforward, though one thing I do have to mention is that on checkout there’s an option to like Rounton’s page on Facebook for a discount on your coffee –

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I clicked the link, there was a popup with an option to like the FB page, but no discount was applied to my order. I’ve not received any email with a discount code or anything so I’m not sure quite what happened there.  50p really isn’t enough money for me to make a fuss about, but I felt I should mention that, at least for me, it didn’t seem to do anything.

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I do like it when companies send their coffee out in resealable bags to help keep it all fresh. Just remember one thing – You don’t need to put your beans in the fridge or the freezer, folks!  Keeping them in an airtight container or bag will do just fine. Though, as with everything else in this particular industry/community, you’ll find as many people who say it’s fine as those who claim you’re ruining your coffee by putting it in the fridge.

My coffee usually lives in the hopper of my Barista Express, or in either its original packaging, or a ziplock-type bag to keep it airtight.

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I swear that first whiff when you open a fresh new bag of coffee is one of the best things in life.  Other than crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you, and hearing the lamentation of their women, I mean that goes without saying, but coffee is damn good too.

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This is one coffee I will highly recommend you use to make milk-based drinks as opposed to hot water, it makes a far better flat white or latte than it does an americano.  Unlike the previous coffee, where milk tended to mute the Beverley’s flavours, the Granary comes alive.

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It’s another coffee that veers more towards the nutty end of the scale rather than fruity.  It’s rich and mellow, though I’ve never got much of a chocolate taste from it myself, I think it’s much more toffee/caramel flavours that come through.  Why is it my favourite? Well, because from the first sip to the last, the Granary Blend is simply perfect. There’s not a sour or bitter note to be found, not a hint of over-roasting, no coarseness to the taste at all.

Some coffees I find, you drink them and it’s lovely, lovely, still lovely, then you get that very last mouthful at the bottom of your cup and suddenly there’s something bitter, something sour, an aftertaste that doesn’t quite jibe with the rest of the drink.  The Granary Blend has none of that, every mouthful as great as the one before it.

For me, this is the coffee that’s set the bar for every other roaster to aspire to and one I can’t recommend highly enough that you try.

Once again, thanks for taking the time to read my review, I hope you find it useful.

 

Review #1b – The Blending Room

Hello, folks.

So we’re trying The Blending Room’s “Beverley” blend again, but this time in my trusty (if somewhat battered) Aeropress.

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So as before, we’ll walk step by step through the coffee preparation process and I’ll go into more detail here as some of you might not be familiar with the Aeropress.  As you can see in the next photo I’m a fan of the inverted Aeropress brewing method.  The community is somewhat split on whether or not this actually offers any real benefit in terms of the taste of the coffee, but for me I find it easier and less hassle to do it this way.  You just need to make sure that when you flip it over to place on top of your cup that you have it properly in place.

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So we begin with prepping our Aeropress.  You want to wet the paper filter with warm water and set it aside, then wet both the plunger and the rest of the inside of the Aeropress with water to help the plunger move and stop it sticking.  Once you have this set up as you see above, you add your ground coffee.

You want this a coarse-ish blend. Not as coarse as a cafetiere, nor as fine as espresso.  You can measure the dose out using either a set of scales, or the included scoop that comes with the Aeropress.  The Aeropress also comes with a funnel for tipping the grounds in that makes your life a WHOLE lot easier. Don’t throw it away or leave it in the box!

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Again, depending on who you speak to, opinion is divided on how you pour the water.  Do you add it all in at once, or do you wet the grounds by part filling first before adding more?  Personally I subscribe to only part filling and stirring before filling all the way to the top but it’s entirely down to your personal preference.

Opinion is also divided on how hot the water should be. The rule of thumb I personally go by is to leave your kettle to sit for 20-30 seconds to let it come down from the boil and that should be about right for you to pour. If you have a programmable kettle where you can specify the temp then that’s easier, but that’s a fair outlay of cash for one of those.

Filled to the Brim –

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Once you add in the rest of the water, you either stir it through with the included paddle, or you can do what some people (including myself) do and put the lid with filter on, tilt the Aeropress slightly and swirl it by hand.  Does it actually add to the flavour of the coffee? Honestly, I don’t know, but it’s  fun and you can listen to the hiss of the gases escaping from the brewing coffee.

Then you upend it onto your mug and press the plunger down till you hear it hiss. Depending on how coarse your coffee is and how well you’ve wetted the plunger beforehand, this might be easy or difficult. If it’s too hard, your coffee is too fine!  Too easy, and it’s too coarse. You want to find a middle ground.

In Conclusion – It’s still a very drinkable cup of coffee, though somewhat more harsh than what is produced by my Barista Express with a somewhat bitter aftertaste.  The chocolate notes still come through lovely and clear through.

Part of the reason it’s a harsher taste is the extraction method the Aeropress uses which I always find is less smooth than my other machine, but also it’s down to my lack of a separate burr grinder compromising the coffee.

I have a small Krups grinder that I use for things like the Aeropress and the syphon, but as it’s a twin blade one the grind is always less precise and you end up with some of it ground too fine and some too coarse.  Hopefully in future I can look to upgrade to upgrade my grinder as well so I can be sure I’m being fair to the coffees I test.

Once again, I hope you find this useful and if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to me!

Review #1 – The Blending Room

Hello folks.

So today I’m going to talk about The Blending Room, who are a roastery based in Yorkshire.  I found them through a random web search for UK coffee roasters and decided to give them a look.

 

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The shop design is clear and easy to use and I encountered no problems at all placing my order.  I’ve decided that the best way to comment on individual roasters is to look at what kinds of house blends they offer.  In this instance we had three different ones to choose from.

 

Docker – Which is their dark roast.

Jones – Their seasonal blend.

Beverley – Which appears to be their mainstay blend offered all year round.  This was the one I picked.

 

I ordered one bag of beans from them, which is 275g, a pretty standard amount for most roasters and the perfect amount to fill the hopper of my Barista Express’ coffee grinder.  The Beverley blend was £5 with an added £3.40 in first class postage.  You can also choose second class which is £2.90.

The bag arrived within two days, which I was very happy with indeed.  Unlike some roasters the bags aren’t shipped flat so you either need to make sure you’re in for delivery, have a space set up for your postman to leave parcels, or have a very, very wide letterbox for it to fit or you’ll need to do what I did and collect it from your local sorting office as my postie wasn’t able to fit it through the door.

Here’s what the bag looks like –

BR Bag

And here’s a view of the beans inside –

BR Beans

My first cup was made with the Sage Barista Express as it’s my day to day machine.  Here’s a couple of pictures of the brewing process.  Whenever I get a new bag of coffee my first taste will always be an americano with milk.  Sadly I can’t tolerate black coffee, it turns my stomach!

The Grind –

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The finished Shot –

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Adding Water –

BR Water

So what did I think of it?  When you grind it, it’s got a rich, slightly fruity aroma that’s very pleasant.

You can definitely smell the caramel overtones and there’s a lingering hint of chocolate as it goes down. Not too harsh, a really pleasant flavour all in all.  I tend to favour a medium roast, and trend towards fruity coffees and this was a lovely mix of fruity and malty, a good starting place if you’re not sure exactly what sort of flavour you like. I’d definitely buy this again as an everyday coffee.

As a latte the flavours are more muted, but still very pleasant, rich without being overpowering. I normally use two shots in the mug up above and in my opinion it makes a lovely cup whether it’s made with water or milk.

My plan is also to try it in the Aeropress and then upload a follow-up review of what I think of it to see how much the flavours differ.

And that’s the end of my first review.  I thoroughly enjoyed my first order from the Blending Room and they’re a roastery I’d go back to and try some of their other blends as well.  I hope you’ve found this little review useful and if there are any other details you’d like me to focus on in upcoming reviews, please let me know.

Thanks for reading!