The Brew Lab Slayer

Slayer website

Our espresso machine is something a little bit special. In fact, its so special that it's one of only three of its kind in the UK. It's called the Slayer and it makes espresso unlike any you have probably tasted before. If you'd like to know how, and why, read on! The Slayer was hand built in Seattle, the home of three of the world's best espresso machine manufacturers. Along with Slayer, Seattle is the home of La Marzocco and Synesso. La Marzocco is the Godfather of espresso machine manufactures; they're of Italian origin, but they now manufacture all their machines in Seattle. Synesso and Slayer are made up of ex-La Marzocco engineers. Essentially, the best brains in the world of espresso machines.

What makes the Slayer so good? Well, it's mostly down to its simplicity. It is a completely manual espresso machine, no buttons, no automatic dosing, just a paddle and a lever.

So, the important part is the paddle. This controls the pressure of the water that is forced through the espresso. With the large majority of espresso machines, you press 'on' and water is forced through a puck of finely ground coffee at around 9 bars of pressure. The Slayer allows us to vary this pressure. This brings out flavours and textures in espresso that no other machine is able to consistently produce.

More precisely, when we pull a shot of espresso at Brew Lab, we first 'pre-infuse' the coffee for about 10-20 seconds. The Slayer pushes water into the coffee at a low 5 bars of pressure to, in a way, prime it. The low water pressure blooms the coffee readying it to release more flavours and a very different texture than would be achievable were you were to simply pull a shot at 9 bars.

Pre-infusing helps us to recreate the kind of pressure profile you get from a lever espresso machine, only more consistently. It enables us to find a sweet spot in coffee that has previously been extremely hard to nail. It's hard to explain in words, but when we first tasted some single origin espressos at Has Bean, brewed on their Slayer, we knew we just had to bring this machine to Edinburgh.

You can get even more experimental with the Slayer's pressure profiling. Bringing the pressure back to the low position towards the end of a shot will bring out more sweetness and help to reduce acidity, but that's a topic for another blog post!

On top of pressure profiling, the Slayer is extremely temperature stable. This is very important for producing espresso in a commercial environment. If you're knocking out three shots a minute at peak times, you need your machine to stay stable at the same temperature for the duration.

And here are some pictures of our Slayer being built in Seattle.

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This week's food menu 01/10/12

Brew Lab lunch

We've got two weeks of trading under our belt, and we've had some great feedback on the Brew Lab food. We're so happy to be working with Elaine at Union of Genius who makes quite possibly the best soup and salads that we've ever tasted. The guys down at Le Petit Francais are baking some outstanding bread and pastries and the Lovecrumbs ladies are excelling themselves with their cakes. There's been particularly good feedback on the cheese and marmite muffins! So, our menu for this week. Our sandwiches change weekly, and our soups and salads change daily. We try our very hardest to source all our ingredients and products as locally as possible. We also try our best to cater for a variety of diets. We always have a vegan sandwich, and we alternate vegan soups or salads. We will also always have a gluten free soup or salad.

Breakfast

Pastries from Le Petit Francais  Croissant (naked or with blackcurrant and rum jam) - 1.60/1.90 Pain au chocolat - 1.90 Almond croissant - 1.90

Banana bread - 2.20

Filled Croissant with serrano ham and Gruyere - 2.60

Spiced apple and cinnamon porridge - 2.20

Muffins from Lovecrumbs - 2.20 Blueberry Cinnamon bran Cheese & marmite

Lunch 

Baguettes - 4.50  Pastrami, swiss, gherkins and sauerkraut

Clava brie, vine tomatoes and basil

Sourdough sandwich - 4.50 Aubergine and lentil pate, olives and red onion (vegan)

Salad - 4.50 Our salads change daily, but choices include Spanish chorizo and potato, roast mixed veg with quinoa, puy lentil, bacon and gorgonzola. All salads are served with mixed leaves and fresh bread. See our daily board for what salad is on today.

Soup - 4.50  Again, our soup changes daily but choices this week include carrot and coconut, bacon, broccoli and chilli and cock-a-leekie. Soups are served with fresh olive and rosemary bread.

Cakes

We offer a range of cakes baked freshly by Lovecrumbs including carrot cake, victoria sponge, lemon and rosemary loaf, mega serious brownies and sweet or savoury muffins.

 

We're open

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So the blog has been a bit neglected over the last few weeks. It was an intense last push to get finished, and once we had, and we opened the doors, it has been non-stop. The last week and a bit has been the steepest learning curve yet, but it's been exhilarating. We opened the doors on the 16th September and people just started coming in. Our first customers were people we didn't even know, which was a bit of a weird feeling! The weirdest part was that we had spent the last four years building up Brew Lab, to get cakes and coffee there for people to buy, and when we opened, people just came in and bought cake and coffee as if it was a completely normal thing to do!

We are so incredibly happy with how the shop turned out. It looks beautiful.

Let us know what you think:

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Check out our Flickr page for more photos, and our Facebook and Twitter pages for even more!

Making the Brew Lab bar

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The bar at Brew Lab is the main focal point of the whole shop, it will be the centre of our coffee making, it'll hold the Slayer, the Uber Boiler, the brew bar and display all our food. Because of this, we wanted to make sure the bar itself was going to be something quite special, and of course we wanted to make sure the layout was the best it could be for barista workflow, and for customer experience. To create a bar that stands out and is unique, we needed a material that was a bit different. We wanted it to look monolithic, we wanted it to act as a blank canvas for the coffee making that would take place on top of it, and we wanted a material that would work against the rest of the surfaces in the shop, and age gracefully. To achieve this, we decided to go for a concrete bar as we would be able to create an illusion of one monolithic concrete block. It's also a very plain material that would enable to coffee making equipment to stand out. Finally, as concrete ages, it develops a beautiful patina that would start to blend into the rest of the finishes in the shop.

Casting one concrete slab for the bar wasn't an option as it would be too heavy to be supported by a timber frame, and would require extra strengthening to the floor. We needed a way to cast the concrete, but keep it light at the same time. It just so happened that there was a concrete specialist on our doorstep called Gray Concrete. The guys at Gray concrete are able to create a hollow shell of concrete, cast into any shape you want. This was brilliant as we would be able to cast in cut outs for equipment, as well as have a light bar that would sit on top of a timber frame.

The final design of the bar took a lot of development. It wasn't as simple as having one bar top cast and then placing equipment where ever we needed it. Cut-outs were needed for the Uber Boiler, milk pitcher rinser and knock-out chute, and holes for water and power for the Slayer and grinders. First we sketched the bar layout on paper to work out exactly what equipment was needed and where it would sit. Next we headed down to the beach to draw out the bar area in 1:1 scale to check there was enough room for staff and customers. Finally we drew out the bar in masking tape on the floor of my flat to check the position of the equipment and cut-outs, and then created a life-size version out of foam board to check the equipment would fit, and to check the overall height.

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Once we were happy with the final layout, we drew out the final dimensions and ran them past the architect. This was then drawn up in CAD by Gray Concrete. From the CAD drawing, Gray Concrete made an inverse mould out of MDF. There were three separate pieces of the bar top, each needed to be correct to the millimetre to make sure everything fitted. After the moulds were made, the casting began. The casting process involves spraying layers and layers of concrete onto the mould over the space of a few hours. The first coat is the most important, as this is the final finish of the bar top. After that, each layer adds strength to the structure.

Once spraying is finished, the top is left to dry, and then broken out of the mould. The surface is then rubbed and polished to a smooth finish.

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Back at the shop, our contractor Allan was busy constructing the bar carcass. This had to match the top perfectly, for obvious reasons. Allan also had to make sure all the services like water and electricity were in the right places for the equipment on top, as well as making sure the supports were in the right places so we could fit fridges, filters, pumps and shelves under the bar.

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Once the carcass was finished, Gray Concrete brought the concrete up from Granton and fitted it. The very first thing they did was place the three castings that made up the top on the carcass to make sure they fitted. They did. And the god of concrete was praised. After that, MDF was fitted to the bottom of the concrete, this would act as support for the carcass to hold the concrete. Following that, the concrete cladding was fitted to the front of the bar, the edges were grouted, and the bar was finished!

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Once the shop is finished, the floor will be used as skirting to the bar and rise up to just below the cladding, with a 75mm shadow gap which will give the impression the bar is floating.

 

 

Week 6 of fit out

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We're into week 6 of fit out and Brew Lab is really starting to take shape and look a bit more like a coffee shop. The bar carcass is on site and the guys have been busy prepping it for the concrete delivery today from Gray Concrete who are based down in Granton, Edinburgh. The concrete will form the bar top with concrete cladding on the front making it look like one monolithic solid block. The shop front painting is under way, changing it from the rather unsettling green it was before to a lovely rich dark grey. Three old communist GDR ship lights have gone on the outside of the shop, which look awesome!

Inside, the ceilings are finished and painted and look really great. They've helped to reign in the chaos of the wall finishes and make the coffee shop look much more cosy. The floor ply is down and ready for the reclaimed boards to be laid this week. The boards are from Hargreaves Reclaimed Flooring in Stirling and were lifted out of an old School Gym in London. The wood is Keruing which is quite dark but will be very hard wearing. The plywood wall has gone up in the rear of no.7 to hold up the slightly dodgy bowed brick wall. We've left a big hole in it so you can see the stone behind!

The radiators have arrived from Holyrood Architectural Salvage. The radiators are all reclaimed from an old Edinburgh property and have been sand blasted, re-conditioned with new valves and re-painted. Along with the radiators, our Royal Mile street bin is here too. It's ridiculously heavy, but is going to from part of a bin-cum-water station.

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In other news,

  • We have all our staff sorted, they had a trip down to visit Has Bean last week to play with the Slayer and meet Steve, Dale and the rest of the team. We'll introduce you to the Brew Lab team soon!
  • Tom and I are off down to Colwyn Bay to pick up all our furniture from Drew Pritchard Antiques tomorrow.
  • We'll be popping into Has Bean to try the final sample of our espresso blend.
  • We've had a mountain of coffee brewing equipment and Vegware takeaway packaging arrive.

 

3 weeks of fit-out down

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It's been 3 weeks and the shop has been a hive of activity. All the heavy works were completed by the end of week 2. New holes had been made, steel beams had been put in place, and concrete lintels put up. The shop is now much more open, and you can see right the way through the three units. [nggallery id=14]

Other than the heavy works, the electrics have been the other major undertaking over the last three weeks. For simplicities sake, the previous wiring had been completely removed during strip out and a whole new grid was put in for the shop leading to lots of new wiring dangling from the ceiling.

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After strip out we found a rather precariously bowed brick wall in the rear of no.7. Needless to say, it wasn't safe left as it is, so the plan is to put a new stud wall infront of it. This will hold the wall up to save us removing it and the new stud will be covered in plywood as opposed to plasterboard, with a large aperture left in the middle to leave a section the brick exposed.

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The final major task of the first part of fit out was getting the new ceiling in. As much as we wanted to leave the original cornicing exposed, from an acoustic and fire point of view, it wasn't going to be possible. Additionally, the existing cornicing and ceiling is not in particularly good condition so a new plaster ceiling has been put in - with a huge amount of acoustic padding above! The result is that the shop now feels much more cosy, and the new ceiling has helped to reign in the rather chaotic wall surfaces.

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What's next? Our keruing floor is delivered on Tuesday - reclaimed from an old London school sports hall, then come our beautiful cast iron radiators, again reclaimed from various properties around Edinburgh. More on those as they arrive.

Decorating begins next weekend, with the bar carcass arriving the week after. The concrete for the bar top is on its way to casting and arrives just before our amazing Slayer espresso machine at the beginning of September.

It's all go! Keep an eye on our Flickr and Facebook pages, as well as Twitter for daily updates and photos.

 

Imagining what Brew Lab will look like

Exterior of Brew Lab

So construction has started! Things are well under way, and we've reached the most exciting part of the project so far.

Since we found 6-8 South College Street back in October, we've been obsessively trying to plan what we want Brew Lab to look like when it's finished. We had a definite style in mind, with inspiration from some of our favourite coffee shops and bars from around the UK, and the world. Ultimately, we want Brew Lab to be a space that people want to spend time in, and we want the design of Brew Lab to reflect what we are doing with our coffee. Something different and something that you might not find in any other coffee shop in Edinburgh.

To help us realise this design, we've been working closely with a good architecture friend Victoria Simpson, as well as our main contracted architects KBA+D. Victoria has helped us visualise how our space at 6-8 South College Street could look like, as well as giving us lots of design inspiration for fixtures and fittings. KBA+D have helped us realise these ideas, and put them into practice with our contractor.

To help us visualise how Brew Lab could look, Victoria created some amazing 3D visualisations of the coffee shop. When we first started planning the design over a year ago, we had no idea what our canvas would look like, and it wasn't until the strip out a few weeks ago that we knew what all the walls coverings would look like in the unit.

In terms of fixtures and fittings, we've always had an idea of what we want to go for: a juxtaposition of old Edinburgh features, industrial fittings and wood. We've always been very keen to have a monolithic concrete bar, and custom matching wood and steel furniture.

The following renders are based on a lot of the wall finishes being unknown at the time of their creation so they are shown as white. Since strip out we have discovered a large amount of stone, brick and broken plaster which we plan to seal and leave as it is. As such, the  visualisations are just illustrative. The final design could look quite different, but these will give you an idea of how the spaces could look with specific fixtures and fittings.

Let us know what you think!

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More Brew Lab news...

Uber Boiler

So strip out has finished, and we're just about to start fit out, but here's a bit of an update on everything else that's been happening recently. TEDGlobal 2012 was in Edinburgh a few weeks ago and we sent our newest recruit (more on him soon!) to get stuck in making amazing coffee for lots of very important people with the great folks from Ristretto, and some of Europe's finest baristas. More on the coffee at TEDGlobal in Craig Bush's blog post.

We have ordered our espresso machine which we're absurdly excited about. The machine is called the Slayer, it's being hand built in Seattle, it'll be the first Slayer in Scotland and one of only 4 in the UK. Just looking at the machine is enough to get you excited in its self, but the functionality of the machine is where it really excells. It will enable us to control the pressure of the machine as we pour espresso which will in turn bring out unique flavours in our coffees that will blow you away. Below are pictures of Has Bean's Slayer - ours won't be red, but it will be equally as beautiful! We'll have a separate post on the Slayer when we get some pictures of it being built but in the mean time, if you're interested have a look at Slayer's Facebook Page for lots of amazing pictures.

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As well as the Slayer, we've also now got our hands on the water boiler we'll be using in Brew Lab to make all our filter coffee. Water boilers don't generally strike up a huge amount of excitement; however, this one is something a little bit special. It's called the Über Boiler, it's made by Marco in Ireland and it's one of the most precise water delivery systems out there. To make sure we're consistently making outstanding filter coffee at Brew Lab, we need to be able to control 4 variables as accurately as possible: temperature, weight, brew time and grind quality. The Über Boiler helps us to control the first three with temperature being controlled to within 0.2c, and with built in scales and a timer. We'll have a Mahlkönig Tanzania grinder to look after the grind quality. As with the Slayer, we'll tell you more about the Über Boiler in a separate blog post, but here are a few pictures.

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We've been busy planning out our bar. As we're making it out of cast concrete with some cutouts for various pieces of coffee making equipment, we don't have much room to get things wrong. First of all we sketched it, then we created a life size plan the floor in masking tape, then we went to the beach to see how it would work in situ by creating a life size plan of the entrance, then we created a life size model of the bar out of foam board! The concrete has been ordered (we even got a free concrete duck!) and we're planning a blog post on it soon, but here are a few a pictures of us planning it out.

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Earlier in the week we went down to Stafford to see Dale and Steve at Has Bean to play with the Slayer some more, and to work out what coffee we're going to be using in Brew Lab. We'd previously sent the Has Bean chaps a brief on what we wanted our espresso to be, and with that, Dale and Steve set about finding us some coffees that would fit perfectly. We cupped lots of amazing single origin coffees and tried them all out as espresso on the Slayer. There's a bit more work to do, but we're confident we're going to have a really exciting and delicious coffee for you when we open the doors.

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We're also recruiting. If you know anyone who has a passion for exceptional coffee, food or service, and who you think would be excited to be part of helping Brew Lab grow, get in touch at info@brewlabcoffee.co.uk.

What's next...

  • Construction is set to start in a week or so.
  • We'll be off driving around the country in a large van picking up all the furniture we've been buying.
  • Lots of planning will be going into our amazing launch event.
  • Trying to get through our to do list!

Don't forget to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and join our mailing list to keep up on all the news!

 

Where have all the walls gone?

Stripped out bar area

Strip out is finished! The guys got on site at 8am on Wednesday morning and by the time we'd got there at 9am, they'd already filled a flat bed truck up with bits of office. Not only had they demolished 50% of 6-8 South College Street in an hour, but the fire brigade had already been round and turfed all the students out who live above us after they set off the fire alarm, and the University security team had paid a visit after they set off the intruder alarm! Quite the eventful start. [nggallery id=9]

The rather intense start continued into the day as the rest of the walls swiftly came down. Come Wednesday evening, we were starting to see just how interesting all the wall finishes that had been hidden away are. There is much more stone and brick than we thought there was going to be, which is really exciting. We love stone and brick.

By midday on Friday they were finished, and this is what we found:

No.6 which will be the main entrance and bar area is very light due to the large plate glass window. On the right as you walk in, the wall is covered with a mixture of old horse hair plaster and cement and looks really unusual. We plan to put two large windows in this wall, but now we need to decide the best way to finish it.

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As you walk through into no.7, you're faced with five contrasting wall finishes. The west facing front wall is engineering brick and black plaster (with line paint?!), the front is old stone and plaster surrounding the windows, the east facing front wall is gorgeous old brick bisected by timber joists. In the rear of no.7 we have tongue and groove on one side, and more lovely old brick on the other side.

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No.8 is really eccentric. The west facing wall has a purple cornice, part of the stone is painted pink, part is painted gold, and there's a large panel of old grey plaster stuck on too!

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There's lots there to work with though, and we think once the stone is cleaned up, and sealed, it will look amazing. We're really excited to start working on the unit in a week. More posts to come on our interior design, but this is our canvas! Check out more photos on our Flickr page and let us know what you think in the comments.

 

We have keys!

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We finally pinned down our lease agreement on Friday and now have a set of keys to 6-8 South College Street in our hands! Friday evening was spent celebrating with a 'Growler' from Brew Dog Edinburgh and a hammer, that we introduced to a few walls. We found a lot more brick and stone than we originally thought was there, which is really exciting. We're planning on wire brushing it all down, sealing it and making it look amazing. There's also lots of old original horse hair plaster behind some of the walls, as well as some interesting tongue and groove wood panelling. We even found a page from a 1970s Sun newspaper stuffed in one of the walls. Once we've exposed all the original features, we think the unit is going to look really quite unique. The professionals are coming in on Wednesday to do a much better job than we did with a small hammer. We're expecting a week of strip out works, followed by going straight into the fit out. Of course, we'll keep you updated with lots of pictures of what's going on.

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Watery Delays

We had an interesting few days at the end of last week. Negotiations on the lease were just about wrapped up, and we'd just had our building warrant approved, so we had arranged to meet our landlord on site to discuss the planned building works. The meeting was very positive, however when we made our way into the back of the unit, it came as a bit of a surprise to all concerned to see water dripping down from the ceiling, and the suspended ceiling collapsing!

The long and short of it is that a tap had been left running on the fifth floor of the tenement block, and over 24-48 hours, the water had made it's way down through every floor, bringing suspended ceilings with it until it reached the basement of the coffee shop unit.

The result, was some very damp ceilings, walls and floor joists that will now need stripping out, and drying. Needless to say, this has set us back somewhat as we had been planning on taking entry at the end of last week and starting works today. All is not lost however, as we will be working with our landlord to tie up the repair works so they're aligned to our plans, which will help things move more quickly when we start our fit out.

As it stands, we're now looking more like a September opening, but watch this space, we'll make sure you're all the first to know!

In other news, we've been busy planning finalising all the fit out plans with our architect and we're really excited about how the shop is going to look, but I think that warrants a separate blog post.

 

Chairs, tables, lights and floors for Brew Lab

We've been spending the last few weeks on a mission to find furniture and fittings for Brew Lab. We've gone from trawling eBay and vintage furniture websites to Europe's largest antiques fair and some of Scotland (and Wales') finest reclamation and antique yards. We've discovered that if all we needed for the coffee shop was fireplaces and doors, we'd be all set; however, the task of finding the perfect chairs, tables and lights is quite a challenging one. Despite that, we love a challenge and we're extremely happy to have reached such an exciting time in the project. The unit at the moment is full of stud walls from it's time as an office. While our 'exploratory works' (building code for knocking holes in walls with a hammer) uncovered some interesting period features, we still don't know exactly what everything will look like when we take all the walls down (something that should be happening within the next few weeks incidentally). What we do know is that we want to expose all the old cornicing, wood panelling, brick and stone that we know is hiding there. This has influenced our design ideas and we want to make the most of this old Edinburgh building, and fill it with complimentary, and contrasting artifacts.

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The first furniture adventure took us, and a 'jumbo' van down to Newark, near Nottingham, and to 'Europe's Largest Antiques and Collectors Fair'. Newark was sprawling, with aisles and aisles of stuff. Unfortunately, just not the stuff we were hoping for. Despite missing out on some chairs, we were happy to come away with some really interesting vegetable box shelving which we're going to use for retail display, We also swung past Tom's folk's place in Stratford to pick up some amazing leather sofas on the way home.

After coming back from Newark with our hands relatively empty, we headed out to Holyrood Architectural Salvage to pay a certain old Royal Mile street bin a visit that we'd had our eyes on for a few weeks. While bins are not the kind of things we usually get excited about, we couldn't help but get excited about this one. Check out the gallery to see it in it's full cast-iron glory. It's being cleaned up on the inside, and will have a new internal bin made for it, so we can use it in the coffee shop.

Next up we headed out to Stirling and to Hargreaves Reclaimed Flooring. Currently the unit has a green carpet, stuck to ply-wood. We're still uncertain as to what is underneath, but we do know that we want a hard wood floor of some kind - and Hargreaves is the place to go. Hargreaves have a warehouse full to bursting of with all shapes, sizes and types of reclaimed floorboards. From 120 year old Keruing and old gym flooring still with the lines painted on, to huge planks of pitch pine which smell absolutely amazing. Now we just need to decide which one to go for.

Trawling eBay has proved useful and we found some amazing old industrial factory lights a few weeks ago that we plan to use as feature lighting in the windows. They're absolutely massive, and make quite the statement but we love them.

eBay also gave us a lead on some chairs for the shop. We'd decided already that we were keen to get a set of matching old ply stacking school chairs, but there seems to be a big demand for these at the moment and as we need around 30 pieces, it was proving difficult to find the perfect set. So when we saw a set of over 30 on eBay, we had to go and see them. We set off to Drew Pritchard's incredible antiques yard in Colwyn Bay to inspect them. After a few hours exploring, we came away with 30 chairs and some beautiful old Sunday School benches that we want to use as a big communal bench in the middle of the coffee shop. The benches are really quite unique as they can be used in two different positions, pushed together as a picnic bench, or individually as pew style seating.

So that's where we've got to so far in terms of fixtures and fittings. We're steaming ahead with our Architect to get the design sorted. We should be stripping out in the next couple of weeks and we're currently looking at opening towards the end of August. We're excited, we hope you are too!

Finding the perfect coffee for Brew Lab

  We spent the last week visiting some coffee roasters to find the perfect beans for Brew Lab. It's always been our objective to find a roaster who is obsessive about the quality of their product. At Brew Lab we want to serve coffee that is unique and ethical, but most importantly, consistently delicious cup after cup. Luckily, the UK isn't in short supply of excellent coffee roasters and we think we've found the perfect partner. Or rather, partners.

We're really excited to be working with Has Bean as our primary supplier of beans for espresso and filter coffee. Has Bean are based in Stafford and have been in the coffee business for many years. They were founded by Steve Leighton, a person who just exudes a passion for coffee.

What really impressed us about the Has Bean team was how much they care about the coffee they roast. Every year, Steve visits the people that produce all the coffee they buy, to ensure that they can find farmers that really care about growing coffee. They only roast the best beans they can source, with the highest quality control in roasting, and they are hands on to ensure the coffee shops that use their beans, are making the best coffee they can.

This means that at every point along the journey, from source, to roasting, to when we make you a coffee in Brew Lab, we know that the coffee beans are going to be of the highest possible quality, we know that every care has been taken to ensure that the coffee producers get looked after and paid a good price, and we know that Has Bean are behind us helping us to make exceptional coffee. Have a watch of this video to see Steve talking about what they do.

Along our journey to find coffee beans, we also got really excited about another roaster. Interms of size, ST ALi are on the other end of the spectrum to Has Bean. They are based in London, inside one of the most beautiful coffee bars you have ever seen and at the back, is their roasting machine that roasts all the coffee they sell. Similarly to Has Bean, ST ALi also care a huge amount about the coffee they buy and roast. Tim Williams is the director and is very proud that they buy the best coffee they can, and pay the farmers a significantly higher price than what Fairtrade offers. We were really impressed with the attention to detail that they pay to their roasting. We visited on Friday, one of their two roasting days and watched as they roasted batch, after batch, adjusting their precise parameters as they went, to ensure their coffee is roasted to as close to perfection as possible.

ST ALi (who incidentally are named after the so-called 'patron saint' of coffee!) originated in Melbourne in 1999 and have grown to a bit of a cult following. They came over to London last year and opened up their coffee bar/cafe/roastery on Clerkenwell Road. If you're ever in London, make sure you pay them a visit. Not only is their coffee superb, their food is amazing.

We aim to use ST ALi, along side Has Bean for filter coffee and further down the line, we hope to use beans from other roasters from around the UK and the world. All so we can give you a taste of some of the best coffee beans you can find.

Planning approved!

So we had some big news at the weekend, our planning application has been approved!

This means that we're one very big step closer to opening the coffee shop. We're going to be located at 6-8 South College Street, right in the centre of Old Town, and very close to the University. The unit is the old University disability office and as the name suggests, it looks very much like an office at the moment. We plan to strip out all the stud walls, and bring back as many original features as we can.

We think it's a fantastic location, and we can't wait to get in and start stripping the unit out. We'll be sure to keep you updated on every step of the journey, and we look forward to inviting you in for a coffee.

Our Philosophy

Brew Lab | Artisan Coffee Bar is about exploring the possibilities of coffee and what a coffee shop should be.

We are all very familiar with coffee shops. They’ve been around for hundreds of years and they’ve gone through many changes. They come in many shapes, colours, and sizes. Some make excellent coffee, some make mediocre coffee and some make terrible coffee.

But what you will find in 95% of coffee shops is one consistency. You walk into any coffee shop in the city and you will be faced with an espresso machine. A dominating contraption designed to force water through finely ground coffee beans at around 9 bars of pressure for 25-30 seconds at 90-95 degrees. And that is a wonderful thing.

However, what often gets overlooked in coffee shops are other methods of brewing coffee. The Syphon, The Pourover, The Aeropress, The French Press, The Chemex to name a few. Some have been around for years, and some are new innovations, but all capable of extracting different tastes, textures and aromas from the humble coffee bean. As well as a bringing a dash of theatre and fascination to the coffee making process.

Brew Lab aims to explore these methods, through the use of exceptional coffee beans from the best roasters in the UK and around the world.

But coffee is not only what Brew Lab is about. Brew Lab is a celebration of the coffee house, the centre of social interaction. The place where people come to meet, discuss, argue, eat, listen to music, work, think, read, chat, play and laugh.

We don't want to serve you anything other than the most sublime and quality local, artisanal products you have ever tasted, from the best coffee, tea and hot chocolate to the best bread and cakes that Edinburgh has to offer. All in the most comfortable, friendly and inviting environment to enable you to go about your life how ever you choose.

Our progress so far

So things are moving along, we were on site this week having meetings with the council, a kitchen designer and our architect and every time we're there, we can't help but get really excited. I'm sure a lot of you want to know where exactly are we up to, and how long until we open so we thought we'd give you a bit of an update on our progress so far.

Everything was moving quite slowly up until October last year. Tom and I had gone part time in our jobs that summer to focus our attention on moving the coffee shop onwards, and had been busying ourselves with writing a business plan, doing research in other coffee shops, counting people, looking for suppliers etc. We had been looking for units, but without much luck. We happened upon a unit up for let just off Nicholson Street one day and on the face of it, it looked perfect. It is an old office, close to an extremely busy street and very close to the University. There were two units going on the same street so we went to view both. One was too small for what we wanted to do so we focussed our attention the larger of the two. You can see some images of the unit as it looks now on our Flickr page.

We spent a few days sat in the car on the street counting people (and who knew, there's an app for that) that walked along Nicholson Street, as well as people walking up and down our street and were really encouraged by the numbers - it was indeed, a very busy location!

After that, things started moving much more quickly. We found a surveyor, architect, accountant, solicitor, structural engineer and graphic designer to work with and since we've been having site meetings talking over what structural changes we can make to the unit, how the layout will work, where the bar will be, how many toilets we need and much more.

Just before Christmas, we went into the unit to try and find out what was exactly behind all the stud walls and above the fake ceiling so we could find out what we could remove. A man came with a hammer and knocked some ungainly holes in the walls to reveal brick, stone, cornicing - all of which we hope to expose to bring all the original features back into view.

The search for furniture also began, and we've been visiting antiques fairs and reclamation yards to find chairs, sofas, light fittings and any other awesome looking fixtures we can use. We're also on the search for the perfect roasting partner to ensure we are producing the most amazing coffee we can and are off to meet a roaster in London in the next few weeks.

So that's where we are! At the current rate, we're aiming for a early summer launch, but we should have a much better idea soon. There'll be lots more to follow, we can't wait to keep you updated about all the exciting things that will be happening in the run up to launch. We're continually on the lookout for people interested in working with us, so if you're a barista, baker, joiner, if you see a load of amazing chairs that you think would look perfect in a coffee shop, or if you're just really interested in what we're doing and want to be involved in some way, get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter or email.

And so it begins! We are Brew Lab | Artisan Coffee Bar

Up until now, the journey we've come on to develop the coffee shop has never really had anything concrete for us to show. It's all been pages of notes, late nights in the pub discussing this and that, marketing plans, spreadsheets, and emails to surveyors and suppliers. Sometimes we felt like we were making no progress at all, other times we have felt completely out of our depth, talking about commercial leases, building warrants, planning applications, and VAT accounting schemes. While we're pretty certain that the 'what the hell have we got ourselves into' feeling will be around for quite a while to come, we're starting to feel like things are beginning happen. Actual, coffee shop shaped things. We've passed the point of no return and although it hasn't sunk in yet, we're on track to open a very new, very unique, and very exciting kind of coffee shop!

With that in mind, we thought it was a good time to start the blog we've been talking about starting for so long. We feel like we have something to talk about now and will have plenty of things to update you all on over the coming months. We want to share this adventure with you, we want to be able to show the development: from getting keys to our premises, to ripping the first wall out, to the delivery of our espresso machine, to the first customer through the door and beyond.

Not only do we want to share the process with you, but we want feedback. Getting opinions and suggestions from Edinburghers, coffee lovers, and friends has been hugely important to us from the start. The Facebook page we set up back in April 2010, the survey that received over 350 responses, and the reddit post that got 248 comments have all been invaluable in guiding us, helping us find out what people want from a coffee shop in Edinburgh - and in general - and where we can go right, where others have gone wrong. We know we won't be perfect - but we're going put everything we have into being the best we can.

Our website, blog, Facebook and Twitter pages are the first time we've been able to give a face to the coffee shop and the first time we've been able to share it with you. We hope you like you like the brand, we love it, and we're hugely grateful to Adam who has helped us develop it.

I suppose that's all for just now, the next post will be an update on our progress to date so stay tuned for that!

 

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Brew Lab | Artisan Coffee Bar is a new kind of coffee shop. We’re about exploring the possibilities of coffee and what a coffee shop should be. We aim to serve coffee like you have never tasted before, embracing traditional and innovative brewing techniques to bring different tastes, textures and scents out of the humble coffee bean.

We also aim to showcase some of the most exceptional local artisan produce Edinburgh has to offer, from single origin hot chocolates to fine teas, and from local Cheeses to amazing fresh bread and pastries.

Brew Lab is a celebration of the coffee house. A place to meet, discuss, argue, eat, listen to music, work, think, read, chat, play and laugh, all the while experiencing the best that Edinburgh has to offer in terms of produce, music and culture.