Two build-outs for the price of one!
The Scottish specialty coffee scene is shit-hot right now, with some of Europe's best roasting and cafe experiences happening across a wee archipelago of quality-focused coffee destinations in the Edinburgh-Glasgow conurbation. In a stunning first for us here at Build-Outs, the folks at Edinburgh's Brew Lab have not one, but two new projects they're showing off today.
There's a training lab—home to a publicly accessible Slayer Espresso machine and tasty coffees from across Europe—and there's a brand new coffee bar in Edinburgh's West End. The lab is now open, and the new cafe kicks off later this summer. Let's get amongst it.
As told to Sprudge by Dave Law.
For those who aren't familiar, will you tell us about your company?
Brew Lab is a specialty coffee bar in Edinburgh. Since September 2012, we’ve been serving Edinburgh delicious single-origin espresso and pour-overs in our Old Town cafe. We use Has Bean Coffee as our primary espresso and filter roaster, and rotate other notable roasters on the brew bar such as Workshop Coffee, Square Mile, The Barn, and Drop Coffee.
Can you tell us a bit about the new spaces?
We started building our training lab in December. The idea was based around our Slayer Espresso machine. It’s such an amazing machine to work on—akin to driving a classic car. We decided to move our Slayer off the bar to make way for a VA388 Black Eagle espresso machine, and repurpose it as a machine that anyone could come along and appreciate. We stripped out one of our basement rooms, exposing the old stonework, and enlisted Courtney Brennan, the designer of the Balance Brewer, to design a bespoke espresso and filter training bar.
We ended up with two beautiful walnut and steel bars (the walnut was used to tie into the walnut actuators on the Slayer). The espresso bar is designed in mirror image to train two people at once. The filter bar features a central drip channel and can train up to six people.
We run an Espresso Masterclass on the weekends, where people can get behind the Slayer’s walnut actuators and learn to pull tasty shots, steam milk, and pour latte art. We look at dosing and tamping, setting recipes, and concepts of extraction.
Our filter training bar takes a class of up to six and we run classes on brewing Kalita Wave, Aeropress, and Clever Dripper. We look at brew ratios and how they affect coffee, concepts of extraction, and using sieves to examine how grind size and consistency affect your coffee.
We also hire out the training lab by the hour so anyone can book to do some competition practice, hone their skills, or just play about on a Slayer.
We're also launching our West End Brew Lab location. The site, a former lock-up garage on Queensferry Street Lane, is a small unit situated amongst offices and retail premises in a busy business district. It will operate a high-volume/high-turnover takeaway product offering with a limited number of seats.
The lock-up will be converted into a design-led specialty café. The existing roller shutter door will be retained and conceal a large glass frontage opening into a clean, industrial space designed to ease customer flow and offer a memorable customer experience.
The core focus will be serving a similar high-quality coffee product to that produced at our Old Town cafe, but one which is tailored to the specific needs of a unit situated in a busy business district and subject to strong daily trading patterns.
Food offerings will be simple and unique, focusing around soups and salads at lunch to avoid entering into direct competition with the plethora of sandwich shops in the area.
What's your approach to coffee?
Our approach to coffee is meticulous. Quality and consistency are everything. We treat coffee as a culinary product, and brew it precisely, measuring everything to ensure each drink we serve is the best it possible can be. The approach to coffee in the training lab is the same, but we want to show people that the principles that we use on bar can be transferred to the home. We want to show people that making amazing coffee isn’t rocket science—you just need to follow some simple principles and your coffee at home will improve.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
Training Lab :: Our espresso bar features Scotland’s only Slayer flanked by two Mahlköenig K30s, as well as Acaia scales for weighing doses and shots. The brilliant Made by Knock supplied our beautiful custom walnut tampers.
We use Has Bean for our espresso training, and a variety of roasters for filter training such as Square Mile, Workshop Coffee, The Barn.
Brew Lab | West End :: The espresso bar will feature Scotland’s first VA388 Black Eagle Gravimetric and two Nuova Simonelli Mythos One grinders. The brew bar will feature two Marco SP9’s and an EK43 for brewing Kalita Waves. We’ll also be installing nitro and draught cold brew taps.
As with our Old Town Cafe, Has Bean will be our principle espresso and filter roaster.
What's your hopeful target opening date/month?
The training lab is open now, and Brew Lab | West End is planned for the end of July.
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you'd like to mention?
Courtney Brennan and his partner Cathleen Nyman designed the bar at our training lab. Johannes Sailer from Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop constructed the steel frames and Edinburgh’s Old School Fabrications did the joinery and cabinet making.
At the new West End location, Edinburgh’s Staran Architects are designing the space in collaboration with us.