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March 27, 2022

In Conversation With ›


In Conversation with Instrmnt Applied Design (I-AD), Glasgow

“Please don’t worry about making us sound more eloquent – we don’t have a problem with being misquoted if we sound better on the page than we do in real life”.

The humility that underpins design studio Instrmnt Applied Design (I-AD) is apparent from the moment that co-founder, Ross Baynham, begins to talk. Speaking from their Glasgow-based office, Ross and co-founder Pete Sunderland sit against a sparse white backdrop that is accented by the silhouette of Vitsoe shelves. As they sip at their cups of coffee and outline the beginnings of their multi-disciplinary design studio, it’s clear that a passion and inherent love for beautiful, functional design drives every decision they make and every product it gives rise to. 

Founded in 2014, I-AD focuses on creating products that are of high quality, simple and attainable. In the past eight years, their work has been widely recognised and lauded, from the likes of V&A and London Design Festival, to The New York Times and Dezeen. 

RB: “Both Pete and I were graduate designers. He was studying graphic design and I was studying product design, and both of us were working in industry. Having shared a studio in university, we knew that we both shared a visual language and design style, which gave rise to us beginning to collaborate on a personal project. We wanted to design really simple products – essentially instruments and things that were functional in nature – and we started with a really good, proven piece of technology: Ronda’s Swiss quartz movement. Designing a watch that was purely for ourselves, we didn’t just focus on the project, but created a brand too. And people really wanted it.”

PS: “With no money to produce the thousand or so pieces we needed to bring it to life, we went to the bank, who basically laughed at us, and so crowdfunded ourselves on Kickstarter. By the end of the 30 days, we’d raised £100,000, which was unbelievable. That took some fairly significant explaining to my bank when it arrived”.

Despite the success of their as-yet unreleased product, Pete says that I-AD “still didn’t feel like a real company”. Today, though, there are no reservations on  whether or not that’s the case. Since launching, they’ve created four watches, a city bike, a clock, an umbrella, a day bed, a jacket and a lounge chair – and that’s not an exhaustive list. 

Having been responsible for such a varied array of products and projects, is there still a red thread that holds them all together?

RB: “It’s funny, the watch has kind of become the defining product for I-AD, but that’s not what we’ve set out to do. We’ve always wanted to design a family of products with a functional, technical link that runs through them all, whether that’s an SRAM bike hub, a clock movement or, looking towards the future, an ink cartridge. We see ourselves as being here to increase the functionality of the design and build something beautiful”.

PS: “From the first watch we ever designed, we did what we were told never to do, which was design for ourselves. We made something that we wanted to use and that’s been reflected back to us by our customers. As we’ve grown as a company and as a brand, we’ve continued to break that rule. Our tastes have evolved over time and so have our products, but our customers have changed with us”.

Evolving alongside them has been the city I-AD has always called home. 

RB: “Glasgow’s a large part of our identity. We’re interested in industrial design and Glasgow is a city with a rich industrial past that ranges from the way-before-its-time minimalist design of Charles Rennie Mackintosh to Glasgow’s huge history in ship building. More recently there’s its vibrant underground music scene and underground design scene too, especially coming through the 19080s and 1990s, when it was still considered a dangerous city”. 

RB: “All of that combined to create an incredibly creative city right around the time we were both becoming professional designers in the early 2010s. It takes cues and hints from its industrial past and then refines them into a design style that’s rooted in minimalism and is honest. There’s no pretension and people aren’t trying to be something they’re not in their work”.

PS: “That’s just it. Much of the creative output of the city reflects the people in it – or maybe it’s the other way round – but it’s pretty cut and shut, and straight down the line. But it’s a great city to be a creative in. We’ve got The Modern Institute round the corner, a brilliant music scene, the Glasgow School of Art which churns out a lot of brilliant designers – it’s a wonderfully creative city”.

One of I-AD’s more recent projects was a chore jacket. Their first garment, in some ways it represents a departure from their usual projects, but Pete and Ross see it as a logical progression. 

PS: “The jacket was a big project for us as our aim was for it to be our statement on sustainability. We’d always wanted to create a piece of clothing and it finally came about as a result of a close friend and pattern cutter leaving their job at [Scottish clothing brand] Hancock and having the time to do it”.

RB: “And I realise this is going to sound a little ridiculous, but on this project he was almost the component. He’s unique and a fantastic pattern cutter, a very modest designer and maker of clothes and he’s created a small-scale factory in his dad’s garage where he’s doing things that just can’t be done anywhere else in the country. He’s what drives that product and it’s very interesting working on that level, with the creativity of an individual defining the quality of the piece”.

Like a number of their projects, the chore jacket’s numbers were limited to just 100. A byproduct of the way I-AD works, this is another theme that runs across their range of releases. 

PS: “I like the idea that we create something, sell it and then that’s it – for the most part we move on. For us that’s not to artificially create a sense of scarcity or hype; it’s more to  keep it fresh and interesting for us, and, in turn, for our customers. It’s a balance though. We do think, and at times worry, about dilution. You can do everything, but be nothing, and that’s not us”.

But to be able to appeal to the same person and with the same ethos with a different range of products helps to avoid conspicuous consumption, does it not? 

RB: “Definitely. In the earlier days of INSTRMNT we spent a good amount of time at fashion shows and exhibitions, where we’d see a new season dictating small tweaks and new colours across hundreds of products and thousands of brands. It didn’t take too many shows for us to realise this just wasn't a sustainable model”

PS: “We understood it – buyers and retailers want and need new things every few months to keep things visually different and fresh – but we can’t do that. We will release new iterations and colourways of certain products, but we do it on our terms. Our hope is that you buy one of our products and wear, use, sit on that product for the rest of your life. That’s why we like breadth. Taking the principles and values from one of our products and applying it to something complementary but altogether different just makes sense to us. 

The topic of sustainability is an interesting one to discuss with Pete and Ross. It’s baked into their products, but their prevailing focus is on creating items that are as beautiful and simple as they can be. Is it therefore a result of the way they work, or is something they’re continuously conscious of? 

PS: “We never started out with sustainability at the forefront – it was about producing the best possible products we can. It’s been a journey for us because now we have this roster of manufacturers and processes who we’ve spent eight years developing relationships with that we implicitly trust and who share our own principles. That’s allowing us to go back and drill down into what we can improve on and how we can make our products more sustainable”. 

RB: “Sustainability can be such a difficult conversation, and it’s one that’s tricky to balance from I-AD’s perspective. It’s incredibly important to us in our personal lives, there’s no doubt about that, but the reality is that the most sustainable business we can have is no business at all. But if the most sustainable thing you can do is not produce products in the first place, we think the second best thing you can do is make high quality products that last for a long time, negating the need for somebody to replace it every year or two”.

PS: “I think we’re a sustainable business, but not a sustainability business. For us, it’s a process and a journey of continual improvement. Back when we released our first watch, we’d see watches arriving in their hundreds and each one would be individually wrapped in pieces of plastic and it was heartbreaking”.

RB: “It was – they were wrapped in materials that were never going to leave this planet. Over time, and by building the relationships we have now, we’ve been able to demand that these are removed from anything that arrives with us. We’ve also been able to review our packaging, moving from virgin paper to recycled paper and our watch packaging is no1 100% recycled. That’s trickled down to products in the last year, with the release of our solar-powered Field Watch, which removes the need for batteries, and this year we’re introducing recycled stainless steel, recycled watch dials and 3D printed components using recycled plastics”.

PS: “We’re doing what we feel every business should be doing. We’re not just aiming for every product we release and project we complete to be better than the last. We’re trying to make sure it’s more sustainable”.

I-AD’s process is involved from beginning to end, but with a core team of just four people, the continuous and varied workload allows them a large amount of freedom.

PS: “We do our best work when we work organically. One week we’ll pour the majority of our efforts and energy into one thing, and the next it’ll be focused somewhere else entirely. What we’re doing reflects the movement of any given project and we like it that way.

RB: “Our system is that there’s kind of no hard and fast system”.

And what about getting stuck?

PS: “That happens on every project. We’ll spend a lot of time researching and learning about the process, manufacturing and technicalities before we properly embark on a new project. And we inevitably hit dead-ends after going way, way down the rabbithole and wind up discarding what we’ve learned. Sometimes it gets picked up further down the line on another project, but more often than not it doesn’t and you have to accept that as part of the process”.

On the subject of process, talk turns to rituals and routines. With such a fluid approach, are there non-negotiables within their weeks? Things they feel they need to do in order to maintain a degree of balance and order? 

RB: “I walk to and from work every day and it’s normally my favourite part of the day, where I spend time listening to a podcast or learning something new. It’s become the most sacred part of my day”.

PS: “We do brew and drink coffee every day too. The studio will always have a coffee at the same time and we use the Moccamster to make it, which is just so simple – it’s really nice to have that level of quality in such a manageable way. It’s especially useful at that point just after lunch when you’ve got the desire to get up; to just do something and move about a bit. Brewing coffee is a perfect way to cut-off the day and restart, and I suppose refuel as well”.

Cups dry and morning slipping into afternoon, Pete and Ross prepare themselves for a meeting on an upcoming project. Before they leave, I ask them about their latest release – a third series of their Lounge Chair – which is available to pre-order now.

RB: “It’s an enormous undertaking for Lewis [Macleod, owner, designer and manufacturer at HAME, who manufacture the chairs]. Handmade from beginning to end in Glasgow, there’s only going to be 15 made this time round, which, as much as anything else, speaks to the amount of work and effort that goes into creating each one”.

With thanks to Pete and Ross for the generous offering of their time and insight. Photos captured in the I-AD studio by Richard Gaston using the Moccamaster in off white, Wilfa Svart Grinder and Workshop Coffee filter subscription. 

February 18, 2022


Win a Workshop Coffee x Meyer Labs Home Brewing & Kitchen Set-Up

The kitchen is home to the daily rituals that ground us and prepare us for the day ahead. Teaming up with our friends at Meyer Labs, together we're offering the chance to win everything you need to start each day in the right way – with great food and exceptional coffee.

From a 6-month supply of coffee, to everything you need to brew and enjoy it, the prize also includes Meyer's Accent Kitchen Essentials Set. Together, they'll ensure you're always well set-up for the day ahead. 

The lucky winner will receive:
A 6-month Workshop Coffee subscription, delivering 500g of filter straight through your letterbox each month.
A Timemore Chestnut Slim Hand Grinder.
A Timemore U French Press.
2 AR Ceramics x Workshop Coffee hand thrown cups.
A Meyer Accent Essentials Set

 

With a combined value of over £600, entry is simple: just enter your details below between now and Friday 4th March 2022.

We wish you the best of luck. 

Workshop Coffee x Meyer Labs
February 02, 2022


Supporting North London Dirt

 

North London Dirt is a grass roots cycling event that encapsulates the unique sense of community that cycling fosters. Founders, organisers and brothers Andrew and Philip Diprose have been helping riders escape the city for the last five years, carefully compiling routes that tie together gravel paths, hidden thoroughfares and quiet roads that allow participants to discover London's backyard.

2022 will mark our third year supporting North London Dirt and, together with Brooks England, we recently spent some time with the Diprose's to discover more about the ethos and inspiration that underlies this unique event.



North London Dirt 5 takes place on Saturday 7th May 2022 and will once again be raising money for St. Mary's Community Centre in Stoke Newington. Last year they raised more than £10,000 and they aim to better this once again.

Watch the full video below:

Director: Harry Reavley
DOP: Chris Marley
B Cam: Cal Travis
Editor: Eden Rae Read
Sound Designer: Beresford Cookman
Sound Recordist: Chris Sutton

MiiR x World Coffee Research

We're proud to have spearheaded an initiative that brings together design forward, generosity driven drinkware brand MiiR and World Coffee Research. Together, we've created a collection of products that directly contribute to the protection and enhancement of quality coffee's future, with £5 from each sale being donated to ther work. 

As we've said before, the future of quality coffee is not a foregone conclusion and few know that better than World Coffee Research. The non-profit organisation have set themselves the audacious but laudable goal of supporting the development of varieties of coffee that are not only high yielding and climate resilient, but also delicious. Our latest initiative with MiiR aims to support them in their mission. 

Collaborating with two artists, we've created a series of sustainable drinkware to raise both awareness and funds for World Coffee Research. For every item sold, World Coffee Research will receive £5 (EUR 6; US$8). 

The first artist is multi-award winning illustrator Lucy T. Smith, perhaps best known for her work with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, as well as her commissions for Sir David Attenborough. Smith’s fine, intricate botanical drawings perfectly capture the beauty and fragility of the arabica coffee plant, which is the basis for 60% of global coffee production.

 

Translating the discoveries found by plant hunters, accuracy in Lucy’s work is absolutely key and in telling World Coffee Research’s story, she wanted to show the development of a coffee plant:

“In my work I have used classic botanical illustration to depict many coffee species both known and new to science, and here I’ve treated Coffea arabica in the same style, showing its main botanical features. Not just a crop plant, it represents just one of many coffee species. All deserve to be cherished and protected, to preserve them and their wild habitats”.

The second is Portland-based Michael Buchino. Injecting colour and vibrancy into the collection, his pieces aim to capture the joyful labor of coffee research—in the lab, in the field, and in the cup. 

“World Coffee Research is working in the lab and on the farm to make sure we get great coffee in our cups each day", says Buchino. "With their work, we can count on coffee being a viable industry for years to come”.

Taking inspiration from vintage advertisements, sport illustrations and old how-to short films, he’s created three characters that embody the work of World Coffee Research and its impact at every stage, from the field to the final brew. The Lab Technician oversees the intensive task of laboratory research, whilst The Farmer propagates and harvests the result of that work. And, finally, the Coffee Connoisseur has the luxury of brewing and savouring the results.

As MiiR’s UK distributors, we're proud to have led this project whilst working closely with MiiR's global team and World Coffee Research alongside Lucy and Michael. Following a pre-release in Autumn of 2021, the global initiative has already raised almost US$20,000 for World Coffee Research, with more to follow thanks to today's general release. 

Hanna Neuschwander, World Coffee Research's Director of Communications and Strategy, says: “As urgent as coffee agricultural research is, it can feel understandably distant or abstract to many. The MiiR x World Coffee Research collaboration is extraordinary because it lets us hold in our hands a truly beautiful object that reflects the joy, passion, and optimism for the future that underpins the work of coffee researchers. Along with delicious coffee, these mugs hold something else precious—hope for tits future.” 

The MiiR x World Coffee Research collection is available via our online shop. You can access it here. They are also available to from a host of retailers across the world, including Black Oak Coffee Roasters (California), Bridge Coffee Co. (California), Camber Coffee (Washington), Coffee Circle (Berlin), Fulcrum Coffee Roasters (Washington), Intelligentsia (USA), Union Hand Roasted (UK).

November 17, 2021

Collaborations › In Conversation With ›


AR Ceramics x Workshop Coffee: Behind the Scenes

It’s been five years since our last ceramics release and what better reason to introduce our latest than in celebration of our 10th anniversary? Working closely with Andrea Roman of AR Ceramics over several months, we’ve created a beautiful range of limited edition ceramic cups and coffee sets designed to elevate your daily coffee brewing and drinking experience. 

Throughout the project, we spent time with Andrea in her studio in Bow, London, to document the process and discover more about her approach to creating her simple but striking pieces. The culmination of these visits can be seen in this video. Ahead of the release of our AR Ceramics x Workshop Coffee collection, we also sat down to talk to her about her journey into the world of ceramics.

“Growing up in Mexico, I always remember things like walking in the market with my family and seeing all of these terracotta pots everywhere and I think that’s what sparked my interest. I never worked with clay as a kid though”.

Indeed, it wasn’t until Roman made it to university at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México to study Product Design that she discovered her love for the ceramics workshop. 

“That’s where I felt more connected with the material. My tutors there were just great and they really encouraged me. They saw an interest, a passion and a degree of skill and they pushed me to continue”.

And that’s exactly what she did. Bringing her love of ceramics with her to London, Andrea moved here in 2013 and, soon after arriving, learnt how to throw using a potter’s wheel. It was this technique that she felt a deep connection.

“Ceramics is a slow endeavour and you can’t rush things. You always think you can make things quicker, but there’s a power within the process that’s bigger than all of your deadlines”.

Was that slower, more meaningful timeframe part of the draw?

“Definitely. On the whole, a lot of people aren’t used to the fact that ceramics involve a lot of stages in order for them to be ready. If I start making a cup today, the fastest I’m going to be able to get it back to you is in three weeks time. You have to take your time and enjoy it. You can’t be in a rush and so you really need to be present — it’s absorbing and quite meditative.”.

Does that more considered pace extend to the ingredients and materials you’re working with?

“You do need to make sure that your raw ingredients are as good as they can be and that means having to prepare. I think if you make sure that your starting elements are good, then the rest is just all about making it work and your skill”.

Andrea enlists a less often seen technique in the way she colours her cups. Rather than applying a glaze to each piece, she works a stain into the clay by hand and so the colour stems from the clay itself, rather than a glaze applied towards the end of the process. 

Meaning she has to work carefully between batches, it involves adhering to a specific recipe of clay, slip and stain every time to ensure uniformity across pieces. 

“I’ve always liked simple, uncomplicated forms. I really love the material itself. Clay for me is something amazing and I love its texture. I like to think of adding colour this way as a chance to get the user closer to the clay. By leaving the external surface unglazed, I’m trying to highlight the peculiar, tactile quality of the clay”

There’s a definite contrast between Andrea’s work and her surroundings. The industrial, somewhat dilapidated nature of the area surrounding her studio emits its own rugged charm. Whilst not immediately obvious, this has an impact on her work. 

“The industrial nature of my surroundings – the canal, all the warehouses, looking out of the window and seeing the derelict buildings – as time passes you start appreciating where you are. I love the broken windows, the way the sun is reflected and the light that the windows bring into my studio in the evenings. I really enjoy the basic shapes and forms I see and they inform my work, which I think of as somewhat architectural”.

As Andrea finishes her coffee, her attention turns away from our conversation and back towards her pieces, which sit side by side on a shelf behind us. They seem to almost stand to attention, imposing themselves on the room, but in a subtle way. It’s seeing them like this that leads to the realisation that the collection is even greater than the sum of its parts. Each cup and decanter is impressive in and of itself, but the true feat of Roman’s work is the ability to recreate them again and again to such a high standard and degree of consistency. 

“For me, it’s not that I’m making a single piece – the whole group is the piece. I’m thinking about the whole process and how it’s split into different stages; it’s very cyclical and you’re working through them again and again and again. 

So is this how we should enjoy them? Placed on a shelf to be looked at and admired?

“I don’t see these as display pieces. I want people to use them every day and to become their favourite thing. They should be more than something that you have on a shelf in your living room or kitchen. I want you to use it and feel it.

The aim is for them to be functional on a daily basis”.

You can shop our limited edition ceramics collection now:

Coffee Cup

Coffee Set

 

Creating a Thoughtful Studio – In Conversation with Fred Rigby, Furniture Designer

It’s quiet in the narrow lanes and on the leafy suburban streets of Hackney as we make our way to Fred Rigby Studio. That’s because it’s early. Fred likes to get a jump on the day, tackling a few important tasks before the majority of the city has started the journey into the office or towards their home-working stations.  

Unluckily for him, his bike has suffered a puncture and so he’s running late. We use the juncture to pick up breakfast pastries and he arrives unflustered, reinflated and ready to begin. 

Welcoming us into his studio, the first thing he does is brew us a cup of coffee in his Moccamaster, which bestrides a beautiful marble countertop in the corner of his office and is surrounded by plants. Everywhere you look, from the sketches pinned to the wall to the books and models on the shelves, you get a sense for the natural and the organic – two enormous influences on the pieces Rigby creates. 

“Growing up in Dorset and around nature, I love the concept of connecting it back to nature. Afterall, my pieces are made with natural materials on the whole. Our tables are carved and shaped like a pebble so you’ve got this organic shape sat in your room and the curvaceous nature of them let’s you come into the room and run your hand round the piece and follow it. For me, it’s just got this calming nature, whereas with a more rectangular table doesn’t create that kind of environment”. 

That natural influence means Fred is incredibly careful with the materials he chooses to work with. 

“Because of the size of our studio and the amount  we produce, we make sure the raw materials at the beginning are quality. We’re craftsmen and we want to make sure that what’s being sent off is quality. 

After years of experimentation and trial and error, we’ve managed to find a really good source of different materials. We’re on a first name basis with the suppliers that we use and they know what we’re looking for and what we’ll reject, so we’ve built a really good relationship with them.”

We’ve not quite finished our first cup of coffee, but the parallels in our approaches are already becoming clear. Does he, like us, think about the origin of the materials he uses and how that will impact the final piece?

“Origin really depends on the materials, but all of our suppliers are UK-based, and we don’t use exotic hardwoods. Hopefully the designs work in harmony with the natural materials because all we’re really trying to do is show what they’re capable of and how they can look their best." 

So beyond finding the right materials, is there a process or overarching ethos that the studio adheres to? 

“We like to think we’re a thoughtful studio. We think about something when we’re designing it and where the materials come from, but we’re also trying to think all the way through to packaging; where it comes from, what someone’s going to do with it when the piece arrives with them – we’re thinking about the whole revolution.

I think whether it’s furniture or something else, a lot of people have been neutralised. You can get things that are just made – ready to go. It makes it easy to forget the process behind all of those things. A table doesn’t just exist, someone’s had to design it, someone’s had to source all the materials and someone’s had to make it. It’s the same with a cup of coffee I guess.”

On the subject of the coffee, does that play a part in your day-to-day here? 

“Our days start with a coffee. We always sit down and have one in the morning, discuss what we’re going to do – it’s just an integral part of a day. After lunch as well. We’re always flat out, so it’s that moment we get to sit down, talk and taste something delicious. It’s like ‘let’s have a cup of coffee and grab a piece of paper and a pen’ and by the time you’ve finished you’ll go your separate ways and crack on with the project.”

But ultimately, you’re working to create something that lasts? 

“Longevity is built into the pieces we’re making. The cycle of our furniture sees us choosing sustainable materials to work from and making pieces that last. There’s so much greenwashing at the moment, with so many companies saying they’re sustainable. They’re saying it but there’s perhaps one part of their business that’s actually sustainable; you look at the back of house and everything arrives in plastic. There’s just so many areas to cover, but I think the best thing you can do is be thoughtful about what you’re doing.”

We’re currently running a competition with Fred Rigby Studio. To win his brewing set-up and a Raindrop Side Table, head to this Instagram post before midnight on Sunday 24th October and enter. You can find out more about Fred Rigby Studio and view his pieces at fredrigbystudio.com.

In Conversation with Rafael Oliveira – Creative Director, Tracksmith

Intermittently sipping his cappuccino from a cup made by Portuguese ceramic studio Studio Jav, Rafael Oliveira smiles warmly from behind the screen. The cup, combined with the pristine, white-washed brick wall that serves as his backdrop, allude to his passion for cleanliness and simplicity in both his day job and his wider life. 

Having grown up in Portugal, it was here that Rafael studied film and photography at Instituto Politécnico do Porto before beginning a career in graphic design that has seen him working with companies based in Barcelona and more recently, Boston, which is home to performance running brand Tracksmith. Working from his newly built home in the city of Porto, he leads their creative output, overseeing everything, from their striking typography to their celebratory, and at times emotive, imagery. 

“I didn’t necessarily follow what you’d call the normal path to get to this point. Graduating in film and photography, many of the skills that I use in my professional career today are self-taught. The software aspects, the graphic design – you know, the canons and rules – were not discovered by reading the right books and following a specific curriculum. Much of it has been found by trial and error, by making my way through it. And by finding my way through it, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to get a lot of shit out of my system. That doesn’t mean I don’t still do shit work today – not at all! – but I feel I’ve been able to become better at learning how to do things a little bit better each time. And now I’m at this point where all of the elements that I was able to take control of have added up to get me here.”

“I learned at my own pace and chose to dedicate my time to learning about something that felt important to me, rather than it feeling prescribed, and that meant I was able to find my own rhythm and pace”.

As you’d expect from someone whose job it is to manage the way an entire company is perceived, the subject of control comes up frequently as we spend an hour talking and nursing our coffees in our respective time zones. It has negative connotations, bringing to mind micro-management and rigidity, but Oliveira is a staunch believer in it being a catalyst for creativity and a crucial ingredient in his pursuit of creating something better.

“So many things are out of our control, so for me it’s about controlling the things I can and not worrying about the other stuff. I like my furniture organised, my plates and dishes just so – I just like that there is a sense of order. If it looks okay to me, if it looks organised and uncluttered, it’s an achievement.”

And that creeps into all areas of your life?

“Of course. It’s a cliché, especially from a runner that works for a running brand, but I adopt a marathon mentality in so many of the things I do. You cannot expect to run well if you haven’t done the work. There’s no way! The distance will call you out. But at the same time, it’s not necessarily about crossing the finish line either. It’s about that commitment day in day out, tweaking things slightly and then seeing what the outcome of that is as you try and get a little bit better every week. Yes, it’s great to cross a finish line, but that moment is the result of that anonymous early morning run on a Tuesday, when nobody else was out there and you weren’t quite happy with the pace, but it doesn’t matter because you were out there running. They add up to allow you to get better and do what you want to do.

And it’s kind of the same with coffee, right? It demands engagement from you. You can go about and not care, using whatever amount of beans from whichever place and you still get a cup at the end of it. But is it good? It depends, and taste varies because different people like different things, but for me, I want to get it to a particular place by weighing out my coffee, tweaking and changing the temperature, folding the filter paper a certain way and seeing what impact it has.”

That’s not to say he’d describe himself as a conformist. “You need to know the rules before you can break them”, says Rafael. “You always need to start at the point of control and impose these sorts of restrictions to better understand the process and what they allow you to do, and what you like or don’t like about them. From there, you can decide what you need or want to change and create something that’s much more personal because they’ve been done by you and you alone. In that sense, they’re not replicable and provide a sense of enjoyment – at least for me”.

Having returned to Portugal and built a house with his wife in its coastal city of Porto, Rafael is no stranger to remote working. As a result, while many of us have followed suit, his day-to-day routines haven’t necessarily changed. However, their structure certainly has, with his daily schedule being bulked out with blocks of meetings and calls.

“My attention has become super fragmented and that’s been the hardest thing for me to adapt to over the last year or so. I’ve found myself with less time to spend with my own thoughts and coffee has presented me with a chance to relax, which I realise is kind of ironic – it’s associated with making you more alert and focused, but for me it kind of let’s me step out of a zone. I stand up from my desk and I walk into my kitchen in an entirely separate part of my house and I brew my coffee whilst looking back at my desk, take a step outside onto my patio, breathe in some fresh outside air and try as much as possible to stop and relax for a little bit.”

Has it been a boon over the last 18 months? 

“The first thing I’d wake up thinking about is the pot of coffee I was going to brew and it was the first thing I did. With more time to try things and experiment at home, it’s definitely allowed me to discover what it takes to brew a cup of coffee, you know? Where does it come from? What does my favourite café do that I’m not doing? How can I make this better? 

Until recently, there was absolute certainty in what I was going to brew because I only had my Chemex, but I’ve recently bought an espresso machine, so now I leave it to the day to decide”.

Is there a preference for one over the other?

“It completely depends. Sometimes I run early and, if I’m heading out on a longer run I like to do it on an empty stomach. So, I’ll just take a quick shot of espresso and I head out the door. If I’m leaving a little later in the day so I can get better weather or wait until it’s a touch warmer, I’ll probably indulge in a cappuccino with my breakfast and let a couple of hours pass. 

That said, I love filter coffee – I think it’s great. It takes a little more time and I think it’s almost more engaging in a way. The Chemex, for instance – it’s a beautiful sculpture. Just looking at it and the orangey, rusty coffee liquid inside is beautiful. 

It’s here that Oliveira’s passion for a combination of aesthetic and process – for form and function – becomes abundantly clear. There is, he concedes, a possibility he attaches more weight to the visual aspect of things than most, but he loves things that look good. Holding up his cup, he says: 

“My eyes are the gateway to my brain. I know that there’s a lot of privilege that comes with saying this, but when you’re engaging and taking the time to use something I also believe it should be beautiful. It helps increase the experience, heightens the senses and makes everything that little bit better. It’s not just about what you consume, but how you consume it – it adds to the overall process.

“Of course the product is important too and I’ve more recently become more attentive to where my beans are from. Where does that come from, what does that do to the flavour? I’m seeking that out more and more, trying as much as possible to experiment and have fun – coffee needs to be fun”.

With our cups empty, we bring our conversation to an end not too far from where we started. As someone who self-admittedly likes to exercise control, what are the non-negotiables when it comes to Rafael’s daily routine?

As much as I love it, coffee doesn’t quite make the cut. I have, in the past, gone two months without a drop of it, so it’s a luxury – and a luxury I love – but not a necessity. 

The only thing that’s really non-negotiable for me is running. It’s not just the physical aspect of it, it’s the mental element too. I know that I’m going to be able to think during that time, even if I’m doing super hard intervals where I need to be really focused on what I’m doing. It allows me to open up certain pathways in my brain and tohse have helped me in my personal life and also in my work, so that’s not going anywhere.

Introducing Our Industry Purchase Programme

Part of our tenth anniversary celebrations, we're proud to introduce the Workshop Coffee Professional Community – our industry purchase programme. A new initiative based on old principles, it's one way in which we hope to continue building relationships with those within the specialty coffee industry.

2021 marks our tenth year seeking out, roasting and showcasing exceptional coffee from our home here in London. 

At once exciting and at the same time entirely arbitrary, the movement from single to double-digits has us reflecting on just how much we have learnt since we began roasting coffee. We’ve encountered numerous and ongoing firsts along the way, spanning new coffees, origins, locations, roasters, team members, partnerships and more. 

In the pursuit of progress it can be all too easy to get swept up in its momentum. However, change has only been a constant for us in allowing us to hone in and focus further on the unwavering tenets we strive to adhere to.

We’ve always aimed to keep a set of guiding principles squarely in our sights: a commitment to the people that grow and prepare the product we’re lucky enough to source, roast and serve; an unwavering focus on offering a continuously improving, consistently delicious product; a dedication to building lasting relationships, be they with farmers and producers at origin or our wholesale partners across the world. 

As well as taking the occasional moment to reflect over the coming months, it will be these guiding principles that we’re keeping at the front of our minds as we begin our second decade. Using this milestone as an opportunity to double down on our beliefs, we’ll be continuing to look ahead, paving the way for the next ten years (and beyond) of Workshop Coffee. 

To kick this process off, we’re proud to introduce a new initiative based on old principles. 

The best relationships rely on a cycle of open communication and accessibility, which is why we’ve always sought out those who share our values. Whether team members, producing partners or those looking to introduce exceptional coffee to a new community, great people doing great things in their own areas doesn’t just align with our own approach – it provides us with another opportunity to learn and improve.

The Workshop Coffee Professional Community is one way in which we hope to continue establishing and building relationships with those within the specialty coffee industry. Providing exclusive discounts to those working with the product we love, our aim is to ensure our seasonal range of single origin coffees be as accessible as possible regardless of your place or position within the industry.

We’re looking forward to sharing more projects and products we’ll be kicking off in our tenth year over the following weeks. Until then, you can discover more about our Professional Community and submit your application here. 

Workshop Coffee x Attaquer | Join Us in Coal Drop's Yard

Purveyor of fine cycling apparel, Attaquer, are popping up in North London's Coal Drops Yard between Friday 9th and Sunday 18th July. We'll be working alongside them throughout the week to ensure visitors are able to enjoy exceptional coffee daily. 

To celebrate their latest Artist Series collection, Attaquer will be previewing the new release alongside a range of exclusive Attaquer London products. Working with French artist and skateboarder Lucas Beaufort, the full range of kit will be on display each day from 10:00 a.m. and available exclusively ahead of its global launch on 12th July.

As well as a chance to peruse and take items home, visitors will also be able to enjoy a host of events throughout the week. From shop bike rides and beer tasting with Bianca Road Brewery, to an evening with cycling journal, Rouleur, the full event schedule can be found below. Visitors will also be able to pick up one of a limited number of special-release bags of Nicaraguan filter roast, Emilio Gomez. 

Beginning with a launch party on Saturday 10th July, join us for a brew, a beer or a conversation inside Unit 55, Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross, London, N1C 4DQ.

Event Schedule:

Saturday 10th July: Lucas Beaufort launch party (with drinks, art & giveaways in store) – 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Sunday 11th July: Shop Bunch Ride (2 distances and paces, more information to follow).

Thursday 15th July: Late Night Shopping (Bianca Road Beer Tasting in store)  – Open until 9:00 p.m.

Friday 16th July: Rouleur Guest Night

Saturday 17th July: Wrap Party —6:00 p.m. 'til late

Sunday 18th July: Shop Survivor Ride — Closing 6:00 p.m.

More information on the Attaquer London Pop-Up can be found here.

The Moccamaster KBG Select: Overview & Brewing Tips

Last year, we created a video offering tips on how to get the most from the Moccamaster KBG that’s proven valuable to many. The more recent release of the Moccamaster KBG Select provided us with the perfect opportunity to revisit our favourite automated filter coffee brewer and take a detailed look at some of its updated features, which includes a switch to adjust water flow for smaller or larger batch sizes. 

We also revisit and expand on some the brewing tips we recommend for getting the most from each batch brewed with the Select, including grind size and recipe recommendations. 

The same overview and brewing tips found within this piece can also be experienced visually and aurally via our video on the brewer, which can be found at the bottom of this entry. 

Breaking down the Moccamaster
Having started manufacturing their products in The Netherlands in 1968, Moccamaster continue to hand make their units there today. The first KBG was first released in 1974 and, whilst the team at Moccamaster have continued to iterate on the original design, you can still clearly see the original silhouette within newer models of this now classic countertop brewer. 

When brewing, the first element you come into contact with is the BPA free plastic reservoir. Labelled with volumetric markings, these provide a very useful guide that ensures you're always adding the right quantity of water for your chosen dose of coffee.

The water then drips through to a copper heating element that sits within the brewer's casing and, once hot, is fed via a glass pipe inside the reservoir through the 9-hole metal shower head. This sprays your water onto your ground coffee, which is housed in a ridged plastic brew basket (also BPA free). These ridges help keep your filter paper away from the basket's walls, helping to promote water flow.

A simple but smart plug is also housed under the basket, which will only open when the glass jug is placed underneath it. This is handy should you wish to experiment with pre-infusion, but also means you should ensure your jug is squarely in place before beginning the brewing process. 

The glass jug is fitted with a lid that includes a thin, black destratification pipe. Descending down into the jug, it aims to help avoid your coffee layering (i.e. not mixing together) and provides more consistent cups. 

What's in the box?
Alongside all of the above, on unboxing your Moccamaster KBG Select, you'll also find a few filter papers, a scoop (although we recommend having scales to hand to ensure you stick to a consistent, repeatable recipe each time), a sachet of cleaner to keep everything clean and scale-free over time, and an instruction manual. Each unit also comes with a 5 year manufacturer's warranty. 

As with any brand new piece of brewing apparatus, we would advise running an empty cycle before brewing coffee. 

The Select switch: a new feature
The new Select switch offers two different flow rates, depicted on the Moccamaster by an icon of a half batch of coffee, and another showing a full batch. This doesn't mean you need to brew batch sizes of exactly 50% or 100%, but it does mean that the rate the water passes through the brewer can be selected to run either more slowly (for smaller batches) or more quickly (for larger batches). 

For us, this is a fantastic and exciting addition to the brewer, as it adds greater flexibility to the brewing process. As well as providing the opportunity for fuller extraction in smaller batch sizes than its predecessor, this additional variable also allows you to offset imperfect grind settings should you need to. For instance, if your hands are tied by pre-ground coffee that's a little too coarse when brewing a full batch, you can run the brewer on the half batch size to achieve a fuller extraction. Equally, if you're pre-ground coffee is finer than you'd ideally like, you can utilise the full batch setting to creater a quicker extraction with a reduced chance of stewed, over-extracted notes. 

Which flow setting for which quantities?
For anything up to and including 750ml of water and 45g of coffee, we would recommend using the half batch setting. For bigger batches of 1L to 1.25L we would suggest the full batch setting. 

Suggested grind sizes

Despite our detailed and ongoing testing across a range of grinders, it is always worth noting that any suggested grinder settings are always a staring point. Even highly calibrated, professional-use grinders are subject to variation and nuance, but this is even more true of at-home variants. That said, the following should provide a useful springboard into finding your sweet spot:

For a brews up to 750ml... 

  • Timemore C2/Slim – 28 clicks
  • Comandante C40 – 34 clicks
  • Baratza Encore – 28
  • Wilfa Svart – Align the red line with the dot between FILTER and AEROPRESS
  • Wilfa Uniform – 34

For a brews over 750ml...

  • Timemore C2/Slim – 32 clicks
  • Comandante C40 – 36 clicks
  • Baratza Encore – 30
  • Wilfa Svart – Align the red line with the R of FILTER
  • Wilfa Uniform – 37 

As a rule of thumb, taste your coffee and if it's a little thin and sour, fine up your chosen grind, and if it's tasting bitter, astringent and stewed, coarsen it up a little.

Brewing with the Moccamaster KBG Select
After folding your Size 4 filter paper and popping it in the brew basket, we find it easiest to weigh our beans into this and then, when grinding them, quickly rinse the paper under the tap before filling up the reservoir to the desired level. 

It's worth noting that the volumetric markings on the reservoir will not correspond directly to the amount of coffee that eventually finds itself in your glass jug. This is because the grounds retain anywhere between 2 to 3 grams of water per gram of coffee. So, if you fill the reservoir to the 1 litre mark, you can expect a batch of around 850ml of coffee. 

With your coffee ground and added to your rinsed filter paper, simply pop your brew basket in place and flick the start button. In theory, there's nothing nothing else to do but weight a few minutes for your coffee to be ready to drink and enjoy. 

However, we've enjoyed even better results in the cup from the Moccamaster KBG Select by enlisting one small, but for us important, extra step: stirring.

We're aware that this divides the crowd. A relatively expensive brewer, and one that's billed as automated, many are reluctant to have to be present during the brewing process. We completely understand and by simply turning on the Moccamaster and walking away you'll still get very tasty cups of filter from the process. However, we very much advocate getting in there with a teaspoon to ensure all of your grounds are evenly wet. You're more reliably going to get nice round, sweet cups of coffee with that extra bit of agitation during the brewing cycle. The fact that you are actually able to access your grounds and water during the process is a major benefit the Moccamaster has over many other automated drip brewers, so we'd highly recommend taking advantage. 

The hotplate
A somewhat hot topic amongst home brewers, we're often asked whether we'd recommend using the hotplate function on the Moccamaster, which, unless you turn the brewer off once it has finished its brew cycle, remains on for 45 minutes after brewing. It is worth noting that your coffee will degrade as it sits on the hotplate and, as time goes on, may become a little briney and less aromatic. For this reason, we prefer to brew enough coffee to drink immediately portioning it out accordingly. Ultimately, though, it all boils down to personal preference. 

Cleaning & Care
The moment your brew is done, throw away your filter and grounds immediately and rinse the basket. Minimising the contact time between the brew basket and coffee oils will reduce the frequency with which you’ll need to deep clean the plastic basket with cafiza or a similar cleaning chemical. 

As a rule, if you’re using water that deposits scale, then you should also run through some descalant after 100 brew cycles. This is easy to remember if you’re buying packs of 100 filter papers. At the same time, I’d recommend filling the basket with Cafiza or something similar and scrubbing with a brush to get into the ridges and get rid of any built up flavour taint. 

The Moccamaster KBG Select is available in the hardware section of our online shop. If you have any follow-up questions on getting more from this brewer, be sure to contact our Home Brewing Helpdesk on betterbrewing@workshopcoffee.com. 

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