Inside Workshop


July 04, 2016


The final instalment of The Tempest Two's guest posts comes at an apt time. Firstly, they've recently released the trailer to their feature-length film, which will chart their journey across the Atlantic using on-board footage captured by the two. It's scheduled to premier later this summer.

Secondly, Tom and James have had itchy feet ever since they found themselves back on solid ground earlier this year and began planning their next challenge almost immediately. Later this month, they're off to tackle their latest adventure and we're happy to say we'll be continuing to support them. 

Before they leave once again, though, here's how they made it to the finish despite the best intentions of the weather and the ocean.

-- RF. 

Having been given the good news of a clear run into Barbados, predictably our hopes were raised and expectations were set on a finish date. If we were to carry on at a good pace, we'd be sipping on cocktails on the 9th February, reunited with our loved ones, and sleeping in a soft, clean bed.

Optimism, however, is probably the most dangerous feeling one can allow on the sea. Around two weeks out, our weather window was shut firmly in our faces and we were faced with a heavy storm coming down from North America. Picking up pace and strength, its course, it seemed, was focused directly on our 7 meter boat.

There was no avoiding it.

By the time it had reached us, the storm had gained a name: Hurricane Alex, the first hurricane to form in the Atlantic for over half-a-century. Good timing.

We tied down all of our precious items, stored things away, and locked ourselves in the cabin, waiting for the brunt of the storm. We spent 72 hours in a cabin the size of a single bed, being hit by 60 knot winds and 50 foot waves, our modest boat straining and moaning at the force of the elements around it. Those days seemed to drag on forever, as sleeping was near enough impossible given the washing machine-like conditions.

When it eventually passed over us, and the sun reappeared, we dusted ourselves off and carried on as normal, relieved to be back on the oars and in one piece. Safe to say a Kasigwa aeropress was well out of the question during these 3 days, although hugely enjoyed after the forced break.

The frustration of the three-day delay gave us a huge boost and our minds were focused on one thing: pushing ourselves harder to get to Barbados faster. Over the next two weeks, we rowed together more, sometimes for up to 10 hours with no break, and every stroke of the oars had an extra 10% behind it. We averaged well over 60 nautical miles per day, and ticked off miles, hours and eventually days from our departure ETA. Again, optimism began to climb and, with the finish line a mere 500 miles away our hopes were dashed by the weather once again.

Two enormous pressure systems that weren't visible on any weather charts loomed over us, huge black clouds bringing with them their own weather patterns that stopped us dead in our tracks, and began pushing us South at a rate of knots.

These were the hardest two days, as we were forced to succumb to a sense of total deflation and helplessness. We tried everything we could, rowing together for hours and hours, but gaining no ground. We were being pushed in the opposite direction from our destination. Torrential rain kept us wet and cold and our morale dropped to an all-time low, acutely aware that our families had booked their flights and we were looking at a real chance of missing them completely at the finish line.

We fought through the dark days one more and came out the other side stronger, pushing ourselves as hard as physically possible. Fuelled by the thoughts of our family and several cups of Kasigwa (albeit a little saltier than usual), that was all the power we needed. It wasn't until this point that we realised the ridiculousness of many of our daily habits, including brewing coffee. Usually enjoying our Workshop fix in the warmth of the Clerkenwell Cafe or at home in our kitchen, we couldn't be further from those familiar surroundings, as we continually prepared it in the most isolated of environments. Despite the juxtaposition of context and surroundings, in this simple process was a consistent reminder of home and its comforts. A total of 62 cups of aeropress (and four coffee related accidents) showed our subconscious intent to re-create what we knew. 

Over the next week, we gained back the two days we'd lost and, after an extremely close call with a cargo ship, which was a mere 100-metres away from crushing us completely, we were within 20 miles of land, pushing through a night-shift that would be our last if all went well.

The sunrise on the 10th February was like no other we'd seen since setting off. The sun illuminated the horizon and allowed us to see a rich, green island before us -- the first land for the first time in over 50 days. We rounded the northern tip of the island and prepared for the notorious entrance into Port St. Charles, a six-hour slog against strong winds, currents and the risk of shallow reefs.

The Atlantic wasn’t going to make things easy, and those 6 hours were the hardest rowing of the entire trip. We applied back-breaking strokes but could only muster an average speed of less than 1 knot with both of us on the oars.

But it didn’t matter. We were met a few miles from the port by a boat full of our nearest and dearest whose cheers gave us the energy to finish the mammoth trip with everything we had.

We pulled into Port St. Charles Yacht Club at 3pm on 10th February. We were exhausted, skinny, impossibly tanned, but ecstatic.

We'd completed what many thought was impossible.

We'd conquered a challenge widely regarded as the toughest on Earth, with no experience, and stronger friends than when we had left.

Our first steps on land were wobbly, but triumphant and we gingerly stumbled to the bar to enjoy the first sip of the coldest, most glorious beer of our lives. The days that followed were some of the best, bringing with them unparalleled feelings of relief and happiness. 

After settling and allowing the enormity of our achievements to begin to sink in, we let ourselves consider: what next? 

June 17, 2016


The last six months have been an absolute whirlwind.

Moving the production department into a purpose built space in Bethnal Green has seen much more than just an address change. We’ve installed and commissioned a brand new P25 Probat roaster with their much improved burner technology and implemented a whole host of new quality control equipment: a Sinar BeanPro moisture meter, a ColorTrack colour analyser, an Ikawa sample roaster and a temperature controlled green coffee room fitted with a UV light to help us better identify and sort defects.

Preparing a sample for the moisture meter.

Grooming the sample tray for ColorTracking.

Amending a roast curve on the Ikawa app.

Getting to grips with the new roaster and profile of our coffees has been a huge learning experience. Previously, roasting on the P12 Probat in our Clerkenwell Cafe, we were turning 8 kilo batches for filter roasts to ensure adequate development and to drop them in our desired timeframe. Meanwhile, the maximum batch size we could roast for espresso while still thoroughly enjoying the results was 11 kilos.

When familiarising ourselves with the new roaster and attempting to profile our coffees, it felt like we’d traded in our old, reliable Volvo for a turbo-charged Porsche; we needed to learn how to drive again given the incredible amount of acceleration and braking at our disposal. The sheer power from the new burner dictated we revise and establish very different in-between batch protocols compared to the former P12, whilst starting gas percentages, and charge temperatures in particular, changed quite dramatically to ensure we created roast recipes that produced properly developed roasts and thus delicious cups of coffee. 
Sharing roast duties.

We never expected to put 25 kilos into the beast. Instead we started with trial batches of a very conservative 16 kilos. Having to really slam the brakes on to avoid roasts reaching their ideal drop temperatures in 9 minutes or less led us to incrementally up the batch size. Trialling 18 and 20 kilos offered greater control, but again these sizes had a tendency to fly through the roasting process if not monitored carefully. After numerous stages of trial and error, 22 kilo batches brought us to a position where we had the ability to manipulate and control the batch with delicacy, but without the feeling equivalent to aquaplaning that we felt with the smaller batches.

Given increased power, and greater control via the new touchpad interface, we felt confident turning batches of filter and espresso roasts with the same green weight. An added benefit of keeping the batch size the same for both styles of roasting is in making it easier to compare and contrast the two styles of roasting (not to mention more thermal stability and predictability between batches).

Our new dedicated roasting space.

With greater ease, we’re better able to compare the approach to roasting a filter and an espresso batch and subsequently pin down exactly where we can achieve the following for an espresso:

  1. Increased solubility
  2. Mellower acidity 
  3. Increased body

As unfashionable as it is to say, our espresso roasts won’t create an optimally agreeable cup when brewed to 1.3-1.5% TDS. However, in a vastly greater concentration of 8-10% TDS, the traits we aim for with our espresso roasts do go a long way to improving the balance of the cup.

Espresso is brewed with much less water, the solvent to dissolve flavour, as well as being vastly less clarified than paper-filtered, brewed coffee. This concentration of goodies dissolved in the cup (along with the oft-forgotten undissolved solids - suspended oils, lipids and particulates that worm their way through holes in your VST basket, some getting emulsified along the way) creates a uniquely textured beverage. We still want to strike a balance between sweetness, acidity and bitterness, all with a clarity of flavour, and, thanks to a lot of experimenting in our dedicated espresso QC lab, we've been able to amend our house espresso recipes.

Recently dropping our basket size down and altering the dose of coffee accordingly has allowed us to reduce the machine temperature, making for more uniform and stable brewing conditions within the portafilter basket. This, coupled with a slightly reduced pump pressure and fractionally more open brew ratio, has led to espresso shots with superb sweetness, great clarity and a much more velvety mouthfeel.

A caveat: when designing your espresso recipe and brewing specs you first need to understand what drinks you will be serving and how many of them you need to brew in a given amount of time. A very different brew recipe would be required for a cafe serving 1,000 12oz lattes a day versus a curated coffee service serving exclusively espresso at a low volume event. 

Previous Specs:
Mazzer Robur
17g LM Basket / 18g VST Basket
18.0g coffee
36-38g espresso
33-35s extraction
9 bar pressure
94.0C water (at ~100ppm)

New Specs:
Mazzer Robur / Mythos Clima-Pro
15g VST Basket
16.0g coffee
33g espresso
30-32s extraction
7.5 bar pressure
92.0C water (at ~100ppm)

Supplementary information to go in with our coffee deliveries.

Roasted product ready to leave the building.

With a greater understanding of the green coffee entering the building and more control over it before it gets near the roaster, as well as a multitude of new ways to predict, control and adapt our roasting approach, we are happier than ever with the results.

Six months on in Bethnal Green and we’ve come a long way, but there’s still so much more to be done. 

June 06, 2016

World AeroPress Championship 2016

On Tuesday, we sent out 52 bags of practice coffee to the each of the national and regional finalists that will be descending on Dublin in three weeks time. 

As competitors have been frantically plunging away across countries and continents in a bid to secure a place in the final on June 23rd, we've not only been busy organising the English Championship, but readying ourselves for our involvement as roasting partners in the World Aeropress Championship.

It all started towards the beginning of the year, when we began speaking with Café Imports, long-time collaborators of the WACs and even longer-time friends and partners of our own. Together we started to work towards selecting a competition coffee, with our aim from beginning to end being to ensure whatever was chosen was well-produced, interesting and, of course, delicious.

On an unusually sunny Tuesday afternoon, we convened in our Bethnal Green Roastery to gather round the cupping table together and sample potential options. Laid out before us were a veritable smorgasbord of fresh crop coffees all vying for a place in the brewing chamber on the day of the competition. The water was boiled and poured over the fresh grounds, the cupping bowls were broken and skimmed, and cupping spoons were poised between thumb and forefinger.

We began.

Several clockwise rotations of the table followed before a lengthy discussion on taste, freshness and available quantities. By the end of the afternoon, we had made a decision. 

This stemmed from a multitude of factors. First and foremost was taste: sandwiched between delightful and comforting sweet, mellow caramels and a vanilla finish were bright, citrusy lemon balm, candied lime, alongside a white peach acidity. Combined, these made for a clear, complex and satisfying cup. As interesting as the tasting notes was the story of the coffee itself. Usually choosing to source, roast and brew coffees from individual farmers when working in Colombia, Río Negro presented an opportunity to showcase equally exceptional work, but in a different way; the lot is communally produced by ten farmers in and around the village of Río Negro.

Not that strange an occurrence in itself, what sets it apart from other community lots is that the coffee is a single, less frequently found variety - Yellow Bourbon. With Roya decimating older varieties such as Bourbon and Typica in Colombia over the years, forcing farmers to plant more leaf-rust resistant trees like Colombia and Castillo, for an area to maintain production of Yellow Bourbon is testament to the hard work of the following farmers in managing their land and keeping Roya at bay:

  • Evangelista Oca of Finca La Esmeralda (1,900m)
  • Rodrigo Robayo of Finca Santa Rosa (1,990m)
  • Daniel Perdomo of Finca Buena Vista (1,940m)
  • Orlando Morea of Finca El Mirador (1,940m)
  • Arquimedes Olarte of Finca Santa Rosa (1,990m)
  • Gabriel Perdomo of Finca El Portal (1,940m)
  • Robinson Quebrada of Finca La Esperanza (1,990m)
  • Guillermo Chantre of Finca Los Pinos (1,900m)
  • Pascual Ulchur of Finca La Esperanza (1,900m)
  • Argemiro Ruiz of Finca Villa Esperanza (1,990m)

As all the farmers also grow other varieties, the Yellow Bourbon cherries were isolated before being processed and dried separately. Dry fermented between 18 and 24 hours before washing, they were then carefully dried under parabolic canopies for between 12 and 18 days. The result is a coffee with real elegance, presenting a refined sweetness and unique character that we liked so much, we bought some for our own use too.

Primarily we knew we wanted to tap the sweetness in. However, our experience with roasting Yellow Bourbon was generally limited to naturally processed, lower-altitude Brazils. We therefore had to rely more on information about the coffee’s moisture and density to begin profiling. Turning test batch one with a huge amount of initial gas, and a very high charge temperature, the coffee thankfully showed no signs of tipping, but did taste pretty green and prickly, even while registering at a reasonable colour.

Deciding to slightly reduce the charge temperature and use a more modest gas setting to kick us off ensured the initial portion of the roast was adequately stretched out, allowing more time in the roast to degrade the bitter acids and bring out the natural sweetness we knew was there. The result -- increased caramels with ripe peach notes and a much more rounded acidity -- was closer to what we wanted, but we still found there to be a slight nutty character in the occasional bowl. This led us to stretch out the final portion of the roast and reach the development we required before going into production.

A new evolution in our roasting now sees us scanning coffee under a blacklight before it enters the drum. The UV light screening highlights beans that fluoresce, which we now pick out before roasting a batch. The reasons behind this could be moisture damage, chipped beans, mould, or other factors hardly noticeable to the human eye under normal light, but this extra step goes a long way to quality and the result is a much more consistent coffee, cup to cup.

During the roast, we aimed to get the environmental temperature probe to read 220oc before stabilising it at 217-218oc for the final portion of development. Dropping the batch at 10 minutes 30 seconds,the bean temperature probe RoR still read healthily, climbing at 1oc every 15 seconds to the soundtrack of one or two isolated pops in the cooling tray.

As the coffee cooled, we scanned the batches for quakers -- un-ripened coffee, which does not fare well in the roasting process -- and pulled out everything we could find. From there, samples were ground and placed in our ColorTrack for analysis. With readings of around 49.5 when ground quite fine and groomed flat with minimal chaff in the sample, the green coffee initially contained around 11.1% moisture with the weight loss of each batch around netting out at 13.2%.

Quality control checkpoints performed and having cleanly jumped through the numerous hoops we continually set ourselves, we were satisfied.

With the dispatch of the coffee comes the excitement and anticipation of the judging process: an opportunity to descend on Dublin’s WigWam to taste the coffee afresh, as dictated by the palate of the finalists, and experience the breadth and depth of the ingredient (for better and for worse). This year, that responsibility and honour falls to our Head Roaster, Dan Boobier. 

There’s also, of course, the opportunity to enjoy the beer, the soundtrack and the company present. It’s the WACs -- as important as the brewing of delicious coffee is the involvement in the always exuberant atmosphere.

We're looking forward to being there. 

May 05, 2016


For the past two years we’ve shared a roasting sponsorship deal for the UK AeroPress Championship with Square Mile Coffee Roasters, our close neighbours in London’s East End. As the union has fractured (for the better in our eyes as it means more exposure to great coffee from the simple plastic brewer), with Scotland and Wales now holding their own comps, last weekend we played host to the 2016 AeroPress Championship of England, opening the doors to the public for the first time at our new Vyner Street roastery in the process.

The posters. 
Each year that goes by the posters for regional and national AeroPress champs become more impressive, more iconic and, in many cases, more coveted. As a sideshow to the main event, the poster creation provides an opportunity for artists, illustrators and designers to get creative and showcase a range and depth of skill.

This year, we worked with London-based Dan Mather. An independent silkscreen printer and graphic designer, Dan created a striking series of prints. Set-off by their unapologetically bold colours, the three colour-ways were distributed to and displayed around cafes all over England in the run-up to the event, with the imagery also forming the base for the one-off bag labels. 

The coffee. 
This year, aiming to provide something more considered for the 27 competitors to brew and serve to our panel of discerning judges, we invited our friends from Square Mile to cup in our new QC lab in the roastery. Cupping our entire range of filter coffees together with their full selection, sat alongside the potential components was a 50/50 blend of each Workshop and Square Mile coffee in every permutation possible to help us identify which would complement each other and produce a delicious and balanced cup. 

In the line up was our Buena Vista from Astrid Medina in Colombia. This coffee always stands out on a table due to its very distinctive berry acidity and refreshing characteristics. Amongst the coffees Square Mile had brought was Mahembe from Rwanda, a coffee we know well, having also had the opportunity to roast and serve it in previous harvests. Possessing a unique character, with incredibly honeyed and potent aromatics complimenting a very refined sweetness, the decision was unanimous that Mahembe, combined with Buena Vista, created something complex and enjoyable. 

The first batch we blended went out to the lucky competitors who managed to secure a ticket, giving them just under two weeks to get familiar with the coffee before competition day. They weren’t, however, informed what was in the coffee, having to rely purely on their tasting abilities to produce a recipe that would yield tasty results. 

Then on Saturday 30th April, when competitors arrived with brewing gear in tow, they picked up a more recently roasted bag with the revealed coffees on the back label.

The competition. 
With a smattering of EK43 grinders and Fetco hot water towers dotted around the modular bar in the Vyner Street Training Space, the competitors had an hour to prepare their beans and brewers before we kicked off at 3:00pm.

Oli Bradshaw on the decks played a great mix of 90’s hip hop and Motown which went down fantastically as the smell of London’s finest hotdogs drifted in from the Big Apple Hotdogs grill outside. Stuart Ritson headed-up the bar serving Kernel Brewery Table Beer on the house, while Ross Brown kept everyone tickled or scratching their heads as he commentated the event. 

A whiteboard with Polaroid shots of all competitors tracked progress through the rounds, their fate decided in groups of three by the pointing fingers of our own Head of Production, Richard Shannon, Anette Moldvaer, Director at Square Mile Coffee Roasters and Isabelle Legeron, Master of Wine and the brains behind London’s RAW Wine Fair.

The first nine rounds saw the 27 using sieves, double grinding and removing chaff, chilling their brews with iced flannels and brewing with customised water from temperature controlled gooseneck kettles. Precision was the name of the game as our competitors kept a steely nerve under the watchful eye of some 200 attendees.

After the knock-outs and the semis had reduced the field of 27 to a final 3, we were left with Gregory Boyce of Lanark Coffee, Liam Field of Macintyre Coffee and Matt Randell of Climpson & Sons brewing for glory. Cameras stretched out in hands, the crowd craned their necks to watch the three finalists spend 8 minutes brewing to the best of their abilities. Carrying the bowls over with an air of reverence, the three judges unanimously decided on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place:

1st - Matt Randell
2nd - Liam Field
3rd - Gregory Boyce

Congratulations Matt on brewing the best cup of the day and winning a Baratza grinder, a 12 month subscription from both Square Mile and Workshop and, of course, a place at the World AeroPress Championship in Dublin this June. Thanks also to everyone who helped make the event - competitors, sponsors and spectators. Without you all, we wouldn’t have had such a blast.

Today, England. Tomorrow, the world. 

With the English Champion now crowned, our attention turns to the World AeroPress Championships in Dublin. As sole roasting partner for the event, we’ve worked with Cafe Imports (the WAC green coffee partner) to select the coffee to be brewed by the 52 regional and national finalists on the day. In keeping with the English Champs, we’ll be keeping coffee information close to our chests until the day itself. We will, however, be sending out practice coffee to all WAC competitors following upcoming trial roasting and QC, so if you happen to be a 2016 AeroPress national champion, it’ll be landing on your doorstep in the coming weeks.

April 28, 2016


The second in a three-part series of guests posts from James and Tom (AKA The Tempest Two), the two head out into the abyss.

The enormity of their endeavour becomes apparent, the dangers they face become all to real and their Aeropress brewing technique is somewhat compromised. 

-- Richard 

As the sun-dropped on Day 1, the enormity of what lay ahead finally dawned on us.

The departure was a surreal experience, no fireworks, start-guns or theatrics. Just the two of us, in a rowing boat, quietly rowing into the distance. The feeling is one that will stay with us forever, and an emotion we now crave since being back on land. As the sun finally disappeared, the first night-shifts began, which meant rowing alone on deck – in the dark – for the first time.

For the first couple of weeks, the night time represented a real fear; an innate dread of the unknown. Children are scared of the dark because of monsters under their bed. What we feared was more real.

It’s worth mentioning at this point, that, for the vast majority of our crossing, the moon was not present. The nights were therefore filled with an impenetrable darkness. Lights were useless and would only hinder our night-vision, so we were surrounded by black, praying that the breaking waves wouldn’t find us as we resorted to guessing our boats position on the wave, often resulting in the loud crack of the oars against our shins – waking both of us up.

On the 12th day, at 5:13AM, a breaker found its mark and turned our humble boat (Roberta) upside down. James was thrown from the seat and into the icy water. Under water, headphones still playing music into his ears (Rihanna if you are curious), the seconds seemed like hours as James tried to break the surface. Just managing to grasp the edge of the boat, which by this point had righted itself, he thanked his lucky stars.

Many who have not spent time at sea would envisage simply swimming back towards the boat and climbing aboard. Sadly, the process isn’t this simple. If you become separated from your boat, and have no life-line attaching you to safety, the odds are heavily stacked against you. Within seconds, you can be swept away by currents even an Olympic swimmer couldn’t overcome.

Aside from the obvious shock of the event, what amazed us about the capsize was the way an innate instinct of survival kicked in almost instantly. There was no panic or distress, instead approaching the situation methodically and calmly. When the shit hit the fan, auto-pilot took over and we dealt with it.

Every day that passed, we gained knowledge of the sea, adapting to our surroundings so that, within a couple of weeks, we had become accustomed to the sleep patterns and the physical demands of the gruelling 2 hours on, 2 hours off routine. It is truly incredible how the body and mind can evolve to cope with new challenges and environments. We became fitter, stronger and more savvy as every day passed. We learnt to read the sea and understand its warning signs, even beginning to predict when the waves would pick up depending on the positioning of the sun and moon, and at what times our bodies would crash if we didn’t eat enough.

Routine at sea played a huge part of our daily success, both mentally and physically. We cooked our freeze dried meals every 6 hours.

9am. 3pm. 9pm. 3am.

These were supplemented by our daily snack packs, which included Pip and Nut, Coconut Oil, a variety of chocolate, Bounce balls and – as often as the temperamental ocean would allow – Workshop Coffee.

Every other day (weather depending), we would boil an extra 600ml of water in the JetBoil during our 3pm feed and begin to prep the Aeropress. Although it seemed like a stretch, and after a relentless session of rowing, even a hassle, the coffee provided a real lift in both the process and the finished result.

As the water was boiling, James would pull the coffee, Porlex hand grinder, brewer and filter papers out of the dry bag and measure out the coffee before grinding and beginning to brew using the freshly JetBoiled water. Placing the plunger on its top, he’d begin his less-than-scientific mental timer (usually half a song on the iPod) before plunging straight into an enamel mug or into the Thermos for later.

The entire process was made all the more interesting by the pitching and tossing of our boat, Roberta, in the seas. Over the entirety of the trip, we only fumbled and subsequently lost two coffees. At the time, it was devastating, but in retrospect, we’ll take those odds.

Before leaving land, we split our trip into three zones. Zones One and Three were both 900 miles, whilst the middle section – Zone Two – was 1,200. Zone One was used to settle in, get comfortable and learn as much as we could. Zone Two was about establishing a steady and consistent pace, staying safe and being cautious, Zone Three was when we’d put the boosters on and the intention from there on in would be to up our speed and intensity as we approached the finish line.

Providing manageable targets, this removed the risk of us trying to tackle the enormous challenge in one go, allowing us to tick smaller progress points off as we went. One bad habit we failed to avoid picking up was constantly analyzing our average pace, distance travelled and the weather. We were constantly looking at these variables to try and predict when we’d arrive at the finish. With so much thinking time on the oars, it was almost impossible to stop yourself doing the maths. Over-analysis builds false hope and is a recipe for disaster, as fast-changing weather and storms soon crush optimism and ultimately your goals.

Our days at sea became a blur, and time became obsolete. Our digital watches simply remained on UK time, as the only reference we needed was when to call home. In our world we worked only in 2 hour blocks and by the sun and the moon. As we approached Zone Three, we were told that we had a weather window that would guide us into Barbados.

Strong following winds, nice steady swells; everything was looking good for a fast finish…


March 17, 2016


As we reported
 in the tail end of 2015, The Tempest Two set out on their 3,000-mile journey across the Atlantic, from the Canary Islands to Barbados. Carrying nothing but the essentials (including an Aeropress and several bags of our Kasigwa filter) they spent two months arduously shaving miles off their distance and moving closer to a seemingly infinite horizon. 

If you followed their journey, you'll know their time on the ocean was anything but easy. Challenges presented themselves both frequently and unexpectedly -- but they made it.

In three instalments, James and Tom regale us with their stories and what they learnt as two dots in the middle of the big blue. 

-- Richard

Just under 2 years ago, we set ourselves a goal that many people thought was unobtainable, unreachable, impossible. We wanted to take on what is widely regarded as the toughest challenge on Earth, with no prior experience or skill-set in the discipline. We wanted to take on the Atlantic Ocean, unsupported, in a rowing boat.

The voyage would span 3000 miles from The Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, to the Caribbean Island of Barbados. Along the way we would encounter sharks, whales, a near miss with a tanker and the first hurricane to form in the Atlantic for 50 years. Our relationship as friends would be tested to its limits, as well as our nerve and physical strength. It is not uncommon for people to aspire to these great challenges, but the logistics, finances and sheer workload of completing them often presents a hurdle that is easy to trip on. 

We wanted to share how we approached this mammoth endeavour, and what we learnt along the way in becoming transatlantic rowers.

From day one, the one thing we never lacked was confidence. Even though neither of us had any experience rowing or sailing, we didn’t doubt ourselves for a second. Family, friends and colleagues initially laughed off the idea without a second thought — it was a moon-shot concept with no real conviction. Little did they know we weren’t viewing this as an idea; to us, this was happening.

There were a number of moments along the way to the start-line where we could have quite easily pulled out and made valid excuses for doing so. Our original boat didn’t get made in time, so we used a 10 year old model instead. Relatively severe injuries were sustained, preventing proper training for up to 6 months, and the thousands of ‘NO’ emails for sponsorship would have deterred the majority of people. But instead of using any (or all) of these excuses, we projected a picture of calm and confidence, never letting these set-backs hinder our determination and belief.

We always wanted to work with brands that we loved. Using this as a base, there was a unique opportunity for them brands to get involved and tell their story through an incredible adventure.

As a key partner of ours, Workshop Coffee was one of the first on the list that we wanted on-board. Drinking their coffee near enough everyday and following the stories they tell from origin, their roasting and through their stores, we both agreed that coffee would be an incredible luxury on the row, providing a welcome break from the 2 on, 2 off routine. Brewing an Aeropress in the middle of the Atlantic can’t have been done many times (if at all) and the full process of making the filter coffee in such an incredible location would be sure to stick in our memory. 

The question we most get asked about the row, is ‘How did you train?’. We were lucky to have the support of Caveman Conditioning, who put a specific plan together for us to achieve the necessary level of fitness in order to complete the punishing regime at sea. We worked on strength, flexibility and cardio in equal amounts, but outside the gym we had the important task of learning to row. Neither of us had ever held an oar, so getting to grips with an alien sport was a big challenge. We spent as much time on our boat as possible, but didn’t get access to her until 6 months from the start.
We managed a total of 5 training rows before setting off on the Atlantic, so had to learn our trade on the high-seas — and what a humbling experience it was. We are not the most traditional looking rowers, coming in at a huge 5ft 6 and 5ft 8 respectively, we don’t have the levers usually associated with strong oarsmen. Luckily the seas are very different to the river and require a much more stable head, consistency,  persistence and just sheer determination when all things are against you, this, we had in abundance, 

Given that neither of us had any knowledge of seamanship, we spoke to as many people as possible who could shed light on what we would face out there. The group of trans-atlantic rowers is about as elite as it gets, with only around 260 boats making the crossing. We were lucky enough to spend time with some very competent ocean rowers and racked their brains for the ins-and-outs of what it takes to succeed, allowing us to prepare mentally for what lay ahead. We also gleaned priceless pieces of information such as using sheepskin on our rowing seats to help with salt-sores, packing the correct food, how to wash effectively (whilst ironically surrounded by water) and the best ways to keep the boat clean, lean and moving fast. It was the head-start we needed before even reaching The Canaries.

As we arrived into The Canary Islands, we were soon made aware that the weather in the Atlantic was not playing by the rules. We were due to set off on the 9th December, but this was made impossible by harsh Southerly winds that prevented us passing down towards the coast of Africa. These winds blew hard for an entire week, something the locals said  they’d never experienced before during the winter months. After 2 weeks of finding ourselves stuck in the small coastal town of Puerto Mogan, we decided to push off in variable weather, literally throwing caution to the wind and going for it. 

All the emails, phone conversations, books and sleepless nights suddenly faded into the background. This was the moment we had been working towards for 18 months. 

We were taking on the Atlantic Ocean. 

We were alone.

Image credits: @stokedeversince

2016 Aeropress Championships

Late last year, we made the exciting decision to become the coffee sponsor of The World Aeropress Championship. Over the years, we’ve always enjoyed the convivial, taste-driven and light-hearted ethos of the event, so the opportunity to increase our involvement by roasting and providing the fifty national champions from across the globe with the coffee they’ll use in their attempt to be crowned World Aeropress Champion one too good to miss. 

Having also attended each event, we also know that there ain’t no party like an Aeropress party.

To kick-off our involvement, we’re delighted to announce that this year we'll be continuing the tradition of co-hosting the national event with our friends at Square Mile. As is now tradition, we’ll be working together on creating a collaboration competition coffee for all participants to use on the day (as well as some to practice with in the run-up to the event).

Opening up our new Roastery space to the public for the first time, the 2016 Aeropress Championship of England will take place on Saturday 30th April and be open to 27 competitors. Each of them will not only be vying for the top spot as the national champion, but for the chance to compete at the World Aeropress Championship in Dublin, Ireland on Thursday 23rd June, 2016.

The winner will receive return flights to Dublin to compete in the finals, as well as have their accommodation covered whilst they're out there. Second place will receive a 12-month subscription from Workshop Coffee and from Square Mile, while third place will be able to come home each month for half a year expecting to find coffee from both roasters waiting for them. 

Around the judging table, with fingers poised in anticipation, will be our three judges: Workshop Coffee’s Head of Production, Richard Shannon; Square Mile’s Operations Director, Felicity Tathis; and Master of Wine and author of the book Natural Wine, Isabelle Legeron. And, as you might expect, we’ll also be serving delicious coffee from Square Mile and ourselves that hasn't been brewed by competitors, alongside exceptional beer (kindly provided by The Kernel Brewery) all afternoon. 

Tickets for competitors will be £10.00 and available from the Workshop Coffee website on Monday 7th March, 2016 at 6:00pm. Spectators are not only welcome, but encouraged, and more information on the day itself will be released as it creeps ever closer.

Saturday 30th April, 2016; 3:00pm onwards

Workshop Coffee
29-43 Vyner St.
E2 9DQ

Brought to you by:
Workshop Coffee
Square Mile Coffee Roasters
The Kernel
TKC Sales Ltd — Official Aeropress Distributor for the UK & Ireland
December 15, 2015


On Friday, you may have seen that we released Gataba, one of the latest offerings in our filter range and -- given that its tasting notes include ginger cake, cherry brandy and clove -- a coffee seemingly made for the festive period. 

However, Gataba forms just one half of a set of coffees we've secured from Buf Cafe. The second half is formed of the vibrant and juicy Miko.

Having bought from Buf Cafe since 2011, we've since seen work being done year on year to improve quality across the board , with systems being established that allow us to isolate standout lots such as these from the bulk of production. You can read more about our relationship with Buf Cafe -- one of our longest in coffee -- here. 

Both Gataba and Miko taste classically Rwandan. However, side by side, they're incredibly different from one another, offering an excellent showcase of why it is we love the country and the coffees as much as we do. In the spirit of the festive period, we wanted to give you the chance to experience these two coffees from the Nyamagabe region of Rwanda together, so you can now buy our Buf Cafe Tasting Pack online and in all of our stores from later today.

On the subject of Christmas, now also seems like an excellent time to let you know our Christmas and New Year opening hours. We'll be here for you for much of the holidays, but be sure to check our revised opening times across our stores:


Thursday 24/12: 7.30am -- 4.30pm
Friday 25/12 -- Sunday 27/12: Closed
Monday 28/12 -- Thursday 31/12: 9.00am -- 4.00pm
Friday 01/01: Closed
Saturday 02/01 & Sunday 03/01: 9.00am -- 6.00pm
Monday 04/01: Regular hours

Thursday 24/12: 7.00am -- 7.00pm
Friday 25/12 & Saturday 26/12: Closed
Sunday 27/12 -- Thursday 31/12: 9.00am -- 6.00pm
Friday 01/01: Closed
Saturday 02/01 & Sunday 03/01: 9.00am -- 6.00pm
Monday 04/01: Regular hours

Thursday 24/12: 7:00am -- 5:00pm
Friday 25/12 -- Sunday 03/01: Closed
Monday 04/01: Regular hours

Thursday 24/12: 7.00am -- 7.00pm
Friday 25/12 & Saturday 26/12: Closed
Sunday 27/12 -- Thursday 31/12: 9.00am -- 6.00pm
Friday 01/01: Closed
Saturday 02/01 & Sunday 03/01: 9.00am -- 6.00pm
Monday 04/01: Regular hours

Thursday 17/12: Dispatching as normal
Monday 21/12: Final dispatch before Christmas
Tuesday 29/12: Dispatching as normal
Thursday 07/01: Regular hours

Wishing you a very merry Christmas and, if we don't see you before, we looking forward to welcoming you back in the New Year.

December 11, 2015


At the beginning of the year, we were approached by James Whittle and Tom Caulfield, two friends that, together, make up rowing team The Tempest Two.

The pair had a bold and ambitious plan. They wanted to row the Atlantic Ocean, they wanted to do so unaided and, in the process, they wanted to raise significant amounts of money for their chosen charities, Make a Wish Foundation and Brain Tumour Research.

One final detail was that neither of them had ever set foot in a rowing boat before.

We were in.

Since pledging our support, the two have been focusing on preparing themselves both physically and – more importantly – mentally, for what is widely perceived to be the toughest endurance challenges on earth (less than 500 people have successfully completed the voyage).

That’s meant early mornings in the gym, long evenings on the rowing machine and what have no doubt felt like even longer weekends out on the Thames and the North Sea, getting in those all-important hours on the water.

Last week, we bid bon voyage James and Tom. Armed with a Porlex hand grinder, an Aeropress and as many kilos of Kasigwa as their boat is able to hold, they boarded a plane to The Canary Islands. There, they’ll be spending their final week on land making last-minute preparations and arrangements before their grand depart on Sunday 13th December.

Between The Canary Islands and Barbados (their finishing point) lies 3,000 miles of seemingly endless open water, bringing with it sharks, hurricane-force storms, busy shipping lanes and, of course, the constant risk of capsizing. Anticipating at least 60 days at sea, they’ll spend the majority of those with no sight of land as they adhere to their grueling schedule of 2 hours of rowing followed by 2-hours of well-earned rest.

We wish them luck in what will no doubt be one of the hardest challenges either of them ever had to face and have every faith they’ll achieve everything they set out to do.

As we look forward to their updates, we’ll be monitoring their progress via their tracker page and will continue to keep you updated on how they’re getting on.

If you’d like to support James and Tom’s efforts, you can do so by visiting their website here.

December 07, 2015

Roastery › Wholesale ›

Hello From Bethnal Green

Back in October, with our new Probat P25 finally in position, we fired it up and got to work. Almost every day since has been spent turning numerous batches in the pursuit of delicious coffee. 

The first stage was familiarising ourselves with a new set of controls and a new machine, establishing thresholds, sensitivities and nuances. That took around 600kg of old, green coffee that wasn't fit for release and will never see the light of day, but which served a far greater purpose; it allowed us to begin the trial roasting and profiling of our current range.

We roasted. We rested. We cupped. We repeated.

Cupping countless times each week, over five weeks, we continued to tweak our roast profiles, noting the imperfections with each batch and where improvements could be made. The goal was always to produce coffees not just as good as those being produced in Clerkenwell, but better. 

We're delighted to say that, last week, we reached that point. 

After a quick move East over the weekend, from today you'll find the whole production team in our Bethnal Green Roastery. And starting tomorrow, on the first full production day in Vyner St., we'll be roasting, packing and distributing some of the best coffee we've had the pleasure of serving.

We hope you enjoy it.