New roastery will showcase latest coffee technology
WE’VE all knocked back a coffee first thing in the morning.
Whether it’s in the comfort of your own home or a coffee shop stop on the way to work, most of us don’t function properly without it.
But how much do we really know about our cup full of caffeine? A lot of people won’t even know where their beans are roasted.
As one of Wales’s biggest coffee brands move sinto its new roastery and coffee house, it would appear that, whether people know much about coffee or not, there are big things happening in the industry in Wales.
The finishing touches are being put on Coaltown Coffee’s new roastery when we arrive in Ammanford – ready for its grand opening last Monday.
“It’s a live roastery,” explains founder, Scott James. “Where our roastery differs from others is that it’s completely accessible. We want to showcase the whole of speciality coffee, right the way through from roastery to preparation.”
Independent coffee roasters Coaltown started life in the shed belonging to the founder’s parents.
Back then founder Scott, who was just a teenager at the time, was roasting coffee using a homemade piece of kit that his dad knocked up using repurposed materials.
The roaster’s fan used to be housed in a Ford KA.
Since then, Coaltown has become a global brand, and is now calling Foundry Road in Ammanford home.
Coaltown employs 20 people and was recently named one of the best places in the world for a coffee.
And this new 4,000sq ft roastery is huge compared to its last place.
It has taken just over a year to refurbish the site, and Scott explains that the old roastery was around a quarter of the size.
Scott, now 25 years old, has seen his small coffee business expand massively, but he is keen to keep it rooted in the heart of his hometown.
The company has sold coffee all over the world - New York, Taiwan, Australia, for example – but to the owner and founder, it is important to give back to Ammanford.
Coaltown already has an espresso bar just down the road, in one of the town’s shopping arcades.
It is a small, but welldesigned coffee shop, that seems to be a hit with the locals. But that isn’t enough for Scott.
Once the roastery is up and running, there are plans to run a coffee academy, which he says he is hoping to launch in January. He is looking to train people in all things coffee, before helping them find work in the industry.
“My life has changed since I was 18 or 19 – I kind of grew with the company and so has everyone else,” said Scott.
And that’s important to him – he wants to see people change and develop.
“The academy is happening in January,” Scott said. “All the training is done here [on the training espresso machine] and when they are ready we will release them onto the espresso bar with a barista.
“They are with us for six months and then once they have got to a certain level, we let them pass on to our wholesale clients as trained baristas.”
He adds: “It is a lifestyle as well as a job and we are absolutely passionate about bringing people in and giving them purpose and finding something they really enjoy.
“Even the academy members, if they don’t love coffee, they at least get the ability to learn people skills and confidence in themselves.
“It’s a great community and industry and people really love it. And it’s great to see that.
“That sense of community is hugely important to Scott, and something he wants to nurture in Ammanford.
The new roastery is essentially split into two sections. There’s the coffee-drinking part, and the coffee-roasting part.
The public will be able to see the production in motion, from the comfort of a stool around either the espresso bar or the V60 (that’s a type of pourover filter coffee brew method) station.
“Essentially, what you usually find, is the roasters and baristas are quite separated in the industry,” said Scott. “We want to try and bring those together. Unify those two roles.”
And using high-end, latest innovations is something Coaltown are really keen to do. The better the technology, whether that’s roasting or brewing, the better the coffee, after all.
“So what we have got is two bars side-by-side,” Scot explains. “We’ve got espresso preparation and a pour-over bar. We want to try to showcase the most up-to-date coffee technology.”
At the espresso bar, the coffee machine looks like a single tap – but it is actually a specialist piece of kit. It is called a Modbar ABR, and it is a modular under-counter espresso machine, meaning all the clunky stuff is hidden and customers see exactly what the barista is doing.
It’s the first one in Wales and second in the UK.
The V60 station will see customers sat around the “semi-retired” 12kg roaster that Coaltown used in their old roastery.
It will still be in use and customers will have freshly roasted and cooled coffee beans in their pour overs.
And while that roaster is in semi-retirement, Coaltown’s new jewel in the crown is the Probat UG75 roaster that can roast 75kg of coffee an hour and was built in 1958.
“They don’t make roasters like this anymore,” Scott tells me, before passionately explaining how
Picture: Jonathan Myers every piece of the machine works.
It is mostly all constructed from cast iron, which is rare. It also helps roast the perfect coffee, along with all the other technical features that to the average person would probably mean very little.
But this roaster wasn’t cheap. It is a rare bit of kit; something that Scott and his team have been trying to get their hands on for a while.
It cost £120,000.
At the moment, Coaltown roasts 6-700kilos of coffee a week. But with its new kit, there is plenty of room for this to grow.
And that coffee is bagged within an hour of being roasted and distributed to wholesale customers within a day. So it is a fairly quick turnaround of coffee.
When asked what day to day life is like at a coffee roaster’s, Scott laughs: “I wish there was a routine!”
He adds: “We start super early in the morning and we have production schedules. On different Coaltown days of the week we have different schedules for different lots. All the coffees we have are seasonal. My role is quite varied because mine isn’t a production roaster role – it’s sales – but it is also green coffee procurement as well.
“So we do a lot of cupping, [cupping is the fancy term for tasting the coffee] to see what we want to source. We do that twothree times a week.
“We don’t hold stock here. Everything you see on the shelves is from this week. That will be gone by tomorrow. That’s quite special. Having this outlet we can sell to people and they can see it.
“It is going to be different here, with the public coming in, but we will try to keep it quite separate.”
Scott’s always been into coffee. Growing up, his parents ran a cafe and he says that is where his caffeinated love affair started.
“I was brought up on coffee, in my parents’ cafe,” Scott said, adding: “I just loved it.
“I saw my first roaster when I was nine and I have ended up buying it. I got it for posterity. It was the first roaster I had ever seen. It’s just nice to have.”
Back when Scott set up Coaltown in 2011, he said the coffee scene in Wales was dire.
But he says it has come on massively over the last few years, though he admits he still wants to change Wales’s attitude to coffee.
“I want to bring the London scene to Wales, 100%, and that’s what we’re very passionate about,” he said.
“The design and style of the roastery is very Brooklyn, Shoreditch-orientated. That’s what I want, people to come here and go, ‘Eh?’, ‘What?’.
“We want to break down the barriers with coffee and demystify the whole industry really.”
Scott James, founder and owner of Coaltown Coffee Roasters