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Why we use bikes in our business

Back in September we were invited to talk to Mark Dennison at BBC Radio Nottingham about why we use bikes in our business. The email inviting us to speak on the show included the line “businesses that still use bicycles” which made us laugh at the idea that using bikes as a delivery vehicle is a funny little quirk from the past. Although despite enjoying a giggle at that one line it was actually a really great chat about why we use bikes, what we like (freedom) and dislike (bad infrastructure), and whether we’ll continue to use bikes as we grow. I thought it was about time I got some of our thoughts on all of this down in writing on our website.

For us, using bicycles for deliveries is very much the future, and we’re not alone in thinking this. Even supermarket behemoth Sainsbury’s is trialing bicycle deliveries while Deliveroo are popping up in more and more cities following huge funding rounds to expand their restaurant bicycle delivery service.

In many European cities, cargo bikes do many of the inner city deliveries that we in the UK still use vans for. We believe it is the van model that is outdated as more and more people order goods online while space does not expand and city traffic is grinding to a halt. By using bicycles we rarely get stuck in traffic and can take many off-road scenic routes that those delivering in motor vehicles cannot.

We also have a commitment to keeping our environmental footprint to a minumum, something that delivering on bikes helps us to achieve. Last year we kept 1 tonne of CO2 out of the air by delivering by bike instead of in a small petrol vehicle. And of course using bikes is great for well-being. Before starting this business I was a desk-bound tech worker battling anxiety. Being out on the bike in the fresh air and getting regular exercise is the best medicine I could ever take.

We will continue to use bikes for deliveries. If we grow to the level where our own two sets of legs are no longer enough then our plan is to add more people on bikes to the team rather than a van. Of course on occasion we do use a vehicle, usually in bad weather or at times of illness. However we keep these to a minimum, and almost always end up staring out of the window watching a cyclist cruising by us as we sit in traffic regretting our choice.

For urban and suburban businesses with deliveries to make, we truly believe that bikes are the future. If you have a small business and would like to talk to us for advice or sharing resources, feel free to get in touch via coffee@roasting.house

 

Thanks to Mark Dennison for having us on the show.

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Make a difference with your coffee for #DoGoodFriday

This year some businesses are forgoing the imported horror show that is Black Friday and instead taking part in Do Good Friday by donating money to charity.

We love this idea and so we’ll be donating 10% of all sales made between Friday 27th November and Monday 30th November to the Emmanuel House Give a Cup of Kindness campaign.

Emmanuel House is a fantastic organisation based in our home town of Nottingham which provides shelter and support to homeless people, a service which has increased demand and importance over the cold winter period.

Head over to our online shop to buy freshly roasted coffee and support this great campaign. 

Image of cup of coffee in snow by Kalexanderson CC-BY-2.0

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Animated guide to different coffee brewing styles

We love this animated video guide to brewing coffee in different styles from &Orange Motion Design, including Aeropress, French Press, and Moka Pot. What’s your favourite brewing style?

An Instant Guide to Making Coffee from &Orange Motion Design on Vimeo.

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Meet the new member of our family: an e-bike!

e-bike

I’m not normally one for quoting (or probably mis-quoting) biblical phrases, but I’d like to start this post by saying judge not lest ye be judged. You see amongst cyclists e-bike is a dirty word and we’ve just bought one…

As The Roasting House grows, we need new tools and new logistic challenges present themselves. We planned to grow, we are growing but there are certain core principles we will always keep. One of those is sustainability.

Our Coffee Club is our most popular product and for £4.75 a delivery in Nottingham it’s obvious why. It takes us a few miles north of our base in Arnold, NG5 and as far south as Ruddington and Long Eaton. It’s a 50 mile round trip and a long day out. Split between two of us it’s slightly easier but we are human and look for the easiest method so a couple of times, mainly due to weather, we have hired a car – it’s not ideal and our total mileage for using bikes or walking our deliveries stays the same but it’s not an option we’re too happy about using even when the circumstance does warrant it.

So we bought an e-bike. It has an electric assist of speeds up to 15.5mph which won’t break any speed records but does make the hills of Nottingham a lot easier. Its range is ‘up to’ 50 miles on eco and 20 miles on climbing at full charge. The guide says it will cost about 1p per mile when assisting, and since we expect to do about 2000 miles a year on it, this will cost us about £20 – assuming we use the assist all the time. Basically it has negligible running costs.

An electric bike wasn’t really on our radar until we were working out logistics of what to do while the Coffee Club route is taking place on days of mid-twenties degrees temperature and 90%+ humidity which we have had a few times in these mid-summer months. Our first thought was the tram. With phase two near completion the furthest points the tram touches put us within 10 minutes cycling distance of our furthest customers. Mass-public-transport is green because of the amount of people it carries (even if the electric it runs on may be from dirty fuel), the amount of people within a designated space it can get from point to point is higher than other modes of transport other than walking. But walking our deliveries is impractical and the bike is such a wonderful machine not much bigger a human and designed with a human in mind it’s up there with humankind’s greatest inventions.

The tram however, wasn’t to be. Over a year ago we contacted NETTram to ask if they would consider allowing bikes on their trams during off-peak hours like they do on the Overground in London and other European countries.They said the bylaws didn’t allow them and they had no plan to change them. We asked again when Edinburgh trialled allowing bikes on their tram and they seemed open to considering it. Once Edinburgh declared the trial a success we asked again but the response was the trams are too short and they can’t make the special adaptations like Edinburgh can (although Nottingham use the exact same trams as some European cities that do allow bikes on, but anyway).

That left us considering the electric assist bike and we couldn’t be happier. Hills that had us gasping or daunting days in the saddle are no longer. Using discounts we spent £800 on our ebike to buy from new (tram fares would have been about that for the year). The battery has a two year warranty and the frame has five years.

Is it cheating? No. If we used a car for our deliveries then I doubt anyone would say we are cheating. I have never heard anyone say the package they had delivered to them got there by cheating because the vehicle used had a combustion engine run on the remains of dinosaurs dug out of the ground. Our coffee club deliveries are utility cycling rather than sport or fitness cycling (although it does keep us fit) and using the e-bike means we can now get up early, start roasting at 7am, do our deliveries, and then come back to finish the rest of the day’s work without feeling completely exhausted. It also means we can enjoy proper cycling for fun again as we still have legs left at the end of the day!

Our world is built around cars so it’s the automatic choice when choosing a vehicle but we love bikes because they are so versatile, they get to places, get through gaps and park in places no other vehicle can and with electric assist for up to 50 miles it covers more than what most cars do a in a day. If you get chance to ride one, do it; it’s an instant smile on your face. Will people care that you have an electric assist? Maybe. Will they notice? Probably not. Should you care? No.

Since getting the bike we have noticed more electric bikes on the road and we don’t think that is because in the last week lots of people have bought one. It’s because we simply didn’t notice before but now are a little more tuned to notice them. It’s a great leveller in abilities, you can keep up with traffic and other bikes on the road, you don’t arrive at your destination sweaty and you’re using a cheaper vehicle that has negligible running costs and is much healthier. If your reasons for not cycling are lack of fitness, reduced mobility, or not wanting to get to your destination hot and sweaty, an e-bike is the answer.

Without Nottingham Trams refusal to consider a change in the bylaws they wrote then we might never have been introduced to the fun of electric assist and it would have cost us more money. So thank you NETTrams. The first article we read that led us to seriously consider electric assist was this one by Richard Branson. So thank you Richard. The discounts we used to get the bike are the ones detailed here on HotUKDeals. So thank you HUKD. The bike itself is UCR 30 by Ebco. So thank you Ebco.

Right I’m off to whizz up the hill to Sherwood now 😉

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Kitchen Coffee Machines with Style

A growing area of science known as neurogastronomy studies how our brains think about flavour. One fact emerging is that food and drink really tastes better when it is made with style. Which is why everything taste better in a swish restaurant or trendy bar. Our brains add something to how we perceive flavour which goes far beyond the drink’s chemical and physical properties. This has one obvious implication. If you want the best possible coffee at home, you need a kitchen coffee machine with real style.

Luckily, we have found three coffee machines with so much style, your coffee is guaranteed to taste better.

Want Amazing Kitchen Coffee? There’s an App For That


The brushed copper and glass construction screams style by themselves but they are just window dressing for this coffee maker. From the coffee bean hopper at the top, down to the double-walled carafe, everything is designed make the freshest, most divine coffee ever. The inbuilt grinder is designed to preserve the all important oil from the beans and delivers exactly the right amount of coffee grounds needed. The charcoal filter for the water ensures it purity and the water temperature along with the grind size and brew time can be controlled. This kitchen coffee maker can create perfect coffee but what if you are not in the kitchen? Well, the app for your phone allows to you control it remotely, enabling fresh coffee to be ready when you wake up or walk in the door from work. It will also automatically order new filters from Amazon when you run low.

More: Pour Over by Poppy.

From The Wilds of Canada to Your Kitchen – Coffee For The Lumbersexual


The construction of most coffee makers does not begin by felling a tree but the Canadiano is not your average coffee machine. A block of wood, carved into a bowl, and an environmentally-friendly reusable metal filter is the sum total of this beautifully simple idea. The water and the ground coffee beans are added to the bowl and coffee drips through the filter into the mug. It’s design already proclaims style through simplicity but your coffee experience will be enhanced in another way. Over time the wood absorbs coffee oils and each Canadiano develops its own unique flavour depending on the type of wood and the coffee beans used in it. The makers recommend different woods for different beans and for the ultimate experience, to keep a coffee maker dedicated to a specific bean and roasting house. A cynical reader may notice this means buying multiple Canadianos but this is one home kitchen coffee machine worth buying repeatedly.

More: Canadiano

Coffee Sans Kitchen, Sans Coffee Shop


It is hard to grasp but there are places in the world not within easy reach of either your own kitchen or a coffee shop. These places, known as the great outdoors, even lack free wifi. For those unfortunate enough to find themselves “outdoors”, there is no need for panic. Great coffee, made with style, is still within reach. When other people pull out their thermos flasks, the coffee-lover pulls out the Minipress. This hand-operated espresso machine goes anywhere. Wonderfully compact, with its own cup, the GR model is perfect for ground coffee. Nothing portable can match a dedicated kitchen coffee maker but this compensated by the pure style inherent in brewing a fresh espresso on top of a mountain.

More: Minipresso

Kitchen Coffee Machines With Style was written by Chris Tregenza on behalf of Fitted Kitchens, Nottingham.

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Five ways to brew coffee while camping

It’s summer and that means camping season is here, Whether you’re off for a week in the wilderness or hitting the festivals you shouldn’t have to forgo your morning brew just because you’re packing light. Here’s some ingenious ways to brew up while camping:

GSI coffee brewerCollapsible coffee dripper

If you regularly like to get in the outdoors and spend the night under canvas, it’s worth investing in a lightweight coffee dripper that collapses down flat when not in use. The GSI Collapsible Drip Coffee Maker folds to a slim disc so it won’t take up any space in your bag. Alternatively, the Ultralight Javadrip is a fabric filter which clips on to your camping mug so you don’t even need to take filters, handy for those who are wild camping and don’t have any facilities to dispose of used coffee filters. Being fabric, it also packs down nice and small

Handpresso Wild Hybrid

I have been crushing on the Handpresso for a while. The Handpresso is the lovechild of a bike pump and an aeropress. Seems like an unimaginable mix, but it is very much real and a fun way to make espresso on the go. You add in the water and the coffee grounds, pump to get the right amount of pressure, and then pour a perfect espresso. You can get pre-prepared coffee pods or an adapter to use your own coffee which is far better for the environment.

https://youtu.be/aHcVbLv7APghttp://

 

Aeropress & Porlex

Of course no portable coffee list would be complete without a mention of the aeropress, It’s a little bulkier than the dripper or the handpresso, but it is very affordable, lightweight, and makes a reliably good cup of coffee every time.  If you’ve gone to the effort to pack good coffee for your trip, you don’t want to ruin it with pre-ground coffee. Fresh is best! The Porlex mini grinder is one of the most compact available and is fairly lightweight. Conveniently, it also fits inside the plunger of the Aeropress making them the ultimate coffee camping combination.

 

 

Moka pot
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Mokapot

If your morning brew of choice is a dark, rich espresso then pack a mokapot. They are slightly bulky but very lightweight and easily fit on most camping stoves and you’ll be rewarded with a really strong cup of coffee in the morning.

 

Cowboy style

And if even the weight of filters is too much for you, you can brew your coffee straight in to the water for cowboy style. You’ll need to ensure the grounds have sunk to the bottom fully before drinking and don’t knock it back to fast or you’ll up with a mouth full of grinds. Not for the faint of heart but there is something satisfying about being in the middle of nowhere and drinking your coffee rough and ready.

How do you brew up when you’re camping?

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Why we deliver locally by bicycle

We make all of our coffee deliveries in and around Nottingham by bicycle, going as far as Hucknall in the north and Long Eaton in the south. Here’s why:

1) Speed. We can roast your coffee and deliver it to you by bike on the same day, within 24 hours of you ordering

2) Cost. A regular sized bag of coffee costs £1.26 to post but only a couple of biscuits in fuel to deliver by bike. This saving is passed on to you

3) Good for the environment. Coffee travels thousands of miles to get here, giving it a hefty carbon footprint. By delivering by bike, we can at least keep the footprint at our end to a minimum. We also keep kilos of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by not using a motor vehicle to deliver

4) Good for us. Cycling is good for our mental and physical well-being. Coffee roasters who are happy make better coffee

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How to make the perfect iced coffee

There are two main ways to make iced coffee – steeped in cold water for at least 12 hours, or brewed fresh and hot then poured over ice. Each method has its benefits. A long brew over cold water reduces bitterness as heat releases the oils and chemical compounds from coffee, including those responsible for bitterness. This method gives a more subtle. clean flavour. However there is also the risk of over-extraction which counteracts these benefits.

Brewing coffee hot means that more of the coffee’s flavour and oils are released so you get more of the flavour. You can also better control the extraction and pour straight over ice at the optimum time, allowing you to get a consistently good coffee. This is Japan’s preferred method of brewing, and ours too. Here’s how to do it:

1) Choose your coffee beans. A sweet, fruity bean works particularly well, We have created a special Summer Time blend especially for iced coffee

2) Brew your coffee hot as you normally would. An immersion method that brings out all the fruity flavours of your coffee beans works particularly well

3) Fill a glass to the top with ice. You’ll need lots

4) Sweeten the coffee to taste while it is still hot as the sugar dissolves better

5) Pour the coffee S  L  O  W  L  Y over the ice

6) Give the coffee a good stir to ensure there aren’t any hot spots. Add any extra ice as required

7) Enjoy!

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Three coffees to help you get through Monday

Aarrgghh, the alarm is blaring! It’s Monday, you’ve hit snooze twice already and you know you’ll do it at least twice more. What you need is a good cup of coffee. Here are our three best beans for brewing up a Monday morning cup of goodness.

Tiger Stripe

If you’ve tried Tiger Stripe before, you’ll know why it’s on this list. If you haven’t, try it and you soon will. Tiger Stripe is a blend of 70% arabica beans for smoothness but with a 30% robusta kick. Robusta beans are naturally higher in caffeine than arabica beans but have a bad reputation for being on the bitter side so by blending the smooth qualities of arabica with the fierce bite of robusta, you get the perfect fuel for your Monday morning. Best drunk in a short, sharp espresso

Daterra Mellow

Don’t let the name fool you – this coffee is mellow in name but fiesty in nature. The beans are specially bred to give a smooth, mellow flavour with just a hint of sweetness, however they also pack a good caffeine quota, giving a pleasant buzz to your morning. Perfect for those who prefer a longer drink and a more subtle but still effective pick me up. This would be a good choice for brewing up in a cafetiere to enjoy at your desk.

Old Brown Java

Deep and dark in flavour, Old Brown Java are coffee beans which have been aged and weathered to create a rich flavour that holds its own against milk which can drown out the flavour of a weaker coffee. If you like milk in your morning brew but still want to taste the coffee, this one is for you.

Buy all three together and save £4.85

 

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On speaking out on cycling issues and road danger

I’ve just read an article by Sophie Heawood in The Guardian and it echoed something I’ve been thinking for a while. In her piece, Sophie says “We’ve become used to living in a world where BBC broadcasters can’t say what their politics are; where religious leaders get into trouble for having thoughts on how we lead and look after each other (a recent poll found that, actually, 44% of us want our religious leaders to speak out). But it sometimes feels as if even the politicians don’t want to talk about politics either; or about, you know, what they actually think.”

She’s talking about how bland politics has become, with politicians too scared to say that they are passionate for something, that they stand for something in case it offends some imaginary group devised in their focus groups.

I often find myself pondering something similar when it comes to our stance on cycling issues and road violence. If we criticise people who drive cars, we lose social media followers. This sometimes makes me think that we should avoid it, and only tweet positive things about coffee. Of course sometimes anger gets the better of us both and we take to Twitter to have a rant. But this is something that we feel passionately about and which we think that we should speak out about. We’re out there cycling every day just trying to run a business and deliver coffee and every single journey we come home talking of close passes and bullying. Some journeys, we come home dripping blood and bruised. We do a lot of miles so statistically we’re going to have more problems than your average cyclist. It is incredibly important to us that the roads are safer and that there is good cycling infrastructure – we couldn’t run this business without it. We also have friends and family out there riding bikes and we want them to return home safely too.

So we will continue to speak out on this matter, and it may occasionally lose us some followers, but cycling has also helped us to find ‘our people’ – we’ve made good friends and many of our customers also cite the fact that we deliver by coffee and speak about cycling issues as reasons for choosing us.

The internet and the world in general would be a worse place if we were all silent on things we truly care about for fear of offending some unknown person. We perhaps have some work to do when it comes to finding the right balance, but we will continue to speak out about bad infrastructure and dangerous driving. And we’ll continue to share envy-inducing shots of drinking coffee by the river too. We hope you’ll stick around.