One of the largest and most popular parks in Edinburgh is the Meadows, located just to the south of the city centre. It is a favourite with tourists, families, dog walkers and urban ramblers. With most parks, however, should a coffee thirst hit one’s options are usually limited to a sketchy coffee cart or the nearest Starbucks. Luckily, Edinburgh is different: only a minute’s walk from the edge of the Meadows, located on Brougham Place between a tattoo parlour and a big hedge, is Machina Espresso.
Machina has garnered a reputation for not only supplying excellent coffee, but an enormous range of brewing equipment, drinkware and paraphernalia as well. You can walk in for an espresso and walk out with an espresso machine. Cups and Chemexes line the walls, alongside hand grinders, tampers and various brewers. It’s a coffee geek’s paradise, and they will make you a delicious cup as well.
It’s a small cafe, but never feels cramped. The bar obviously dominates the space, situated on the right side as you walk in, while the walls are lined with shelving to support all that glorious coffee gear. The shop front is mostly window, letting light stream back to the cosy alcoves beyond the bar. Light wood furniture matches the bar and shelves, and serves to keep the space feeling bright and airy.
Seating is comfortable, and even when the place is full (as it was on my visit) it doesn’t feel overwhelming or claustrophobic. This can be a problem for smaller cafes, trying to cram in as many tables and customers as physically (or legally) allowed, but the ratio in Machina is spot on. It feels bustling and lively rather than uncomfortable and crowded, a tricky thing to pull off.
Machina roast their own coffee off site and know how to train their staff: the barista who served me was extremely knowledgable and enthusiastic about her company’s coffee, another good sign. I began with a shot of the washed Ethiopian Bokasso, and it was, frankly, stunning. It has been a long time since I’ve had a single origin espresso which has impressed me as much as this: it was blackberry sweet and sparklingly bright, with a complexity and depth that is so often missing with Ethiopian espressos.
I wanted to try it as a pour over to see how it compared to the espresso, but sadly they were completely out (clearly it is quite popular). Instead I decided to try a pour over of the natural Rwanda Kilimbi, which was also excellent. It had a syrupy mouthfeel and notes of strawberries and cream, with a gentle, intriguing brightness tinkling over the top.
Machina really know their stuff, stock everything you could ever need to brew at home, and are clearly deeply passionate about their coffee. The cafe is elegant and simple, the atmosphere is welcoming, and should the sun come out you can get your coffee to go and head down to the Meadows for a stroll. That being said, I would recommend that you stay and savour your espresso, because damn.