Coffee Lessons with Federal

Federal do brunch so well they have to serve it all day, but when they're not smashing avocados and toasting sourdough, coffee is pretty high on the agenda.

By Tim Alderson | Last updated 9 February 2017

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Federal do brunch so well they have to serve it all day, but when they’re not smashing avocados and toasting sourdough, coffee is pretty high on the agenda. I have to admit to being a bit of slave to the black stuff myself, but I’m also a bit of a purist and rarely stray far from my usual espresso – or maybe a double if I’m feeling really adventurous. People tell me there’s much more that can be done with those magical beans though, so I went down to meet Federal barista Tom Stevens to see if I could learn how to tell a cold brew from just any old brew. 


I’ve done a bit of wine tasting before and never been tempted to spit any of it out so as to avoid getting drunk. It just doesn’t seem right to waste alcohol. On the other hand I was slightly apprehensive about an afternoon spent drinking loads of super strong coffee, so I resisted the temptation to finish my first brew – a classic espresso made using the Hodson blend of beans. It was beautifully complex though, with a discernible apricot aroma.


Delicious as it was though I was here to learn, and if you thought a V60 was a Swedish-built 5 door estate you’re about to learn something too, it is also a conical cup shaped pour-over coffee dripper. Add a paper filter and some of your favourite ground beans and you’re good to go, I tried the Ethiopian Wote blend. Using this method allows some of the more delicate flavours of the coffee to come to the fore, in particular there was a prominent scent of black tea.


It was more than a bit hot on my visit to Federal, so I was really hoping to try something cool and refreshing, step forward the cold brew – and no that isn’t just the coffee you made this morning but forgot to drink. Cold brew is essentially a filtered coffee that takes time, 18 hours to be precise if you use Tom’s method. I do enjoy an iced coffee but often find it tastes a bit bitter, and sugar just spoils the flavour for me, so I was intrigued to see what the cold brew could bring to the table. The longer process actually allows more of the bean’s natural sweetness to permeate in to your drink, giving it a lovely refreshing flavour. I guess this stuff would have to be good for people to bother spending 18 hours making it, but after a taste I’d say it’s time well spent.


The aeropress is a tool for your coffee aficionado on the go. It might look a little bit silly but it’s quick, easy to clean and makes a great brew. The pumping method aerates the drink giving a much lighter coloured drink as you can see from the cups on the left above, they’re made using the same beans as on the right. This also brings with it a smoother flavour and so wasn’t my favourite to be honest as I prefer my drinks a bit stronger, but give it a try if you enjoy something a bit softer.


I needed a nerve settler after all that coffee, a little stiffener to cancel out the caffeine, however the Federal espresso martinis are pretty legendary, and I figured one little extra espresso wouldn’t do me any harm. It turns out there’s a special ingredient that sets Federal’s martini apart, Mr Black’s Coffee Liqueur, an Australian made spirit that is produced using cold brew coffee. Basically if you find yourself on the wane this drink is the ultimate pick me up – and it tastes pretty sweet too.

So there you have it, turns out you can pour, pump, drip and brew your beans to get all different kinds of flavours as a result. Maybe next time you’re in Federal hold the flat white and try something new.

9 Nicholas Croft, Manchester M4 1EY

0161 425 0974