Sage's "Coffee Guru", Luke Powell, dishes on his at-home coffee routine, his must-have appliances and his favourite coffee city.
Tell us about yourself and your role at Sage? How did your coffee career start?
My coffee career started, in what sounds like an antiquated way now, when I walked into the first coffee shop I saw upon arrival at university and asked for a job. What I didn’t realise at the time was that my boss was a UKBC judge and leading light in Northern Irish coffee. Eight months later, I was entering my first UKBC heats and extremely confused as to how I’d ended up on a stage, instead of studying for my first-year exams. From there, I was involved in coaching and competing, generally learning everything I could about coffee, certainly more than the philosophy degree I was studying for. As with most time-honoured stories, after falling in love with coffee, I fell in love with a girl, she wanted to move to London, we moved to the big smoke, and I have been happily living and working in various parts of the speciality coffee industry ever since. Throughout all this, I always had a love for the equipment and machinery being used and lusted after the commercial machines I was selling for use in my own home.
This drive to allow people to drink third wave speciality coffee at home is my function within Sage: helping any and every one understand its importance, but also finding new and innovative ways to let people in on the secret that there’s no mystical art to great coffee and you can have those same wonderful experiences at home with the right equipment, knowledge and raw materials. My official role is Head of Coffee EMEA, although it was originally Coffee Guru, a title I haven’t yet earnt, but I am endeavouring daily to uphold.
Sage Appliances Precision Brewer
What does your at-home coffee routine look like?
Depends on the day! Working for Sage, I get a pretty extensive selection of industry-leading equipment to play with but my most common is a V60 Pour-Over
. This would usually be brewed on a Precision Brewer
but I made the mistake of lending this to a friend at the start of lockdown to play with and haven’t had the heart to ask for it back.
Outside of this, I have both a Barista Pro
and Dual Boiler
for when something with a little more body is required — or I want to make sure I haven’t forgotten how to brew espresso. Outside of filter, my drink of choice would be an Oat Flat White — trying to find the perfect alternative milk
has been a background preoccupation and area of curiosity for as long as I can remember.
I’m also a huge fan of tea, usually drinking 2-3 infusions of a White, Green or Pu’erh. I wish it was treated with the same deference as coffee (at home and in coffee shops). Nowadays, I simply get up, press grind on my Smart Grinder
(I set the time to give me around 30g) straight into a rinsed V60, fill up my Precision Brewer with 500g of water and press Brew on the Gold mode. If I was feeling particularly fancy or someone had shared a more specific recipe, I’d try this out on the My Brew mode. Now I do the same but with a kettle, like a caveman.
Do you have a favourite coffee city?
I’ve had so many wonderful experiences drinking coffee around the world and spent so much time dragging people to far-flung areas of a city to get a good cup of coffee but London is still the best
. What makes London so special: you don’t have to hunt down great coffee; it just sneaks up on you. You can be walking down a secluded backstreet in an industrial estate in North London and pow
there’s a barista lovingly honing their craft.
Every time I go back to an area or place there’s a new delight, like going to the wrong floor on the lift in the Tate and all of a sudden realising alongside the best views of London you can also get roasted in house speciality coffee and even brew-it-yourself Gongfu style tea.
The competition and attention to detail as everyone tweaks and tones their offerings makes it stand out. I’m sure if I lived somewhere else and had spent the same amount of time getting lost, I’d have similar experiences, but I can’t imagine it would be as consistently surprising and captivating. Some other honourable mentions would be Antigua in Guatemala for the odd colonial vibe and thriving coffee scene, or Tokyo where you can get a can of hot coffee 24/7 or find coffee shops that exert a level attention I’ve never seen before. This juxtaposition is exciting.
Behind-the-scenes: Sage Appliances x The Global Coffee Festival
What's Sage's involvement in The Global Coffee Festival 2020? What can viewers expect?
We’re the Home Rituals Sponsor, at a time when Home Rituals hold a far greater value to most. You can expect the best and most passionate people in the industry teaching you tips, tricks and just showing off with Sage equipment. Think, a lovely mixture of applicable guidance and a window into how they think about coffee. There will be masterclasses on Espresso and Alternative Milks but also some never seen cocktails you can follow along to. In addition, we’ve challenged all the most cutting-edge brunch merchants to make parts of their menus so you can start to see what can be achieved with a little know-how, some wonderful fresh produce, and a few Sage Appliances.
What are the coolest things you can do with Sage Appliances that people don't know about?
All Sage Appliances have a function that will surprise you. We’re always asked to: Listen. Obsess. Innovate. Test. Refine and Design. This culminates in machines that have a multitude of tiny design decisions that help alleviate pressure point or common problem experienced by the end consumer. It sounds corn, but our products offer ‘moments of joy’ that are born out of our quest for absolute perfection. From the 3-second heat up time on the Barista Pro, to realising I didn’t need a scale anymore thanks to the Razer Tool (the amount of time spent using different coffees tamping, weighing and razoring only to find time and time again it was 18.6g=19g ), or watching (for far too long) as my tea basket slowly lowered in the Tea Maker to perfectly infuse my tea leaves.
I quickly became the person who brings appliances on holiday with me so I can cook waffles for everyone for breakfast or takes vac-pac’s other people’s dinner parties in order to sous vide. Every single appliance will have a function or feature that changes your life, some in a tiny way and others (the ability to have speciality espresso on demand) in a much more pronounced way.
If there was one thing I’d want everyone to know it would be that the same level of love, care and attention to detail goes into all Sage Appliances and they can all offer that same moment where you catch yourself gushing to a friend about a kitchen appliances as if you’ve just brought home a new puppy.
A Sage Appliances breakfast set-up
How can someone step-up their at-home coffee game?
Buy a Sage Machine (Espresso or Filter) and check out your local roasters to get freshly roasted quality coffee beans.
Some hard-earned tips would be:
- Buy fresh speciality coffee
- Try different ratios of coffee and coffee to milk until you land on a drink you like. Really milky, super frothy, super short espresso? No one can tell you what you like but be sure you’ve put in the work to figure it out. Feel free to ask your favourite coffee shop what they do, and then you can grab some coffee and replicate their recipe at home
- Don’t be afraid to try new things but keep a note of the parts you liked so you can hone both your palate and avoid buying coffee you don’t like
- Listen to the machine, it seems weird, but the manual has loads of amazing information from people who know A LOT about coffee but also made the machine, its guidance is invaluable along with all the tools it comes with.
- Wash your jugs, everyone always wants to learn how to do Swans and Tulips right away, but latte art is down to consistency. The machine will get you micro foam but you still need to make sure you do the same things every time so you can learn faster and enjoy the experience more
What are you most excited about for GCF 2020?
Obviously, everything Sage is involved in and, without sounding biased they are all going to be great! The London and Paris city tours are an interest as I don’t think I’ll be allowed to visit any of the other cities any time soon. Finally, the Plant-Based Barista Masters
, I personally drink plant-based milks and have always found so little information on how to get best results. So, learning more and seeing what can be down with them is exciting.
Catch Sage at The Global Coffee Festival from the comfort of your home on 30 October 2020 — register for your FREE ticket today!