Level up your home coffee game

Black Sheep Restaurants’ Head Barista Gabe Phanoulas knows good coffee. He also knows, however, that not everyone has the money or the inclination to shell out for the proper equipment. Here are his tips and tricks to lift your home coffee skills without the cost.

  • Choose your weapon wisely. For a good home espresso machine, you need to spend a lot and have some barista knowledge so these aren’t practical for most people. Aeropresses are hard to get right and a bit of a novelty, so I would opt for either a moka pot (cafetière), a simple French press or a V60 coffee dripper. In addition, I’d definitely recommend investing in a handheld grinder, as they aren’t crazy expensive and you’ll taste the difference in freshness. Buy one here.


  • Buy whole beans where possible, but, if they’ve just been roasted, don’t use them straight away. Beans should be aged seven to ten days after roasting as there is a lot of gas released in the settling process which will affect the flavour and mouthfeel of your coffee. Grind fresh for every brew, but if you aren’t quite ready to start grinding your own, go to a reputable roaster where they’ll grind your beans to the appropriate coarseness for your brewing method.


  • If you store your beans properly you’ll end up with a much fresher tasting cup. Many people put their beans in the freezer, but this risks freezer burn and, when you come to grind them, condensation on the beans results in a mushy grind. Ideally you want to keep coffee beans somewhere dry and at around 15 to 18 degrees, a red wine fridge is perfect if you have one. They’ll keep for about eight weeks in optimum conditions. Ground coffee, even when well-stored, has a shelf life of seven days (once it has been ground it is much more susceptible to oxidisation, and will release all the good aromas and gases that contribute to the flavour and body of the cup).


  • Never use boiling water! A good rule of thumb is to let the kettle sit for a minute to cool a little. Temperature is a key element in extracting the right flavours. Read the how-to guides and play around.


  • Don’t be shy. If you find a cup of coffee you like, ask your barista about it. We’re all coffee nerds and always happy to talk about what we’re brewing.

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