To some, coffee is a necessity, a luxury, a pleasure; to others, it’s an art. Paul Ross might fall into all of the above categories. As the founder of Special Guests Coffee – a London based coffee company that showcases world-class baristas and producers – he’s someone who lives, drinks and breathes coffee.
After spending some time on the professional circuit (Paul is a two-time Barista Championship winner), he was keen to share the “incredible, rare and acclaimed coffees that don’t always reach the wider market”, with more people at home. Bringing these brews out of specialty coffee shops and into the home means more accessibility and a greater connection with the source ingredient. Think: better tasting coffee and way more incentive to take the time to grind, pour, brew and relax over your morning (or maybe afternoon?) ritual.
We asked Paul for some tips on home-brewing, how he likes to host at home and what ordinary object has such a special significance in his kitchen.
What made you want to get into the coffee business?
After studying, I took a part-time job to pay the bills whilst I figured out what I wanted to do. From there I learnt more, loved what I did and so never left.
Can you tell us a bit more about Special Guests and how you work?
During my career I've been in the fortunate and privileged position to work with world-class coffee professionals throughout the coffee chain, from producers at origin to baristas on the bar. This has meant that I've had access to incredible, rare and acclaimed coffees that don't always reach the wider market. Special Guests is about sharing these experiences, opening up the world of high-end coffees and sharing the best cups of coffee we can through our subscription, online store and events.
What’s the best food to go with coffee?
Good question! I must admit I rarely have coffee and food together, but it would definitely be a flat white and a pastry.
What’s your coffee ritual at home – are you a pour over, percolator, French press or Aeropress kind of person?
Every morning I make a pour over - my go-to is either the Orea or Fellow brewers. Both are fantastic. Either that or an espresso, depending on the coffee we have in the house.
What’s the best way to store coffee beans to make them last?
Oxygen is the enemy; once coffee is exposed to oxygen it begins to degrade. When the bag is opened you want to store it in a sealed container or in the bag if it has a seal. I keep my coffee in a sealed bag, in a cupboard out of direct sunlight. Also, I'd always recommend buying less coffee, more often rather than bulk buying as this is another way to keep it fresh and at its best.
As a professional barista, can you give us any tips for making championship-level coffees at home?
It’s difficult as everyone has different set ups and there are plenty of methods to make great coffee. At its core, like with cooking and other things, the quickest way to improve overall quality is to buy better ingredients, in this case, coffee.
But, without spending anything more, I'd recommend:
- Using fresh coffee between 2 weeks and 8 weeks from the roast date, as this is where I've found the most flavour potential
- Weigh the coffee and the water used (I use a 1:16 ratio, coffee to water) and time your brew - keep consistent when you've found what works
- Check out Youtube, it is a great library of knowledge and a great place to learn
How do you like to host at home? If we were coming over, what would you be cooking?
It would be a dinner with friends. My current obsession is learning Italian classics, super simple to make but hard to master. And I’d go dessert over starter. So a pasta dish, a salad or two in the middle to share and tiramisu to finish.
Can you tell us about an ordinary object that has a special significance in your kitchen?
My favourite object is my kitchen knife. It is something that I want to keep forever, something that I use on a daily basis and makes each day a little easier and more enjoyable.
What’s your favourite piece in the Monoware collection?
The grain bowl (Chalk)
What’s a dish that reminds you of home?
A roast at Christmas
Your favourite cuisine?
Best song/album for a dinner party?
I'll leave the playlists to someone else - mine are awful.
Portrait by Oliver Hooson