Coffee Kev: nickname or job title? For Poynton’s Kevin Lewis, the former became the latter when his hobby turned into a whole new career

‘For me, coffee was always a complete hobby,’ says Kevin Lewis, founder of coffeeblog.co.uk, where he has a yearly readership of 1.2 million people, and host of Coffee Kev, on YouTube, where he has over almost 11,000 subscribers and more than 1.6m views on his regular coffee machine reviews.

Great British Life: Now he's working with Brickoven, Kevin can prepare and film up to four YouTube videos in one day, hopefully giving him his weekends back, though wife Lisa remains scepticalNow he's working with Brickoven, Kevin can prepare and film up to four YouTube videos in one day, hopefully giving him his weekends back, though wife Lisa remains sceptical (Image: Brickoven Media)

‘I’ve always been into coffee, since I was a little kid. I grew up in Macclesfield, with the house backing on to Leadbeaters reservoir; I used to go on fishing trips, from about 10 years old, and I’d pack a flask of coffee and I think that’s where the coffee thing came from. It was always instant, of course, it was only in my 20s that I started getting into freshly brewed coffee.

‘In 2015 I was just starting to try different types of ground coffee, and Lisa, my wife, gave me a new cafetiere for my birthday, which is when I got into the home barista hobby.’

Home barista? Does one invite friends and write their names on a cup?

‘It’s a term for those getting really nerdy about coffee,’ Kevin smiles. ‘Getting into home espresso machines and speciality coffees. There’re probably more types of coffee than there are wine – there origins, and varieties, and processes, there’s a lot to it. There’s a phrase: “going down the home barista rabbit hole”, because you don’t realise how much there is to it.’

Great British Life: The move to Alderley Edge was driven by the need for a silent filming locationThe move to Alderley Edge was driven by the need for a silent filming location (Image: Brickoven Media)

It was the performance of the cafetiere that sent Kevin even more deeply down the rabbit hole.

‘I was writing a review of the cafetiere on Amazon, and I ended up with this big review and thought, what am I doing, putting this on Amazon when I can create my own blog and make this my first blog post?’

It’s not the first thing most people think of when writing an Amazon review, to be fair, but Kevin’s professional role as a marketing manager, and so understanding of online marketing and search engine optimisation, perhaps had something to do with that.

‘I had no other hobby,’ he says, ‘so it just went from there. I never thought it would ever be more than a hobby, though. I was aware of affiliate marketing and partnering with brands through Amazon, but I always saw it as just a bit of extra income, a sideline, if anything, I never considered it could end up being my job.’

Great British Life: The walls in Kevin's Alderley Edge studio may look like brickwork, but are in fact wallpaper murals created by his old print firm employers, Meshtex, in PoyntonThe walls in Kevin's Alderley Edge studio may look like brickwork, but are in fact wallpaper murals created by his old print firm employers, Meshtex, in Poynton (Image: Brickoven)

As for many, it was the pandemic, and the change in working circumstances, that pushed Coffee Kev’s side-hustle to the next level.

‘It was the perfect storm, everything happened at the same time. Google did an algorithm update, which levelled the playing field between individual bloggers like myself, people clearly knowledgeable and passionate about the subject, and the huge brands such as Good Housekeeping. So whereas I was usually sitting on page two in Google search and all the big guys on page one, that changed very quickly. Also, there’s a snowball effect, in blogging. Every piece of content you write is a spinning plate - when it’s online every post you put up there is always accessible and can always be found and read. I definitely benefitted from the snowball effect, with more and more content on my site. At the same time lots and lots more people were looking at coffee machines to use at home, Googling ‘best coffee machine for...’, etc, and suddenly I was top of page one.’

It’s fair to say Covid and Google united in Kevin’s favour, creating an audience and giving that audience access to his expertise, but it is his ability to hold that audience that has cemented his success.

Great British Life: Working with a professional production company takes pressure from Kevin's timeWorking with a professional production company takes pressure from Kevin's time (Image: Brickoven Media)

‘The way I write, and the content I had already developed, means that people, once they land on my site, stay there for a while, which demonstrates to Google that once people find my site, they have found what they’re looking for. There’s no click bait, none of my reviews are sponsored, so once they arrive, they stay to learn and make a buying decision.’

In March 2020, during the first lockdown, Kevin launched his YouTube channel, posting one video a week. There is some crossover between his blog and his YouTube audiences, but on the whole they separate into those who like to read, and those who prefer to watch, doubling his reach.

‘It’s very similar to my blog,’ he says, ‘and there is occasionally some crossover, but I do see them as two separate things.’

As well as reviews, Kevin does the all-important ‘how to’ videos, a godsend to those of us who can’t remember, or who have never learned, how to do anything from basic DIY to changing a battery in a key fob.

Great British Life: Brewsters are a growing tribe, giving Kevin the opportunity to grow a hobby into a businessBrewsters are a growing tribe, giving Kevin the opportunity to grow a hobby into a business (Image: Brickoven Media)

‘The highest viewed video of mine at the moment is how to clean a particular Sage coffee machine, with over 100,000 views.’

It is his increasing following that triggered Kevin’s move to a tiny studio in Alderley Edge, where a day at the office is accompanied by nothing more than the sound of birdsong, his coffee machine doing its thing and his wife, Lisa, who gave up her job as a teaching assistant in January this year to manage Kevin’s admin and help respond to the many emails he gets from subscribers every day. Having decided working from his Poynton home was impossible, and an office rental in Cheadle too impacted by the sound of planes going over, a space in a converted farm building in Alderley Edge provides all he needs, now he has finally taken the leap to take Coffee Kev from hobby to full time career, working with Brickoven, a pro production team based at Media City.

‘In August 2020 I realised my income was suddenly sufficient to go full-time,’ he says, even now with some degree of surprise. ‘But I wasn’t sure if it was just because of lockdown and the sudden surge in coffee machine purchasing. By February 2021 we’d decided it wasn’t just a flash in the pan and I handed my notice in. Even then I was concerned – was it all Covid-related, would it all ebb away as life returned to normal? But it’s not changed, home coffee is on the map.’

While Kevin may not review coffees, he has launched his own collection of ground coffees for coffee lovers.

Great British Life: No more daily grind. Oh, wait...No more daily grind. Oh, wait... (Image: Brickoven Media)

‘The Coffee Works has been a personal project and has been done through research with my subscribers every time I had a decision to make; I did a series of polls on everything from what type of bags I should use to what tastes people wanted - from chocolate and caramel notes to zesty and floral.’

Kevin’s coffee site is quite the revelation – who knew coffees could be described in such terms? But then, if wine can be given tasting notes from leather to honeysuckle, why not coffee? And like wine, there is a history and an art to the growing, roasting, grinding and brewing of coffee beans (which aren’t even beans, but seeds, I learn) that can produce a myriad of differing results.

‘I work with a small, independent coffee roaster and spent a lot of time with them finding the beans that would give my customers the flavours they said they wanted in the polls. There are 16 in the range, from Cacao Uganda – really powerful, like a smack in the mouth, almost like a spoonful of unsweetened cocoa – to one we call a Fruitcake Blend, which is spicy and earthy and gentler, more rounded.’

Chatting with Kevin, over a his own quite delicious Choc & Nut coffee, is just fascinating; an eye-opener to our history with coffee, the vast industry behind getting the millions of jars of instant to our supermarket shelves, and the gentler, more customer-focussed side of the business, with independent growers, roasters, and retailers producing something people want to talk about, over a coffee, of course – not to mention the baristas and bloggers bringing enlightenment to us all. I am now hooked – not on caffeine, but on coffee, and all that comes with it.

Follow Kevin on coffeeblog.co.uk, and discover his coffees at cworks.co.uk