Espressology: Under the radar


Espressology has been working with some of the industry’s largest names for the past 10 years, roasting private label for customers who seek the bespoke company for its quality driven approach and consistent results.

Some businesses are carefully orchestrated with five-year plans, while others grow organically out of a passion that turns into a profit. For Espressology Founder Instaurator, the creation of his roasting business happened completely by accident.

“After 40 years working in the coffee industry, I had people still asking me to help them out and roast for them. Business was always from word of mouth, but I didn’t take it seriously,” Instaurator says. “I was busy consulting for a large company, and roasting on the side wasn’t my main income. In the early days, it was simply my travel fund to attend various industry events around the world. But after a few years the business snuck up on me. I realised if I put more serious systems in place, I could make a real go of it.”

Espressology was born in 2008, in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), a time Instaurator admits was economically “quite scary” for business owners. But what didn’t change then, nor has now during the coronavirus crisis, is the customer’s devotion to coffee and community when times are tough. 

“I remember hearing back then, after the GFC, that the amount of coffee consumption didn’t go down, only the location in which it was drunk changed,” Instaurator says. 

Instaurator has worked in the specialty coffee industry for more than 35 years.

“Going into this crisis in March, we took the gamble that the government would keep Australia Post operating as an essential service to deliver products to people at home in lockdown if they couldn’t get to cafés in person. Preparing for that has helped our clients and enabled us to weather the storm and bounce back to normal operation. In fact, customers supplying regional areas and those doing online sales have boomed.” 

Espressology has a strong national client base of mid-to-large-scale customers who seek out the Sydney-based business for its private label roasting. Notable customers have included Seven Miles and Doppio Or Nothing (DONE), among many others.

“[Roasting private label] is definitely one of our points of difference. We made a conscious decision from the start that we didn’t want to compete against our customers in the market. It was a practical approach for us to take. We wanted to do business with integrity. It’s the model we’ve done from the start, and it’s worked well for us,” Instaurator says. “When our customers come to us, we want to roll the red carpet out for them.”

Customers can have their own personalised printed packs with logo and branding with as little as 100 bags, or as large as pallets allow.

Instaurator says most customers come to Espressology knowing exactly what they want from a blend or a single origin estate coffee, yet each interaction demands a tailored approach. 

“We could simply share the blends we have in the factory and demand customers pick one, but that’s not what we’re about. It’s always a collaborative experience because it’s not about sharing our blends, it’s about your blend as the client, and creating what you want. Taste preference is flexible, but we never compromise on quality,” Instaurator says. 

When customers join the Espressology team, they are introduced to Rob Murrell, Instaurator’s brother-in-law, who is in charge of client management. He takes the time and care to listen to the needs of customers before helping develop the right blend. It could be a blend to suit a large office, a café chain, or a small wholesale business that needs help taking their product to the next level.

“We had one customer with a five-kilogram shop roaster who was roasting wholesale. He was doing a good job roasting a couple of kilos each week. But before long, his volumes grew, and he was roasting 40 hours a week. Someone suggested he give us a call and now we’ve taken on the roasting of his blend, his bread and butter, which we now deliver straight to his door while he continues to roast single origins himself and retain his title as ‘a roaster’,” Instaurator says. “The arrangement changed his world. He got his life back on track and now he’s got a good business model.”

Back at Espressology’s methodically clean roasting premises in the Sydney suburb of Seven Hills, a 120-kilogram Probat roaster, five-kilogram Renegade roaster, and Proaster sample roaster are used to carefully create each blend with the assistance of roasting software Cropster. There is no pre-blending, with Espressology opting to post-blend for a maximised flavour outcome.

Espressology’s new 120-kilogram Probat roaster at its Sydney warehouse.

“Most customers will have a coffee in mind that they really like, and we try to match it for them. If they can’t pick the existing blend versus the one we’ve created in a blind tasting, then we’ve done our job,” Instaurator says. “We can also work with customers to create a completely new blend that reflects their taste, and chase the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow together.” 

Espressology can also supply Swiss Water Process decaf beans, certified organic coffee, drinking chocolate, and chai latte powder.

Instaurator says the Australian coffee industry has gone through its fair share of roasting preferences, from dark-roasted Italian-style espresso to ‘Melbourne-inspired’ lighter roasts that are more acidic and fruit-driven. That was before alternative brewing had its time in the spotlight again, but regardless of what’s in vogue, Instaurator says it’s important to listen to customer preferences.

“People think that the coffee industry is an established old industry, but it’s very young compared to the wine industry. If you ask for a white or red wine, you won’t be criticised for your choice, it will probably lead to a more sophisticated conversation. Yet there’s still attitude in coffee around preference, and debate about what retailers should be serving,” Instaurator says. “It should represent want the consumer wants, which is simply a rock-solid, reliable, good coffee delivered without attitude.”

In the Australian market, milk-based coffee still reigns supreme, with roasters committed to chasing flavour consistency. 

Instaurator recalls attending a Specialty Coffee Association Expo lecture in which the American operator of a cookie company told attendees that the business could specialise in fruit-flavoured biscuits if it wanted, but instead made 80 per cent of its cookies with chocolate because “it’s just what people want”. 

“My wife has kept the doors of her café open throughout the coronavirus, as well as operating online, and in that time she’s just served really consistent, strong, rich coffee with milk. Her clientele has kept growing and she’s attracted new business,” Instaurator says.

Instaurator has chased flavour experiences around the world. He was the first Australian to attend a Cup of Excellence (COE) competition in Guatemala in 2003. 

“The best way I’ve built producer relationships over the years is through COE. It gives you access to growers who are focused on quality. You meet one person and it springboards you to further connections,” Instaurator says. “The toughest part, however, when attending the COE awards ceremony is choosing who to pick as the winner of your business. You wish you could buy from everyone. It’s heart wrenching and a lot of pressure when you have to make a call and choose just one.”

Espressology is featured on the cover of the October 2020 edition of BeanScene.

As well as a committed buyer of COE, Instaurator has judged the event in Nicaragua, Brazil, and Bolivia, which he recalls as one of his most memorable origin trips to date. 

“Bolivia was just such a different experience. We were in La Paz, the world’s highest city, and there were oxygen masks in the hotel reception – I had really bad altitude sickness,” Instaurator recalls. “We drove to one of the farms I was hoping to buy coffee from, but to get there meant we had to go down the world’s most dangerous road [the North Yungas Road], a narrow dirt strip with a 1000-foot drop to one side.”

Instaurator’s travel plans are sidelined for the minute, but Espressology’s former head roaster John Tucker (now with Scion Coffee) has been travelling around South America, researching and building his farmer relationships to start  his own green bean supplying business.

“To have that depth of relationship with producers at origin is really a full-time job to maintain on-the-ground. John is that right person and we look forward to working with him,” Instaurator says.

Instaurator has attempted many businesses endeavours over the years, some with success and others not, but his world-renowned reputation for coffee tasting and management expertise has taken him on a journey as a specialty coffee roaster for more than 35 years. 

He has established roasting businesses abroad and on home soil, and now through Espressology, Instaurator is committed to helping Australian customers realise their own growth potential, and chase their coffee dreams.

This time around, Instaurator says he’s created a “smarter business” that gives him the ability to grow the roastery and “free the coffee entrepreneur within” thanks to a very smart team led by his well-trusted right-hand man, Ged Ryan.

“That means we can let our customers focus on their business or their passion, whether that be going to origin, running a café, or developing new systems – the fun stuff. Let us deal with the hard things – the quality control and consistency of your coffee. We’re here to make our customers’ lives easier. We’ll even ship coffee direct to cafés or have them on a pallet ready to collect. Whatever they need,” Instaurator says.

He too has found balance in his own life. Instaurator hopes the next five years will be an opportunity to watch Espressology grow while he paddle-boards as many new surf breaks as possible.

“I want to see Espressology reach its full potential,” Instaurator says. “We have a factory that uses only a fraction of its capability. If we can achieve that, then it’ll be a total win – and I’ll enjoy the moment with a cigar and whiskey.” 

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This article appears in the October 2020 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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