The I.O.W Espresso Co. is the Islands leading supplier of commercial espresso machines, hand roasted artisan coffee and ancillaries, barista training, water treatment and espresso machine servicing. This family business was born from a lack of support for the speciality coffee industry when we started out in event catering over 20 years ago. We quickly realised that we knew more about coffee than our suppliers and so the I.O.W Espresso Co. was formed, initially importing Astoria Coffee machines and Bristot coffee from Italy. Training then became part of our services and in 2006 we opened the first Caffe Isola in Newport as our own flagship Artisan Café. Within 18 months we had out grown our tiny take away shop and moved to larger premises in Pyle Street where there was room for about 20 covers and much more retail than we had space for before. That’s when we started to explore roasting coffee, and after much research, training and practice our first shop roaster went into production at Caffe Isola in 2010.
But demand for our Island Roasted® artisan coffee quickly grew, and in 2013 our trusty Diedrich IR12 was put into production at a new roastery site just down the road from Caffe Isola on the banks of the River Medina. In 2014 Island Roasted® was awarded Wight Marque status, a scheme to highlight products that are genuinely produced on the Island. By coincidence, we stumbled across a vintage Vittoria 20kg roaster in Sicily whilst visiting family and the offer was too good to turn down so we snapped it up knowing that there would be a time when a bigger roaster was needed and slowly started restoring it.
By now we had also out grown our Pyle Street shop and the search began for larger premises where we could do something special. We needed more retail space just as much as we needed more covers and ultimately, although we intended to keep wholesale roasting separate, we wanted enough room to bring some roasting back in front of our customers. The search seemed to take forever but finally in 2016 the iconic former Beavis building came onto the market, and although it needed a massive amount of work, we new straight away it was perfect for a roastery cafe and retail space. 18 months later we finally opened the ground floor cafe and local produce store just before Christmas 2017 and the response was amazing, with the first floor retail gallery opening a year later in December 2018.
Again our wholesale production was growing so the original plan was to put the now restored Vittoria 20kg roaster into full production to free up our trusty IR12 to go to Caffe Isola to become a display piece and profile roaster. But during relocating the roastery to a bigger building earlier in the year, the two roasters ended up running side by side for a while and we instantly realised they were far to powerful as a pair to split up, giving us a production capacity of upto 500kg a day if needed. So the hunt then began for a suitable roaster for Isola and a Diedrich IR5 seemed the obvious choice as it could be used to profile new coffees ready to scale up to the IR12 but was big enough to do retail batches, allowing us to concentrate on full batches at our wholesale site. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time when our friends at Diedrich UK decided to sell their show room model which had only be used for a few competitions and training courses. And our latest restoration project is an early 80s petronccini 120kg roaster which will give us the capacity to expand over the next 10 years.
We’ve come a long way since our humble beginnings in coffee, now employing over 25 people and roasting nearly 40t of coffee a year!
WHAT WE DO AND HOW WE DIFFER
With the rise of the “Artisan” buzzword some of these larger brands are trying to jump on the band wagon by implying their products are artisan when in fact they couldn’t be further from it. We are true artisans, roasting coffee is as much an art as it is a science. We hand roast our coffees in small batches using drum roasters to allow the coffee time to develop its true flavor, rather than high speed automated roasters used for mass market coffees. The latest technology is used to visualise and meticulously record all aspects of the roast so that once the optimum profile has been determined for a particular coffee, it can be referred back to, ensuring consistency for future batches. 100% of the control of the roast is with the operator meaning adjustments are made based on knowledge, skill and experience, not mathematical formulas of automated systems.
Only the highest quality coffees are sourced, ethical and sustainable coffees are premium and exactly what we look for as a craft roaster, Direct Trade routes are used where possible ensuring the producer gets the highest price for their dedication. This is another area where we really differ from the mass market coffees of the large brands and chains. Our coffees are sourced from farms typically producing anything from 6 sacks/yr (1 sack = 60-69kg depending on origin) upto about 300sacks/yr. The big brands producing thousands of tones of coffee a year need much larger volumes of coffee meaning they have to use lower grade coffees to get some level of consistency resulting in lower prices for farmers and a lower quality product.
We produce a range of high quality espresso blends to suit different tastes, predominantly used by the trade in cafes and restaurants with the option of private label for customers seeking something bespoke with their own branding. We also produce a range of seasonal single origin coffees more often used by retail customers using home brewing methods such as filter, pour over, aeropress, siphon and cafetiere etc.
We work closely with other island companies, such as promoting other Wight Marque products that compliment what we do, like Briddlesford Farm milk which is great for latte art. Watch this space for some interesting coffee collaborations with other Wight Marque members later this year! We also use other island businesses as much as possible, from web design through to our label printing.