Lever Craft | Eric
ERIC | LEVER CRAFT
Eric roasts coffee, and imports and restores vintage lever espresso machines from Italy. He’s opening up a coffee shop soon!
*edited for length
SO, CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS?
I started a proper business 1 1/2 years ago. I've really been working on it for probably 2 1/2 years. Originally I started buying big old commercial espresso machines and I was fixing them and selling them to restaurants and cafes. And then I ran out of space when I moved apartments. So I needed another way to keep doing that.
I met someone here in Austin through a coffee forum and he showed me these really cool old vintage espresso machines from Italy. And they're all very small. I was like I need to find these and fix them and sell them. I met somebody on EBAY who lives in Italy. He sells me espresso machines and I buy them, fix them, and sell them.
And then I recently, almost a year ago now, started roasting coffee as well. I sell some wholesale to friends and family. Pretty small but I may be getting into some coffee shops in the next couple of months.
WHAT GOT YOU INTO COFFEE?
Coffee is really similar to wine. So the more you dig into coffee, the more you start to learn there's such a plethora of different factors that go into a good cup of coffee. When you go to the coffee shop and ask for coffee, all you're really getting is the very last step in the process of producing really good coffee. It really starts on the farm. Whoever's farming the coffee, where it's getting grown, how the climate affected it that year, it's a crop like anything else. Some years its really good...some years its not. So its like grapes in wine. There's like 5 or 6 different steps that affect how coffee ends up tasting when we drink it after it's been prepared by a barista. I just think the whole process is so complicated and interesting that most of us don't really think about. The more I've gotten into it, it's such a fascinating product…it is the second largest commodity in the world. It's just crazy to think about.
I guess I've never thought about it being similar to wine.
There's so many varieties. There are thousands of different places you could buy coffee from all around the world. All the temperate climate, rain forest climate, elevation affects it a lot...really high elevation makes good coffee usually. And then how it tastes at the end of the day. Like this cold brew which is designed to be a little darker, chocolate-y, kind of what you'd expect from coffee. And then you can do something called the nitro process, turns it into fruity almost tea like coffee. Some coffees out there taste more like tea than coffee, but they're still coffee.
Unfortunately the last time I was in Europe, I was not into coffee at the time. I was actually in Italy for a week and never really thought about it. I didn't drink coffee until after college. And that's when I kind of got the bug. Costa Rica and Miami have a specific kind of coffee that they sell called the cafecito. It'll keep you awake for 3 days. I'm actually planning on going to South America to do some exploring there.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF YOUR BUSINESS?
Honestly, the people that I get to meet. When I started, or before I really started it, I met a number of people in Austin who are super passionate about coffee and they just shared a wealth of knowledge that I couldn't have gleaned off the internet myself. And to this day, we're good friends. I think you can have a conversation about coffee with just about anybody. It's something that's so misunderstood in so many ways that it's easy to teach somebody something very simple about coffee that most people never knew. I enjoy spreading the knowledge. Definitely the people and the consumption. I drink a lot of coffee.
WHAT'S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE PART?
Maybe the challenge of making a good coffee brand...the marketing. There are hundreds of different brands of coffee out there and really good people who end up on top aren't necessarily who makes the best coffee. It's who markets their coffee the best. And that's not my strong suit so that's been a struggle since the beginning. But I've also found that people are interested in coffee like I am and kind of gravitate towards me. It's still really fun.
IS THERE SOMETHING THAT YOU WISH YOU KNEW BEFORE YOU STARTED?
Probably how much work all the taxes and everything take after creating the LLC. I've been burned a few times by not turning in things in on time. Learning that part of the business is not something you focus on when you're starting. And you get a notice in the mail that this is due why didn't you pay. Having a crash course on that would've been a really helpful thing to have.
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOUR BUSINESS GOING IN A FEW YEARS?
Actually just recently I met someone who will partner with me and work on my marketing. He came up with the idea of instead of marketing to coffee shops or offices, which to me, means spending more time behind the roaster, we should be marketing to places like breweries that put coffee in their beers and work on the higher end market where we can import higher quality coffees that cost $10, $20, $30 a pound instead of buying good coffee but something that's not super exciting to be roasting. I'm hoping to grow that side of the business. I'd love to partner with people. I love talking to passionate people that really care about what they're doing. So getting involved with breweries, restaurants, small companies and partnering with them is what I see myself doing for the next few years.
WHAT'S YOUR BACKGROUND?
My undergrad degree is in psychology. I was poised to go back to grad school after I graduated and then, the week before graduation, I got cold feet. I wasn't sure I wanted to go back to grad school, spend another $80,000 for two years to get a masters in social work. So I walked into a motorcycle dealership the next day, asked for a job and they hired me. I did that for a few years. I worked behind a desk for 3 1/2 years doing project management. Enjoyed that but it was kind of soul sucking to be honest. I've always felt like an entrepreneur, I'm always designing things, inventing things, trying to come up with new stuff so this coffee company is kind of a little bit of everything.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE THING TO DO IN AUSTIN?
I love trying new restaurants especially breakfast places. I could probably eat breakfast 5 times a day if I had the option. I love pancakes, bacon, eggs, just really everything in breakfast. I also really enjoy riding my motorcycle around. I don't do that as often anymore...I bike a little more.