An environmental revolution in coffee-roasting is about to arrive in Britain - the machine promoted as ‘the greenest coffee roaster in the world' will be launched in the UK during the first week of October.
Coffee roasting, while an extremely skilled process, has always suffered from its environmental image. It creates a vast amount of smoke, and a very distinctive smell - most ‘industrial' roasters have had to contend with objections from their neighbours, and ‘roaster-retailers', the shops who roast small quantities of coffee on retail premises, have suffered a particularly high number of complaints.
The answer, according to the Loring Smart Roast company from California, is its new Kestrel 35 machine, which will be distributed across Europe through a new company, Smart Roast Europe, formed by Chris Glossop and Steve Penk, the two men who brought La Spaziale espresso machines to the UK.
An energy survey by Pacific Gas and Electric in the States has concluded that the Smart Roast system uses only 20% of the energy required by a conventional roasting machine of a comparable size, and the target for the new European company is to persuade coffee roasters to upgrade to a cleaner and more economical system.
Technically, there are certain major differences. In a conventional drum-roaster machine, the coffee beans are placed in a drum which rotates, rather like a cement-mixer, in heat. This, says Smart Roast, is too energy-intensive, and so it has devised a system whereby the drum remains in one place, and an internal paddle agitates the beans.
Many conventional roasters use an ‘afterburner' to burn-off particulates in the exhaust to achieve cleaner emissions. This, says Smart Roast, is an expensive, environmentally-damaging and inefficient solution, because the afterburner can use six times as much fuel as the bean-roasting process itself, and consequently produces up to six times as much carbon dioxide. In the Smart Roast, there is no afterburner, but the exhaust is re-circulated within the machine and burns off its own waste.
There is also a claim that the machine works on a lower-oxygen basis than conventional roasters, and that there is a distinct improvement in coffee taste as a result.
It is also suggested that significant grants are available to assist in the purchase of such equipment.
The Loring Smart Roast will be demonstrated to the trade at James' Gourmet Coffee roastery in Ross-on-Wye over the first weekend of October. Places are by invitation, enquiries to 01246 454400.
By Ian Boughton