Paper Round visits bio-bean - Blog

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Wednesday 7th February 2018

Did you know us Brits drink 5 million cups of coffee per day? But what happens to the spent grounds once we’ve finished slurping all that caffeine? We wanted to find out more…

So a few weeks ago I was invited to visit bio-bean’s facility in Alconbury to find out all about how waste coffee grounds can be transformed into advanced biofuels and biochemicals.

bio-bean is an award winning clean technology company, the first of its kind, using innovative technologies to produce bioproducts. Research and design started in 2013, trialing different ways to process spent coffee. Winning several awards and grants to help develop their technology and produce consumer products, they now collect grounds at all scales, from major coffee chains such as Costa, to independent cafes and universities.

bio-bean have produced a range of clean products. Their most popular is the Coffee Log, launched in 2016. A clean alternative to other fuels, the logs burn longer than conventional briquettes (briquettes are blocks of compressed coal dust used as fuel) and are used in stoves to heat homes.

Making Coffee Logs is simple.

Spent coffee grounds are stockpiled at bio-bean’s facility, bags are split, contaminants removed in a large tumble drier-type machine and then the coffee is dried. Grounds are dried at high temperatures, reducing the moisture content from around 60-70% to 8-12%. Once dried, the grounds can then be compressed, mixed with sawdust and made into logs. 1 log is made up of 25 cups of coffee. And for those of you who are wondering, no, unfortunately the logs do not smell like coffee when they burn!

Stockpile of coffee waste

bio-bean also produce pellets on a large scale. These are made in the same way as the logs and are sold to industrial manufacturers to fuel their machinery, for example dairy processors.  

bio-bean transformed 42,240,000 cups of coffee last winter, equating to around 8 days’ worth of coffee drinking in the UK. But they continue to need more feedstock, with the capacity to process up to a tenth of the UK’s coffee waste each year. 

Inspecting the Coffee Logs

So, what do bio-bean have planned for the future?

They continue to work on research and development which will particularly focus on the extracted oils. bio-bean are researching fragrances and flavouring which they can extract from coffee grounds. Watch this space. 

Our work with bio-bean. 

We have been working with bio-bean since 2016, collecting separated grounds from our existing clients. Grounds are commonly combined with food waste and sent for anaerobic digestion (AD). But AD plants actually hate coffee grounds! Grounds are gritty in nature and their composition can be toxic to the digesters in AD. Inhibiting the production of biogas which AD plants produce to make green energy, grounds are best kept out.  Sending grounds to bio-bean also produces 30% fewer carbon emissions than sending to AD.  

We are thrilled to be working with such an innovative partner and we cannot wait to see what they have in store for coffee grounds in the future. 

Coffee Logs

Jessica Parrilla

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