Sustainability – and environmental sustainability as one of its key elements – is now high on the agenda at specialty coffee symposiums. The Sustainability Council of the American Specialty Coffee Association has recently published a comprehensive green guide for coffee industry stakeholders. Does this mean we are finally on the verge of a major shift towards greener coffee business practices?
Many steps can and should be adopted towards reducing the environmental footprint of the coffee industry (specialty or not), from farmers, through roasters, to consumers.
For its part, Coffee-Tech jumped the green bandwagon from the very beginning in its commitment to energy efficiency and toxin emission reduction. It is about time the choice between atmospheric and premix burners becomes a vital part of the debate.
An atmospheric burner is a self-aspirating burner that mixes fuel together with primary air supplied in atmospheric pressure (think your average gas water heater). In a premix burner, air is forced into a mixing chamber where it is mixed with fuel in just the right amount, before the mix is projected into the combustion chamber.
Most shop to mid-sized roasters on the market use atmospheric burners. Presumably, atmospheric burners are easy to modulate and cheap to produce. However, they are a source of pollution caused by incomplete combustion. Premix burners, on the other hand, ensure complete combustion, with toxic byproducts falling down to minimum.
The number-one concern to bear in mind when you are on the lookout for a new roaster is certainly: how efficient will my coffee roaster be? This is very much the same as asking: how polluting is my burner going to be? A roasting machine does not just release noxious gasses through a tall chimney high into the atmosphere. Roasting is practiced indoors, meaning, you are literally part of the ‘environment’. Whatever toxic gases are ultimately produced, you and your machine are both breathing it.
As dedicated as we are to superb coffee, a passion for roasting should not expose you to high concentrations of toxins such as carbon monoxides (CO) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) – the chemical compounds responsible for making acid rain and smog toxic. To put it simply, atmospheric burners should be banned, the next logical step being: well-designed premix burners.
A premix burner combined with an efficient projecting nozzle has ultra-low NOx specs. It also produces energy efficiently while eliminating soot accumulation in the drum – soot which is otherwise absorbed by your beans. Every one of Coffee-Tech’s roasters utilizes a premix turbo gas burner. This is to say, Coffee-Tech has been practicing environment-friendly roasting from the very beginning. The environment we keep in mind crucially includes all of you roasters within the roasto-sphere.
More on the indispensable topic of burners in an upcoming post…