Caffebene teams up with Neuhaus Neotec to up the stakes in Korea’s specialty coffee market

With more than 1000 stores in 12 countries around the world, Korean coffee roaster Caffebene is always looking for ways to differentiate itself from the competition in the highly competitive specialty coffee market. Established in 2008, Caffebene is now one of Korea’s leading specialty coffee chains, and has recently expanded its operation into other markets such as the US, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Mongolia, and Saudi Arabia. When it was upgrading its production facilities in Yangju City in 2014, Caffebene was looking for roasting technology that would help to keep up with growing demand, as well as setting its product apart both in terms of quality and consistency. Like most roasters in the specialty coffee market, until that time Caffebene had been using drum roasters for its coffee beans, says the company’s spokesperson, SY Yoon. However, when it started to research the different technologies available, the company was intrigued by the unique solutions being offered by German roaster manufacturer, Neuhaus Neotec. “At this stage, common consumers did not know about Neuhaus Neotec’s RG100 roaster, as this type of roaster was not even that familiar to many people within the industry,” Yoon tells GCR. “Caffebene was the first company try the new roasting method in the roasted-bean coffee market in South Korea, so our first task was explaining this different roasting method to our customers, its value and superiority to as many people as possible so they knew and trusted the value of Rotational Flexible Batch [RFB] roasting.” Unlike the drum roasters used by most players in the specialty coffee industry, the Neuhaus Neotec technology utilises a different method of coffee roasting that gives operators a whole new level of control over the quality and consistency of their product.
Using RFB technology, the RG100 is specifically designed for specialty coffee roasters. The RG100 pairs top bean quality with high flexibility, and is simple and reliable in operation. Both high-density and low-density roasting is possible in the RG100 roasters. The preheated air flowing directly through the product ensures a particularly gentle roasting. By means of a simple adjustment of the air quantity and temperature an unmatched variety of coffee roasting is achieved. The unique construction features no moving parts in the roaster and cooler, guaranteeing low maintenance costs. The roaster consists of a gas burner, a fan, a roasting chamber with the instrumentation necessary for full process control, such as measuring of air temperature and product temperature, and an exhaust system complete with cyclone. After roasting, the coffee is discharged into a fluidised bed cooler. At the beginning of cooling, the coffee can be quenched with water for rapid cooling. With the new plant now installed, Caffebene has increased its production capacity to almost 8000 tonnes per year, which translates into approximately 1.5 million cups per day, or 550 million cups of coffee per year. Yoon says that the advantages of using the RG100 were immediate for Caffebene. “The biggest change was the energy saving compared to production volumes,” he says. “The production capacity of one RG100 roaster is superior to that of the three old drum roasters we were using, but at the same time we have reduced our energy costs by one third.” Yoon says that the increased efficiency of the RG100 has also led to time savings which has in turn increased the quality of the finihed product. “The short roasting time minimises the loss of coffee aroma that occurs during the roasting process,” he says. “When it comes to cooling the beans, the RG100 is also far quicker and more efficient than the drum roaster, which also preserves the coffee’s aroma.” With the RFB system bringing a completely new technological approach to Caffebene’s roasting operation, the company worked very closely with Neuhaus Neotec to overhaul their plant equipment. “They introduced other automatic systems such as a green bean silo, a roasted bean silo, conveyor transportation system, destoner, sorter, dust collector which is all interlocked with the RG100,” he says.
Neuhaus Neotec worked closely with the installing company and the gas company, coordinating the communication between all of the engineers. “The installation of the RG100 roaster was successful due to the professionalism and technical knowledge of Neuhaus Neotec’s supervisors and engineers,” Yoon says. “They also provided comprehensive training to our staff for safety and stable operation.”
With more than 800 stores in Korea, and a strong focus on building its roast and ground coffee business, Yoon says the installation of the RG100 has given Caffebene a considerable advantage over its competition. “Caffebene opened the new roasting plant in order to supply high quality fresh-roasted beans to our stores around the world,” Yoon says. “However, due to the revolutionary nature of the technology we are using, we are now planning a free tour through the factory for our customers to educate them about the advantages of RFB roasting, which we call ‘air roasting’, compared to drum roasting.” As part of its efforts to differentiate itself from the competition and raise awareness about its methods among its customers, Caffebene has now also integrated messaging about its air-roasting techniques into its marketing activities. “Caffebene is now carrying out broad scale marketing such as printing the words ‘Air Roasting’ onto our paper cup holders, adding medium roasted coffee as a new menu item, and making an animation that explains RFB roasting.” These efforts to promote the new production methods are in addition to the fact that the Caffebene facility is the first of its kind in Korea to obtain HACCP, ISO 22001, ISO 14000, ISO 9001, Halal, and Organic certification. All of these initiatives, Yoon says, have been enacted with the ambition of continuing Caffebene’s extraordinary growth, both within Korea and around the world. “We have great expectations for more growth on the global market and, by extension, we aim to become a representative of the Korean coffee franchise industry from this project,” he says.

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