Neuhaus Neotec’s sustainable balancing act

Dealing with the world’s largest roasters, Neuhaus Neotec are used to clients who are well aware of the emissions r undefined

egulations and requirements that apply to them.

While these guidelines vary vastly between clients in Western markets to those in developing nations, Andreas Juerss, Neuhaus Neotec’s Marketing Manager, says he’s noticed a certain merging of trends in recent years.

“It’s not only legal requirements that are proving attractive for roasters, but the major advantages in cost savings from energy reduction,” Juerss says. “Whatever market a company is operating in, roasters everywhere are thinking about the long term, and they’re thinking about efficiency.” 

This need to limit energy and emissions, Juerss says, is always balanced in consideration with costs. “A client knows he or she has a legal obligation to fulfil, but they also have a budget,” he says. “Our job is to find a way to consider both requirements.”

Fortunately for Neuhaus Neotec, their leading air roasting technology is known for its ability to cut down on emissions through the use of an enclosed system, while also limiting energy consumption to a fraction of comparable machines. 

Air roasting in itself, as a closed system, offers major advantages in terms of energy savings. In using an air flow to roast the coffee, the temperature is maintained consistently throughout. Because the heat is forced through the bean, it roasts in a fraction of the time of drum roasting equipment.

As leaders in this technology, Neuhaus Neotec has developed some major advancements to make the best of this process. One has been the introduction of Intelligent Control Systems. The online control system can monitor and control the entire process. Programmers can tap into the system not only to perfect the roast profile, but also to optimise the process from an energy usage perspective. This advanced programming can help reduce the energy consumed.

“With these Intelligent Control Systems, you can watch the parameters of the roasting process, and observe the temperature of the system,” explains Thomas Boeckmann, Head of Research, Development and Design for Neuhaus Neotec. “We take careful control with the storage of data and record what has happened in past roasting processes. We receive the data from the machines and do calculations in-house, to optimise the process.”

While previous systems made use of only three variables: time, temperature, and air speed, Boeckmann explains that the Intelligent Control Systems can control 21 different temperature values and air qualities at a time.

Setting these variables has as much to do with roast profiling as it does with sustainability. Boeckmann says that the advantages of hot air roasting are evident, in that the temperature of the air being pumped into the bean is so carefully controlled. Furthermore, the air process is gentler on the bean than drum roasting.

“Our clients discover with hot air roasting, as they watch the beans come out, they see that the colour is always the same. Also, they notice that we’re not smashing the beans,” he says. “Once you’ve perfected a recipe, you can repeat it one time after another.”

Because every bean is different, the company fits their equipment with Copy-Roasting units. These units are fitted with an intelligent algorithm that automatically detects deviations from ideal roasting profiles, and compensates by adjusting temperature and air quality. 

Back on the energy savings front, one major advancement by Neuhaus Neotec has been the introduction of green coffee preheating. Depending on the roasting machine used, an exhaust air temperature of 260 degrees to 400 degrees Celsius is created. This energy is recovered by preheating the coffee immediately before the next batch is roasted. This preheating reduces energy costs by up to 25 per cent, reduces CO2 emissions by up to 25 per cent, and increases the capacity of the machine by 20 per cent or more. 

Building on this theme of energy recover, Neuhaus Neotec have led ground-breaking work on making use of the energy in the roasting process for factories as a whole. This is what Boeckmann says is truly the “future” of energy recovery. With large plants spending money to contain the energy from roasting equipment, and at the same time heat up their factories, Boeckmann says it only makes sense to find a way to make the best of this energy. The system makes use of high exhaust temperatures to heat up an inlet, that can then warm up the plant as a whole.

These systems, he warns, are designed for factories that run constantly, six to seven days a week for 24 hours a day. It’s a big investment, but one that should prove attractive to large plants looking to save on energy costs while doing their part to help reduce their company’s environmental footprint.

For the emissions that are created, Neuhaus Neotec offers the optional installation of advanced catalytic after-burner systems. The company has invested heavily in developing its own Regenerative Thermal Oxidisation (RTO) system. Other catalytic converter systems use high temperatures to combust the exhaust.

“You can imagine, these systems use up a lot of energy,” Boeckmann says. Conversely, the RTO system makes use of platinum and gold particles. These particles help remove carbon hydroxide and nitrogen oxides produced in the roasting process.

Many of these advancements have come about in Neuhaus Neotec’s pilot plant. The in-house facility is equipped with a laboratory and pilot roasting machines, enabling research on how different roasting conditions affect coffee quality.

Boeckmann says potential clients can first send their samples to the plant, and the company can roast the coffee on their own small lab roaster. From there, they move onto bigger trials on fuller-scale machines, to show the client the results of the roast. 

In 2010, Neuhaus Neotec opened a new R&D centre, able to handle the entire manufacturing process from green bean sorting, roasting and grinding.

“It’s like a small production line,” Boeckmann says.

In addition to offering the latest advancements in modern equipment, Neuhaus Neotec also works with customers to fit out their old equipment to optimise energy usage levels and limit emissions.

Going back to the balance of costs and sustainability, Boeckmann says he understands that purchasing all new equipment isn’t exactly an option for many roasting operators. He notes that some of Neuhaus Neotec’s technology, such as the green bean heating unit, can be fitted to different brands of machines.

As for the future of where Neuhaus Neotec roasting and other equipment is heading, Boeckmann says it will largely depend on the customer and the direction of the industry. As a client-focused company, Boeckmann says the inspiration will always come from the needs of the market.

“The ideas are not only coming from our lab, they’re really driven by the customer,” he says.

“We believe in a high degree of customer contact, we’re always out there looking at our clients’ facilities. We get out there, and we see the problems, and we see ourselves as here to solve them.” GCR

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