Industria Macchine Ferraraese IMF s.r.l’s Claudio Borghi: Roast to toast

Story by Gary Try Claudio Borghi is a rather quiet and retiring design engineer. He is not used to acclaim, nor having a camera lens poin

ting his way. But, when asked what took him to the point of re-engineering roast technology, his eyes light up with the vision and passion of new design concepts as yet undeveloped and he will not accept any praise for his previous achievements.

Borghi now finds himself engaged in an industry that globally is under the spotlight. Like many industries, coffee roasting companies have not been immune from the pressure to cut or better monitor emissions. The pressures are causing headaches for old and new roasting companies, as the eyes of government bodies, environmental protection authorities and local council bureaucrats turn to take a long hard look at the production emissions and carbon footprint of the coffee roast industry. It could not be a better time for new accountable plant technologies to be available to a growing global market.

His close work associates claim that Borghi’s vision and enquiring nature is nothing if not broad and revolutionary. But, what bought Borghi to the pivotal position where he achieved a quantum leap forwards in an industry that was not his natural abode?

After training as an engineer, majoring in industry electronics and systems control, Borghi was commissioned by the chemical manufacturing industry. Here, working alongside industrial chemists, he was able to apply his engineering and systems management control to an industry where chemical reactions, generated heat or heat delivery and temperature control are a critical element in the successful manufacturing of volatile substances into finished and static final products. Already, we can note some parallel demands associated with the production of roasted coffee.

Borghi moved from the chemical industry to the nuclear power industry, where he applied his experience and technical engineering to another volatile substance that requires critical control – containment of chemical and elemental reaction, heat and airflow in a closely controlled environment. There can be no doubt at this point that the joint experiences of these two industries had a profound and lasting effect upon his solutions focussed mindset, that later would become applied to the control of the chemical reaction and flavour development of the coffee bean.

After government policy changed its direction for the nuclear power plant industry, Borghi moved back to his hometown of Ferrara, Italy and established IMF s.r.l. (Industria Macchine Ferraraese), consulting and specialising in automatic system control, industrial automation and robotics for the manufacturing sector. This brought him into contact with the coffee industry which demanded more effective control of the roast process. It is at this point of Borghi’s commercial career that he was challenged to apply all his previous experience to a new product and industry – roasted coffee production.

Critical analysis of the existing roast industry immediately exposed the need for change and a new and fresh approach. Borghi was faced with 40-year-old technology that had not advanced at the same pace as other industries. The roast equipment was ineffective in its use of gas and management of emissions discharge, along with antiquated airflow systems and utilisation of too much conductive heat within the roast process.

These problems posed a challenge that Borghi welcomed. His new focus was to reduce gas usage and emissions discharge, deliver more even heat to the bean within the drum, utilise more convective heat and deliver critical control of all roast elements within the roast cycle. All this, while not loosing focus on the advances of flavour profiles within the bean.

This quest has been the search for the Holy Grail, for all roast engineers throughout the last 100 years. Here, Borghi was not on his own.

Today, the IMF roaster is positioned at the cutting edge of recent advances in roast technology. Borghi’s vision of reducing gas and more effective emission-control was achieved by the development of a one-burner structure which effectively controls roast heat, recycles existing cleaned hot air and operates as the afterburner at the same time. This integrated approach achieved a reduction of 30 per cent, which can be taken to approximately 40 per cent with other set-up choices applied. No costly and additional afterburners are required and the even delivery of temperature within the drum gives back-to-back, all day consistent roasting and even delivery of bean outcomes.


“When I first took a good long look at the roasting equipment my customers were using, before I decided to design my own roasters, I was surprised to note how antiquated their equipment was, relevant to the commercial size of the coffee industry and the financial success that roasters worldwide enjoy,” says Borghi. “Not only were they unaware that many were still using 1950s technology in their roast plant, but they were also unaware of any alternative choices in technology that the roaster manufacturing companies were offering the market.

“As long as the roaster continued to operate, then they were content to continue using the antiquated technology, while still trying to produce a better product. This seemed to me to be incongruous and puzzled me for many months, until I decided to move into a solutions role, at the equipment end of the process.”

The greatest challenge Borghi faced was to engage a knowledge of the beans, the process of delivering heat to them and to qualify the chemical reactions that occur within the roast cycle. His chemical industry background and ability to think outside of the constraints of the coffee industry quickly became his best asset. Beans were tested, the roast process analysed relevant to the chemical reaction variables and soon a model of successful heat delivery relevant to physical roaster structure became apparent.

“My next task was to analyse the current roaster structures and focus on a method that could become more efficient. Once again, I was surprised at the immense amount of energy applied to the bean, to achieve so little,” says Borghi. “Afterburner structures were drawing a huge amount of gas and at a temperature that was not relevant to the desired outcome. My theory, was that if heat can be controlled, channelled and mixed with fresh air, like in other manufacturing industries, then a new roaster structure is possible with greater reduction in gas and still decrease the measurable environmental discharge.

“From my previous industry experience, I was aware that conductive heat will always pose some problems to the operator, if the desired outcome is a stable and unvarying process, in each roast.”

His feedback from the coffee industry clearly exposed the need for consistent, roast time and temperature from the first to the last roast. “I was asked to develop an automatic system that could achieve the same roast profiles, without variables, if the company decided to produce roasted coffee over a ten hour cycle, he notes.

Having come from industries that require critical, measurable analysis, Borghi approached the roaster technology in the same manner. With testing carried out at each major technological advance, he was able to engineer a complete roaster structure that incorporated all the elements of change that would offer a roasting industry a positive advance.

“The best experience in the entire process was engaging many coffee roasters and taste professionals to analyse the roasted product from the new machine,” he says. “We set up a control process, where the same blend was roasted on many different machines currently in use, then we roasted the same blend in the new IMF roaster. I did not realise that the coffee industry roasters were so passionate about their product, so I had walked into a new experience. At the end of many tasting procedures, they all agreed that there was an advance in flavour outcomes and from this group came my first clients to purchase the IMF roasters.”

With the IMF coffee roast plant equipment, being installed across Europe and the Middle East, into Asia and Australia, there is a constant learning process involved. Borghi notes that each roast plant in every geographic location and culture continues to pose a challenge that he adapts and learns from. “It is me who must fulfil the expectancy of the new roaster in a new environment and I continue to learn at each site.”

Borghi is enjoying his interaction with the coffee industry and notes that he has not finished his engineering of new roast plant equipment. “It is an industry where many components combine to complete the final outcome,” he notes. “This also allows me to take a look at the pneumatic lifters, the silo system, and most importantly, the packaging equipment that completes the production system of an industry that requires change.”

It appears that the coffee industry is set to benefit further from the creative vision of a rather quiet and retiring visionary.

Roasting facts
– Air pollutant emissions resulting from coffee roasting operations have been reported to include particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, organic acids, and natural gas combustion products.
– By controlling, channelling and mixing heat with fresh air, Borghi was able to design a new roaster structure with a greater reduction in gas and decrease the measurable environmental discharge.

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