Vietnam is the world’s second largest coffee producer, with the country’s General Statistics Office estimatin undefined
g its coffee exports reached 1.88 million tonnes in 2018.
However, due to fluctuating green coffee prices, the Vietnamese Government is encouraging the industry to find new avenues to export its coffee, such as roasted whole beans, pre-ground, and instant.
Green coffee trader Tinnghia Group has embraced this idea, inaugurating an instant coffee production plant in December 2018, using technology from Germany-based Kahl Group subsidiaries Neuhaus Neotec and Devex.
Construction of the factory started in the first quarter of 2017 and took 20 months to complete, including technical installation and test operation. Tinnghia invested US$30 million in the first expansion phase of the 5.4-hectare site.
Located just outside Ho Chi Minh City, the plant – in its initial production phase – produces 350 kilograms of instant coffee per hour, or a yearly output of 3200 tonnes. By the end of 2019, Tinnghia plans to increase production to 5000 tonnes per year, with the goal to increase local consumption.
“Vietnam wants to export its roasted coffee to Asian markets, countries primarily known for drinking tea, where instant coffee is gaining popularity,” Neuhaus Neotec Head of Marketing and Vietnam Area Sales Director Lars Henkel says.
“We have a massive presence and good reputation in Vietnam and its green coffee traders now want to invest in roasting capabilities. There is a good opportunity for us to cater to this market.”
Henkel says multiple factors led to the company becoming involved in the production of the plant.
“Our Vietnamese representative, Daisy Trading and Manufacturing, has been working for us for many years now, and has developed good relationships with customers,” Henkel says.
“Tinnghia’s head roaster has also worked in the industry for many years and came from another company already working with Neuhaus Neotec’s roasters. So, he knows the system.
“Ultimately, Tinnghia knew that we already had systems in market, are successful in Europe, and our machines are very efficient regarding service and production capability.”
Neuhaus Neotec connected Tinnghia with an existing German client to vouch for its system’s quality.
“This producer is a premium German company known for producing a quality instant coffee product,” Henkel says.
“Tinnghia spoke with them about their experience with us. They felt that the Germany client was very happy with our roasting system and that supported their decision.”
Neuhaus Neotec supplied the plant with its grinder and hot-air roaster, while process technology specialist Devex installed equipment of instant coffee production. They worked closely with Vietnamese partner Vina Nhatrang to construct the plant, which supplied handling systems, storage silos, conveyors and transportation.
To roast the coffee, Tinnghia uses Neuhaus Neotec’s Roaster Gourmet (RG) 100, which features a 100-kilogram batch size and the manufacturer’s signature rotational flexible batch (RFB) technology to roast coffee.
“In instant coffee production, you often require a fast-roasting time. Our roasting system is renowned for its capability to roast faster than a traditional drum roaster,” Henkel says.
Neuhaus Neotec roasters use convection instead of conduction heating. This method transfers heat from the air directly to the bean, instead of through metal, as with a drum wall.
“This can especially reduce the drying period during the process,” Henkel says.
This speed allows Tinnghia to quickly produce large amounts of dark roasts which are popular in the Asian market. However, Henkel says this is not the only capability of RFB technology.
“Our RFB technology is well established in Europe and the United States for its ability to roast specialty coffee. You have a very fast reaction time with hot air roasting, which allows for a wide range of very interesting profiles,” he says. “There’s also no agitator which can break the beans or produce mechanical stress in the chamber. These are all the advantages of not having moving parts within the roaster.”
The key difference between the RG series and Neuhaus Neotec’s RFB batch roasters is the use of a flatbed cooler, which make the system more compact.
“Our RFB batch roasters use a cooling chamber the same size as the roasting chamber, meaning it needs more space and height,” Henkel says.
“The RG cooler, on the other hand, is an angular chamber with a perforated bottom and suction system on top. Suction of air through the chamber accelerates cooling speed and a multiple-nozzle system adjusts the amount of moisture in the bean.”
Once the coffee has been roasted, it is stored for several hours before being sent to the grinder. Tinnghia is equipped with an WMS Series coffee grinder, designed for narrow particle distribution, high capacity, and minimal service required.
After grinding, the coffee is again stored before beginning the processes unique to instant coffee production, including drying, evaporation, and extraction.
Devex takes its name from these three processes, and develops technology for these applications in not just coffee but also the food and beverage, pharmaceutical, and chemical industries.
Devex Managing Director Ulrich Niesse says it requires extensive and specific knowledge to develop this type of technology.
“Our unique performance in terms of roasting, aroma technology and options for setting parameters such as colour, particle size distribution, and bulk density for the final product have set us apart from the competition,” Niesse says.
The first stage of instant coffee production is extracting the soluble solids and aromas from the coffee.
“The main objective in instant coffee production is to produce a high-quality coffee at a high yield,” Niesse says. “Off and acidic flavours can be generated with a higher yield, so desired aromas and flavours are removed to be reintroduced later in the process.”
Post-extraction, the solids are concentrated, and the aromas are reintroduced to adjust flavour. This aromatic, vaporous coffee extract can then be spray- or freeze-dried.
“Of the 350 kilograms the plant roasts per hour, about 100 kilograms is freeze-dried and 250 is spray-dried,” Niesse says. “Freeze-dried is considered a higher quality and Tinnghia is the first Vietnamese company capable of producing it.”
Freeze drying sees the coffee extract frozen to about -50°C and granulated into the correct particle size. It then dries at low temperatures under a vacuum.
“This is done in a way that the frozen water left in the coffee sublimates as it heats, producing vapour without any liquids,” Niesse says.
In spray drying, a stream of hot air is run down a tall cylindrical tower into the coffee extract, drying out the water. As the extract droplets fall, they dry, becoming a powder by the time they reach the bottom. Once dried, the instant coffee is ready for packaging and distribution.
In order to guarantee optimum and smooth production at the plant, Devex will remain onsite to intensively train Tinnghia’s employees until June 2019.
Henkel expects investments in roasting capacities and instant coffee production in Vietnam to remain strong in the next few years and has several more projects underway.
“Tinnghia is planning to expand its production in the near future to 10,000 tonnes per year and we’re helping them take that next step,” Henkel says. “We are also preparing new plants for other companies too. Vietnam’s biggest companies trust us and our RFB technology.
“We can deliver a complete solution, from green beans coming in to the final product going out.”