Using aroma recovery to create winning RTD beverages

Aroma recovery with Flavourtech

Aroma recovery and extraction specialist Flavourtech reveals how to create great RTD beverages with the help of its Integrated Extraction System.

The Ready to Drink (RTD) market has been a focal point for Flavourtech for almost 25 years. According to Global Sales Manager Paul Ahn, the key to creating a great RTD beverage is producing a balanced and appealing flavour profile.

“A great RTD should showcase the natural characteristics of the coffee beans used, whether it’s fruity, chocolatey, or floral. The flavour should be well-rounded, without any off-notes or bitterness. These attributes contribute to the overall quality, taste, and consumer appeal,” he says.

Ahn believes an alluring aroma is also an integral part of any RTD coffee drink.

“The aroma should be inviting and aromatic, with hints of freshly brewed coffee or tea that evoke a sense of indulgence and satisfaction. The level of sweetness in RTD coffee or tea can vary based on consumer preferences or the intended target market, but it should be balanced and not overly sweet, complementing the coffee or tea’s natural flavours without overpowering them,” he says.

Flavourtech’s interest in continuous RTD processing was sparked in 2000 when a customer requested an automated, inline process that would allow the desirable notes of roasted coffee beans to be transferred from the raw material to the final product in an efficient and safe working environment.

“We designed a system to capture the natural flavours of products, such as coffee, tea, fruits, and spices, which would normally be lost or damaged in traditional processing,” says Ahn.

“The Integrated Extraction System (IES) was a great leap forward as it brought together the technologies necessary to create a premium RTD extract full of natural aroma.”

The IES is a continuous, automated processing line that allows customers to produce premium aromas, extracts, and concentrates for RTD coffee products, as well as for soluble coffee and the flavour industry. To keep the aroma fresh, a Spinning Cone Column (SCC) within the IES performs two key tasks simultaneously.

“The first is what we call the aroma strip, where the volatile coffee flavours are captured and stored. At the same time, the coffee is brewed for 30 seconds as the slurry flows through the SCC,” he says.

“The spinning cones perform the aroma capture and extraction in this short time while producing a high-quality coffee extract. The extract is then clarified and it’s ready for canning or bottling. Finally, the natural aroma captured upfront is added back to produce a full-flavoured RTD beverage.”

If concentration is required, Flavourtech’s Centritherm (CT) evaporator performs the task with a uniquely low temperature and a residence time on the heating surface of just one second.

“With such care provided to produce a high-quality extract, the last thing you want is an evaporator that may damage the product. The low operating temperature and short residence time of the CT equates to a high-quality concentrate, with the original aroma and colour still intact,” Ahn says.

Flavourtech’s Rotating Disc Column (RDC) can be added to the IES process if coffee hydrolysis is required.

“If the end target is instant coffee, a high temperature extraction unit achieving temperatures of 180 to 190°C will allow for further solids extraction in only 20 minutes. But, more importantly, the RDC high temperature extraction process comes after the aroma capture, so there is no loss or damage to the aroma that was previously captured,” says Ahn.

The IES has adjustable key parameters, such as temperatures of the different modules and steam pressures. These variables can be tailored to suit the specific requirements of coffee aroma and soluble solids extraction processes.

Ahn says this means the desired flavour profiles can be stored and easily recalled for future use.

“By incorporating these features and capabilities, the IES can be adjusted and optimised for both coffee and tea extraction processes, enabling manufacturers to produce high-quality beverages with consistency and efficiency,” he says.

Integrated Extraction System
Image: Flavourtech

Several key features of the system make it easy to operate from a technician’s point of view.

“This includes advanced automation that streamlines the extraction process, reduces manual intervention, and simplifies operation. The interface of the system is also intuitive and user-friendly, making it easy for technicians to navigate through different processes, set parameters, and monitor the extraction progress,” says Ahn.

The system is also designed with easy maintenance in mind, with accessible parts and clear instructions for routine upkeep. This reduces downtime and creates a smooth, safe, and efficient operation. To further streamline the process, Flavourtech provides comprehensive training and support, ensuring the necessary knowledge and skills to operate the system effectively are communicated to end users.

Flavourtech works closely with its RTD coffee customers to find the right solution for their business through a combination of consultation, customisation, and ongoing support.

“We begin with the initial consultation and identify key requirements and preferences, such as desired flavour profiles, production volumes, processing capabilities, and budget,” he says.

“Product trials, in one of Flavourtech’s pilot plants or on-site, assess the feasibility of different solutions, which involve testing various aroma profiles to achieve the desired tastes.”

Ahn says customers often seek ways to enhance the flavour profiles of their RTD products to meet consumer preferences and differentiate themselves in the market.

“We utilise our expertise in extraction technology to develop customised solutions that optimise aroma extraction from coffee beans while preserving the natural characteristics of the coffee,” he says.

To ensure every batch meets the same high-quality standards, Ahn says consistency is essential.

“Customers often request solutions to achieve consistent flavour, texture, and appearance across all products. Our technologies and processes enable precise control over extraction parameters, resulting in consistent product quality batch after batch,” he says.

“Overall, we work closely with our RTD customers to understand their unique needs and challenges.”

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This article was first published in the May/June 2024 edition of Global Coffee Report. Read more HERE.

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