Coffee, what else? – The Next Biofuel

published May 25, 2016
2 min read


Are you an avid coffee drinker who is also concerned about how  impact on the environment? Well, did you know that that same coffee you drink from your local coffee shop or office produces so much waste that could be used as a form of alternative energy? Bio-Bean, a UK start-up, has something to say about that as it takes the production of renewable energy to a whole new level – creating energy from coffee ground waste left behind in coffee machines, using it to make advanced forms of biofuels.

The London-based award-winning clean tech company, Bio-Bean, is at the forefront of turning coffee ground waste from cafés, instant-coffee factories, and office blocks across the UK into carbon-neutral biofuels: biodiesel and biomass pellets.

What is Bio-Bean?

Co-founded in 2013 by the award wining designer and entrepreneur, CEO Arthur Kay, Bio-Bean is the first company in the world to industrialize the waste recycling process of coffee grounds into biofuels and biochemicals. Arthur was also named as the Shell LiveWIRE Innovative Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013. Bio Bean aims curtail the negative consequences associated with global warming, Bio-Bean taps into the existing energy and waste infrastructure of the UK to create awareness for the need of increased waste collection and disposal and also a clean and inexpensive way for consumers to gain access to renewable energies.

This increases production of local renewable heat sources for increased environmental sustainability in the United Kingdom such as biomass pellets can be used to fuel biomass boilers, and Bio-Bean also produces barbecue charcoal from coffee ground waste. The coffee ground waste products offer considerably friendly and environmentally friendly energy alternatives without compromising your total energy output; therefore, you are ideally paying less for more energy by using biofuels made from coffee instead of common alternatives, such as wood and fossil fuels.

How Much Coffee Ground Waste does the United Kingdom Produce?

LondonOn average, the UK produces more than 500,000 tonnes of coffee ground waste per year. London alone produces the majority of this waste, accounting for 200,000 tonnes of coffee ground waste from coffee shops, coffee factories, retailers, etc. per year. That’s a whopping amount of coffee going to waste every year in the United Kingdom! With the help of Bio-Bean, these coffee shops, factories, and businesses receive reduced disposal cost benefits whilst Bio-Bean collects the coffee ground waste at thus reducing the cost of coffee ground waste disposal overall in the UK. This results in increased savings of about £10 million of the total amount spent on disposal which is approximately, £53.2 million.

Once the coffee ground waste is collected, it is recycled and transported to the 20,000 square foot factory, which opened in 2015, where 50,000 tonnes of coffee ground waste can be processed per year. Here the collected coffee ground waste is converted to biodiesel fuel and biomass pellets. Once the conversion process is completed, these fuels are then sold as a means to power businesses and transportation in London.

With a population of approximately 8.7 million inhabitants and bustling hub filled with a variety of businesses, recycling waste from coffee grounds via Bio-Bean’s collection method instead of using incineration or landfill disposal would allow for  for 7.8 tonnes of CO2 emissions and 5.3 barrels of oil to be saved in London, thus reducing the environmental effects of greenhouse gasses for current and future generations across the UK.

From Coffee to Biofuel: The Conversion Process

pellets (1)Cambridge is home to Bio-Bean’s processing facility. It is estimated that Bio Bean’s processing facility can process up to 30,000 tonnes of coffee waste per year. At the processing facility the ground coffee waste goes through a sifting process and is then dried to remove any excess moisture, allowing it to be hammered easier via a mechanical press. It is then mixed with organic solvent in order to remove plant oils and any coffee smell that is left over. These are then compressed into pellets that can be burned for heat generation in boilers and stoves that require biomass fuel sources. The first phase of the extraction process consists of oils from the coffee grounds being extracted, and then in the second stage they are converted into pellets. The great thing about using coffee grounds waste to create second generation fuels compared to first generation crop based fuels, is that they do not use crops as a source of fuel. By not using crops as a fuel source this does not affect agricultural production of food sources for humans or livestock.