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Applied Thermal Engineering 23 (2003) 10331044

Case study

Waste heat recovery in a coee roasting plant

Michele De Monte *, Elio Padoano, Dario Pozzetto
Department of Energetics, Via A. Valerio 10, 34127 Trieste, Italy
Received 3 September 2002; accepted 6 February 2003

The paper presents the possibility of introducing, in the event of substitution of an old plant, the recovery
of heat produced during the roasting process of coee.
During the analysis, thermo and uid dynamic operating parameters of the present plant were dened
also with the support of an experimental measuring campaign. Energy recovery possibilities were, then,
evaluated and a possible plant solution was examined taking into consideration its economic feasibility.
The case study is also interesting because the methodology used for the analysis can be generally applied
to production plants, which have hot air exhaust emissions. Waste heat recovery, actually, is an important
topic not only for its economic benets, but also for its environmental outcomes and resource saving.
 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Energy balance; Food industry; Waste heat recovery; Case study

1. Introduction
Coee roasting process is characterized by a heating process, from ambient temperature to a
level greater than 200 C, of raw coee beans. The heating process is usually performed in a
roasting drum by means of a hot air stream, which comes from a burner fed with natural gas
(drum roasting). The most critical parameter during the process is the temperature, which aects
roasting degree and aroma. In drum roasting the process can take 1520 min at 200 C. Roasting
must not be pushed too hard to increase aroma since there is a risk of decreasing it given the
volatility of many of the aromatic components [1]. Another problem of drum roasting is due to
the carbonization of the roasted cha which creates volatile products that deteriorate coee

Corresponding author. Tel.: +39-40-558-3259; fax: +39-40-558-3812.

E-mail address: (M. De Monte).

1359-4311/03/$ - see front matter  2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.


M. De Monte et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 23 (2003) 10331044

quality and originate oil and char deposits on the cylinder walls and on the beans. A possible
technological solution is represented by spouted bed roasters which make it possible high temperature/short time roasting processes [2]. After such phase, a cooling process is performed to stop
reactions and changes primed into the bean by the above phase.
Exhaust gases exiting from roasting drums and cooling basins contain PM, N2 , CO2 , steam, O2
and a mixture of other 700 volatile compounds (VOC like ketones, aldehydes, pyrroles, furans,
pyridines, etc., nitrogen and sulphur compounds). Such emissions can be strongly reduced, in
accordance with US and European legislation on air quality and on industrial plant emissions, by
the use of cyclones for PM and thermal oxidizers for volatile compounds. In particular as far as
the VOCs were concerned, the insertion of a post-combustion stage at about 500600 C for the
roasting and cooling exhaust gases was foreseen as a possible solution [3]. Such option was then
discharged because the existing plant, that presented already a high level of exploitation, was
considered not able to satisfy the growing demand of companys target market. Therefore, a
complete substitution of old units was considered as a better solution than a partial refurbishing.
In the occasion of such substitution, the amount of thermal energy needed for the process and
high values of temperatures measured at the stack suggested to evaluate the possibility of including a waste heat recovery system. The analysis and the proposed solutions are reported in the
following sections.

2. Roasting process and plant description

Roasting is the process which gives aroma and avour to the coee and the nal result depends
greatly from bean quality and from roasting degree. The process is characterized by a heating
process of raw coee to temperatures higher than 200 C, that is suciently fast to allow water
elimination from beans.
In detail, the process is composed by the following phases [1]:
A drying phase, that is an endothermic process which covers the rst half of the whole procedure, to eliminate completely moisture.
The roasting phase, that primes a set of pyrolysis reactions which cause the transformation of
forerunner compounds to hundreds nal compounds characterizing coee aroma and avour.
Chemical reactions in the beans are also characterized by an high release of CO2 (512 l/kg of
coee [1]), produce a bean color changing (beans become brown) and cause a growing of bean
volumes (which increase of about 4060% depending from the roasting level) and a related decreasing of coee specic weight. The primed process is exothermic in its rst step, for temperatures starting from 160 to 190 C; then it becomes endothermic with the release of volatile
compounds and, at the end, it is another time exothermic in the temperature range between
210 and 220 C (very close to coee re point). Final roasting temperature inuences not only
quality and quantity of aroma compounds, but also the correct ratio between bitter and acid
The cooling phase, that puts down rapidly temperature to ambient level using a cold air forced
ow. The speed of temperature decreasing is another important element inuencing nal coee
avour: many aroma compounds, actually, can leave the roasted bean if it is left at high tem-

M. De Monte et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 23 (2003) 10331044


perature. If the bean is rapidly cooled, instead, its inner pressure decreases quickly and its pores
close, imprisoning a greater amount of aroma compounds.
The roasting plant considered in our study is composed by four roasting drums, which are
controlled by a central station. The roasting units are of two dierent types, with the main difference related to production capability and thermal energy absorption. Before this system, core
of the whole production process, there is a set of systems useful to select coee beans, to compose
the correct mixture and to eliminate foreign materials. After this system, instead, structures for
weighting coee, eliminating metal bodies (metal detectors) and packaging it are present.
From the central control station it is possible to control, for each machine, the following parameters:

pressure and temperature of the prime burner for heat generation;

coee temperature inside roasting drums, during the whole process, and into drum hopper;
temperature of exhaust gases exiting from drums;
temperature of coee into cooling basins;
weight of coee charged into drums or discharged from cooling basins.
The common elements composing each roasting machine of the plant (Fig. 1) are:


drum hopper;
burner for heat generation;
cylindrical roasting drum with horizontal axis of rotation;
cooling basin with forced air ow;

Fig. 1. Schematic of presently installed roasting machines.


M. De Monte et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 23 (2003) 10331044

some cyclones for dust separation;

a re extinguishing system using water.
The considered machines perform a discontinuous process: their time cycle can be chosen in the
range between 400 and 800 s, depending on the wanted roasting level. For this reason the considered plant has more than one unit to guarantee a sucient continuity to the following process

3. Experimental measures
In order to dene a system with lower emission values and with the possibility of energy recovery, it was necessary, in particular, to examine the temperature courses and ow rates of
exhaust gases, exiting from the roasting and cooling stacks of the existing plant. Such information
was important to dene plant running conditions from a thermal point of view.
So, temperature course and air ows were measured at the stacks for more than one working
cycle, both for the roasting and for the cooling phases. The rst parameter, temperature, was
easily measured. The second one, mass ow rate (or volume ow rate), was, instead, indirectly
evaluated using a Pitot tube and Bernoullis theorem relations.
3.1. Experimental measures for the coee cooling phase
Temperature course and air ow rate were measured, at rst, for one of the cooling stacks,
because its geometric parameters were available and it could oer a straight run of gases before
the measure point.
Before the beginning of such measures, in accordance with [4], a set of measure points into the
stack was identied and the speed prole, for each point, was dened to detect which of them
could be used to measure the mean speed of exhaust gases during a cycle.
The results of such measure campaign are presented, for the cooling basin, as follows:
Fig. 2 refers to temperatures; in particular it shows the temperature course at the exit of the
cooling basin (Fig. 2(a)) and the temperature course at the stack (Fig. 2(b)) during a cooling
cycle for coee with a normal roasting level.
Fig. 3 refers to volume ow rates; in particular it shows mean volume ow rate of exhaust gases
during three consecutive cooling cycles (Fig. 3(a)) and normalized ow rate course of exhaust
gases during a cycle, evaluated using simultaneous measures of temperature and ow rate (Fig.
A run without roasted coee was also carried out to quantify air temperature increase during its
owing into the cooling system. Such value was equal to 10 C, while ambient temperature during
measures was 1 C.
From Fig. 2(a) and (b) it is possible to see a fast temperature raise during the rst cooling
phase, with a maximum at 50 s after the start and a drum discharging time of 30 s. After the
maximum, the temperature decreases with a low gradient. At the end of the process, after 200 s,

M. De Monte et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 23 (2003) 10331044


Fig. 2. Cooling basin temperature courses: at the exit (a) and at the stack (b).

Fig. 3. Cooling basin volume ow rates: at operation conditions during tree cycles (a) and at normal conditions during
a single cycle (b).

the fan forcing the air ow stops. At this time, the basin temperature is lower than the stacks one.
This is due to the fact that the stack gives back the thermal energy stored during the previous time
Fig. 3(a) shows a maximum volume ow rate of about 2.6 m3 /s (more than 9200 m3 /h) equal to
about 2.2 Nm3 /s (from Fig. 3(b)). Starting from Fig. 3(b), then, it is possible to assess the mass
ow rate of exhaust gases produced during each cooling cycle: such value, mean of a set of values,
is equal to 446.9 kg/cycle (about 345.6 Nm3 /cycle). In each cycle about 112 kg of coee are
processed, so the cooling process causes the emission of about 4 kg of exhaust gases for each kg of
cooled coee.


M. De Monte et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 23 (2003) 10331044

Fig. 4. Thermal power during each cooling cycle.

Eventually, to dene the energy balance for the cooling process, the course of thermal power
during each cycle was evaluated (with respect to the 0 C temperature) and it is presented, for a
single cycle and together with its mean value, in Fig. 4.
Starting from the mean thermal power of exhaust gases, equal to about 210 kW, it is possible to
evaluate, using the mean ow during the same period, the mean equivalent temperature value
during the same time. Such value is equal to about 66 C.
Using these data, it was also possible to carry out the energy balance of each cooling cycle (Fig.
5(a)). Such balance is done at the following conditions:
coee input at 220 C and output at 30 C;
coee specic heat of 1674 kJ/kg C [5];

Fig. 5. Energy balance for the cooling phase (a) and for the roasting phase (b) with respect to old roasting plant units.

M. De Monte et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 23 (2003) 10331044


coee mass of 111.5 kg/cycle;

air input at 14 C.
At the end of such analysis, exhaust gases of the cooling process can be characterized, during a
period of 200 s for each cooling cycle, by the following features:

dust into the exiting exhaust gases;

a mean thermal power of about 210 kW (assessed with respect to 0 C) for 200 s/cycle;
a maximum ow rate of about 2.6 m3 /s (greater than 9200 m3 /h 7000 Nm3 /h) for 200 s/cycle;
a maximum temperature value of 105 C;
a mean temperature value of 66 C during the cycle;
range of exhaust gases temperature from 30 to 100 C during the cycle;
a discontinuous emission of heat.

The low mean temperature value, the discontinuous emission of heat and the great range of
temperature during the process are the main reasons that do not make viable a recovery of
thermal energy produced in this process.

3.2. Experimental measures for the coee roasting phase

A detailed analysis was also developed for the roasting process. Such analysis was developed for both roasting machine types because of their dierent features. In particular, the two
more recent units are characterized by double production capacity with respect to the old ones,
by a partial recirculation of the exhaust gases, by high temperatures at the stack and by a
lower emission of volatile compounds, burned at temperatures greater than 550 C by the burner
because of the blow-by loop. The two older units, instead, are characterized by no exhaust
gases blow-by, by high levels of volatile compounds emissions and by lower temperatures at the
Using all information collected during the measure campaign for the rst type roasting machine
(with recirculation), it was possible to dene the energy balance for each roasting process cycle
(Fig. 5(b)).
The analysis allowed dening also the characteristics of the exhaust gases exiting from the
roasting plant units. Such results are showed in Table 1 for the two types of roasting machines
present in the plant.
Such measures showed signicant dierences between the two types. In particular the rst type
of machine has low emission values and high exhaust gases temperature at the stack, condition
that can suggest a possible recovery of thermal energy.
For this and for their production capacity, machines with features comparable to the rst type
of roasting unit were considered to be suitable for substituting the presently used ones. The
substitution option was considered not only for the oldest units, but also for the more recent ones.
Such fact mainly depended on a greater wear of these machines with respect to design conditions,
due to the overloading of roasting drums to answer to product requests.


M. De Monte et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 23 (2003) 10331044

Table 1
Characteristics of exhaust gases exiting from the roasting plant units

First type roasting unit

Second type roasting unit

Coee cooling system

Exhaust gases blow-by

Dust into exhaust gases
VOC emission
Mean thermal power

About 454 kW
About 6209 m3 /h
>600 C during drum
>550 C
540 580 C (range of
40 C)

About 127 kW
About 3892 m3 /h
About 150 C

Present but not high
About 210 kW for
200 s/cycle
>9200 m3 /h
About 105 C

About 133 C
115 150 C (range of
35 C)

About 66 C for 200 s/cycle

30 100 C (range of
70 C)
(for 200 s/cycle)

Flow-rate at running
Maximum temperature
Mean temperature value
Exhaust gases range
Emission of heat

4. Foreseen features of the new coee roasting units

In order to choose between dierent market available models, information concerning them
was requested to know in detail their running conditions. Design technical data were not considered a suciently reliable source to guarantee the nal coee quality. Therefore, some test runs,
done with dierent available models, were carried out and the one that guaranteed the requested
coee quality, the target emission reduction and an investment cost in line with the foreseen
budget had the schematic showed in Fig. 6.
For such new unit, the energy balance was carried out for the cooling (Fig. 7(a)) and the
roasting phases (Fig. 7(b)), also with the use of available plant rating.

Fig. 6. Schematic of the new roasting machine.

M. De Monte et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 23 (2003) 10331044


Fig. 7. Energy balance for the cooling phase (a) and for the roasting phase (b) with respect to new proposed roasting

Temperature and ow rate courses were then evaluated, for supposed running conditions, to
allow the correct design of the recovery system (Table 2).
Analyzing such data, a waste heat recovery from cooling exhaust gases was not judged profitable (discontinuous ow rate and low medium temperature value). The thermal energy recovery
was instead taken into consideration for the roasting exhaust gases. The idea was to x temperature of exhaust gases at the stack equal to 250 C and to exploit the range between 500 and
250 C for factory needs.
Such idea made available a thermal power of about 180 kW from each roasting machine, for a
total exploitable thermal power of 720 kW for the whole plant.
Table 2
Foreseen characteristics of exhaust gases exiting from the roasting plant units

New roasting unit

New cooling system

Exhaust gases blow-by

Dust into exhaust gases
VOC emission
Mean thermal power
Flow rate at running condition
Mean temperature value
Emission of heat

About 350 kW continuous
About 4,800 m3 /h continuous
About 500 C (supposed)
Continuous (during the whole cycle)

Present but not high
About 433 kW for 240 s/cycle
About 18,000 m3 /h discontinuous
About 79 C for 240 s/cycle
Discontinuous (for 240 s/cycle)


M. De Monte et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 23 (2003) 10331044

5. Technical feasibility and economic assessment of an air conditioning system for the factory
Thermal recovery from roasting exhaust gases was conrmed by the possibility of exploiting
during the whole year such energy for the air conditioning of the factory buildings. In eect, the
companys production cycles did not require an investigation of other solutions of heat exploitation, which could be carried out in other sectors of the food industry [6]. To guarantee accurate
running conditions, greater eciency and lower dimension for the heat pump, a regenerator using
overheated water at 130 C was chosen. Such regenerator had also to guarantee the recovery
without interfering with the exhaust gases ow exiting from the stack. It was not possible, actually, to forecast an intake fan into the stack to not risk a change of the pressure course in the
roasting drum that would inuence nal coee quality.
The air conditioning plant, whose overheated section is presented in the schematic of Fig. 8, is
composed by a distribution line which transfers overheated water to winter (heat exchanger) and
summer (heat pump) users. Such recovery system has the advantage of allowing a signicant heat
recovery, but has also some disadvantages related to the need of an heat sink to dissipate the

Fig. 8. Schematic of the overheated section of the air conditioning plant.

M. De Monte et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 23 (2003) 10331044


excess of heat and to the roasting process stop for regenerator maintenance or fail, solvable with a
regenerator by-pass.
The economic assessment of the proposed alternative was carried out using common indexes
like Pay-back period and IRR.
In order to assess the economic protability of the project, capital costs, running costs and
avoided costs were considered. Such elements are showed in Table 3. An economic life of 15 years
and a discount rate of 10% were also assumed.
The following economic protability indexes were obtained:
Pay-back 13 years;
IRR 5.74%.
The results showed that the energy recovery was not economic for both hot and cold production. To increase the protability of the initiative, it was contemplated the economic eect of
an appeal to possible public nancing, for plant solutions that perform a reduction of emissions
and environmental impacts [7,8]. Such public nancing had to cover at least 25% of the plant
capital cost in order to guarantee the following performances for the investment:
Pay-back 9.8 years;
IRR 10.58%.
Due to the low economic performance of these two alternatives, the possibility of recovering
thermal energy without using the heat pump (namely, to recover thermal energy only for winter
uses) was eventually considered. The meaningful reduction of investment cost available with such
new alternative had immediate eects on capital costs. In fact the initiative became interesting
even without public nancing, as showed by the following results:
Table 3
Costs considered for the evaluation of the economic protability of the plant
Cost type

Cost element


With heat pump Without heat pump

Capital costs

Annual running costs

Annual avoided costs

Overheated distribution pipeline

Overheated water-hot water
Heat pump
Design cost





Maintenance costs (2% of

Electric energy
Nitrogen gas cylinder rent







Thermal energy
Electric energy





M. De Monte et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 23 (2003) 10331044

Pay-back 7.6 years;

IRR 15.65%.
6. Conclusions
The work presented in this paper had the aim of evaluating the possibility of a waste heat
recovery in a food industry. A major issue of the analyzed company is strict process conditions in
order to guarantee a very high quality of nal product.
The energy balance of the roasting process conrmed the feasibility of heat recuperation from a
high temperature source. The factory analysis, instead, showed that the only use for the recovered
heat was for the air conditioning of buildings because of scarce energy needs for other plant
A rst possible plant solution for waste heat recovery was also examined both from a technical
and from an economic point of view. Such analysis showed the weight that plant capital costs and
possible local public nancing for energy saving can play on total investment protability.
Taking into consideration all these issues, a recovery plant designed only for a seasonable
exploitation of waste heat (e.g. for winter heating) could be a very interesting and protable
solution because of a lower investment cost.
A future development of this work could be the possibility of using a small size adsorption
refrigerator in the plant. Such systems, which can use a low level running temperature, could allow
a greater heat recovery (higher performances), a higher availability, zero noise and vibration
values, the use of materials not dangerous for the environment and especially the possibility of
producing both heat and cold. Such system could simplify the plant conguration and reduce
maintenance (absence of moving parts) [9]. The consequent reduction of running costs, if accompanied with a competitive initial cost, could make this investment alternative protable.
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