Innovations in the circular economy: coffee grounds as a waste opportunity

In the UK around 95 million cups of coffee are consumed every day, which means it also produces a lot of coffee waste – around of 500,000 tonnes waste coffee grounds every year. Such amount of waste contributes to rising pressures on landfill, and decomposition of coffee grounds will ultimately contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Such volumes of waste however presents potential innovators with a huge resource base to work with, and one which many people have been trying engage with. The BBC recently reported on how two entrepreneurs in Scotland have developed a method to extract oil from coffee grounds which could be used in a wide range of products, and could even be used as an alternative to palm oil (Black, 2019). Palm oil has become an ingredient in so many products, around 50% of packaged products in the supermarkets according to the WWF (2018), but one which has also been linked to driving deforestation which has a range of damaging environmental consequences. Finding an alternative from coffee grounds is an attractive prospect if it can be scaled up and can become a viable alternative to palm oil. The two entrepreneurs Mr Kennedy and Mr Moore established Revive Eco to try and work towards this. They are contenders in a Chivas Venture competition, a global competition for social entrepreneurs to try and secure funds to continue to develop the process and develop an industrial coffee ground processing plant. According to the Chivas Venture profile Revive Eco have ‘diverted 20 tonnes of coffee ground away from landfill, saving approximately 36 tonnes of CO2’ (Chivas, 2019). Through engaging in the circular economy, using coffee waste the potential for reducing waste from the coffee shop industry and reducing CO2 emissions is vast.

They are not however first, or the only organisation which has seen the rising amount of coffee grounds as an opportunity. bio-bean, are another UK based clean technology company that collects coffee grounds and recycles them on an industrial scale to produce a range of biofuels and biochemicals. If you look in your local DIY store you may see their ‘coffee logs’ for sale, an alternative to traditional logs. Bio-bean has successfully grown from a small start-up in 2013 based in London to become a successful waste management and recycling organisation that operates nationwide. bio-bean’s life cycle assessment suggested that ‘sending waste coffee grounds to bio-bean produces 80% less Co2 emissions than sending them to landfill’ (bio-bean, 2018), again highlighting the environmental potential for this process. The proliferation of coffee waste is also evident from the types of places that bio-bean collect their waste coffee grounds, from independent cafes to instant coffee factories, highlighting that there are a range of business and organisations that can get involved in this process.

These are not the only innovators who have utilised coffee waste as a resource, there are many examples at a range of scales from GroCycle, a social enterprise who use coffee grounds as a base for growing mushrooms, to Rosalie McMillan (2014) a jewellery designer who uses a unique material made from recycled coffee grounds.  Each views coffee waste as an opportunity, to reuse and recycle and existing product, in turn contributing to the circular economy.  Given the size, global nature and growth trajectories of the coffee and coffee shop industries, the potential for using coffee waste is huge and one which needs further exploration. At Coventry University, I’m working on a research project, ‘From the Grounds Up: The Coffee Shop Industry and the Circular Economy’ to begin to explore this area, with a particular focus on activities in the UK and Germany.

References

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The Cup Fund has launched – seeking new ideas for coffee cup recycling

Disposable coffee cups have recently been in the news again. This time it’s because of a new effort to try and increase coffee cup recycling – The Cup Fund –  a £1 million funding scheme to kick start some ideas about how to boost paper cup recycling in different areas. The fund launched by the environmental charity Hubbub and the global coffee shop chain Starbucks is designed to support organisations (such as local authorities, business improvement districts, or even shopping centres) to get a range of recycling programmes off the ground –  at least 10 with grants of between £50,000 – £100,000 available. According to the Cup Fund website these funds could be used towards: recycling infrastructure, collecting costs, communications materials and marketing support, and staff time to create, deliver and evaluate the campaign.

Since the issue about the number of disposable coffee cups was made visible to the wider public a couple of years ago, great efforts have been made to increase recycling facilities, collection points and to reduce the number of disposable coffee cups used in the first place. The Paper Cup Recovery & Recycling Group have already reported how the UK’s capacity for recycling disposable coffee cups has increased from 1:400 to 1:25 in two years with expectations for this to increase to 1:12 by the end of 2019. However, there’s still much more work to be done, and hopefully this scheme might kick start some more activity. One thing I think this scheme demonstrates well is the capacity for different organisations with an interest in this issue to work together, not only the global coffee shop chains and charities, but paper cup recyclers (who have endorsed the programme), and professional organisations such as the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, and the Local Authority Recycling Advisory committee (who have representatives on the panel that will be judging the submissions for the Cup Fund).

The closing date for applications is Friday 24th May with announcements of the successful applications on Tuesday 9th July.

I am currently in the fieldwork phase for a research project on coffee shops and the circular economy, with the issue of disposable coffee cups being a key component. From a research perspective, this fund is well timed, and I look forward to seeing what  innovative suggestions can be devised.

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Revisiting ‘Cafe Nation: Exploring the growth of the UK cafe industry’ – journal article made free to read until 2020

cafe nation jennifer ferreira paper areaBack in March 2018 I found out that one of my articles ‘Cafe Nation: Exploring the growth of the UK cafe industry‘ in the journal Area had been identified as one of the most downloaded, and so was made free to read until January 2019. I was delighted to find out yesterday that for the second year running the article has been one of the most downloaded in the journal, and will now be made free to read until January 2020.

The paper received over 1,455 downloads in 2018, this compared to the average of 149 for the journal. As the map showing the location of these downloads shows, there’s quite a global spread of readers so far, particularly for a paper that was so UK focused.

Area map 2019 Cafe nation

If you have been one of the people that has downloaded the article already, thank you, and I hope you found it interesting. If you’re just stumbling upon this research and piece of writing now, then I hope you enjoy it, and that there is something in there relevant for your interests.

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Book Review – Coffee: A Global History by Jonathan Morris

Coffee a global history bookCoffee: A Global History written by Professor Jonathan Morris is part of Reaktion books ‘Edible Series’. As a geographer I have always been interested in how things shape the world, and these books provide a great insight into how particular items of food and drink have developed over time, in different places and how they have influenced, and been influenced by, different cultures – the clue is in the title really – a global history.

There is something about this series of books that for me are particularly appealing. Small-ish hardbacks with glossy pages and well-illustrated throughout, and the book on coffee is no exception to this. The book has six key chapters which explore the different stages of coffee’s history from some of the basics about coffee, to discussions of modern day coffee cultures.

The first main chapter ‘from seed to cup’ examines just that how we get coffee, and the different elements of the journey to making it from the different types, to processing, trading to roasting and even aspects of coffee and health. Chapter 2 is where we start to get more into coffees history beginning with some of the coffee origin myths that around Kaldi, the goatherd who supposedly notices the animals becoming more energetic after eating coffee berries. Moving through time and across the world the chapter, ‘the wine of Islam’ explores how the culture of coffee and coffee houses spread to different places, and how different coffee cultures started to develop, and where at times there was resistance to them. Chapter 3 ‘Colonial good’ moves on to the next stage of coffee history which was entwined with colonial histories, exploring the spread of coffee culture. Having visited the sites of some of the earliest coffee houses in the UK, it’s fascinating to read about how London’s coffee house culture started, and the fluctuations that took place in coffee culture since its introduction there. As with all the chapters in the book, the content moves from one place to another highlighting the global nature of coffee, not only as a commodity, in how plants were moved from one country to another, but how countries relationships have been an important component of influencing how the coffee industry spread, and how different parts of the world rose and fall in prominence over time.

Chapter 4 focuses on coffee as an ‘industrial product’ examining the role of the American civil war in developing coffee consumption habits, the early companies in the coffee’s industrial history, the role of Brazil in the coffee world, as well as other countries in the Americas. The chapter also considers how the household became a place for coffee consumption, and some of the early marketing efforts to encourage people to buy it. Chapter five explores coffee as a ‘global commodity’, the rise of coffee growing in Africa, as well as different coffee styles and forms in different countries across the globe. The chapter ends exploring the coffee crisis, the volatility in the price of coffee, and the impact in different areas. Chapter 6 then moves towards the modern era, ‘the specialty beverage’ examining how the growth of specialty coffee has taken place, and the growth of some of the more familiar coffee cultures we are familiar with today, from Starbucks to the third wave specialty coffee shop. There are also explorations of more modern focuses in the coffee industry around ethical coffee and coffee pods. Towards the end of the chapter Prof. Morris considers if how the specialty revolution is important for the future of coffee alongside other key important factors, most notably climate change.

Towards the end of the book there is also a short recipe section which is a nice concise introduction to some of the different ways you might want to try and make coffee, the brew ratio suggestion table is an easy way to see how the brew methods can differ. A short glossary is helpful to understand the modern day coffee shop menu, and there is even a recipe for coffee cake as well as other coffee-based recipes.

This is an excellent book for people who know a little, or a lot about coffee. The book takes you on a global journey of how coffee and coffee culture has developed, highlighting people, places and events that have shaped the industry into what it is today. I’ve learnt a lot from this book, and it’s help me place things I knew a little about into a more coherent timeline of events, and more details about things I had perhaps seen mentioned briefly elsewhere, as well as lots of new information too. The sections in this book are short, but detailed and engaging, and as I mentioned earlier in the review, well illustrated, bringing some of the topics in the book to life.

Reading this book has not only enriched my knowledge about coffee, but reminded me that these books are a great way to learn about different cultures, histories and places through different foods and drinks  – I will have to return to some of the Edible Series in my wish list.

If you think you might be interested in this book, then it’s also worth listening to the Coffee Podcast episode where Prof Morris discusses some common coffee myths around the origin of coffee and some particular drinks.

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Book Review – Coffee: From Bean to Barista by Robert Thurston

I had a bit of time over the holidays to catch up on some of the latest coffee related books. I’d actually forgotten I’d pre-ordered this one so it was a nice surprise just before Christmas. I learnt about the work of Robert Thurston through the book ‘Coffee: A Comprehensive guide to the bean’ that he edited along with Jonathan Morris (who also has a new book out which I’m currently reading – Coffee: A Global History). Someone asked me recently if there was anything new to read about coffee, and wasn’t it just the same old thing repackaged? While some of the guides to coffee brewing and coffee shop locations might be somewhat repetitive, this is not the case with this book. Devoted to coffee the book explores the history, cultivation and culture of coffee. It’s divided into five chapters, with three key chapters focusing on producing countries, roasting coffee and making coffee, as well as coffee and health.

Coffee From Bean to BaristaChapter 2 explores the journey coffee takes in producing countries from the farms it is grown on to the ports where it departs. This includes information about the coffee plant, where it grows, issues with growing coffee and coffee certifications. The chapter then moves on to sections discussing women in coffee as well as the different ways coffee is harvested and processed. A particularly interesting section of this chapter explores the coffee prices across the supply chain using the authors’ experiences in his own roastery. Whenever I discuss this issue with students they are always surprised at how little farmers earn, but also given so many parts to the supply chain and number of people involved, that coffee isn’t more expensive. As Professor Thurston points out ‘for the most part, no one is making big profit in the commodity chain, although millions of sales – especially of coffee heavily charged with milk, as in lattes and cappuccinos – can result in billions in net revenue for a company like Starbucks’. (p.56). The chapter ends by highlighting how climate change may affect the coffee industry, as well as considering the future of coffee arguing ‘the best path towards greater social justice in the coffee industry is to get more people to drink more and better coffee’(p.66).

Chapter three explores coffee roasting and coffee consumption and some of its key developments. There’s a nice and simplified version of the coffee tasting wheel that highlights some of the basic flavour notes that can tasted from coffee, which accompanies a discussion of specialty coffee, and what that means. There are some great sections on coffee consumption around the world which explores not only consumption rates, but how coffee drinking habits spread around the globe. The chapter then moves on to document developments in roasting coffee, and an explanation of the roasting process before outlining some different ways to prepare coffee with an important point: ‘There is no need to get a lot of fancy equipment to make good coffee at home’ (p.116).

Chapter four focuses on different aspects of coffee and health. This begins with a little history to views on coffee and health, and how approaches to coffee and coffee houses has shifted over time. There is a detailed section on a key chemical in coffee, caffeine, as well as a section on recent research on coffee and health. The book concludes by returning to a number of key issues facing the coffee industry around climate change and sustainability of the coffee industry, highlighting how it is important for more money to reach the farmers end of the supply chain.

The book is written in a very engaging style, with a feel like the author is talking to the reader, sometimes with details about the author’s experiences, or tips for the reader to help them enjoy their coffee. There’s a helpful glossary at the end too for some of the key terms and acronyms used throughout the book. A welcome addition to my ‘coffee library’.

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New publication: From bean to cup and beyond: exploring ethical consumption and coffee shops

To finish off the year on the café spaces blog, a new article drawing on our research around the coffee shop industry and ethical consumption has been published in the Journal of Consumer Ethics. As part of a special issue on Food and Ethical Consumption, the article ‘From Bean to cup and beyond: exploring ethical consumption and coffee shop’, written with my co-author Dr Carlos Ferreira explores some of the issues relation to ethical consumption for the coffee shop industry.

https://journal.ethicalconsumer.org/The paper illuminates some of the complexities consumers face around ethical consumption in coffee shops focusing on three areas in particular: the business model of coffee shop chosen; the ethical qualities of coffee consumed; and what happens to the waste produced.

It begins by exploring the growth of the coffee shop industry and the implications this has for increased consumption of products and energy. After examining some of the literature related to ethical consumption and coffee shops the article presents a model to illustrate some of the coffee shop choices consumers face and where ethical consumption choices can be made. The article highlights how there are many components which can contribute to ethical consumption in coffee shops. The choice of coffee shop presents consumers with an ethical choice, as well as the coffee consumed in these places, although the article highlights there is some confusion among consumers about what constitutes ‘ethical’ coffee. The article then moves on to consider how ethical consumption choices can be made regarding waste produced, in particular around the issue of disposable coffee cups. In doing so it highlights how there are a range of stakeholders than can play a part in fostering more ethical consumption choices.

The Journal of Consumer Ethics is an open access interdisciplinary academic journal for research into ethical consumption, and the article along with the others in the special issue are free to download.

 

 

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Looking back at the coffee in 2018

Much of my 2018 has been fuelled by coffeee. Last year I made the decision to try and vary the coffee we drank at home to explore different coffees and brewing methods, learn more about the growing coffee roasting industry, and support independent businesses in the process. This didn’t quite go to plan when I became pregnant again and even the smell of coffee made me feel very queasy (slightly problematic for a coffee industry researcher). However, part of the way into the year I returned to coffee drinking and made an effort to vary the beans we used in the house. It’s been fantastic to try so many different coffees rather than just sticking with the one we always used to have. There are so many different independent coffee roasters out there, with different stories to tell with their coffee.

I’ve discovered lots of new roasters, begun to explore the different tastes that coffee can provide, and attempted to try different brewing methods along the way. I was really pleased to have discovered Dog & Hat coffee subscriptions which we’ve used for most of the year. This has introduced me to coffees from roasters across the UK and beyond. It’s always a good day when at the end of the month the Dog & Hat parcel arrives. It’s hard to pick favourites from all of these, but the Kibingo Burundi coffee from Maude Coffee Roasters, as well as the Mountain Rescue Colombia from Red Bank Coffee Roasters were particularly memorable.  The team at Dog & Hat have provided acess to a range of excellent roasters each month, and it was great to see them featured in a recent edition of Caffeine magazine.

With the publication of an article about the growing coffee shop culture in China, I really wanted to try and taste some coffee grown in China. I was kindly given some Chinese coffee from Grumpy Mule from the Fuyan Cooperative and managed to find buy some more from Cricklewood Coffee Roasters too. Later in the year on a trip to London I also discovered the Ou Yang Chinese coffee from Square Mile Coffee Roasters. All three were great, though I keep hearing how specialty coffee growing in China is improving and there will be even better coffees in the future. I’m keen to keep trying coffee from this region to see how it develops.

There were a lot of coffee highlights from throughout the year. Attending coffee festivals in London, Birmingham, Bristol and Coventry led to the acquisition of more coffee. A particular highlight were the coffees from Girls Who Grind Coffee, an all female roastery based in the south west of the UK who source their coffees from female producers. Not only do they have striking art work on the coffee bags, provided some really interesting flavours, but they are doing some fantastic work supporting women working in coffee. I was really pleased to see they had beans for sale in London St Pancras station later in the year!

I’ve had a few opportunities to try roasters from outside the UK too, not only throught the Dog & Hat subscription but through a bit of travelling, gifts and a taster set from the Right Roast.

Exploring some of the coffee roasters in and around Porto was great fun. I’ve been researching coffee culture in Portugal for some time, and it’s been fascinating to see how specialty coffee is growing there. We picked up beans from a few places but in terms of the coffee experience the highlight was 7g roaster around the Port wine area of Gaia, with a large coffee shop with an open view to the roastery. We had some Brazilian beans from here which were excellent as espresso.

A geographer by training one of the fascinating things I find about coffee is all the different places it comes from. Many roasters provide a lot of detail about the source of their coffee, some times down to the individual farm. It’s fascinating to see how different types of coffee coffee grown in diferent countries in different environment can produce such a huge array of flavours. Whether you’re drinking a single origin or a blend of coffees, the geography of the coffee is important!

This post really is a thank you to all the coffee roasters who have kept me going through much of the year. I look forward to discovering more in 2019.

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Book Review: Craft Coffee A Manual

Through my research into the coffee and coffee shop industries I have learnt lots about coffee and the different ways to prepare it – I even went on a SCA Barista Skills course at Prufrock in an attempt to understand a little more about the creation of espresso based drinks. I’ve  interacted with lots of passionate individuals who have demonstrated the various ways in which coffee can be prepared and how this can affect the taste of the coffee. At home I’ve ended up with a small collection of brewing equipment, mainly thanks to family and friends who have been keen to encourage the interest – particularly if it improves the cup of coffee they get when they visit. However, I haven’t spent a great deal of time trying to understand how to use these devices properly. To try and help me with this I was kindly given Craft Coffee: A Manual by Jessica Easto and Andreas Willhoff by a family member. I’ve often turned to youtube to learn about brewing methods but in an era when so much time is spent in front of computer screens, it’s nice to have a book.

Craft Coffee Book CoverCraft Coffee: A Manual is essentially an introductory guide to trying to make coffee at home, exploring the different elements that can affect how it is prepared, as well as the equipment itself. There are six broad chapters, as well as helpful troubleshooting section at the end with tips for how to try and make the best cup of coffee.

Chapter One covers brewing basis, from key points about brew ratios and extraction to how to dial in the coffee in the grinder. The idea of brew ratios was something I never really used to consider. I had a broad idea of what worked and stuck with that. The coffee bewing control chart is helpful for trying to consider how to alter to avoid over and under extraction.

Chapter two moves on to discuss different pieces of important hardware, from the filters to scales and kettles. For the different brewing methods there’s a bit of history about how the device came about and some advice about how to use it. There’s advice and information about various pieces of coffee equipment you can consider including the burr grinder, scales and gooseneck kettle.

Chapter Three turns to the coffee itself to explore the differences in beans, processing methods, through to roasting. It would be impossible in one chapter to provide a comprehensive guide to coffee, but it provides a good overview of  the differernt types and origins and a little about decaffeination processes too. Chapter Four moves on to cover Buying the Coffee consideing not only where you would typically buy craft coffee but also about how to understand the usual information on the labels, and how to store it at home.

Chapter Five explores the Flavour of coffee, from acidity to aroma and how one goes about assessing flavour. If anyone has ever seen the flavour wheel for coffee, the it can easy be daunting to try and identify the flavours being produced. It even suggests to have a coffee tasting party  – as the authors suggst ‘honing your coffee-tasting skills is more fun with other people’.

Chapter Six then finishes with an exploration of some of the more typical brew methods including: French Press, Aeropress, Clever Dripper, Siphon, Melitta, BeeHouse, Walküre, Kalita, Chemex, and V60. For each method there is an annotated diagram of the different parts and explanaation of how it works, a suggested brew recipe and an outlined method for how to use it. There are lots of different brew recipes you can use depending on how you like your coffee, but these seem like good starting points. I have to admit that when I started drinking specialty coffee at home I didn’t pay much attention to the amount of coffee and water I was using, or the way I prepared it either. However, I now use making coffee as part of day where I actually slow down for a few minutes and try out different brew methods and ratios to experiment a little with how coffee can taste.

Overall, this was an enjoyable book providing an overview of different aspects of coffee preparation. It provided more detail on elements of the processes I undertake on a regular basis but often don’t really think about. This book would be great for someone who is keen to make a nice cup of coffee at home to give them a good foundation of understanding of how to prepare a good cup, the different ways they may want to try, and about the different things than can affect the outcome! Another nice addition to my coffee library.

 

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Coffee and communities: Well Grounded – The Specialty Coffee Training Academy

As I’ve explained before on the ‘cafespaces’ blog, the coffee and coffee shop industries have the potential to impact various communities; an important route for doing so is through the activities of social enterprises.

Well Grounded Pop up barista event specialty coffee

A great example is Well Grounded, is a specialty  coffee training academy based in East London which focuses in helping people struggling to find work. Established in 2016 by the current CEO Eve Wagg, the community interest company, has been providing training based on an educational framework to support the development of skills needed to work in the coffee shop industry, and to secure employment.

Well Grounded Pop up barista event specialty coffee

I was fortunate enough to meet some of the most recent graduates of Well Grounded’s specialty coffee training academy at a pop-up barista event to celebrate their graduate. The event held at La Marzocco in London, allowed the recent graduates to demonstrate their new skills to an audience of employers, other Well Grounded graduates and team members, plus a range of other coffee professionals. Before the graduation of the most recent cohort of trainees, there was a talk by the founder Eve Wagg, explaining the educational approach to the training that takes place through Well Grounded as well as presentations by other graduates explaining their personal journeys and the impact of their training.

On talking with some of the recent Well Grounded graduates it was clear that they had a lot of passion, about coffee, but also about developing their skills, and getting the skills they needed to find a job they could be passionate about. On both the espresso bar and brew bar the Well Grounded crew were both informative and enthusiastic; the training not only appears to have provided excellent coffee making skills, but the confidence to work in a busy environment.

Well Grounded Pop up barista event specialty coffee

The team at Well-Grounded are doing a fantastic job of providing training opportunities for people who may otherwise find it difficult to find employment; improving livelihoods as well as enriching the coffee shop industry with lots of passionate individuals ready to use their training in the world of work.

 

 

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From pub to coffee shop: changing habits?

The number of pubs in the UK is in decline. The BBC reported that in the second half of 2017, around 18 pubs were closing every week, according to data from The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). There are a number of reasons thought to be behind this, around changing consumption habits. While the number of pubs may be in decline, the number of coffee shops is still on the rise. The two are not necessarily directly related, although some of the changing consumption patterns may lead to both of these changes – as explored in my article ‘Cafe Nation: Exploring the growth of the UK cafe industry‘.

I’ve noticed in the past that some former pubs have become coffee shops – The Bear and Beignet in Isham (Northamptonshire) was one example, although this closed down too. More recently in Desborough, also in Northamptonshire, a former pub, the Kings Arms had been transformed into a branch of Costa Coffee.

The pub was a Grade II listed building dating back to the early 1700s, so I imagine Costa were relatively limited in what they could do the building itself, but it is interesting to see that the high street coffee shop chains continue to expand into different spaces, including those that would formerly have been pubs. If anyone knows of any coffee shops that have taken over spaces that were formerly pubs I’d be interested to hear about them.

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Thanks to my Dad for heading back to Desborough to take the photographs for me!

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