While coffee is known as a fuel for millions of tired workers, it could well be fuelling something a bit bigger if researchers at the University of Bath are anything to go by. While it may be difficult to walk down a local high street without passing a number of chain coffee shops, these could be the next version of service stations if recent studies can be scaled up to production levels.
Thanks to the recent investigations and research, the left over coffee that amasses at the end of each day – typically ten kilograms per coffee shop – could be converted into around two litres of biofuel. While that might not sound like a great deal individually, the sheer amount of old coffee left overs that are produced each day could be used by the coffee companies to run their delivery vehicles.
Those very same vehicles could then be tasked with collecting the used grinds from the stores around the country and removing them to one large central location. Here, the leftovers can be properly processed and turned into useful fuel for others. Bio-Bean is one such London company who have already begun to examine the possibilities of producing fuel in the form of biodiesel and biomass pellets that are created from the old grinds of coffee.
The process itself can be a little complex. In essence, the fuel is manufactured from oil that is extracted from the old coffee, using an organic solvent to soak them in a process that is known as ‘transesterification’. This operation converts old leftovers into useful biodiesel. The quality and the properties of this fuel can vary depending on the type of ground that is being used, but the researchers were able to surmise that all grounds have a similar make up and the required properties, regardless of their origin.
Coffees from across the world were used in the study, with the process successfully creating biofuel from both Robusta and Arabica varieties and variants from 20 different countries across the globe. It is also possible to extract the necessary materials from both caffeinated and decaffeinated grounds, meaning that there is even more potential fuel out there.
With a great deal of coffee being drunk every day and an ever growing number of coffee shops lining our streets, it could well be that these seemingly small operations are powering the greener vehicles of tomorrow.