Come on coffee, light my fire: Uni spin-off turns coffee grounds into fuel

It turns out that coffee can warm us not only from the inside, during these cold winter days, but it can do so on the outside too, as a Polish company demonstrates by converting coffee grounds into briquette.

“We started off from briquette because Poland is the largest producer of wood briquette in Europe,” said EcoBean CEO Marcin Koziorowski. “[Poland] produces 460,000 tonnes of [wood] briquette a year. The carbon footprint from burning it is huge. Our goal is to convert 20,000 tonnes of coffee grounds per year. According to estimates, this would help reduce CO2 emission by 9,000 tonnes.”

Company’s plan is to build a zero-emission and zero-waste factory that converts coffee grounds into briquette. However, the company has not acquired a certificate, that would allow it to use its briquette as fuel for grills, fireplaces and ovens yet.

The briquette’s “composition is pure biomass. We know how it burns, what it emits. It’s a much more ecological solution in comparison to the wood briquette. It’s also much more calorific, meaning it emits more energy than the wood briquette while generating less ash. Our solution is… yet another way of fighting smog,” said Mr Koziorowski.

The production of the briquette starts with drying the grounds, followed by cleansing and blending with a binding material and finally pressing it all together.

Acquiring the grounds is as simple as making the briquette. “We would like to engage our providers and use food delivers in the acquisition of grounds. Their backpacks and bags are usually empty on the way back. That is why the last restaurant run of the day could be used to bring the grounds to us,” said the EcoBean CEO, adding that also individual consumers had been contacting the company.

The company has already undertaken grounds collecting and managed to produce pilot tranches of the briquette. Now they are up to preparations of the proof of concept that could demonstrate that their product actually works. They set the deadline of March and prospective briquette distributors have already been arranged.

However, that is just the beginning as the company wants to expand its production to biodegradable polymers. In other words, tumblers, plates and food packaging could be produced from coffee grounds.

The scope of waste that coffee consumption produces globally is mind-boggling. Each day as many as 2.25 bn cups of coffee are drunk around the world. In Poland alone, around 120,000 tonnes of coffee grounds are generated per annum and the quantity is on a steady year-on-year rise.

EcoBean team consists predominantly of the Warsaw University of Technology (PW) former and current researchers. The CEO said that the company develops “thanks to the PW. We tap into a vast experience of the PW in the designing of polymers.”