Spent coffee grounds: a sustainable solution to virgin and synthetic extracts - bio-bean


29th August 2019

Spent coffee grounds: a sustainable solution to virgin and synthetic extracts

The flavours and fragrances sector is a vast industry that will continue to pull significant resources from our planet, but F&F houses will not compromise on the quality they offer their customers. There is growing demand for natural alternatives which can deliver the same profiles as synthetic additives, but with a more sustainable model than virgin sourced materials.

Where the process of roasting green coffee beans generates the volatile chemical compounds responsible for coffee’s famed flavour and aroma, brewing the coffee grounds does not fully exhaust those compounds. In fact, spent coffee grounds still retain up to a third of the volatile aroma compounds as contained in the fresh roasted beans, making them an ideal feedstock for sustainable natural flavouring products and displacing the need for virgin and synthetic products.

Through the implementation of our innovative supply chain model, we work within the existing logistics infrastructure in the UK to collect spent coffee grounds from businesses at every scale, ensuring the grounds remain within the food chain throughout the entire collection and renewing process. With these food-grade spent coffee grounds we are producing natural flavouring products for deployment in the food and beverage industry.

Spent coffee grounds lend themselves perfectly to being processed as a separate raw material feedstock. They are a naturally clean feedstock, segregated at source by baristas and bean-to-cup machines, and are readily identifiable. From the barista preparing the coffee and depositing the used grounds into specified food-grade coffee bags through to bio-bean manufacturing our natural flavouring products, the grounds stay within the food chain.

Once the grounds reach the processing plant, they are screened to the required specification and undergo a patent-pending green extraction process. This process separates the before-mentioned residual volatile aroma compounds from the spent grounds, yielding high-quality extracts for application as sustainable, natural flavouring components in foods and beverages. We are thus able to introduce coffee’s original, natural and non-depleted chemical compounds back into the supply chain as an ingredient which has a plethora of applications across multiple FMCG sectors.

So how do our natural flavouring extracts from spent grounds differ from virgin coffee extracts? While some of the key compounds responsible for the characteristic coffee flavour and taste are extracted at the brewing stage, the residual compounds that we are able to efficiently extract give our products a unique profile and composition. This massively widens the scope of potential product applications compared to traditional extracts from virgin coffee beans.

What bio-bean receives as a raw material are coffee grounds, previously seen as waste, containing the bulk of the more desirable and abundant compounds found in coffee, which include pyrazines – the second most abundant class of compounds present within coffee, contributing to its key characteristic flavours. Our proprietary extraction methodology allows us to selectively extract these compounds and ensure that the ratios of this key group of aroma compounds are maintained.

By displacing currently used virgin and synthesised ingredients that drain the world’s natural resource base, we are connecting the two ends of the linear economy into a circular model. Oliver Rosevear, Head of Environment at Costa Coffee (the leading UK coffee retail chain with whom we’ve been working for over 3 years), says “Costa is looking forward to investigating the potential of bio-bean’s natural coffee flavourings within our own products, as this would complete the circular journey of our grounds.”