Food Engineering

Coffee roaster moves beans without damage

July 30, 2009
Automated vacuum conveying solution reduces labor costs as well.


PIAB’s IC33 conveyor handles coffee beans more gently and in less space than all-mechanical conveyors. Source: PIAB


Rising global demand for espresso coffee has had a dramatic impact on requests from restaurants and bars for high quality coffee products. Industry suppliers such as The Drury Tea & Coffee Co., located in central London (UK), are meeting these demands by leveraging innovative manufacturing solutions. Since replacing its manual coffee bean handling operations with an automated industrial vacuum conveying system, Drury has greatly improved production while reducing overhead costs and preserving the integrity of its flavorful coffee beans.

“We have seen the market for espresso booming, and customers are becoming more discerning-filter coffee is no longer as popular as it once was,” says Phil Millard, production manager at Drury. In order to meet this increasing demand, Drury needed an automated conveying solution that could transport a large quantity of freshly roasted beans into its packaging machine without causing damage in the process.

In the quest to find a less laborious, safer and more efficient transfer system, Drury replaced its existing manual processes with an automated industrial vacuum conveyor (IC33) from PIAB. The processor was impressed with the results demonstrated at the supplier’s conveying test laboratory. “The decision to purchase was easy once we saw how the conveyors could maximize productivity while maintaining product quality,” adds Millard. 

The IC33 family of vacuum conveyors can move dry materials at rates from 500 kg. (1102 lbs.) to 2,000 kg. (4409 lbs.) per hour. Depending on the characteristics of the material and the distance to be conveyed, the conveyors can move as much as 1.5 tons per hour at a distance of 5 m (16 ft.) and 0.5 tons per hour at a distance of 30 m (98 ft.). The conveyors work with a feed pressure from 0.4-0.6 MPa (58-87 lbs/sq.-in.).

The compact design of the conveyor allows the user to recover floor space that otherwise would have been occupied if using more space-demanding belt or screw conveyors. Because the material is conveyed in pipes or hoses, moving materials such as coffee beans is gentle, and the system is very flexible in its configuration.

Since the installation of the conveyor, Drury has been able to transfer one full-time employee to a more productive task. Additionally, because the hygienic conveyor is completely enclosed, there is no risk of contamination or dust generation, thus improving the overall health and safety aspects of the process.

The freshly roasted coffee beans are now handled in a way that benefits both the company and its consumers. “PIAB’s conveyors have provided us with a more economical approach to our mission of offering some of the very best coffees,” says Millard. 

For more information:

Ed McGovern, 781-337-7309, edmcg@piab.com