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Exporting company expands into soluble coffee manufacturing.

In January 1991, the management of the Ontaneda Group, a leading Ecuadorian green coffee exporter for more than 25 years, began investigating the equipment, technical assistance, general contractors, and other factors needed to manufacture soluble coffee. After careful consideration, Solubles Ecuatorianos S.A. (Solubel) was founded and a new soluble coffee plant was built, costing in the area of US $6 million, financed 67% by the Onteneda Group and 33% from the International Investment Corp. (Washington).

The new factory was built from the ground up using the latest coffee technology and sophisticated, automated machinery capable of producing the best coffee extract, spray dried powder, and agglomerated coffee, both regular and decaffeinated, according to the company. Consultants were retained with Coff Tech Co. (Canada) acting as a general consultant, and Brazilian Food Co. specializing in the building and organization of the factory.

The directors of Solubel S.A. believe that in today's world the fundamental issue in the food industry is quality. Because of this philosophy, the company has directed their efforts towards getting the best raw materials available.

Ramiro Ontaneda, general manager of Solubel S.A, said: "Fortunately, the Ecuadorian soils are so generous that we have one of the best coffees in the world to produce soluble coffee. The environmental conditions, and the pure water used in the process make the product so unique compared to the range of spray dried products on the market today".

The Process

Selection of Coffee beans: Green coffee is carefully selected using Arabica green coffee beans from the different regions of Ecuador. The country has different growing areas; the coast where a small portion of the beans are produced; along the Andes, from Colombia (north) to Peru (south), where the finest Ecuadorian coffee is available, which are Arabicas; and the north-east, where Robustas can be found.

Solubel's classifier makes the selection of green beans using the appropriate equipment, selecting only the good quality beans suitable for the industrialization process.

Roasting: Roasting is done with modern and automated equipment, which permits rapid roasting of the beans, thereby holding the natural aroma and flavor of the coffee.

Extraction: Once the coffee is roasted and ground, the extraction process is initiated using batteries of extractors. This process results in the best coffee extract because it uses the most modern method of extraction, including "aroma recuperation". Electronic control allows complete control of the extraction temperature. Steam heat and water are also used in the process.

During extraction, the engineers work within ranges previously designated by the production manager depending on the quality needed. A data base is maintained of the extraction stage and of the total production process, which is used to evaluate the operational conditions at the moment of extraction and at subsequent stages of production.

After the extraction process, the coffee is brewed and stored in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks in readiness for the next step in the process.

Clarification and Concentration: The coffee extract is pumped through a Alfa Laval centrifuge to clarify it, then stored to age in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, then pumped to the evaporator, an Alfa Laval concentrator, which dehydrates the coffee extract and heats it to a 45-50 degrees Brix. The evaporated extract is then pumped into stainless steel tanks in preparation for the next part of the process.

Spray Dried Tower: The evaporated extract is pumped up a 90 ft. drying tower made of stainless steel, and then sprayed. The heat in the tower, which further dehydrates the extract and which results in coffee powder, is applied using a system which does not allow fuel residue to get in contact with the coffee extract being dried, thereby achieving a coffee powder, or if desired, spray dried agglomerated which is uncontaminated by fuel residue or other extraneous matter.

Laboratories and Quality Control: Quality control is essential to the management of Solubel S.A., so a lab was established to check every batch for physical characteristics such as PH, moisture, color, granule size, density, and flavor. Each batch is also cup tested. In advance of each batch, the production and quality control managers determine the final quality desired. Using micro-processors it is possible to make corrections to match the specifications desired. Automatization and use of the data base enable the factory to keep a record of its production by batch, specification, customer, number of cases, and date of production.

Solubel S.A.'s plant has been servicing the Ecuadorian domestic and the Andenian area markets, and has begun selling products, which include sprayed dried powder or agglomerated--both regular and decaffeinated--to the international market.

PHOTO : Battery of coffee extractors.

PHOTO : Green coffee silos.

PHOTO : A view of the Solubles Ecuatorianos S.A. factory with the spray dried tower in the background.
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Title Annotation:Onteneda Group, Ecuadorian green coffee exporter founds Solubles Ecuatorianos S.A.
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Words:792
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