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Neuhaus Neotec turn-key plant: fluidized and flexible.

Inside the new, yet modest building in tiny Marchtrenk, Austria, a renaissance in coffee plant design is taking place. Neuhaus Neotec GmbH, noted for their roasting and grinding machinery, have now gone into full coffee factory design, delivering the SPAR-Coffee Roasting Plant on a turnkey basis in 1991.

The combination of SPAR's demand for a cost-effective and environmentally sound roasting plant and Neuhaus Neotec's know-how in flexible, state-of-the-art coffee machinery, resulted in this plant which supplies the REGIO KAFFEE brand to the SPAR chain of groceries throughout Austria.

From coffee receiving, to roasting and cooling, to grinding, packaging, and shipping, most equipment in the annual 6'000'ton'capacity plant is manufactured by Neuhaus Neotec. A tour of the plant starts in the control room which is a one-man operation.

"We have a philosophy of double safety," said Peter Sommer, field engineer for Neuhaus Neotec. "Everything is controlled two or three times to prevent problems.

"Therefore," he says, "the control room is the most important room in the company. "Here you oversee the entire operation, from green coffee receiving, roasting, grinding, to packaging."

The measuring, controlling, and regulating system (MCR) displays all the process operations of the plant on a PC. Screens displaying input of coffee types, plant parameters, and preset parameters (featuring temperature curves), facilitate the plant's operation.

Other than the one-man operation control center, a total 20 employees maintain the SPAR plant and its grounds. With the plant being virtually automated, it's kind of a lonely place -- unless one finds company in the surprisingly low hum of the Neuhaus Neotec roasters and vacuum transport system.

Perhaps Neuhaus Neotec's most important equipment is the RFB Rotating Fluidized Bed Roaster. At SPAR there are two RFB 200 roasters. The RFB batch roaster includes a roasting and cooling chamber of identical shapes. At the bottom of the chambers are perforated plates through which the heating or cooling medium enters. A fan provides pressure and velocity, lifting the coffee batch and conveying it from side to side where it eventually slides to the bottom and then back up. Thus, when viewing through the glass panel on the side of the RFB, the beans appear to be rotating around an imaginary axle.

"Every bean is covered by hot air, requiring a very short roasting time compared with other roasting equipment," said Sommer.

"Batches of 150 kg take about four minutes to roast and cool," he said. "You can run it much faster, but with this roasting time you get very good bean development, especially for robustas." The RFB series takes away much of a robusta's traditionally undesirable taste traits, said Sommer.

"With faster roasting time you can add higher percentages of robustas to the blend, and the taste will not be hurt, saving the manufacturer a lot of money in the long term."

During feed and discharge of coffee beans, the heating medium bypasses the chamber, maintaining the temperature, volume, and pressure necessary for roasting, thereby saving energy. The next batch can be instantly roasted at the required temperature without further heating up and wasting of energy.

The bean chaff that is removed is collected and compressed into the size and shape of cigarette butts. This by-product can then be sold to farms for use as filler to animal feed.

Cooling of roasted coffee is done in the same fluidized and rotating way as in the roasting chamber. A number of spray nozzles are positioned in the upper part of chamber for quenching the hot beans. Quenching starts automatically and instantly upon discharge of hot coffee beans from the roasting chamber. After the cooling cycle is terminated, the coffee beans discharge into a receiving bin.

Also, very important is Neuhaus Neotec's modular design coffee grinders which provide flexibility in both range of performance and particle size requirements. This modular design permits step-by-step extensions with performance enhanced by each additional section without the need for extra space.

The key words in Neuhaus Neotec grinding theory are: gentle, gradual, and multi-stage. The grinding apparatus is adjusted to micrometer precision, permitting individual grinding capabilities: filter grind; espresso; or processed coffee for instants. The unit provides uniformity with control of particle size and distribution.

Coffee beans go through four stages: feeding, breaking, grinding, and mixing. At SPAR, there are two 350 grinders with a 3-tons-per-hour capacity. (Neuhaus Neotec also has a new Spectrum grinder available.)

An important adjunct to Neuhaus Neotec plant design is the attachment to the roaster of the catalytic afterburner system.

"[Marchtrenk] is small town, and there are lots of small villages around," said Sommer. "Due to Austria's strict environmental laws, we have to certify that the levels of emissions are below 40 mg of carbon in a half hour period." Sommer said current levels at the SPAR plant average around 5 mg per half hour.

This operation is so clean, in fact, that no smoke, steam, or emission is visible or can be felt even when standing next to the flue/exhaust pipe on the roof during roastery operation.

"In coffee plants a lot of carbon, CO, [CO.sub.2], and etheric gases are produced," said Sommer. At the SPAR plant, emissions from the cooling system are cleaned economically by using the roaster catalyst during the quench cycle.

In addition to roasters and grinders, Neuhaus Neotec supplies several products. Coffee is unloaded from trucks onto Neuhaus Neotec-designed Belt Conveyors for coffee in bags, then moved to the Automatic Bag Emptying Machine. At SPAR, there is one such station with a total of four cutting knives with a 700-bag-an-hour capacity.

Then, the coffee is off to the Green Coffee Cleaning Machine (Model PSM), available in four capacities, from 10 to 60 tons an hour. Here, weights installed under the sieve magazine provide a circular oscillation. Attached vertical separators removes dust and other light particles with an adjustable air stream.

After grinding, the Neuhaus Neotec Vacuum-TactConveying System transports the coffee at low speeds--less than 5 meters a second--assuring gentle product handling, preventing changes in bulk density, and keeping particle distribution even.

"In the vacuum system, no air is used so aroma and taste are not compromised," said Sommer. "No dust from the air is added into the coffee grind at this point."

Neuhaus Neotec is building a reputation on flexibility. "We don't have designs set in stone which can't be modified," said Sommer. "We are very flexible for our customers."

And customers are starting to take notice of Neuhaus Neotec turnkey plants. Within two to three years, Neuhaus Neotec will have supplied five coffee plants on a turnkey basis, from England to Eastern Europe to Japan. One of the largest projects of Neuhaus Neotec is the recently announced DM 10 million plant of a major German coffee company outside Warsaw.
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Title Annotation:Neuhaus Neotec GmbH designed coffee roasting plant in Marchtrenk, Austria
Author:John, Glenn A.
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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