By repurposing one of the main by-products of the coffee industry, CoffeeFlour have found a way to create economic, social and environmental value from what is usually thought of as a waste product and turned it into a valuable resource.
While we’re probably all aware that our morning coffee started out life somewhere in Latin America, or maybe Asia or Africa, it’s easy to forget that it actually comes from a fruit, a small red berry that looks something like a cross between a cherry and a cranberry. And there’s a long and multi-step process that has to take place before that red berry can produce anything like what we think of as the coffee that we drink.
As coffee is often grown in mountainous areas, it usually starts off being picked by hand. The unwanted flesh of the cherry is removed and discarded, at the very beginning of the process. In fact, more than half of it ends up being thrown away – for every 50 kilos of coffee cherries picked by a worker, only around 10 kilos of processed coffee beans are produced.
The huge amounts of waste pulp created as a by-product can cause environmental problems – if it’s not disposed of correctly, it can end up rotting in nearby rivers and streams, contaminating water sources for the local population.
Finding the Potential in Food Waste
Rather than letting this fruit waste end up in landfill, the people behind CoffeeFlour have come up with a solution. They wash it, stabilise it and then dry it, before grinding it to create a stand-alone food product. And voila, you have coffee flour.
Amazingly, although it looks exactly like ground coffee, apparently it doesn’t taste of it. Instead has a sort of floral, roasted fruit flavour which goes well in cakes, sauces and even cocktails. And as well as being gluten-free, it boasts pretty impressive nutritional qualities – with high levels of fibre, protein, iron, potassium and calcium. But if you’re expecting a coffee high to be included, you’ll be disappointed – apparently it only has as much caffeine content as dark chocolate.
The Social, Environmental and Economic Impacts
Although the coffee industry is a huge business, much of the coffee producers around the world are still small scale farmers – so an initiative like this is an effective way to make a direct impact on individuals’ lives. CoffeeFlour is currently manufacturing its product in three continents: in Hawaii, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, and Vietnam.
While the production of coffee flour automatically means less organic waste, it also results in additional income for coffee growers and processors, and the creation of jobs among the local population. And while coffee fruits are perishable, and the prices for the finished product can rise and fall dramatically, coffee flour can keep for a long time and market prices aren’t as volatile – so revenue is more secure and jobs sustainable.
Check out the lovingly animated video below for a visual take on the potential impacts of flour made from coffee.
Want to know more about other unusual repurposing projects for food waste? Check out our articles on houses built from rice husks in the Philippines and handbags made from fruit leather in the Netherlands.