How is the global energy crisis affecting coffee roasters?

Aidan Gant
August 3, 2022
How is the global energy crisis affecting coffee roasters?

Resources such as oil, natural gas, and coal are collectively called fossil fuels and are classified as “nonrenewable”. 

This means it is of a limited supply, and once a renewable resource is used up, it is gone for good. Annually, global industries and households now burn through over 4,000 times the amount of fossil fuels burnt during 1776.

If we continue to burn through fossil fuels at this rate, experts estimate these resources will be depleted by 2060. Notably, a series of events over the last decade has led the world into what the International Energy Agency is describing as the “first global energy crisis.”

Current supply cannot meet demand, and energy prices are higher than they have ever been. These price hikes are affecting not only the living conditions of individuals, but entire industries, including the specialty coffee industry. 

Find out how the global energy crisis is affecting coffee roasters and how they can adjust business practices to become more sustainable. 

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An image of a power plant producing gas in an article about how the global energy crisis is affecting coffee roasters

What is the global energy crisis?

Fossil fuels are formed when organic matter that has been buried within the earth is subjected to intense heat and pressure over millions of years. 

These fuels still supply over 80% of our global energy, and are running out at an alarming pace. If current consumption levels continue, the globe’s natural gas and oil reserves will be used up within 40 years, with coal following close behind around 100 years after that.

As energy supply is a truly global affair in the 21st century, shortages in one locale can have a knock-on effect. 

For example, in 2021, Brazil experienced intense droughts. For a nation that depends predominantly on hydroelectric power, this has had devastating effects on energy supply.

The droughts increased the county’s reliance on fossil fuels, as well as oil imports from Venezuela and other neighbouring countries. 

The demand pushed up the price per barrel of Venezuelan oil, which would be sanctioned within the next six months in order to help Europe replace Russian imports in the wake of the Russo-Ukraine conflict.

As the Covid-19 pandemic immobilised huge sections of the population in 2020, global energy demand dropped by almost 10,000 terawatt hours.

To put that into perspective, in 2019, that would have been a similar figure to a quarter of the global energy derived from oil. 

In order to understand the scale of change over the last two years, consumers need look no further than the price of fuel. 

The 2020 price of petrol in the UK dropped to below £1 per litre for the first time in nearly half a decade. Just two years later, it was at an all time high, with prices doubling to over £2 per litre in some areas.

This particular crisis was further exacerbated by people panic-buying fuel in fear of shortages.

With energy costs rising by between 400% and 800% from the previous year, as well as increased fuel and transportation costs, many businesses will be feeling the pinch.

An image of a coffee roaster holding green coffee beans in an article on how the global energy crisis is affecting coffee roasters

How is the energy crisis affecting coffee roasters?

The global energy crisis may affect coffee businesses at every point of the value chain. 

As a result of the covid-based labour shortages, coffee farmers who would traditionally harvest manually are having to rely on mechanised processes. 

This mechanical equipment tends to run on fossil fuels, and with rising costs, may lead to smaller gains for already struggling agriculturalists.

Additionally, coffee roasters are suffering due to the current energy crisis. It is common for coffee roasters to run at charge temperatures of between 160ºC (320ºF) and 220ºC (428ºF).

Charge temperature refers to the temperature the roaster runs at before the coffee beans are placed in the drum and often requires a lot of energy to maintain. 

When roasters factor in lighting, extraction, and other overheads they may need to safely run their business, they may be looking at a significant high energy bill.

More so, the type of fuel used to keep roasting fires blazing, as well as the tariff of the energy provider, will factor into running costs. 

Soaring bills are further exacerbating the problems many roasters are facing, especially when confronted with the highest coffee price in seven years – which have doubled compared to 2020 figures.

It can be difficult for roasters to decide whether to swallow these increased costs and let them affect profit margins, or pass them on to the customer and risk decreased sales.

An image of an electric coffee roaster in an article about how the global energy crisis is affecting coffee roasters

How can coffee roasters adapt to the global energy crisis?

One way roasters can adapt to the global energy crisis is to treat it as an opportunity to adopt more sustainable energy practices, reduce consumption, and cut fossil fuel dependence.

At the 2022 meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this was very much the prevailing attitude. The global energy crisis is a long-term problem that must be overcome with long-term solutions, as there is no quick fix. 

This is as true in the coffee industry as anywhere else. 

As natural gas is no longer believed to be a clean solution, gas bans are being implemented in many areas of the world.

Burning natural gas produces heavier methane emissions than initially understood, and this plays a key role in increasing climate volatility. As a result, more roasterys may begin using electric roasters.

Progress with electric roasters made by companies such as Bellwether Coffee means roasters can achieve great results while reducing their environmental impact.

Another solution could be to take the route pioneered by Italian engineers Antonio Durbe and Daniele Tummei, who have developed a solar-powered roaster.

For roasters who are making the switch to electricity, it is vital they research who supplies the energy. It is recommended they partner with a green tariff from a supplier that invests in renewables. 

This will contribute to a cleaner energy future, the long-term solution to the current energy crisis, and can help them money in the more immediate future.

An image of a barista pouring roasted coffee into a hopper in an article about how the global energy crisis is affecting coffee roasters

Additionally, investing in sustainable coffee packaging made from renewable resources can help reduce the carbon footprint of a roastery while extending the shelf life of the coffee.

More so, working directly with packaging specialists can not only help reduce costs, but provide roasters with a hands-on role in their packaging design and production.

At MTPak Coffee, our range of coffee packaging is 100% recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable and made from sustainable materials such as kraft and rice paper, as well as LDPE and PLA-lined bags.

Furthermore, we can use digital printing to customise coffee bags to reflect your brand and sustainability efforts. We have a 40-hour turnaround and 24-hour shipping time, allowing us to offer low minimum order quantities (MOQs) of packaging, no matter what size or material.

For more information on sustainable coffee packaging, contact our team.

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Aidan Gant
Aidan Gant

Aidan spent his early career working in cafes alongside coffee roasters and in other hospitality positions. He owned a vegan tapas restaurant, specialty coffee bar, and live jazz venue, which he operated with his partner before closing during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since 2020, he has made his living writing about coffee and the environment, and is currently a researcher and doctoral student in Creative Writing.

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