Could the global energy crisis see a rise in traditional wood roasting?

Janice Kanniah
October 5, 2022
Could the global energy crisis see a rise in traditional wood roasting?

For months, the global energy crisis has dominated international headlines, affecting countries in the north and south. 

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine was the catalyst, driving up the prices of gasoline and electricity. In turn, the costs of essential goods and services are also likely to increase. 

It is cautiously estimated European households will experience a $2 trillion surge in heating costs as the northern hemisphere heads into winter. Those living in the UK have been hardest hit, with nationally owned facilities unable to keep up with demand for home insulation and gas-powered heating and cooking. 

European businesses are likely to be affected by these rising prices – especially roasters who are reliant on electricity or gas to roast their coffee. This has led many to explore alternative solutions, the simplest of which is briefly transitioning back to the traditional methods, such as wood roasting. 

Read on to discover what factors may influence a roaster’s decision to revert to wood roasting coffee, and whether it is the best choice for your business. 

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An image of an energy efficient coffee roasters in an article about whether the global energy crisis could see a rise in traditional wood roasting

How could the energy crisis impact roasters?

While it can be challenging to imagine a world that is less reliant on fossil fuel-derived gas and petrol, sustainability has come a long way.

From 1973 to 2022, oil has dropped from accounting for 50% of the planet’s primary energy consumption to around 30%. At the time, oil was readily available and inexpensive, which is no longer the case. 

While the cost of fossil fuel power makes it an attractive option, supply disruptions are contributing to the problem. 

Renewable energy is fast becoming favoured over these options, as many countries are exploring solar and nuclear power. These options have the benefit of producing few to no carbon emissions, making them more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Notably, renewable energy may be practical for powering large-scale infrastructure, it may not be easily accessible for the average small roaster. 

For this market, wood roasting could be an easier-to-implement option. Coffee has a long and rich history of wood roasting that predates electricity and gas-powered methods.

It is important to note a roaster’s energy consumption will differ according to their output, demand, and choice of equipment. 

It is estimated around 60% of the energy used to make a cup of coffee can be attributed to its transportation, roasting, and brewing. 

The stage coffee roasters can control is the roast. That said, roasting coffee usually takes place at standard temperatures ranging between 188°C to 282°C (370°F to 539°F). 

A machine operating at these temperatures can produce an estimated average of 1 million energy units an hour. 

Therefore, as the global energy crisis worsens, many roasters will have to adapt their business operations accordingly.

Could wood roasting be a solution for roasters?

Before roasters were introduced to gas and electric-powered roasters, they used wood and coal to roast green beans. 

This practice continued throughout the 17th and 18th century. By the 20th century, many roasters relied on gas or electrically powered machines. 

Notably, early wood roasters were unable to produce a clean heat. Furthermore, they allowed little control over the bean’s temperature and airflow, often imbuing the coffee with an unpleasant smoky flavour.  

That said, many modern roasters still prefer to roast their green coffee this way. Many believe it results in a superior offering than anything an electrical or gas powered roaster can produce. 

However, many roasters do integrate modern technology and data, allowing them to track and control the roast’s precise temperature and airflow. 

Others tend to prefer more traditional models, which requires the roaster to make a more hands-on approach to the roast. They rely on their sense of sight, smell, and sound to determine how far along a roast is. 

The majority of wood roasting enthusiasts agree this method of roasting produces a dry and soft air convection heat that results in a more even roast. This may help to highlight the coffee’s delicate notes while lowering its acidity and giving it a fuller body. 

However, they also agree it takes a sizable financial investment to switch to wood roasting. Additionally, this physical roast process can take much longer than conventional roasting methods. 

More so, as it is inertly intuitive, the wood roasting method may be better suited to more experienced roasters. 

Before making the switch to this method, roasters will need to secure a renewable source of wood, or risk contributing to deforestation.

An image of a barista dialing in coffee in an article about whether the global energy crisis could see a rise in traditional wood roasting

Selecting the best option for your business’ needs

Despite the fact that wood roasting has many undeniable benefits, it is not a foolproof solution.

The high initial costs and ongoing complexity can make it a challenging method to adopt. More so, in today’s uncertain economic climate, it may not be a risk many roasters are willing, or able, to take. 

As a result, it may be a better idea to explore alternative ways roasters can reduce their reliance on electricity. 

For instance, this can include investing in a more energy efficient roaster that uses less electricity and roasts coffee in less time. 

Often, these machines have additional benefits, such as producing fewer harmful emissions and boasting full automation. 

Roasters can also reduce their reliance on electricity by roasting their coffee during “off-peak hours”. This refers to roasting outside the times where electricity is in high demand, which can reduce consumption. 

Furthermore, investing in coffee packaging fitted with degassing valves will ensure roast coffee can be packaged immediately, without compromising on quality. 

Additionally, roasters should learn to forecast demand, as it can allow them to roast more precise amounts of coffee. This can be done by offering customers subscription services, allowing them to order coffee months in advance. 

As coffee naturally begins to degrade in quality once it has been roasted, roasters should invest in high quality packaging. Forecasting demand can help prevent roasters from losing money in the form of unsold coffee. 

Investing in coffee bags that keep out oxygen, moisture, sunlight, and heat while allowing carbon dioxide to escape, can ensure the coffee has the longest lifespan possible.

It is important to note what may be a suitable solution for one roaster may not be the best option for another. 

However, investing in biodegradable, compostable, or recyclable coffee packaging and takeaway cups can be one of the most effective ways to improve sustainability credentials and reduce energy consumption. 

At MTPak Coffee, we offer a range of 100% recyclable coffee packaging options made from renewable materials such as kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining, all of which minimise waste and contribute to a circular economy.

More so, we give our roasters complete control over the design process by allowing them to build their own coffee bags or custom-printed coffee boxes that are ideal for coffee subscriptions. 

Our design team uses innovative digital printing technology, with a quick turnaround time of 40-hours and 24-hour shipping time. We also offer low minimum order quantities (MOQs) to micro-roasters who are looking to remain agile while showcasing brand identity and a commitment to the environment.

For more information on custom-printed sustainable coffee packaging, contact our team today.

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