What are process controls & are they relevant for specialty coffee roasters?

Esther Gibbs
June 7, 2023
An image of a specialty coffee roaster implementing a HACCP plan in a roastery in an article on process controls in specialty coffee

The food and beverage manufacturing industry has implemented several systems of process control to ensure the best practices are used. These systems include Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), and the Food Safety Modernisation Act (FSMA).

While these processes are not legally required for operating a company, there are several benefits to having them in place – even as a specialty coffee roaster. That said, it is important to note that each country and region will have its own requirements. Therefore, it is important for roasters to check with local authorities for recommendations.

Learn more about process controls within specialty coffee, and how to introduce them into your business.

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What are these process controls?

First, roasters must understand the name of the system is dependent on the country and local authorities.

Good Manufacturing Practices

Good manufacturing practices or GMPs include ensuring safe production practices are being followed in order to protect the safety of the staff. While coffee roasting has a relatively simple manufacturing process, it is still important for roasters to get these documents and procedures in place if they want to grow as a brand.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points plan

Essentially, a HACCP is a systematic approach to food safety management. It aims to prevent, eliminate, or reduce hazards that may pose risks to food safety. A plan like this is a proactive and preventative system designed to ensure the production of safe food products.

Having a HACCP plan is crucial for businesses in the food industry for several reasons. First, it ensures food safety by controlling hazards and reducing risks that could compromise the safety of consumable products. It ensures businesses comply with regulations for local regulatory bodies and governments, as well as larger contracts, such as supermarkets. A plan such as this enhances legal compliance, maintaining licenses, permits, or certifications.

More so, a HACCP builds trust with consumers who are increasingly concerned about the safety and quality of the food they consume. Having a plan like this in place can also increase operational efficiency and cost savings by improving the overall efficiency of a brand’s processes. This includes reducing waste, increasing productivity, implementing control measures, and reducing product contamination. Finally, a HACCP plan is a prerequisite for accessing international markets as it serves as evidence of a systemic and comprehensive approach to food safety.

An image of a specialty coffee roaster smelling freshly roasted coffee beans in an article on process controls in specialty coffee

How do you create a HACCP plan? 

Creating a HACCP plan involves several key steps. A general outline of the process often includes:

  • A hazard analysis: Roasters must be able to identify and evaluate potential biological, chemical, and physical hazards that may occur at each stage of the production process.
  • Determine critical control points (CCPs): Roasters must identify the steps in the production process where control measures can be applied to prevent, eliminate, or reduce identified hazards to an acceptable level.
  • Establish critical limits: For each CCP, specific criteria must be set to define the acceptable limits of control measures. These limits may include temperature ranges, time limits, and other measurable parameters.
  • Implement monitoring procedures: Roasters must define methods and procedures to monitor the CCPs and verify that critical limits are consistently met.
  • Develop corrective actions: Roasters must then determine which actions to take when deviations from critical limits occur. They must establish procedures for identifying the cause of the deviation, take corrective actions to bring the process back into control, and prevent the release of non-compliant products.
  • Establish record-keeping systems: It is essential roasters maintain comprehensive records that document the HACCP plan implementation. This must include hazard analyses, critical control points, monitoring results, corrective actions, and verification activities.
  • Establish documentation and training: Roasters must prepare clear and concise documentation of the HACCP plan, which includes procedures, work instructions, and training materials. Furthermore, they must ensure all personnel involved in the food production process receive appropriate training and understand their roles and responsibilities in implementing the plan.
  • Continual improvement: Most importantly, roasters must foster a culture of continuous improvement by regularly reviewing the HACCP plan. This may include incorporating new scientific knowledge, regulatory updates, and industry best practices.
An image of a specialty coffee roaster testing roasted coffee beans as part of process controls in coffee in an article on process controls in specialty coffee

How do roasters benefit from a HACCP plan? 

Specialty coffee roasters may not always be legally required to have a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan. This is primarily because the regulatory requirements vary depending on the country and local jurisdiction. However, implementing a HACCP plan is highly recommended for specialty coffee roasters due to the potential risks associated with the coffee production process.

There are many reasons why specialty coffee roasters should consider having a HACCP plan. For instance, it can help ensure product safety. Even though coffee beans are generally low-risk when it comes to biological hazards, there are still potential risks of contamination during the production process. For example, inadequate storage conditions, cross-contamination from equipment or surfaces, or pests, can compromise the safety and quality of the coffee beans. Implementing a HACCP plan can help identify and control these risks to ensure the production of safe and high-quality coffee.

More so, a HACCP plan can assist with quality control. Specialty coffee roasters prioritise the quality and flavour of their coffee beans. By having a HACCP plan in place, roasters can implement control measures to address factors that may affect the flavour, aroma, and overall quality of the coffee. This includes controlling temperature and humidity during storage, preventing cross-contamination with other products, and ensuring proper cleaning and maintenance of equipment.

Another benefit includes additional customer trust and market differentiation. Specialty coffee is often associated with premium quality, and consumers have high expectations for product safety and quality. Having a HACCP plan demonstrates a commitment to food safety and can help build trust and credibility with customers. It sets specialty coffee roasters apart from competitors and can be a valuable marketing tool in an increasingly discerning market.

Having a HACCP plan can also help with export and regulatory compliance. If a specialty coffee roaster exports products to countries with strict food safety regulations, a HACCP plan may be required to meet the import requirements. Adhering to international food safety standards, such as those outlined by Codex Alimentarius, can facilitate market access and ensure compliance with regulatory obligations.

Last, implementing a HACCP plan encourages specialty coffee roasters to assess their production processes comprehensively. By identifying critical control points and implementing monitoring procedures, roasters can optimise their operations, reduce waste, prevent contamination, and minimise the risk of product recalls or liability issues.

While a HACCP plan may not be a legal requirement for specialty coffee roasters, it is considered a best practice for ensuring product safety, quality control, and customer satisfaction. By proactively addressing potential hazards, roasters can establish themselves as leaders in the specialty coffee industry and demonstrate their commitment to producing exceptional and safe coffee products. It can also enable a smooth transitional growth and ease of onboarding to new and larger contracts and customers with strict requirements. 

Dive into our Education Centre for information on coffee packaging legislation, design trends, and interviews with other roasters in the specialty community.

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