Fuelling up on waste coffee

New research at the University of Sheffield has shown that oil can be extracted from waste coffee beans and used to produce biofuel for cars. If this potential new energy source can be produced commercially, we could soon be fuelling up our cars, as well as ourselves, with a morning coffee!

The new research developed by Annabel Townsend, a PhD student in the University's Department of Geography , shows that coffee oil can be extracted in greater quantities directly from defective coffee beans grown in Latin America each year. The research is based on fieldwork carried out in Nicaragua, Central America, and follows up on findings from scientists at the University of Nevada-Reno, who announced in 2008 that oil could be extracted from grounds used previously for growing coffee and used to make a new form of biofuel.

Every year, a significant proportion of the coffee harvest cannot be exported because it does not meet the quality standards demanded by the international markets. This defective, low quality coffee actually yields more oil than the higher quality crop and so is ideal for use in biodiesel production. The research could have far-reaching consequences for the biofuels industry, and could also potentially improve the lives of small-scale coffee producers in Central America.

Commenting on the findings Annabel said: "If farmers are able to sell coffee for fuel instead of for the production of low quality beverages then this could make good use of an otherwise wasted by-product, and at the same time provide a potentially sustainable source of biofuel."

She added: "Setting aside a proportion of the existing coffee crops in this manner would also require less land for fuel crops at the expense of food production, and therefore avoid some of the more controversial issues surrounding the biofuel industry."

Notes for Editors: For more information and to see the research paper, please visit: http://drcoffee.wordpress.com/2009/01/24/220/

For further information please contact: Catherine Milburn, Media Relations Officer on 0114 2225339 or email C.L.Milburn@sheffield.ac.uk