Reducing waste produced by using coffee pods and capsules making sure that exhausted coffee’ powder gets used for the extraction of antioxidants and natural lipids for food industry. This is the keystone the study, realized by the research’ team of department of Sciences and Technologies of Libera Università of Bolzano coordinated by professor Matteo Scampicchio, is about. A result that was possible to obtain using a system working with hypercritical CO2 (in a state that is halfway between fizzy and liquid) and, for example in the industry, they already use it to produce decaffeinated coffee. Likewise the process was used by professor Scampicchio’s team to extract essential oils, antioxidants and colorants, as “green” option compared to these extracting processes using instead organic solvents.

Professor Scampicchio deepened with Canale Energia some aspects linked to the research:

We proved with this research how, using an innovative extraction’ technique based on carbon dioxide’ use in hypercritical phase, is possible to extract from exhausted coffee’ powders a huge variety of lipid’ matters and natural antioxidants.

What was the input for the research? Which outcomes did you obtain?

The research was born looking to the wastefulness we produced by ourselves using coffee pods at the office. We are an about 10 people research group, drinking on average 2 coffees daily. After not even a week we understood to have used already 140 capsules. If for aluminum exist technologies to reuse it, reducing this way the environmental impact, instead doesn’t seem, by now, great interest to recover exhaust coffee. Maybe the reason is that we always believed that most selected nutritional elements like antioxidants would be already extracted with coffee to drink. Instead, we demonstrated with this research as, using an innovative extracting technique based on carbon dioxide’ use in hypercritical phase, it’s possible to extract from exhausted coffee’ powder a huge variety of lipid’ matters and natural antioxidant. Moreover, separating further antioxidants from lipid part, we saw as antioxidant power of this fraction is extremely powerful, able, for example, to arrest free radical’ formation.

Purposes

What purposes may have coffee submitted to extraction with carbon dioxide in hypercritical phase? What kind of impact may have by this point of view?

There are remarkable applications. In food, vegetal fats are important to prepare creams, emulsions, sauces, pâté, minced and many pastry’ or baked products. But there are other sectors, like animal feeds and cosmetic that may reuse the lipid coffee’ fraction. The key of everything is using the material totally before you throw it away. Even about the antioxidants, instead, the applications are many. Natural antioxidants are fine ingredients not only for food, but in pharmacological products and in nutritional supplements too. In fact we know how antioxidants, like polyphenols, are able to protect us from oxidation and free radical’ formation.

Substituting palm oil

May we, for example, substitute palm oil

Reusing exhausted coffee’ pods would be very important as green option to use other oils with a bigger environmental impact, like, for example, palm oil. This is a vegetal oil that is refined many times to increase contents of saturates, and preventing so the oxidation. Analogously, even the lipid part extracted from the coffee’ pods has similar features and, through appropriate refining processes, could be used to substitute the all or a part of other oils less sustainable like the palm one.

There are the elements for a technological transfer. Starting material is low priced and available in big amount. Extracting technologies are checked and reachable too. For example we collaborate with some companies both national and international already owner of these installations of hypercritical CO2, even  huge sized.

Are there concrete premises to make the process profitable even by an industrial point of view? Practically are there the elements to make the project sustainable by an economic point of view?

There are the elements for a technological transfer. Starting materials is low priced and available in big amount. Extracting technologies are checked and reachable too. For example we collaborate with some companies both national and international already owner of these installations of hypercritical CO2, even of huge sizes.

But is evident that the small producer hardly may start in a short time a new installation, because this is an operation requesting big investment. A solution could be the one of developing consortiums between small producers and, throw financing industrial innovation, to make available extraction’ implantation technologies.

May you give us a concrete example?

Here in Alto Adige, for example, the Province realized, with Bolzano’s Libera Università and other local authorities, NOI Tech Park, a technological Park really intended as a research and development’ service for local companies. In this respect, Libera Università of Bolzano wants to influence on territory aspiring to researches with a strong potential of technological transfer. In fact, if it’s clear that small local entities can’t manage with the huge investments requested by this kind of technologies, NOI Tech of Bolzano may represent an help to companies. These can rent spaces, develop start-ups and followed and supported by University and the most important research centers

From Alto Adige. This is certainly a virtuous project of the Province and surely useful at competitive level for companies from Alto Adige.

A chance for companies

This innovation would be able to change approaching coffee? How?

As a coffee’ consumer, always thought that the pods’ limit was their environmental impact. So, if the pods’ producing companies would adopt this waste recycling’ approach , they would be able to create around coffee pods a more green and sustainable image. In this sense, bioeconomy is a chance for companies to promote more and more their products.

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CONDIVIDI
Monica Giambersio
Giornalista professionista e videomaker con esperienze in diverse agenzie di stampa e testate web. Laurea specialistica in Filosofia, master in giornalismo multimediale. Collaboro con Gruppo Italia Energia dal 2013.