Coffee, a drink rich in... energy!

Posted on 05 February 2015.

In Central America, the NGO UTZ Certified uses the water polluted by coffee plantations to produce energy. For coffee that uses less water... and is more environmentally friendly!

Producing your morning wake-up cup of coffee takes 140 liters of water - at the very least!

If you have a cup of coffee in your hand while reading this article, whatever you do, don’t drop it. According to figures supplied by WWF, producing a single cup of your morning wake-up drink requires 140 liters of water at the very least. In 2010, this drove UTZ Certified, the leading coffee industry certification NGO, to launch the Energy from Wastewater Coffee program. Its objective? To optimize the use of water in the coffee production process. Before going to the coffee mill, the juicy, fleshy fruit of the coffee plant has to be removed to leave just the seed or coffee bean, which is used to make the iconic drink. Separating the cherry-like fruit from its seed uses large quantities of water, which is catastrophic for the groundwater. And although the coffee produced at the end of process gets your day off to a flying start, the wastewater left is undrinkable. Full of juice, this "honey water", rich in acids and organic matter, pollutes the rivers of Central America, which produces 70% of the world’s coffee... and has 31% of the world’s freshwater resources!

Methane in the kitchen

The technique devised by UTZ Certified is simple: circulate the washing water through a bio-digester (video francophone), a reactor that produces biogas. Inside the device, there is a thin layer of bacteria-rich manure: the bacteria feed on the sweet pulp in the waste water... and produce methane as a by-product. It is a true example of the circular economy - this biological reaction does not just purify water, but also generates energy that can be used for cooking or heating. In addition, the device also helps to reduce the amount of water used to wash the fruit - good news, since the number of liters used to clean one kilogram of coffee cherries is equivalent to the amount a family of six would use in a day.... In four years, UTZ Certified has installed 19 biogas generators - eight in Nicaragua, ten in Honduras, one in Guatemala - and is considering installing the system in other countries such as Colombia, Peru and Brazil... UTZ Certified is apparently even looking for financial partners to take its system to Kenya and Vietnam! It’s a sure thing that the environmental impact of your daily cup of coffee will have the edge taken off it!