Posted By in AgriProFocus Ethiopia
Posted 6 November 2017 at 08:28

Superheated Solution for Processing Cascara (Coffee Pulp)

This is my first post so please go easy on me : )  My area of knowledge is coffee, I live and breath it.  I can't speak for other industries, so this is specific to coffee. The cofffee value chain is incredibly disturbing.  Coffee farmers WW, are facing numerous challenges, especially in Ethiopia. 

What I struggle with is that technological innovation does not occur at the farm level.  It's upstream.  At the farm level is where I see an immense amount of opportunity for disruptive investments to be made to enhance farmer's livelihood and for positive environmental change to occur.  Coffee farmers could have 2-3 additional streams of income if investment was made at this level.  

Below is an article written on a technology I uncovered through a lot of research, super heated steam, that is likely applicable to other agriculture commodities.  I'm hoping to bring this to Ethiopia.  So yes I am looking for grants or funding to support.  If interested please reach out.    


Sourcing cascara is not for amateurs, observes Nanelle Newbom, a veteran San Diego coffee roaster and buyer with 14 years’ experience in specialty coffee.

“Literally if you don’t know your mill and carefully learn the process and communicate clearly you could end up buying the top layer of a compost pile that got somewhat sun-dried,” she says.

“But if you do your job you could find really clean, dried fruit that has been carefully processed and tastes amazing,” she adds, “It’s not for amateurs (yet).”

David Seminsky, a China-based entrepreneur who founded Sumerian Coffee, (, understands what a pain it is for farmers to meet roaster requests for quality cascara – especially if those roasters want to dig on price. The product has great potential but processing is difficult, he explains.

“Oxygen is the enemy when it comes to food. It makes food more susceptible to microorganisms that create pathogens - bacteria. This is why farms have been challenged to broadly distribute cascara. After the seed has been de-pulped, ideally the pulp needs to be dehydrated within 24 hours.

Seminsky, who spends his time developing ways to impact the coffee value chain through innovation, discovered a firm that builds equipment for NASA is developing a superheated steam dehydration system to process coffee pulp.

“Why is this a revolutionary innovation for coffee? How do you dehydrate with steam? Seems counterintuitive?” he asks excitedly.

“This is what coffee innovation looks like,” writes Seminsky

“Steam that boils from your cup or a pot at 1000 C is saturated. Superheated steam is anything above that temperature. It’s a law of thermodynamics that steam doesn’t like to be above 100o C. It likes to remain at saturation. When heated above 100o C steam looks for ways to return to saturation,” Seminsky explains. “Thus if you have a closed vessel filled with steam at a temperature of 140oC and you add biomass ― in this case, wet coffee cherry pulp ― it will extract the moisture from the pulp in its attempt to return to 100 o C. It dehydrates and sterilizes with zero exposure to oxygen. The polyphenol TAC (total antioxidant capacity) is optimized.”

The process under development can transform 1 metric ton of pulp into 100 kilos of cascara every 45 minutes. The system also captures the steam extracted from the pulp and re-condenses it into water that can be used for cooking, cleaning, at the washing station, and potentially even as drinking water.

The dried weight of pulp is approximately 10% of the total mixture. “Imagine, if you start with 1,000 kilos of wet pulp, normally destined for compost, you will end up with 100 kilos of cascara and 900 liters of clean water,” says Seminsky.

“Yes, I know. It’s amazing,” he said.