Pneumatic Coffee Conveying: Efficiently Transport Beans & Grounds

The coffee industry is a unique food industry segment that concentrates on producing packaged coffee products, including roasted whole bean coffee, ground coffee, and flavored coffee.

Coffee manufacturers focus on coffee product characteristics such as quality, taste, flavor, and variety. Of equal importance is their coffee production operation. 

To meet business objectives, coffee manufacturers and packers must maintain and clean coffee production equipment and manage the total cost of producing coffee. They want efficiency and cost savings in coffee processing equipment that runs with minimal energy at maximum output and has low maintenance requirements and costs.

coffee conveying process

In any manufacturing industry, factors contributing to higher production costs can include operator training issues, equipment downtime for cleaning, maintenance, and changeover, and a lack of spare parts when needed. 

To minimize issues that increase production costs, most manufacturers prefer standardized equipment that is easy to clean and maintain. 

With equipment standardization, operators can be trained more efficiently. Spare part inventory can be limited to common parts, offering cost savings over carrying a large inventory of unique parts for different equipment units. The coffee manufacturing industry is no exception.  

After any needed cleaning and sorting of green coffee beans, the coffee manufacturing process begins with roasting the green beans.

The Coffee Bean Manufacturing Process

Greens coffee beans are first transported (A) to the roaster. Roasted beans are cooled, screened, and transported (B) directly into a whole bean bag filler or (C) to a grinder and then transported (D) to a ground coffee filler.

Some coffees are special blends or have added flavors that may require cleaning equipment during a changeover to prevent cross-contamination of blends or flavorings. In some instances, the same filler may be used to pack whole bean coffee and ground coffee. This would require additional equipment cleaning to remove ground coffee remnants from the equipment internals during a changeover. 

There are four (4) transfer steps involved in the coffee manufacturing processing. Coffee manufacturers, who use screw conveyors to feed roasters or drag chain conveyors to feed grinders, often discover it is impossible to handle all four steps due to layout constraints.

Another challenge they face with screw or drag chain conveyors is that excess coffee gets stuck in the equipment, making the cleaning and changeover process much more complex and time-consuming. They are also challenged by the need to handle roasted coffee beans gently, as roasted coffee beans can be fragile and sustain damage during transport.

Coffee Bean Conveying System Requirements

Most specialized coffee manufactures, and packers want a simplified process using standard equipment that can address their primary challenges and concerns through several criteria: 

  1. Standard equipment for all coffee applications: Handles fragile or heavy coffee beans and ground coffee with the same efficiency, easy operator training, and common spare parts inventory. 
  2. Flexibility in layout/orientation: Easy transfer path, avoids blocking operator access.
  3. Easy Cleaning: Quick take-apart and simple cleaning of equipment internals and parts.
  4. Low Product Retention: Low contamination when switching coffee from blend to blend.
  5. No internal parts: Reduce contamination, minor damage to the coffee product with no frictional heat.

Pneu-Con has developed a specific line of products to enable coffee manufacturers to convey whole bean and ground coffee safely.

This is where Pneu-Con is uniquely positioned. Pneu-Con’s Coffee Conveying System handles all 4 transfer steps and meets all of the above criteria. Their proven self-contained vacuum loader, Whisper® Loader, coupled with ancillary equipment, is a complete Coffee Conveying System that affords ease of operation, quality control, and low maintenance which helps reduce the cost of producing a finished coffee product. 

One of the extraordinary features of Pneu-Con’s Coffee Conveying System is that the conveying motor is equipped with a speed control dial located in the control panel. An operator can slow the motor down when conveying fragile roasted beans or increase motor speed to transfer more robust and heavier green beans.

Pneu-Con has been manufacturing custom pneumatic conveying equipment since 1978, from engineering and installing turn-key operations to supplying components and parts. Pneu-Con’s Coffee Conveying Systems were successfully installed and in operation at the following coffee manufacturers: 

Zoka CoffeeNolt FoodsCaffe Vitoria
Cameron’s CoffeeSingle CupsGoston Avend
Roasters ExchangeEquator Coffees and TeasDesert Sun Coffee
Bradford CoffeeIntegrity Machinery SolutionsStone Cup Roasting
Coffee LegendsVermont CoffeeCalabria Coffee
Probat BurnsFazenda CoffeeKicking Horse Coffee
El CafeitoLarue CoffeeElevation Coffee Traders
Coffee Bean InternationalAmerica’s Best CoffeeRoaster Joe’s
Kahwa CoffeeEspresso AmericanoQuoc Viet Foods
Scottish RoastersCordoba CoffeeCafé Bunte
Full City RoastersBuywell InternationalKoa Coffee
Now CanadaParis Brothers CoffeeZentveld’s Coffee
Fresh Roasted CoffeeDoor County CoffeeCamano Island Coffee
Pierce Brothers CoffeeAppliance MaintenanceSteep & Brew
Mukilteo Coffee49th ParallelCrimson Cup Coffee
Bridgehead CoffeeNew Pinon CoffeeMayorga Coffee
Portland RoastingMidwest Custom RoastingHawaiian Isles
Probat BurnsBatdord CoffeePeace Coffee

Whisper® Loaders: Self Contained Pneumatic Vacuum Conveying Systems

Pneu-Con Whisper® Loader packages are complete self-contained material-loading systems with an integral motor/fan (vacuum pump), providing efficient and economical operation with minimal maintenance and downtime. Whisper® Loaders are shipped ready-to-run, requiring minimal set-up. 

whisper loader

They are pre-wired to plug into a grounded 120VAC/Ø1/20Amp receptacle (240VAC/Ø1/60Hz optional) and designed to automatically convey material from a local source (typically located within 10 feet) up-and-over to a machine material hopper, extruder, ‘Day’ bin or similar type of receiving vessel. Whisper® Loader is designed to automatically maintain material levels in a receiving device, drawing material from the source – at a timed rate set at the control panel.

Standard packages include Vacuum-Loader, Aluminum Pick-up Lance (sized to match line size of the Loader’s inlet), 10-ft length of clear PVC Flexible Hose (sized to match) with a pair of Hose Clamps and Control Panel. 

As an option, Whisper® Loaders can be supplied with a Vibra-Pulse™ filter-cleaning system to clean the filter following each conveying cycle automatically. 

Pneu-Con Whisper® Loaders operate on a batch principle. The control panel is equipped with a PLC-type controller module with adjustable (programmable) timer functions to control all timer-related loader functions. The duration of the conveying (run-time) and dump cycle (dump-time) is determined by the controller settings.

FEATURES and BENEFITS

  • Stand-alone, self-contained vacuum conveying system.
  • Standard spun & welded aluminum body construction or optional stainless steel.
  • Energy-efficient solid-state controls are operating on a batch principle.
  • Automatic conveying for a wide range of materials and conditions.
  • Consistent loading of machines, hoppers, or day-bins.
  • Take-apart design for easy cleaning and maintenance.

BASIC COMPONENTS

The complete Whisper® Loader Conveying System comprises the following major items:  

  • Receiving hopper body with inlet, mounting flange, and dump valve flapper assembly with proximity switch (material level sensor).
  • Standard brush-type integrated motor/turbine (brushless type option available)
  • Material pick-up lance and PVC flex hose (quantity doubled for PLVP models).
  • Flat-disc nylon or polyester-felt media membrane filter (Vibra-Pulse™ filter-cleaning system optional) and gasket to seal loader lid to the body.
  • Finely ground coffee may require cartridge filter media.
  • Control panel housed in NEMA 1 enclosure with ON/OFF Switch, indicator lights, control cord, and power cord.

Control Panel, Pick-Up Lance with Hose & Clamps, and Loader

whisper loader components

Major Components
(Model SC1500VP Whisper® Loader shown)

BV Sarma

Director of Technical Services
BV Sarma is the Director of Technical Services at Pneumatic Conveying and has over 25 years of experience in the industry. BV's expertise lies within the product lifecycle and engineering custom solutions that meet organizational goals from vision to launch.