NCA Coffee Roasting Emissions Environmental Resources

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Coffee Roasting Emissions

Environmental Resources For Coffee Companies

Are you looking to improve the efficiency of your current roasting plant - or building from scratch?

Controlling and reducing emissions from the roasting process is important for reducing the impact of coffee production on the environment. New regulations mean that U.S. roasters must comply with stricter standards. 

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has published AP-42, Compilation of Air Pollutant Emission Factors since 1972 as the primary compilation of emission factor information. (For more information, visit the AP-42 FAQs or the Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act.)

Navigating these regulatory and scientific complexities can feel overwhelming. The NCA collaborated with Karl Schmidt, emissions expert founder of Bean Assured and KS Consulting, to compile the following overview of considerations and resources to help you get started. 

What You Need to Know

1. Most coffee roasters will need to obtain a permit.

However, sometimes the EPA exempts roasters operating at low capacity.  For example, one of the environmental agencies which has defined the minimum batch limit for a roasters to date is the SCAQMD in Los Angeles. In the regulatory requirements it references, roasters with a batch capacity of 10 lbs or less are considered exempt from an environmental permit. (Check with your local agency if you are uncertain of your eligibility.)

2. Each state has their own system of permitting, but they basically require the same information.

While the forms may differ from state to state, the basic information generally required is as follows:

  • Capacity of roaster
  • Air flows through roaster and cooler
  • Temperatures of air streams
  • Control devices like cyclones and afterburner
  • Temperature and residence times
  • Emission calculations after abatement and sometimes before abatement

3. Some areas where certain pollutants are not in attainment (or above a designated threshold), the EPA will place restrictions on those pollutants. NOx (nitrogen oxides) is a common one.

Some examples:

  • In the San Francisco region, if your emissions of NOx exceed 35 tons/year you will need to buy offsetting credits.
  • In the Los Angeles area you will need to use low NOx burners  for roasters and afterburners,  this can sometimes have an impact on process  controls. 

4. The time for obtaining a permit after submitting varies quite a bit.

In busy urban areas this can take up to 2 months. In California, if a school is within 1,000 feet of the roaster, this can sometimes take an extra month or two to do a public survey of the families in the school district. Some areas require a public announcement of the new roaster installation or facility.

5. Some states have limits on the air toxics in coffee effluent, or wastewater.

In most cases this will not be a problem. However, some areas may require a source test on the roaster effluent.


List of regulatory agencies involved and to be considered when applying for permits. Please note that the list is not comprehensive, and liable to change without notice due to the complicated nature of emissions regulations. Specific requirements will vary by city and state. 

5 Reasons to Attend the NCA Convention

Here are 5 (of the many) great reasons to attend the NCA 2020 Convention:

1. Networking that's worth your time

One conversation with the right person can change everything.

We've designed our programming for 2020 to ensure that you'll have maximum opportunities to connect with the people you want to meet -- including a networking lunch for everyone, coffee breaks, and nightly social events like our industry happy hour and "Welcome to Texas" kickoff party.

2. Education for the real world

Coffee is complicated -- from market price fluctuation to understanding the latest food science and coffee trends. And, like most things, the best way to learn is to dive in headfirst. This year we've packed our program with dozens of speakers, panels, and educational breakout sessions to help you gain the knowledge and insights that are most relevant to you.

3. Professional development

Developing strong industry leadership is critical for the future of coffee.

Whether you're looking to grow your own career or develop talent within your organization, our Convention provides opportunities to strengthen leadership skills and learn more about the business of coffee - from the Next Generation Council to events where you could meet your next business partner.

4. Industry innovation

Ideas are like coffee - fresh is better.

Find new inspiration to bring back to the office, whether it's from a keynote speaker or exhibitor. Maybe you'll discover the next big thing in coffee - or come up with your own.

5. Get involved

Tap into the (well-caffeinated) energy of the NCA coffee community! Convention offers many opportunities to give back to the industry or local community, make new connections, and discover new ways to collaborate.

Consider signing up for the local Coffee Gives Back day of service, contributing a blog post on your experience, or join the conversation at a breakout session.


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