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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.