Microwave research leads to innovative coffee bean roaster

09/29/2020 06:28 PM
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CNA photo Sept. 29, 2020
CNA photo Sept. 29, 2020

Taipei, Sept. 29 (CNA) An industry-academia collaboration project sponsored by Taiwan's Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) has unexpectedly led to the development of a sophisticated and compact coffee bean roasting machine that can save the roasting time in the traditional way by 60 percent.

A research team from National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) showcased what it called a "coaxial rotary microwave roaster" at a press event hosted by MOST in Taipei on Monday.

The machine, which weighs only 5 kilograms -- several times lighter than traditional roasters -- is touted as the first of its kind in the world to be produced with a rotary joint technique usually employed for radar systems.

"It was an unintentional action that brought about an unexpected result," said Chang Tsun-hsu (張存續), a professor at the Physics Department under NTHU at the press conference.

The research project, titled "Rapid and Uniform Microwave-Material Interaction," was set up with the initial goal of accelerating biodiesel reaction using microwaves, Chang said.

His team then came up with the idea of applying the technology in various practical fields, such as the processing of other materials. They found that the same microwave technique applied to biodiesel could be improved and used for treating coffee beans, Chang said.

As a result, the research team developed the coffee bean roaster using the radar rotary joint system.

The innovative machine can complete the bean roasting procedure in just 6-10 minutes, far shorter than the average 40 minutes required using a traditional roaster, the research team said. Using microwaves as the source of heat also helps prevent the beans from getting burned, it added.

Moreover, the machine is compact and much lighter than the traditional machines which usually weigh 20-30 kilograms per unit.

Thanks to these features, the new roaster can be customized based on the needs of professional coffee roasters or coffee stores, said Chao Hsien-wen (趙賢文), an assistant research fellow at MOST, who played a crucial R&D role in the project.

He said he expects that the new machine can be used in the home and in small coffee shops, making small-batch roasting much less challenging.

(By Su Ssu-yun and Elizabeth Hsu)

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