Many people around the world start their day drinking a cup of coffee. Most don’t realize there is a connection between coffee and biofuels. A very slight sheen forms on the top of coffee left to sit for a period of time. This is sheen is the natural oil contained in coffee. It is now possible to take this oil and use it to make an effective biofuel. Most people consume two or more cups of coffee each day. This creates coffee ground waste that equals hundreds of thousands of tons yearly. The technology used to create biofuel from coffee grounds could eliminate the need to put it in landfills.


In an effort to create an alternative source for fuel, scientists around the world have turned to creating fuel from plants. This is known as biofuel. There has been success creating biofuel with corn, sugarcane as well as palm oil and others. There are a number of benefits associated with turning used coffee grounds into biofuel. With the popularity of coffee increasing around the world, there will remain a readily available supply of coffee grounds to make biofuel.

Collecting Coffee Grounds

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A company that can produce this biofuel is Bio-bean. They work with companies that collect waste so they can obtain used coffee grounds. Coffee chains as well as local cafes, train stations, business offices and more provide the coffee grounds necessary. This has been a financial benefit to the companies participating in this process. Costs associated with sending the coffee grounds to landfills have been eliminated.


A business designed to turn the waste of coffee grounds into biofuel was the dream of Arthur Kay who, at 23 years old, came up with the idea for Bio bean. Initially, the company provided logs for fires that had been made from waste coffee grounds. His company initially had two people and now has grown to employ over 50 workers. Kay was able to start the company with his co-founder Benjamin Harriman, who is currently the company's COO. They met on a bus in Istanbul, Turkey and realized they could work together to create a unique business.

Traditional Process

During the traditional process to collect the oils from coffee grounds, the grounds are mixed with a substance known as hexane. This is a substance used in the making of glues for various products including shoes and more. Once the coffee grounds were combined with the hexane, the resulting mixture was then placed under heat at 140 degrees Fahrenheit for up to two hours. This caused the hexane to evaporate and only the oils from the coffee grounds were left.


At Lancaster University in England, researchers were able to develop ways to improve the efficiency of the process necessary to turn coffee grounds into biofuel. This resulted in a final product able to compete commercially. A research team at the university was led by Dr. Vesna Najdanovic-Visak. The team was able to determine that by combining all processes involved with the traditional method, they would no longer need to use hexane. This development meant the process involved no longer produced any chemical waste or other type of byproduct. Prior to this discovery, when waste was made into a biofuel, it created a byproduct that served no purpose and was expensive to dispose of safely. Some were concerned the production of such byproducts could harm the image of biofuel as a clean source of energy. Since this new method has been developed, it eliminates the creation of a byproduct during the manufacturing process. The method used to turn used coffee grounds into a biofuel now only takes 10 minutes.


It begins when coffee grounds are taken to a recycling factory specifically built for the purpose of turning coffee grounds into biofuel. During the first step, the coffee grounds are carefully sifted and then dried. As this part of the process occurs, evaporation will remove the oil from the coffee grounds. The coffee oil is then taken to another company that uses it to create B20 biofuel. The B20 label identifies it as a fuel with 20 percent biocomponents. Biocomponents are agricultural products, oils and different types of fats. During the last stage, the B20 biofuel is combined with diesel prior to being used as fuel.

Red Double-Decker Buses


These iconic buses so popular with tourists and others in London will soon be operating with the biofuel made from coffee grounds. Bio-bean Ltd. has joined with Royal Dutch Shell Plc to make this happen. It is estimated this partnership can create over 1,500 gallons of this biofuel each year. It has been added to the London Red Bus fuel supply chain. This could help accommodate the public pressure to create biofuels from waste and move away from biofuels created from food. It has been estimated it would require a little more than 2 million cups of coffee to make enough biofuel, combined with diesel, to run a single London bus for a twelve month period.

Types Of Coffee

A study was published in the journal Energy Fuels. Researchers made biofuel from coffee grounds created in more than 19 geographic regions. This included using coffee grounds from caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee. The different varieties of coffee grounds tested were from Arabica, Robusta coffee beans and more. The results of the study showed all coffees have a very uniform composition as well as physical properties. This means all coffee grounds from any type of coffee can be used in the production of this bio-diesel fuel.

The motivation behind developing this type of bio-diesel fuel is to combine the practical approach of problem solving with the aesthetic. Those involved with this have a desire to meet the issues facing our world and use the latest innovations to resolve them. Developing effective methods to turn used coffee grounds into a viable biofuel could be a good way to create a more effective and environmentally safe type of fuel to run the world.