Improving Coffee Production and Quality Using Infrared Technology

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Horn of Africa Regional Environment Center and Network—Addis Ababa University



Improving Coffee Production and Quality Using Infrared Technology


University of Hohenheim (Germany)
University of Massachusetts Boston (United States
Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (Ethiopia)

Location Applied


Coffee accounts for 60 percent of the export earnings in Ethiopia, and is processed by dry and wet processing. Wet processed is preferred in the global market. Unfortunately, farmers do not see the full benefit of their coffee production. A significant portion of coffee harvested is of inferior quality due to the traditional sun drying process. This process can take up to twelve days and increases exposure of coffee to fungi and other undesirable elements. Thermal drying is energy intensive and takes up a large amount of space.[1]

Clean Energy Solution

The proposed solution uses state of the art infrared technology to reduce coffee pulp drying time from several days to hours. Reduced drying time minimizes the post-harvest loss that occurs when using the conventional sun drying process. Biogas generated from coffee pulp and coffee husk will be used to power the bioreactors used for infrared drying.[1]


The project will significantly reduce the time farmers spend processing their crop. This time saved can be used for other more productive activities. Converting waste products from coffee production into useful energy reduces greenhouse gas emissions. The project will also improve work conditions for women and children, who are primarily responsible for the sun drying process which requires all-day exposure to the sun. In addition, the project will provide alternative livelihoods for the woman by engaging them in mushroom production from coffee husk.[1]

Red Cherry Picking (c) Powering Agriculture
Red Cherry Picking © Powering Agriculture
Coffee Crop Farmers (c) Powering Agriculture
Coffee Crop Farmers © Powering Agriculture


The Horn of Africa Regional Environment Center and Network (HoA-REC&N) is an autonomous institution under Addis Ababa University. HoA-REC&N focuses on environmental concerns and sustainable development options within the Horn of Africa. Partner institutions include University of Hohenheim; University of Massachusetts–Boston; and the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union.[1]

Progress Update

HoA-REC&N has been working on developing a biogas digester and an infrared (IR) dryer to dry coffee beans. Two potential suppliers have been identified for the IR dryer, with test drying conducted in early 2017. HoA-REC&N constructed and commissioned four bio digesters which were tested with two different coffee feedstocks–husk and pulp. The tests showed that the coffee pulp resulted in higher yields of bio-methane. Further experiments are to be conducted for the optimum yield. Additional experiments were conducted to analyze the effectiveness of coffee drying at different temperatures and power (these include thermal, microwave, and infrared).The results showed that the moisture level of coffee dried using infrared has decreased to the required amount. HoA-REC&N has identified two sites, including a large privately-owned coffee farm, to pilot their technology. Beneficiaries of the technology will include 8 coffee cooperatives, comprising 7,000 coffee farmers who will be able to sell a larger quantity of coffee due to reduced drying times. Future plans include the integration of the IR dryer and the bio digester units, following the optimization of the dryer.[1]

Further Information