While we know fresh-roasted coffee tastes better, often, by the time store-bought beans make it into our coffee machines, chances are they were roasted months ago.
But what if we could roast the beans right before they enter the brewer?
If a new company called Ansā has its way, coffee roasting will come to our office breakroom with its new e23 microroaster. The e23 takes green beans sent from the company and roasts them on the countertop without any smoke or ambient heat associated with traditional gas-fired roasting systems.
So how does the company’s roaster work? According to Ansā, the company uses dielectric heating, which usually refers to microwave heating-based systems. According to the company, the system’s computer vision (provided via a built-in camera) coordinates roasting with precision application of the radio waves to transmit the energy to individual beans, creating a highly precise and homogeneously applied roast.
When asked if the system uses an older magnetron-based heating (the heating system for the traditional microwave oven) or newer solid-state heating systems, Ansā wouldn’t specify, instead telling The Spoon, “We’ve designed a purpose-built EM system that allows us to digitally control the intensity and location of the energy concentration within the roasting chamber, in real-time.” My guess is since the system can direct energy with high precision, the system uses a solid-state amplifier to transmit the energy via radio waves.
The company also wouldn’t disclose pricing, saying, “Price is set by the distributors, and at their discretion.” I would estimate the machine would cost anywhere from $5 to $10 thousand, but will be offered at a much lower initial price, subsidized via a built-in coffee supply contract in which Ansā supplies the unroasted green beans for a fixed term.
The e23 is the first we’ve seen using RF radiation to roast the beans on the market. Coffee is traditionally roasted in big drums over gas-powered flames, an energy-intensive roasting process that produces lots of CO2, while newer electric small-footprint roasters like the Bellwether uses convection and conduction heating. According to sources I spoke to this week at the International Microwave Power Institute’s annual conference, microwave-powered coffee roasting is a topic the coffee industry is intrigued by, but it has yet to be commercialized (at least until this week).
According to Ansā, the company is working with a network of distributors across the US focused on the office/workplace segment. These Office Coffee Service (OCS) companies will sell the solution as a bundled service of ansā’s specialty green coffee beans and the d23 micro roaster.