A Journey Through a Wicked Cool Coffee System

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BY Edmund Sinnott | June 8, 2022 | Case Study , Process System Coffee Chain-Vey
 

Wicked Joe Coffee is a mid-sized roaster in the Northeastern United States. Their MPE-sourced system comprises all the processes from green bean intake to retail-ready bags of roasted whole bean and ground coffee.

Their system is special for several reasons:

  • Unlike other systems that require relatively large batch sizes for blend accuracy and scaled efficiency; Wicked Joe’s system is easy and profitable to use for 70 kg (154 lb) batches.
  • The facility’s ceiling height is around 20 ft, which means traditional rotary diverters above an array of silos would be too tall for their facility. Instead a single Chain-Vey with multiple discharges can achieve the same result with a much lower vertical.
  • PLC software automates the whole batching and blending process, saving labor and physical strain.
  • Batch creation using multiple bean ingredients is done accurately to ±0.5 lb.

Let’s walk through the journey of the beans.


Green Bean Intake

  • Cleaner surge hopper with 1,000 lb capacity made of carbon steel
  • 6 x 6 ft hopper
  • 9 x 9 ft mezzanine
  • Target rate: 5,000 lb/hr
  • Chain-Vey using 90 ft hardened steel chain with split wide discs

Height-Efficient Green Storage Silos

After the beans are cleaned:

  • 165 ft hardened steel chain with split wide discs
  • (10) rotary discharge units
  • (8) Bolted silos approximately 6.5 x 4 x 10.9 ft with 11,000 lb capacity each
  • (2) Bolted split silos approximately 6.5 x 4 x 7.7 ft with 3,700 lb capacity each

Leaving the silos:

  • Target rate of 5,000 lb/hr
  • (2) Chain-Veys
    • Chain-Vey #1 utilizing 150 ft hardened steel chain with split wide discs
    • Chain-Vey #2 utilizing 105 ft hardened steel chain with split wide discs
  • Turnaround ceiling supports, pneumatic tension, tray bottom, U-Track, and tool-less entry
  • (12) custom inlets
  • The beans will dose out of each silo with ±0.5 lb accuracy
The piggyback transition between the Chain-Vey that carries coffee away from the silos up to a discharge point, then into a Chain-Vey that carries coffee to any of the (4) roasters.

Roasting

(4) 70 kg roasters are the sweet spot for Wicked Joe Coffee. This allows them to quickly pivot and create the blends they want quickly for lots of production flexibility.

The 4 drum roasters are integrated into the complete automated system. Each roaster has a surge bin above it, that fill up and wait the for the batch ahead of it to finish roasting. When each batch finishes and exits the roaster, the PLC asks if the operator would like the next batch to instantly drop from the surge bin to the roaster below it. This fits a design philosophy of having the system wait on the operator, not having the operator wait on the system.


Programmable Logic Controller Software

The PLC runs a software that syncs with the customer’s ERP system; in this case, NetSuite. Well in advance of roasting, Wicked Joe’s management can easily input the number of batches they need to make for the week ahead. The PLC software will download this schedule and automatically build its own schedule for operators to run. With the touch of one button, the schedule begins, pulling coffee from each silo according to the recipe, which is placed into a surge bin above the roasters, released into the roasters, roasted, followed by transfer to the packaging machine.

Prior to running this PLC software, operators were manually inputting each recipe for each batch. E.g., 10 kg of Colombian, 10 kg of Brazilian, to build a blend. This is completely done by the software now, downloaded from the ERP schedule.

Automation and integration with Wicked Joe’s ERP isn’t the only feature of their custom MPE-developed software; it’s also easy to learn and reduces roaster error.

“We were concerned about the PLC software being overwhelming at first, but within a day of using it, everyone had mastered it. We also have not had a single mix up with this new system, because the software ensures the right roast profile is used for each batch,” says Bryden Smith, General Manager at Wicked Joe.


Retail Bagging

The retail bagging machine requires virtually no labor to operate and is completely automated. The Chain-Vey are controlled by the PLC to run at the same speed as the packaging machine; and keeps a constant surge above the packaging machine.

First the coffee is loaded into a surge hopper from a tote using a pneumatic tote lifter. A Chain-Vey carries the coffee upward to a whole bean surge bin above a MPE 700 FX grinder, or whole bean surge bin directly above the bag filler. If the coffee is ground through the 700 FX, the ground coffee is carried again upward to a ground coffee surge bin above the bag filler. The layout provides complete flexibility.


Results

Bryden Smith summarizes how Wicked Joe Coffee feels about their new system by saying, “It’s everything we thought it would be, and then some. It’s a great system.”

Their MPE-designed system fits within their existing production area, handles 4 discreet batches at the same time with complete automation, batch accuracy within ±0.5 lb, and has an easy-to-use software that is customized around their operations—scalable and prevents errors.

Call MPE at +1-773-254-3929 to tell us about your process system needs or email [email protected]


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