Protecting Your Lungs While Roasting Coffee

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Protecting Your Lungs While Roasting Coffee

Posted by FiltrScience on 03/28/2022

Working in a local luxury coffee shop seems like the perfect job, right? You get to work with one of the world’s most popular drinks, experience the art of making coffee, participate in roasting the beans, talk to customers who love it as much as you do, and, of course, indulge a little bit every day. The environment is a comfort. But is there a dark side to the coffee shop world? Can coffee roasting come with health risks?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. But not only is roasting coffee a health risk: working in a space with a large amount of freshly packaged beans can be, too.

In general, the coffee roasting industry produces a large amount of carbon dioxide (CO2). From bean to cup, the process is long, expensive, and carbon intensive. Just one supplier switching to renewable energy sources for their roasting could prevent over 157 metric tons of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere. That is the same as stopping a car from driving 389,578 miles.

While a large portion of the CO2 emissions come from farms and transportation, around 15% of the process’s total emissions comes from the roasting stage alone.

So how exactly does traditional coffee roasting work and why does it produce so much CO2? 

How Does Traditional Coffee Roasting Work?

In traditional coffee roasting, air is pulled into the roaster and flash heated. That incredibly hot air is used to roast the coffee beans. This process creates both carbon monoxide (CO) and CO2 inside the coffee bean. These gasses are released from the bean as they start to cool and are dispelled into the air.

Experienced coffee roasters will recognize this as the process of degassing. According to a 2018 article in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, carbon dioxide “is an indicator for freshness, plays an important role in shelf life and in packaging, impacts the extraction process, is involved in crema formation, and may affect the sensory profile in the cup”.

Not only does this process start to occur the moment the beans begin cooling, but it continues when the beans are packaged. For optimal flavor and excellence, beans should be allowed to degas for several days. But they continue to expel gasses continually, which is why coffee bean bags have a vent on them.

What does this mean for facilities like coffee shops, who not only roast their own beans but store them?

It means we, unfortunately, see high levels of CO and CO2 in the air.

How Can Gasses From Coffee Roasting Impact Your Health?

When we see increased levels of CO2 in the air, we can also see physical health impacts. These can include:

headaches,

dizziness, 

restlessness, 

tingling or pins and needles sensation, 

difficulty breathing, 

sweating, 

tiredness, 

increased heart rate, 

elevated blood pressure, 

coma, 

asphyxia, 

and convulsions.

Perhaps the most impactful is the increased heart rate because of the stress placed on lungs. As we breathe in this contaminated air, our lungs have to work hard to pull out the oxygen it needs for cellular respiration. This process is how our body creates energy, which is why tiredness is another side effect.

This stress – even from relatively small, prolonged overexposure to CO2 and CO – on your lungs can impactful your health over time. It can lead to early lung exhaustion and fatigue.

So how does this impact your heart? Your heart pumps out oxygenated blood to your cells to complete cellular respiration. While your lungs are working hard to find the oxygen, if it’s not there, it won’t be able to find it. Your body will still require the same amount of oxygen, though. Thus, your heart will need to pump faster and harder to disperse the right amount of oxygen.

But it’s not just your physical health. Your mental health can be impacted, too. Breathing fresh air comes with a lot of benefits, so breathing CO2 filled air for long periods of time produces the opposite results. For instance, it can hurt your digestive system which can impact your serotonin levels and overall mood.

So if you are working or spending a lot of time in an environment with high levels of CO and CO2 in the air, how do you protect your health?

Protecting Your Health While Roasting Coffee

Typically, coffee shop jobs don’t come with a hazardous health warning label. Yet the harsh reality is that the levels of CO and CO2 produced can create health hazards. This is especially true in older buildings that have poor ventilation. While they might suit the vibe and aesthetic, they can make the issue worse.

New buildings aren’t exempt, though. In buildings built after the 70s energy crisis, we see them trap in air in an attempt to save energy. Unfortunately, this means they trap in everything else.

So what can we do that does NOT involve spending tens of thousands of dollars revamping ventilation systems? Moreover, what can renters do when they don’t have the ability to change the building’s infrastructure?

We recommend using a powerful air purifier.

This is not a little fan that sits in the corner: this is a cleanroom-grade air purifier with a HEPA filter and state-of-the-art surface sanitization technology. 

 

This is the Filtr Revolution: designed by the world’s clean air experts to bring cleanroom-grade air into businesses, homes, and workspaces.

The Revolution is an affordable solution over remodeling to improve ventilation. Even with a decent ventilation system, an air purifier adds an extra layer of protection for consumers and employees.

Is the Revolution the right fit for you? Learn more about it here.

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