Automation in coffee culture - VIPA PLC at its finest

At Segafredo, the right coffee roast is decisive.

It is a long way from the green coffee bean to the tasty beverage. There are many necessary processing steps, and it often comes down to a fraction of a second. All this is only possible with a powerful control system - predestined for VIPA.

Precise temperature and time monitoring determine the roasting procedure

The roasting process is a science in itself. The longer you roast the coffee, the tastier and more digestible it becomes, but if it becomes too hot, it will burn. On the other hand, if the temperature is too low, it will not only not taste good, it will contain too many substances that we cannot tolerate well. The production also depends on the rapid cool down to halt the process when the desired result is achieved, not just the duration and temperature. A roaster is a high-tech system full of control processes and many measured values.

Neuhaus Neotec, located in Ganderkesee near Bremen, Germany, specializes in developing and constructing coffee factories and special machines such as grinders and roasters. Neuhaus Neotec's systems can also detect variations of quality in the raw product they can counteract during the roasting process by adjusting the temperature and air volume.

XAPI in Speyer, Germany, developed the software for these state-of-the-art machines and systems. XAPI, founded by Claus Siegler, has been in the coffee business since 1989 when computer technology found its way into the coffee industry. Segafredo Zanetti, established in Bologna, has been a customer for many years and are well known for their premium coffee served in many restaurants and Segafredo espresso shops.

Special requirements for the PLC controller

The XAPI team had already planned the modernization of the coffee factor for the Salzburg location, where Neuhaus Neotec supplied and installed the mechanical systems. The system has many complex process flows that required an exceptionally powerful CPU with multiple onboard interfaces. The VIPA SPEED7 CPU was selected not only for its speed but also because of its large memory, the compact design of its components, and the numerous interfaces such as Ethernet, PROFINET, PROFIBUS, MPI.

Automation of the roaster was now on the agenda in Salzburg. The process is particularly demanding since Segafredo roasts their premium brands here. The roasting process is divided into 15 stages and takes considerably more time. The ambient conditions are measured regularly to guarantee the desired temperature to bring out the maximum flavor from each bean, and all in fractions of a second. When the roasting is perfect, the temperature is immediately reduced by adding water and cooling air. Depending on the type of coffee, the temperature curves differ minimally from each other. The starting products are never exactly the same either, so they must be closely monitored and regulated during the process. The batch-oriented recordings and archiving the production data help find the perfect master roast over a period of time and use that as a basis for the reference curve.

For this project, a fast, reliable, and powerful CPU that can handle large amounts of data and offers interfaces not only for the control processes but also to view data remotely and the ability to implement alarm management was particularly important.

It is now possible to see all batches at a glance and compare parameters such as temperatures, pressures, roasting times, batch weight, or color values from anywhere using a browser to access the webserver and database to optimize the processes.