Grayson Caldwell, Senior Sustainability Manager at Bellwether Coffee Describes the Innovation Toward Carbon Free Roasting

Grayson Caldwell, Senior Sustainability Manager at Bellwether Coffee Describes the Innovation Toward Carbon Free Roasting

August 15 - 2023

Coffee Geography Magazine

Grayson Caldwell, Senior Sustainability Manager at Bellwether Coffee describes the innovation toward the fast growing carbon-fee coffee roasting industry to the editor of CGM, D. L. Gemeda.

It is nice to have you at Coffee Geography Magazine answering few questions in regard to Bellwether Coffee's roasters and its new funding from California Energy Commission 

 D.L. Gemeda: Bellwether Coffee Roasters are now used by large roasters not only here in the U.S., but also in Europe. Are things going fast to replace the gas roasters with the electric ones to see the real impact for clean energy? Do you expect mandatory state or federal legislation on electric coffee roasting in the future? 

Grayson Caldwell: An increase in consumer consciousness towards sustainability coupled with the industry's acknowledgment of its environmental responsibility are both creating tailwinds to drive the shift from traditional gas-powered to all-electric roasters. Given the escalating ramifications of the climate crisis, this transition is a fundamental requirement for the industry, especially since coffee roasting accounts for 15 percent of its entire carbon footprint. Bellwether's roaster can expedite the shift to electrify the coffee industry as the first ventless, all-electric roaster that consistently produces quality coffee, is highly efficient, and has indisputable environmental benefits. 

As for legislation, it's challenging to predict with certainty. There are now more regulations encouraging clean energy use, and there will likely be more to come, given the increasing attention to climate change. While it's too soon to anticipate specific regulations targeting the coffee roasting industry, it's worth noting that governmental bodies are already recognizing the value of electric roasting technologies. The California Energy Commission's recent partnership with Red Bay Coffee Roasters and Heirloom Coffee is one notable example of that. The CEC provided a substantial grant of $1.879 million to the two partners, facilitating the installation of 24 Bellwether roasters. This collaboration not only underscores the government's active involvement in promoting sustainable roasting technologies but also signals a growing recognition of the benefits of electric roasting. 

Given current trends and initiatives such as the CEC's Food Production Investment Program, we are confident that the industry will increasingly adopt electric roasting. At Bellwether, we remain committed to creating sustainable, efficient, and quality solutions for electric roasting and are proud to lead the way in this transformation.

Gemeda: California is always green-friendly by introducing new innovations that fit the sustainable strategic plan they set for the state. How significant is this funding by California Energy Commission to become a game changer in the coffee industry in the U.S.? 

Caldwell: This funding from the CEC's Food Production Investment Program is a significant validation of the transformative power of our technology and mission. By accelerating the adoption of electric coffee roasting, in partnership with incredible California-based roasteries, such as Red Bay Coffee Roasters and Heirloom Coffee, we aim to dramatically reduce the industry's carbon footprint. The installation of 24 Bellwether roasters will cut carbon emissions by two million pounds annually, marking a substantial step towards a greener coffee industry in the U.S.

Gemeda: Are you working on other funding opportunities to expand Bellwether to other states? 

Caldwell: Bellwether Coffee can already be found in many retail locations across the United States. Still, we are continuously exploring opportunities and partnerships to extend our influence and further integrate our sustainable roasting technology into the coffee industry. As we pursue expansion, our core vision remains the same: to decarbonize the coffee industry through distributed, electric roasting and to provide sustainably sourced coffee through our Green Coffee Marketplace. Our goal is not just to scale but to shape a more sustainable future for our planet by transforming the coffee industry.

Gemeda: Could you describe the Bellwether Coffee roaster briefly on how smart the machine is digitally to be widely acceptable in today's market? 

Caldwell: The Bellwether Coffee roaster is not just an electric roaster; it is a revolutionary machine that combines advanced technology with user-friendliness to redefine the roasting process, enabling anyone to source and roast the highest quality, most sustainable coffee at the touch of a button. Its installation and operation requires no gas lines, vents, or specialized training, making it a game-changer in the market and a vehicle for stimulating the micro-roastery movement.

Gemeda: Saving energy and cutting CO2 emissions is a great deal for any city manager who is willing to anticipate the outcome from Bellwether. How hard are you pushing to introduce Bellwether to the mainstream and mega coffee roasters in big cities known for large coffee roasting? And how did you find their response? 

Caldwell: We are actively advocating for a shift towards more sustainable roasting processes in the entire coffee industry. We know firsthand that shifting from a gas-powered roaster to a Bellwether can reduce the carbon footprint of roasting by up to 87 percent. The significant energy savings and carbon emission reductions provided will create a measurable impact on any city. When you take into account that 15 percent of the industry's total carbon footprint comes from roasting alone, roasteries will have to adopt more carbon-friendly technologies like ours to support future environmental regulations to combat climate change. 

This grant, made possible by the CEC's Food Production Investment Program, has reaffirmed the positive impact of electric roasting, and we are thrilled to have received such a positive reaction about our roasters from both roasters and local government. We hope this initiative will inspire other states to follow the CEC's lead, helping scale eco-conscious technologies to bring significant CO2 reductions for a better, more sustainable future. 

As far as mainstream roasters in big cities, our partnership with Heirloom, a premium coffee brand by America's Best Beverage, exemplifies how even large format roasters can switch to more sustainable roasting methods. These successful collaborations demonstrate a growing industry receptiveness to our sustainable vision, and we're excited to continue promoting this paradigm toward more environmentally-friendly coffee roasting practices.

Gemeda: Are you planning to expand your production line to reach more customers worldwide? 

Caldwell: Our ambitions at Bellwether go beyond bringing sustainable roasting to the United States. We are continuing to expand our reach to more customers worldwide, furthering our vision of decarbonizing the coffee industry. To this end, we have already laid down our footprint beyond the U.S., with an established presence in Canada, and have recently announced an expansion into the Japanese market. 

Nikkei, Japan's largest financial newspaper, recently announced the introduction of our all-electric, ventless roaster into the Japanese market, and they also recognized Bellwether as a pioneer in the "fourth wave" of coffee. Independent retailers have particularly embraced our technology, enabling them to compete with industry titans.

We foresee this trend continuing. With regulatory changes favoring electric appliances over gas-powered ones and the increasing consumer preference for environmentally-conscious coffee, we anticipate a growing demand for our roasters. As the "fourth wave" of coffee grows, we're excited to be at the forefront, reshaping the roastery landscape worldwide.

Gemeda: How close do you work with other companies who work on clean energy unrelated to coffee to decrease or perhaps eliminate the use of fossil fuel altogether?

At Bellwether, we recognize that our commitment to sustainability has to extend beyond just roasting. In addition to offering a ventless, all-electric roaster, we advocate for distributed roasting, which significantly cuts transportation and packaging emissions, further minimizing the industry's carbon footprint. 

Moreover, our technology has inspired roasteries to consider sustainability beyond just roasting. Several months ago, Precipice Coffee, a roastery in Maine that uses our electric roaster, recently transitioned their roastery to be powered 100% by solar. This switch has made Precipice the first self-sustained roaster in Maine, serving as an exceptional example of the potential future for coffee roasting. Through such partnerships, we continue learning, influencing, and contributing to a broader sustainability movement.

Gemeda: What sustainable coffee branding do we expect from coffee that is roasted by Bellwether coffee roasters? 

Caldwell: One of the beautiful things about roasters who use our machine is their ability to brand their unique coffee and create new or improved revenue sources for their businesses. They offer an incredible value proposition through their specialty roasts beyond their delicious taste – transparency and the lowest carbon footprint in the industry, which we know consumers care about. 

Coffee roasted by Bellwether embodies not only exceptional quality and consistency but also a commitment to sustainability. We stand firmly on the pillars of quality, equity, and sustainability. Roasteries that use the Bellwether roaster also have access to our Green Coffee Marketplace, sourced directly from farms with which we have ongoing relationships and contracts, offering them financial security. Trust and accountability form the backbone of our interactions with farm and retail partners, so we maintain a two-way transparency that betters the coffee supply chain. Additionally, through our Living Income Pricing initiative, we aim to close the income gap for coffee producers, disrupting the status quo where 80% of the world's coffee farmers live below the poverty line. All in all, coffee roasted with a Bellwether roaster and sourced from our Green Coffee marketplace is more than just a product; it symbolizes a larger commitment to sustainability, social equity, and a brighter future for coffee drinkers worldwide.