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Rychiger’s coffee capsule technology

From the September 2014 issue.

Rychiger’s Marius Olszewski tells GCR Magazine why coffee capsule technology is advancing at an exponential rate to keep up with consumer demand.

Marius Olszewski, Vice President of Sales at Rychiger’s US-based subsidiary, admits that historically, coffee packaging has been evolving very slowly, and perhaps has not been the most thrilling subject to discuss.

Compared to romantic stories of travel to origin, or the rise to fame of superstar baristas, on first glance, coffee packaging doesn’t offer much of a compelling tale.

A closer look at packaging, however, would tell otherwise. Olszewski has worked in the industry for 20 years. In that time, he says he’s seen the industry’s most significant inventions: coffee pods and coffee capsules appearing on grocery shelves.

Olszewski credits Cyrus Melikian’s coffee pod invention, and especially Eric Favre’s invention of the Nespresso coffee capsule, as the most ground-breaking achievements that are revolutionising the modern coffee industry.

“These were very important steps in developing new technologies that deliver the perfect cup of coffee,” he says. “It covered so many problems that were relevant to coffee. Coffee from a capsule is very well protected from oxygen, it has a long shelf-life, and because it contains a precisely dosed amount of coffee it tastes always the same, not to mention the convenience of use.”

With climate change, urbanisation and disease outbreaks affecting the nature of coffee production, coffee capsules have made an important impact on reducing overall coffee waste related to traditional brewing methods. As coffee consumption continues to rise, Olszewski highlights how ensuring minimal waste of this important resource will be vital in the sustainability of the industry.

“In the next 20 to 25 years, [coffee capsules] will continue to play an important role,” says Olszewski. “Think of the exploding increase in consumption in coffee producing countries taking place right now, or the potential for populous Asian countries to increase their consumption. Take this into account and demand for coffee is going to increase substantially. With single serve, there is a decrease in waste which allows the supply to better meet this new demand.”

The rise of single serve is a trend Rychiger has capitalised on as a leading supplier of  filling and sealing equipment. Rychiger has supplied some of the world’s leading capsule manufacturers since the product was first developed in the 1980s.

“Today we supply packaging machines for all the top selling  coffee capsule systems,” Olszewski says. “Our installed machine base covers an estimated 40 per cent of all capsules filled.”

Although the company also designs and builds packaging machinery for food in retortable containers, including pet food as well as tea, coffee and health care products, Olszewski says beverages – and especially coffee – is by far the fastest growing segment.

“We’re realising there is so much room in this segment for everyone from huge multinational beverage companies, down to regional and small coffee roasters,” he says.

In this space, Rychiger offers a range of equipment to suit different needs. Depending on the configuration chosen, on the lower end, Rychiger’s Rotary filling equipment can accommodate 110 – 240 capsules per minute. At mid-range, the Balcony style filling equipment can accommodate 240 – 360 capsules per minute. At the upper end,  Linear machines can produce an astounding 600 – 1500 capsules per minute.

“We have equipment for any size of company,” says Olszewski. “One of our core competencies at Rychiger for the last 50 years has been precision filling and high quality sealing, including single-step punching and sealing. These technologies perfected by Rychiger are critical components of manufacturing capsules.”

Olszewski points to the fact that Rychiger is not only manufacturing some of the world’s best filling and sealing equipment, but it also works closely with customers developing their capsules and brewing systems, and with manufactures of packaging materials during the design process. With the entire development process in mind, Rychiger has developed R&D level testing equipment for filling and sealing, making it possible to test the parameters of the process on a single capsule. The process parameters help optimise the machine settings during these tests, which can then be easily transferred onto a commercial machine.

In the capsule manufacturing industry, Olszewski explains how precision is absolutely vital to successful production. Because of the high speed of capsule processing, the capsule’s parameters must fit perfectly with the machine, there is very little – if any – room for error.

“From the handling of the capsule, beginning from the de-stacking and cup transfer to cup assembly, product filling and sealing lids, this has to be done very precisely,” he says. “Many machines [from other companies] are built on fixed frames. This limits the ability to allow any variance. Because Rychiger machines are built as modules they can execute different processes on a single machine.”

Over the years Rychiger has perfected their in-house designed and manufactured filling systems using different solutions for the variety of products filled on their machines. Olszewski adds that Rychiger developed and successfully deployed new techniques including ultrasonic welding for several applications. Olszewski also highlights that Rychiger systems are designed with laminar flow nitrogen flushing systems, which allow the coffee to be delivered and encapsulated at very low residual oxygen levels. The equipment offers advanced robotic functions to finalise the assembly of caps and comes equipped with sophisticated quality control systems.

Rychiger is finding a growing consumer base for this equipment, as more roasters opt to offer their coffee in capsule format. While many turn to contract packagers, Olszewski says more and more roasters are opting to purchase their own lines.

“Very often, roasters are finding themselves shipping their ground coffee over a long distance to have it packaged into a capsule. This may not produce a high level of quality because of the time necessary to travel and coffee being exposed to the elements,” he says. “It can also be challenging because they have to fit their packaging into a time slot available at the contract roaster. When roasters have their own equipment, they have control over the entire production process.

“What we’re seeing on the packaging side is that the acceleration of new ideas is incredible in the market. Cartridges are becoming universal, not only for coffee, but other liquids including carbonated drinks, soups and more.”

Olszewski says he’s seen everything from baby formula, oatmeal, and even flatbread in a capsule.

“This category is growing very fast. With so many different beverages on the market there are many companies trying to capitalise on the advantages of single serve beverage systems now widely recognised. We’re only going to see packaging technology continue to advance.” 

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