Developing a biorefinery from spent coffee grounds using subcritical water and hydrothermal carbonisation

Jackie Massaya, Ka Ho Chan, Ben Mills-Lamptey, Christopher J. Chuck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (SciVal)


Spent coffee grounds (SCGs) have been extensively investigated as a feedstock to produce fuels, specialty chemicals and materials. Whilst a few reports have used cascade processes to generate several products from SCG, this work takes the novel approach of using integrated subcritical water extraction (SWE) and hydrothermal carbonisation (HTC) to derive three products: a bioactive extract, a protein isolate (SCG PI) and solid fuel. SWE and HTC processes were optimized producing an antioxidant rich extract, with the chlorogenic acid (CGA) content and antioxidant activity determined. The protein content was quantified via total amino acid analysis, giving the first SCG specific elemental nitrogen-to-protein conversion factor of 7.90. HTC was then performed on the residual solids from SWE, the protein extraction and the raw feedstock. This biorefinery approach gave higher quality products than previously reported in single product systems. For example, pretreatment reduced nitrogen in the hydrochar (N = 0.23% wt, HHV = 33.30 MJ/kg) relative to the control (3.03% wt, HHV = 31.31 MJ/kg). Limiting biorefinery processes to the pretreatment and HTC preferentially increased protein content (33.0% vs 16.9% wt) and yield (53.0% vs 23.9%) of the protein isolate, rendering a hydrochar with a higher yield and HHV compared with hydrochar derived following upstream SWE process (33.30 vs 26.92 MJ/kg, 16.3% vs 14.7%, respectively). This work goes towards the complete utilisation of SCGs within a biorefinery, highlighting the potential of subcritical water processing to produce commercially viable products across the value chain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1279-1295
JournalBiomass Conversion and Biorefinery
Early online date15 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2023


  • Antioxidant
  • CGA
  • Coffee
  • Hydrothermal
  • Spent coffee grounds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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