The influence of multiple fouling and cleaning cycles upon the performance of polyethersulphone membrane filters during coffee extract decaffeination

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Filtration processes have been applied widely in food processing industry over the recent decades and could offer a viable alternative to the use of solvents in the decaffeination process, comprising low operational costs, high selectivities and mild processing conditions. This paper reports the development and evaluation of the fouling occurring in multiple filtration cycles during the selective reduction of caffeine from coffee brews comparing the performance of (i) a commercially available synthetic tight ultrafiltration (TUF) polyethersulphone (PES) membrane (GP95PP – Alfa Laval) and (ii) a self-made mixed matrix (MMMs) PES membranes (PSCD) fabricated in-house. The effectiveness and performance of the PES MMMs was benchmarked against the commercial 2 kDa PES membranes showing promising results. A cross-flow rig was operated at transmembrane pressures of 2–9 bar and cross-flow velocities (CFV) of 0.04–0.1 m/s at 25 °C. The flux decline and recovery along with changes in the key component rejection and resistances are reported for multiple fouling and cleaning cycles. PSCD exhibited a higher permeate flux of ca. 10.5 L m-2 h-1 compared to the GR95PP membranes, which exhibited a permeate flux of 6.1 L m-2 h-1 over the 29 h filtration period selected, at 9 bar and a CFV of 0.04 m/s. The rejection ratios of the GR95PP and PSCD membranes were monitored for three consecutive filtration cycles, and showed values ca. 30% and 35% for caffeine,> 90% and ∼90% for both polyphenols & proteins, & ∼ 80% for melanoidins, respectively. An effective cleaning protocol was reported, comprised of 0.5 wt% NaOH at 50 °C, exhibiting cleaning efficiencies (CE)> 99%. FT-IR data indicated the presence of key compounds residuals after membrane cleaning. Modification to the membrane surface occurs due to fouling, altering the hydrophobicity. Differences in filtration performance and cleanability between the two classes of membranes are identified and linked to variations in surface and structure properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalFood and Bioproducts Processing
Early online date29 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding information:
EPSRC funding: DM acknowledges EPSRC for support (grant EP/V047078/1 )


  • Cleaning
  • Coffee
  • Decaffeination
  • Fouling
  • Nanofiltration
  • Ultrafiltration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Biochemistry
  • Chemical Engineering(all)


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