Cafe Solar® Factories

Coffee Processing Using Renewable Energy

Yoro Model partners have been informing the public about the link between conventional green coffee processing technology and deforestation for almost three decades, while at the same time developing an alternative: Cafe Solar®’s renewable energy processing technology.

Before learning about Cafe Solar®’s solution, it’s important to understand the problem, which is that the deforestation impacts of conventional mechanized coffee dryers throughout Central America is absent or downplayed in public dialogue around coffee’s overall carbon footprint, yet the problem is significant:

Example of an actual woodpile that is used for drying coffee. It is unacceptable that forests are being cut down for the purpose of processing coffee.

In 2009, Yoro Biological Corridor scientists became the first to publicize the information:

“Coffee processing as traditionally practised consumes substantial amounts of energy, water and space, and this consumption can have potentially significant impacts on native tropical biodiversity.” …

“the electricity required for drying represents nearly eighty percent of the electricity required for processing coffee.” (Instituto del Café de Costa Rica [ICAFE] 2006) …

“The majority of coffee in Costa Rica is dried using electricity and firewood.” (ICAFE 2006), and the same equipment is used throughout Latin America.

“… we estimate that throughout Mesoamerica, approximately 6,509 hectares of forest are cut to supply the firewood used to dry the coffee harvest each year. This is roughly equivalent to 3 sq. cm of wood per cup of coffee.” (Arce et al. 2009)

Video about mechanical coffee dryers that are powered by wood and/or fossil fuels and used throughout Central & South America.
(Produced in 2002 by Mesoamerican Development Institute (MDI) in collaboration with World Bank’s Global Environment Facility).

The Solution

Cafe Solar®: Carbon-Neutral Coffee Processing Factories house the first commercial technology and method of clean coffee processing that uses advanced solar technology to dry green coffee beans in preparation for export.

Developed by the Mesoamerican Development Institute in conjunction with YBC partners, these factories enable producer communities to process large quantities of green coffee in a way that does not degrade local ecosystems, adds greater quality to the end-product, and adds accountability to the supply chain.

These factories are the cleanest, most efficient, and most consistent way to dry commercial-sized batches of green coffee in existence today.

Solar panels power the coffee drying process.
Cafe Solar® solar-powered mechanical coffee dryer.

Cafe Solar® Carbon-Neutral Coffee Processing Factories

(Part of the Yoro Model and developed by Mesoamerican Development Institute with YBC partners)


  • 100% off-grid facility and operations.
  • Combines solar thermal and biomass gasification. (Thermal energy is supplied by solar thermal collectors during the day.
  • Gasification of coffee husks (waste by-product) is used to make energy during night or rainy periods).


  • Drying eliminates burning of wood (replaces with solar thermal and biomass), thus eliminating the need for deforestation to fuel the process.
  • The elimination of firewood for fuel conserves 1 hectare of forest wood per season for each active drying tower.
  • Energy efficiency in drying is increased by 80% over conventional mechanized dryers.
  • Operational costs are significantly reduced over conventional mechanized dryers.