Industrial Utility Efficiency    

Nitrogen Generation System Helps Death Wish Coffee Gain Production Efficiencies

Death Wish Coffee

As founding members of a startup company in the compressed air and gas purification and separation industry, nano-purification solutions felt a kinship with the owners, employees and mission of Death Wish Coffee Co. The kinship and nano-purification solutions’ expertise in onsite nitrogen generation led to the installation of a nitrogen generation system that contributes to the overall efficiencies and operational costs savings at the coffee roaster’s production operation in Round Lake, New York.

Deathwish Coffee nano GEN2 System

Death Wish Coffee’s nitrogen generation system helps the company improve efficiencies and save costs at its facility in Round Lake, New York.

Growth with a Flair

Death Wish Coffee Founder Mike Brown started the coffee roasting company in 2012 in a basement in Saratoga Springs, New York. The roaster of the “World’s Strongest Coffee” has since grown into a 38-member organization with corporate offices in Ballston Spa, New York, and a new production facility in Round Lake, New York. Best of all, Death Wish Coffee (https://www.deathwishcoffee.com/) continues to do things on their terms and with a rock and roll flair.

Death Wish Logo

The company gained notoriety in 2015 and 2016 after winning the 2015 Intuit QuickBooks “Small Business, Big Game” award with a grand prize of a free commercial during Super Bowl L in February 2016. The ad helped the company transition from a roast-to-order business into a successful provider of coffee to online retailers such as Amazon. It also became a supplier to brick-and-mortar retailers like Walmart and Kroger where it has been able to command shelf space for its ground and whole bean flagship variety of products, which include Keurig® pods and freeze-dried “Instant Death” instant coffee products.

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Automated Filling and Packaging Equipment Installed

With success and new opportunities come new challenges as any growing company knows, and Death Wish Coffee is no exception. Weighing, filling and sealing coffee bags by hand for immediate shipment and quick consumption was a constraint for the growing company, which continued to grow opportunities with retailers eager to put the company’s products on highly coveted shelves.

New product development and rapid growth experienced by Death Wish Coffee is precisely why the company’s production engineers and C.J. DeLuca, Quality Assurance/Food Safety Manager at Death Wish Coffee, began looking at ways to increase production and ensure the quality of its product, which could soon be available from the store shelf. Food and beverage products such as pre-ground, bagged coffee and K-Cup® pods require packaging with an inert gas flush to enhance storage and eliminate the chance of oxidation in order to retain rich flavors and extend shelf life.

Death Wish Coffee turned first to automation and installed a vertical form filler capable of filling 30, one-pound bags of coffee per minute. Vertical form fillers provide an automated, highly accurate, hands-free system for packaging food products with a single operator controlling the process. Automated filling machines also allow for inert gas, such as nitrogen (N2), blanketing to be employed as required. The next step for the company was to ensure efficiencies in the process.

 

Pros and Cons of N2 Cylinders Weighed

Like many expanding packagers, Death Wish Coffee initially relied on a local gas company to supply N2 as a gas in Department of Transportation (DOT) cylinders. Also, like others, Death Wish Coffee needed to weigh the pros and cons of using cylinders as a source of N2 based on growth in production.

High-pressure N2 gas cylinders are limited in their storage volume (approximately 290 standard cubic feet of usable gas per cylinder is the norm), are dangerous to move around, and are the costliest way to buy N2. Yet for a small packaging operation, cylinders are an easy way to get started and ensure longer product shelf-life at relatively low initial investment and commitment.

In the beginning, one to two cylinders could run for an hour or two during an eight-hour shift to fulfill orders at Death Wish Coffee. But, as orders started increasing in volume and regularity, packaging runs were lasting five or six hours to even a full eight-hour shift. Since their new vertical form filler consumed 240 standard cubic feet per hour (scfh), it was using as many as five to six cylinders per day.

Since there was no sign of a slowdown, Death Wish Coffee realized they needed to make a decision to start buying 16-packs of N2 gas cylinders, move to a liquid dewar system, or go all-in and install a nitrogen generator sized to meet their 240 scfh requirement without limiting their ceiling of production since the team was planning on continued growth.

 

In-house Air Separation the Right Choice

The 16-pack option was quickly pushed aside since on eight- to 10-hour-shift days, Death Wish Coffee would still be changing out skids of 16 packs every other day. Higher costs, increased delivery charges and downtime while changing N2 skids made scratching this idea off the list an easy decision.

Liquid dewars are available in different sizes and can typically contain approximately 3,900 scf of usable N2. The liquid is expanded through a heat exchanger where it is converted to a gas for use in the packaging operation. While a dewar would last for approximately 16 hours of production, liquid dewar usage typically requires a long-term contract, expensive monthly rental equipment and associated fees and taxes. Liquid dewars are also quite heavy and difficult to move and during times of low to moderate usage, N2 liquid can boil off into the atmosphere wasting a valuable commodity the company has already paid for.

After several conversations with a local gas company, Death Wish Coffee decided to explore in-house air separation as an alternative to liquid nitrogen. The company turned to the local Sullair air compressor dealer Comairco who also represents nano-purification solutions. nano’s Territory Manager Jim McFadden and Comairco’s Technical Sales Representative Joe Bonfardeci proposed a turnkey system to Death Wish Coffee.

 

High Quality Compressed Air a Top Priority

The proposed compressed air system discussed would allow Death Wish Coffee to meet ISO 8573-1:2010 purity classes for compressed air, including Class 2 Particulates, Class 5 Water Vapor and Class 3 Oil.

McFadden pointed out the importance of a system that delivers a slightly better grade of compressed air either by utilizing a desiccant pre-treatment dryer, or by employing one of nano’s Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) GEN2 Plus nitrogen generators, which feature the unique Adsorbent Media Sheet (AMS) integrated dryer.

The dryer found on the GEN2 Plus would effectively reduce the pressure dew point from approximately 45oF (7oC) to approximately -40oF (-40oC). This improvement would reduce the water content so drastically it would allow for the pores in the GEN2 Plus’s adsorbent material to be freed up for adsorbing oxygen (O2) instead of being unnecessarily blocked by adsorbed water vapor (H2O).

Additionally, PSA nitrogen generators operate much like a twin tower heatless desiccant air dryer; however, they are set up on a different NEMA-timed cycle and utilize a different adsorbent material called Carbon Molecular Sieve (CMS), which has a high affinity for O2 molecules. The removal of the oxygen molecules equates directly to N2 purity. As such, nano-purifications always considers the proper pre-treatment of air ahead of the nitrogen generator when designing a system. nano also recommends lower dew points and improved particulate and oil parts per million retention ahead of the generator, especially as N2 purity increases, to maintain the highest performance and longest service life from extremely sensitive CMS adsorbent.

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McFadden noted how CMS works much like any other adsorbent. Pores in the material have a high affinity for certain molecules while allowing other molecules to pass through. For example, Molecular Sieve has a high affinity to CO2 and Activated alumina has a high affinity to water vapor. The pores in CMS adsorbent allow for N2 molecules to flow through the sieve beds unimpeded while other components such as H2O (water vapor), O2 , etc. are adsorbed by the surface of the CMS. But, unlike a standard desiccant compressed air dryer, the CMS media are not there to adsorb water vapor and, in fact, if more water vapor takes up space intended to be filled with O2 and other stray gas molecules, a lower purity than expected may result from a correctly sized CMS bed.

 

Engineered Nitrogen Generator and Air Compressor Solution

Based on years of experience with coffee roasting and food packaging operations, McFadden recommended the GEN2-2130-Plus nitrogen generator, which could easily meet the 240 scfh requirement – and at the same time – achieve 99.99% nitrogen purity.

The unique adsorbent dryer bed in the modular unit’s columns not only provides a base layer for the CMS but also removes unwanted water vapor to a dew point of -40oF (-40oC) pressure dew point, which allows the CMS to be most effective and most efficient at removing undesirable O2 molecules. It also reduces the purge air a typical heatless regenerative dryer would require while reducing the footprint and extra cost of an additional piece of capital equipment into the system.

nano also quoted additional F1 industrial filtration including a 0.01 micron high-efficiency coalescing filter to reach ISO Class 1 for Particulates and Oil, as well as the unique AMS integrated dryer option to achieve Class 2 for Water Vapor.

Additionally, Bonfardeci selected the correct Sullair air compressor to provide the feed air required by the nano nitrogen generator based on some simple air-to-nitrogen ratio calculations. The recommended system includes the Sullair ST1509RD, 20-horsepower (hp) rotary screw air compressor with tank-mounted refrigerated air dryer and 1.0 micron pre-filter to deliver 80.1 scfm at 125 psig and approximately 45oF (7oC) pressure dew point.

nano GEN2 System

The nitrogen generation system at Death Wish Coffee includes a Sullair ST1509RD, 20-horsepower (hp) rotary screw air compressor and a nano GEN2-2130-Plus nitrogen generator system.

 

Meeting Current and Future Needs

Death Wish Coffee has been very pleased with the performance of the nitrogen generator but was equally taken with the design of the entire system.

“For a growing company, the modular design of the nano-purification GEN2 system made a lot of sense,” said DeLuca. “Our company continues to grow but, thanks to forethought by Jim and Joe, we will not outgrow our air compressor. We have enough compressed air to feed a second generator which is perfect since we are soon going to be adding another packaging line and have already started running a split shift that runs five hours and five hours, five days per week.”

DeLuca said he also appreciates how the system has been engineered for longevity and cost savings.

“As we grow, we know we will add the other modular nitrogen generator bank and, in times of low demand, the bank(s) will go to sleep, which will save wear and tear on rotating equipment and switching valves – and save the company the cost of electricity to run the system,” he said, noting that Death Wish Coffee expects to triple production this year.

Toward that end, McFadden said the nitrogen generator is designed to ensure efficient performance matched to demand.

“Ecomode and Purity Demand Energy Savings are just two of the unique features of our new GEN2 i4.0 controller,” McFadden said. “The system will run as much or as little as Death Wish Coffee’s production requires and will do so in the most efficient manner possible. The new controller will also allow for communication through Modbus and PROFIBUS to allow for total connectivity between machines and most company’s building management systems.”

nano GEN2 Controller

nano’s GEN2 i4.0 controller contributes to the efficient operation of the GEN2-2130-Plus nitrogen generator.

Nano Nitrogen Product Manager Mark Lauterwasser said the use of nitrogen generators is gaining in popularity with companies like Death Wish Coffee.

“Nitrogen generation is a growing segment and nano-purification solutions is living proof of that fact. Only four or five short years ago, we introduced our first range of gas generators, but today we’ve seen a substantial increase in inquiries and systems sold on a year-over-year basis to both new and repeat customers,” Lauterwasser said. “Companies like Death Wish Coffee are starting to realize they can own and control their own source of clean, dry, reliable nitrogen and demonstrate an ROI of eight to 24 months in most instances.”

Expertise from the outset of any project ensures the end-user is buying and installing a solution that will fit current and future needs. High-quality distributor support ensures proper installation and excellent routine maintenance and service long after the initial sale. The partnership between Comairco and nano is singularly committed to making customers such as Death Wish Coffee long-term, satisfied customers.

How the GEN2-2130-Plus Nitrogen Generator Works

The technologically advanced nano GEN2-2130-Plus nitrogen generator operates on the Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) principle to produce a continuous uninterrupted stream of nitrogen gas from clean dry compressed air.

Dual chamber extruded aluminum columns are filled with Carbon Molecular Sieve (CMS). Joined via an upper and lower manifold, the high-density filled columns produce a dual-bed system. After a preset time the control system automatically switches the beds. One bed is always online generating N2 while the other is being regenerated. During regeneration, the oxygen that has been collected in the CMS stage and the moisture that has been collected in the optional integrated dryer stage are exhausted to atmosphere. A small portion of the outlet N2 gas is expanded into the bed to accelerate the regeneration process.

Here’s a closer look:

  • Clean compressed air enters the inlet into the GEN2 unit where the inlet valves direct the flow to either the left or right column sets.
  • After passing through the inlet valve, the compressed air enters one side of the manifold under the extruded columns.
  • The compressed air then flows up through the integrated AMS dryer and the CMS beds where first water vapor and then oxygen and other trace gases are preferentially adsorbed and allows the Nto pass through.
  • The N2 gas then passes through the supporting bed layer with integrated filter into the outlet manifold before exiting through the outlet valves.
  • The N2 gas continues to the buffer vessel and nano F1 buffer vessel filter before returning to the GEN2 unit for purity monitoring, flow and purity regulation.

 

About the Author

Tony Hergert is a Founding Member at nano-purification solutions, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, and works as Sales and Marketing Director for the company, email: tony.hergert@n-psi.com; tel: 704-897-2182.

About nano-purification solutions

Leading-edge technology and hundreds of years of experience…nano-purification solutions is a world-class manufacturer of state-of-the-art compressed air and gas solutions for industry. Our commitment at nano is to work alongside our customers and provide unique solutions with the highest quality products to solve specific customer challenges. A wealth of experience and industry renowned products are only part of the equation. We at nano recognize world class customer service is the most important component to any successful business. Experience. Customer. Service. www.n-psi.com. For further information, email marketing@n-psi.com.

About Comairco

Since 1972, Comairco’s knowledgeable staff have been supporting customers across the United States and Canada by helping them clearly identify their compressed air needs and by selling or renting the most cost-efficient air compressors and compressed air equipment available in the industry. For more information, visit comairco.com.

All photos courtesy of nano-purification solutions.

To read more Nitrogen Generation System Assessment articles, visit https://airbestpractices.com/system-assessments/air-treatment-n2.