Fast, Thorough “Wet Cleaning” of Coffee Conveyors Ensures Food Safety

Specialty coffee roasters and processors now regularly use ATP testing to monitor equipment surfaces for microbial growth, to meet increasingly strict compliance standards such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). Add to this the need to minimize cross contamination of products after production changeovers, and more processors are realizing that the traditional means of cleaning conveying equipment may not be sufficient to meet today’s rigorous compliance requirements.

When conventional conveyors need to be disassembled, cleaned, and reassembled to reach all exposed internal surfaces, potential downtime can extend to days. If this proves too challenging, some coffee roasters dedicate separate conveyor lines to specific products, which increases capital equipment costs, labor, and the production space required.

As an alternative to speed the process, coffee roasters have turned to tubular drag conveyor systems, which gently move product through a sealed, enclosed tube using a drag cable and circular discs pulled through on a loop — ideal for delicate items. Because tubular cable conveyors are enclosed, these systems can be quickly and effectively flooded with water, flushed, rinsed, cleansed, and thoroughly sanitized without disassembly – a process called “wet cleaning.”

This “wet clean” approach significantly improves coffee roaster food safety compliance and system reliability. The technique, in fact, thoroughly flushes out any potential trace allergens from conveying equipment that could be used for multiple products.

Since a complete and thorough cleaning can be accomplished without disassembly of the system, the entire process only takes 20-90 minutes. This can substantially reduce downtime during production changeovers and eliminate the need for unnecessary additional dedicated conveyor lines. For coffee roasters conveying a specific product, regular cleaning can be set to run on an automated basis.

To resolve potential food safety and downtime issues, a growing number of specialty coffee roasters are replacing pneumatic conveyor systems with tubular cable conveyor systems with automated wet cleaning capability, such as those from Cablevey Conveyors. The Oskaloosa, Iowa-based conveyor manufacturer has designed, engineered, and serviced enclosed cable and disc tube conveyors for 50 years and is in more than 66 countries. In the coffee processing industry, the system can convey up to 2000 cubic feet per hour of materials with numerous layouts using multiple inlets and outlets.

The cable conveyor’s wet cleaning process internally cleans the tube in several steps starting with a water rinse followed by a foaming agent, a sanitizing rinse, and a final water rinse. Once the system is thoroughly flushed out, drying is achieved by attaching urethane wipers to the tubular conveyor’s discs, which “act like a squeegee” to remove any residual water.

To automate the cleaning process, Cablevey can help to integrate the conveyor with coffee roasters’ distributed control systems (DCS). By automating the cleaning, the system is essentially self-cleaning, so it is convenient to let it run through the cleaning process as employees take care of other tasks.

Clear tubes can be chosen as an option for the conveyor system to provide greater visibility into the cleanliness of the equipment and the cleaning process as it occurs.

For added food safety, coffee roasters can choose to add a unique inspection option that enables the running of a small, lighted camera system internally through the tubes, with video viewable on a smartphone via an app. Usually, this level of inspection is performed on an as-needed basis to further verify or document cleanliness.

This clear tube system is transparent except where the clamps are located, so coffee roasters can visually check the cleaning process at any time. The internal camera system enables seeing “every nook and cranny from the inside.” This, along with regular ATP testing, provides coffee roasters with the confidence that they are reliably meeting all QA and food safety standards.

Compared to air conveyor systems, the approach can also run significantly more product an hour with less downtime and less potential breakage.

For the coffee roasting and processing industry, the wet cleaning capability is advantageous when dealing with a wide variety of products. As processors respond to the need for greater safety, flexibility, and efficiency, tubular conveyors with the ability to wet clean are an important tool to consider.

For more information, visit

Suggested Reading