Yesterday Randy and I met up in Houston, TX at Satake USA for a demo of their PIKASEN FMS2000 optical sorting machine.
I know what you're thinking, "WAIT... isn't Purissimo always hand-sorted?"
The answer, of course, is yes...and it always will be. That being said, as we grow our business hand-sorting is our biggest bottleneck for production volume and we've started to explore our options to increase efficiency and output.
Optical Sorters Are Super Cool
Optical sorting machines have been around for a long time and these are some impressive machines. They're heavily used for sorting other products such as rice, grains and beans and typically are able to sort many thousands of pounds of product per hour. Most sort based on color parameters but there are some that can also sort by size, shape and more.
This was our first time checking out a sorting machine and it was a great experience. The folks at Satake were really top notch and went out of their way to provide us a solid demo on relatively short notice.
The FMS2000 is a great compact machine that's a full RGB color sorter with a very user friendly touch screen interface. After a bit of calibration from Sam, the Satake machine tech, we started running some beans through the machine.
The Purissimo Challenge
Our quality standards here at Purissimo are incredibly high. So high, in fact, the Satake folks placed us in a league of our own above what they would consider to be "gourmet" coffee.
The Specialty Coffee Association standard for coffee to be considered "specialty grade" states that a 350 gram sample can contain no more than a single Category 1 defect (a black bean, mold/fungus, insect damage... but they allow 1!!) and no more than 5 Category 2 defects (see image below for details).
Our standard at Purissimo is ZERO defects. Period. Moldy coffee is gross. Insect damaged coffee is gross. Sour coffee beans are gross. In fact, if you've ever had an upset stomach after drinking coffee, it's likely because of a high concentration of these defects!
This quality standard presents a significant challenge for any sorting machine regardless of its capabilities. Because the FMS2000 functions solely off of color, it was already starting with a significant handicap.
As we got the machine more dialed in to various color-driven defects, it was really interesting to see all of the defective beans it was able to detect and reject. Even more astonishing is the sheer volume and speed at which it happens. We sorted a 20 pound sample in a mere 30 seconds (maybe less!)... something that currently takes a lot more time.
However, because this machine will only catch color-related defects we would still need to do a manual sort to remove other types of defects.
We're currently running an analysis based on our machine-sorted samples to see how much time we might actually save and it will be interesting to see the results.
Regardless, we had a great time evaluating this incredible machine and, again, the folks over at Satake were really great.
No matter the final results, we'll always be dedicated to bringing you the best defect-free coffee we possibly can.