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Grinders cop a roasting over coffee smell

May 2, 2017
Public Health and Wellbeing

 Not everyone wants to wake up and smell the coffee.  A North Melbourne coffee bean processor is facing objections from residents in nearby apartment buildings over the smell and smoke produced by the company’s roasting machines.

The Small Batch Roasting Company has been the subject of complaints to the City of Melbourne and the EPA concerning its emissions.

Small Batch owner Andrew Kelly has had to extend a chimney flue on the factory roof so emissions are released at a higher level and has installed an ozone-generator and fans to combat odour.

Resident Benjamin Fisher said he first raised concerns about the smoke from Small Batch’s roasting chimneys on behalf of a group of residents in 2014, concerned it might be toxic.

He said the roaster’s location in the middle of a group of taller apartment buildings meant smoke tended to swirl and settle instead of blowing away.

‘‘ It’s a strong acrid smell, like a really nasty burnt coffee,’’ he said. ‘‘ It’s not that pleasant aroma of coffee , which everyone likes and is quite refreshing. ‘‘ It’s got more of a chemical tone to it. Even with the windows and doors closed it still comes into the apartment; it’s quite pervasive .’’

Mr Kelly, who also started the Auction Rooms cafe in North Melbourne , said there was nothing toxic about the smoke given off by the roasters. ‘‘ But it’s a smell we recognise some people don’t like.’’ Green coffee bean batches are roasted at high temperatures for about 10 minutes at a time and the smoke from the exhaust fan was mostly moisture, he said. The company roasts around 1500 kilograms of beans a week over four days. According to EPA America, emmissions released during coffee roasting include alcohols , aldehydes, organic acids, and nitrogen and sulphur compounds. Mr Kelly said his company had consulted with the local council after complaints from residents and a nearby childcare centre. ‘‘ We want to be good neighbours, we thought we had a solution that suited everybody,’’ Mr Kelly said. ‘‘ Some people think the smell is great. Others obviously don’t .’’ Mr Fisher said he did not want Small Batch to close down and was happy that the business appeared to be doing well.

‘‘ I want them to succeed, but we have laws and regulations that govern their operation,’’ he said.

The problem of food smells is becoming a big issue in Melbourne as more people move in to the innercity .

A Carlton steakhouse was recently forced to closed its doors when nearby residents complained about the smell of cooking meat.

Mr Kelly said coffee roasting in many ways was the perfect light industry to operate in the inner suburbs of Melbourne.‘‘ We really don’t make any noise, we’re cooking food that is consumed nearby in a city that obsesses about that kind of thing,’’ he said.

A City of Melbourne spokesperson said that in addition to the initial complaint, council had also been told about damage to a vehicle allegedly caused by the factory’s emissions.

Published by: The Age, 2nd May 2017