Some agro-food waste products maintain several compounds even after their processing for dietary uses. By using advanced technologies, it is possible to recover specific molecules that can be employed, once extracted and purified, as secondary raw material in industrial productions. Terra&Acqua Tech laboratory was able to apply expertises and know-how in the field of separation science, complex sample treatment and instrumental analysis, from both theoretical and practical viewpoints, to maximize the recovery of secondary raw materials from spent coffee grounds. An high added value mixture of compounds was obtained and employed as a component in cosmetic products.

Download PDF version
Nicola Marchetti
Specialization Area
Energy and Sustainability
recovery of secondary raw materials
chemical characterization
Usage of spent coffee grounds
Innovative aspects

High efficiency extraction processes; recovery of secondary raw materials from agro-food waste; extraction and purification of fatty acids from exhausted ground coffee.

Potential applications

agro-food waste collection management with the aim of recovering secondary raw materials.

Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry laboratory
Application example

Extraction of fatty acids from spent coffee grounds

Application description and results

Recovery of secondary raw materials from spent coffee grounds was maximized and a mixture of important chemicals for cosmetic industry was obtained. Experimental parameters of Soxhlet extraction technique were optimized with special attention to water content in spent coffee grounds, time and way for drying spent coffee grounds, time and solvent employed for extraction process. These parameters were investigated in order to maximize the extraction recovery. Then, the resulting fatty acid mixture was chemically characterized by gas-chromatography/mass spectrometry technique. It was composed by Linoleic (51%), Palmitic (28%), Oleic (12%), Stearic (6.5%) and Arachidic (2.5%) fatty acids. This mixture was evaluated as suitable for cosmetic production. A system scale-up was realized to produce about 300 mg of fatty acid mixture. After the recovery of the above described secondary raw chemicals, the exhausted ground coffee can be employed as a component of pellet fuels. A secondary raw material recovery of about 11% in mass can be obtained by using the Soxhlet extraction technique with cyclohexane as solvent in roughly 6 hours. The 77% of recovered product consists of important fatty acids (Linoleic, Palmitic, Oleic, Stearic and Arachidic). The amount of extracted material was higher (above 17% in mass) by using methanol as solvent, but the fatty acid content was lower (68%).

Involved partners

Torrefazione Krifi; RVF Ambiente S.n.c.

Implementation Time
3 months
Technology Readiness Level
TRL4 - Technology validated in lab

The research unit is interested in collaborative projects with the industry.

Automated Soxhlet extractor
Published on