3 August 2015 16:08

Engineers at Lancaster University are helping to bring a century-old artisan coffee roaster back to life.

The Uno 7lb roaster, which was originally built in London in 1919, was salvaged from Liverpool’s famous Lewis’ department store when it closed in 2010 by Ian Steel, owner of specialist Lancaster-based coffee roasters J Atkinson and Co.

However, after inspecting his purchase, Mr Steel discovered that several key components were broken or missing.

Ian Steel said: “The Uno is an amazing elegant piece of design, including a beautiful A-frame and a drum and it roasts the most amazing coffee. We have a larger 14lb Uno in our shop which is 70 years old and wins competitions, beating more technologically-advanced modern machines.”

Seeking help to get the 7lb Uno roaster back in working order, Mr Steel contacted the Lancaster Product Development Unit within Lancaster University, which helps small businesses to grow by providing engineering support to develop products and services.

Engineering graduate Craig McAlister, who is also studying for an MSc at Lancaster, identified and redesigned the missing parts, as well as addressing technical and maintenance issues – despite having no original drawings available.

Craig McAlister said: “There were broken parts, which we were able to do 3D models of fairly easily, but then there were parts completely missing – such as a clutch control handle, a drum tap and pulley wheel, and a pulley system for the belt drive. This meant there was a lot of creative design required.

“It has been a very interesting challenge because is a very old piece of kit, almost 100 years old, it was fascinating for me to get an insight into some of the old manufacturing techniques.”

Mr McAlister has produced design drawings that will enable J Atkinson and Co to get the replacement parts manufactured and bring the roaster back to life.

J Atkinson and Co supply a large number of cafes across north Lancashire and beyond, as well as shop customers with roasted coffee. They have a long working relationship with Lancaster University, who they also supply with coffee, and have benefited from student expertise through industry focused PhDs.

Mr Steel said: “This is genuine artisan coffee. The Uno heats the beans from the centre of the barrel using an open flame, resulting in a more complex flavour. It is a real novelty thing and it is a lovely addition to our stable of roasters.

“My dream would be to put these Uno machines back into production – it would be fantastic to be able to revive such an elegant, simple design and let more people enjoy coffee like they were doing almost a century ago.”

This assistance for this project was made available by the Sustainable Design for Rapid/Additive Manufacturing: Engineering Design Academy (SusDRAM:EDA), a programme of technical business support for companies in the North West of England. This programme is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund.

To find out more about business support available from the Lancaster Product Development Unit visit http://www.lpdu.lancs.ac.uk/ or email Chris Lambert on c.g.lambert@lancaster.ac.uk or call 01524 594383

More information about J Atkinson and Co can be found at https://www.thecoffeehopper.com/