“A turnkey solution, part of the circular economy”

Capriole’s Marko Klacar’s dream is to see homes heated with coffee waste pellets, such as the ones he is holding here Matic Zorman/Maison Moderne

Capriole’s Marko Klacar’s dream is to see homes heated with coffee waste pellets, such as the ones he is holding here Matic Zorman/Maison Moderne

Startup Capriole won the product design category in Luxinnovation’s Circular by Design Challenge earlier this year. Founder Marko Klacar shares his vision for sustainable use of coffee waste. 

Natalie Gerhardstein: When did you launch Capriole?

Marko Klacar: I started a company in 2019 just to have [one], but the project started in July 2020--that’s when I got covid and was in confinement in Prague… a completely different project than what I ended up with, but that's when it really took off.

So the idea wasn’t sparked over a cup of coffee?

It was! But that cup of coffee took place in 2010 [while] having an espresso with a friend in Sweden. He said, ‘Hey, do you know that you can use coffee waste as fertiliser?’ And I said, ‘Get out of here!’ But that always lived in the back of my [mind]. When I was in quarantine, I’d watched every series known to man. I’d gone to the deep side of YouTube--where they show you how to survive shark attacks and talk to giraffes--I figured, let’s see if I can make a run at using coffee waste as a product… ESG is something I’m very passionate about.

You talk about using coffee waste as fertiliser. But can you tell me in a nutshell, the precise idea behind Capriole and your key focus areas?

It started just wanting to use it as fertiliser; nobody really sells it commercially. I saw people were willing for paid to pay for this, so I started contacting roasters in Luxembourg. It turns out that one of the roasters at a cafe in Echternach was also looking at pressing briquettes from coffee waste…

We want to sell the briquettes but to do it in a way that it requires as little infrastructure as possible… I tell roasters how to collect the coffee waste, how to press it. They can do it and under their own label, so we avoid transporting coffee waste. It’s a turnkey solution, part of the circular economy.

How large are these pressing machines?

Height-wise, maybe 2m… not something that takes up an insane amount of space.

How much coffee waste is generated in Luxembourg?

I couldn’t tell you exactly [for Luxembourg], but a normal cafe produces around 2kg and a busy café produces around 5kg of waste per day.

Do you eventually want to tackle coffee capsules too?

We’re working on a loose initiative with another person, [who] would like to take the plastic part from the capsules... that’s on hold for a [later] phase…

How exactly can these briquettes be used?

The primary use will be as a replacement for briquettes for grilling. We kind of moved away from fertiliser, now at briquettes you can use for smoking or grilling meat. They burn, it works--and what’s interesting about it is there are no binders, it’s just coffee waste. If you pick up regular briquettes, there’s always a warning label; they’re impregnated with chemicals…

My dream is that in future, homes are heated by coffee pellets. Coffee is said to have a higher energy content than wood: it burns hotter and doesn’t involve deforestation or that much transportation… This is a billion-euro market, and the three biggest countries heating homes with briquettes are Belgium, Germany and France. Strategically, Luxembourg is quite well positioned.

Your briquettes have been traveling a bit. What’s the range of locations of interest?

[Recently] a woman in Eritrea reached out to me… many reach their 60s, women especially, and they’ve inhaled so many fumes that there are serious health issues. She’ll try them out and see if there are health benefits compared to regular firewood. There’s also interest from the Americas and Europe.

What are your next steps?

I first want to have the patent completed and be done with clinical testing… [then] the company will lease out machines to whoever has the need and capacity for it.

This article was originally published in the Delano October 2021 print edition