Uni expert brings art of coffee back to life

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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.

He 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 roaster back in working order, Mr Steel contacted the Lancaster Product Development Unit at Lancaster University, which helps small businesses 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.

He 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 it’s 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.