​Graduate helps revive century-old coffee roaster

An engineering graduate from Lancaster University has used his skills to help restore an artisan coffee roaster that dates back almost 100 years.

The Uno coffee roaster
The Uno coffee roaster

The Uno 7lb roaster was originally built in London in 1919, and was salvaged by Ian Steel from Lewis’s department store in Liverpool when it closed in 2010.

“The Uno is an amazing elegant piece of design, including a beautiful A-frame and a drum and it roasts the most amazing coffee,” said Ian, who owns J Atkins and Co coffee roasters in Lancaster.

However, it soon became apparent that the machine was not in working condition. In an effort to restore it to its former glory, Ian contacted Lancaster University’s Product Development Unit, which provides engineering support to small businesses.

Despite not having any original drawings, Craig McAlister, an engineering graduate currently studying for an MSc at Lancaster, was able to identify and redesign the missing parts, as well as address technical and maintenance issues.

“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,” said Craig.

Ian Steel and Craig McAlister alongside the roaster
Ian Steel and Craig McAlister alongside the roaster

Due to the number of missing parts, the age of the roaster, and a lack of source material from which to work from, a lot of creative design was needed.

“It has been a very interesting challenge,” Craig explained, “because it 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.”

Craig produced design drawings based on his work, which will now be used by J Atkinson and Co to get the required replacement parts manufactured. Ultimately, Ian hopes that the drawings could help bring the vintage roasters back into production someday.

“My dream would be to put these Uno machines back into production,” he said. “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.”

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