Monday, January 16, 2012

A visit to the coffee coop or finca

The day the high winds knocked out the power, water, and internet we took a trip up the mountain to learn about the coffee process. We could not work and we did not know when the power would be back on.  The high winds are new to the area especially when the hurricane season in months away.  The weather patterns have changed in the region.  Part of what people call Global Climate Change.
The new weather patterns have caused more rains and the rain comes for a longer period of time.  This is a picture of an area that had a bad mud slide a few years ago.  This mud slide took out the road and it was about a year before it got built back.  During that time, to get up the mountain you had to take a bus up to this point, walk across the foot bridge, and take another bus the rest of the way.
This is the foot bridge over the gully.  A man was killed working on the new road when the ground gave  way and his end loader went down the mountain.  The next pictures gives you a better view the area.
I was on the bridge looking down to the small creek bed below.  It is deeper than you think.  Road can wash away in this area and when you drive it is not unusual to see spots in the road that are gone and need repair.

The view in the morning

You wake up in the morning, sit on the porch, drink your cup of coffee, wait for breakfast, and this is the view that you have to look at.   Beautiful flowers, a nice mountain with a small water fall that you can hear.  I can see why people like the area.  I can see why people go down there to retire.  They also have good coffee.

Soda can solar collectors

One of the major projects for the trip to Guatemala was to built two soda can solar collectors to show the coffee producers an environmentally friendly way to dry their coffee beans and other fruits and vegetables.  Rufino had purchased the building materials and I brought down the needed tools and the fan and fan temperature controls. It is difficult to check a 4x8 sheet of plywood on to an airplane especially now, what with the baggage fees.  I also brought down some high temperature silicone caulk and can openers.  One of the first problems we had was the can openers that worked so well at cutting off the tops of soda cans in the  USA did not work on the same Coke cans in Guatemala. I don't really know what the difference was or why but it was enough that the can openers did not work.  That problem did slow down the project.  We used tin snips and the old fashion Swiss Army knife type of can openers.  Once we got the tops off the cans we drilled the three holes in the bottom of the soda cans.
While one group was working on the soda cans another group was drilling holes in the header that held the soda can in place.  We had to measure, mark, and drill the 2 1/2 inch holes used to hold the cans in place.  I had brought down several hole saws for this task.  We found the Bosch hole saw worked the best.  It cost more but was included in a set of four and actually was the better value.  The Bosch hole saws would also cut metal.
 The cooler air enters the bottom of the collector and as the air is heated by the sun it will rise and empty out the top.  We added a fan and a temperature control to aid the coffee bean drying process.
We built the collector frame out of a 4x8 sheet of plywood and 1x6's.   The lower header is for the cool air and the top header was covered with sheet metal and then we added a clear plastic over the whole collector to keep out the rain.
Some local visitors heard about this and stopped by to discuss their solar ideas.  Andre, the camera man for this project, filmed everything we did.  Once everything was complete we moved the collectors outside to apply the black paint.  You can see the lower header that is used to allow the cooler air to the enter the collector and the wider top section where the warm air exits the collector.
You can see the colors of the unpainted soda cans at the right hand upper corner.  It is surprising how well this simple system works.  The collector with the fan had a heat sensor in it that would start the fan once the air temperature in the collector was 110 degrees and the fan would not shut off until the air temperature dropped to 90 degrees.  The collectors we built are actually designed for heating homes in colder climates but they do work OK in Guatemala, as we found out.  A little bit of time out in the sun and the fan will start up.  The fan will stay on even when the sun drops behind a few clouds.
This is just a simple eight inch duct booster fan wired to a temperature control.  After talking to the coffee coop people we may just add a simple fan and a speed control and run the fan all the time.  The day the high winds knocked out the power and water we went up the mountain to learn about the coffee drying process but that is a story for a different blog.  The finished soda can collectors were loaded on the truck and moved up the mountain to the test site.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Back in the USA

I got back to Peoria last night after spending 13 days in Panajachel, Guatemala.  We were able to complete the work that we had hoped to do.  I am just making sure that I can use some of the equipment because I need to post more pictures.  I had some Internet problems in Guatemala.  The Internet is better here.  I met some very nice people, some very interesting people, learned about the coffee industry, and I hope to return again some day.  I still have a solar water heater that I want to install at the Godinex school.  I still have my memories of Guatemala and with a few more days of cream those memories will be gone.  They look worse than they are.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

justt about done

made some changes to the coffee dryer today based on the advice we got from Marvin at the coffee finca. They were very helpful and I know more about coffee now.  I just wish the netbook was working.  I have pictures to post and coffee to roast.  The beans we had today were on the bush two weeeks ago

Saturday, January 7, 2012

shopping for supplies

We needed to get some fittings to make sure we had what we needed to hook up the piping for the solar hot water heater.  You would not think it would be that difficult to buy what you need but we did manage to buy them out of half inch copper tubing, all two feet of it.  I think we can make it work.  I am hoping we can make it work.  You just have to adjust to the way things are.


I had some of this for breakfast.  I am not sure what it is but I know it came from inside a cow.  It tasted like a firm liver.  It was ok but I wouild not order it at a restaurant.   Mainly the breakfast is like what I eat.  The only difference is the tortillas and the beans.  Today we had eggs and corn meal mush.  The only difference is my corn meal mush sets up in a bread pan and they use corn husks.