Unlocking the potential of spent coffee grounds via a comprehensive biorefinery approach: production of microbial oil and carotenoids under fed-batch fermentation

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2024 May;31(24):35483-35497. doi: 10.1007/s11356-024-33609-y. Epub 2024 May 10.


The valorization of renewable feedstock to produce a plethora of value-added products could promote the transition towards a circular bioeconomy. This study presents the development of cascade processes to bioconvert spent coffee grounds (SCGs) into microbial oil and carotenoids employing sustainable practices. The stepwise recovery of crude phenolic extract and coffee oil was carried out using green or recyclable solvents, i.e., aqueous ethanol and hexane. Palmitic acid (43.3%) and linoleic acid (38.9%) were the major fatty acids in the oil fraction of SCGs. The LC-MS analysis of crude phenolic extracts revealed that chlorogenic acid dominated (45.7%), while neochlorogenic acid was also detected in substantial amounts (24.0%). SCGs free of coffee oil and phenolic compounds were subjected to microwave-assisted pretreatment under different irradiations and solvents to enhance subsequent enzymatic saccharification. Microwave/water pretreatment at 400 W, followed by enzymatic hydrolysis with proteases, hemicellulases, and cellulases, at 50 g/L initial SCGs, led to satisfying overall yields of cellulose (75.4%), hemicellulose (50.3%), and holocellulose (55.3%). Mannan was the most extractable polysaccharide followed by galactan and arabinan. SCGs hydrolysate was used in fed-batch bioreactor fermentations with Rhodosporidium toruloides to produce 24.0 g/L microbial oil and carotenoids of 432.9 μg/g biomass.

Keywords: Rhodosporidium toruloides; Bioactive compounds; Cascade bioprocess; Coffee oil; Entire valorization; Phenolics.

MeSH terms

  • Carotenoids*
  • Coffee* / chemistry
  • Fermentation*


  • Coffee
  • Carotenoids