Going Clean: Turning Coffee Wastewater into Biogas & Recipe


Innovative solutions to clean cook stoves are growing in the coffee lands of Nicaragua. Many families in developing countries use wood-burning stoves, which has caused premature deaths and respiratory problems for many women due to smoke exposure. But there's exciting news of a waste management pilot program funded by the European sustainable-labeling organization UTZ Certified; families have begun to cook with bio-gas fuel for the first time. The Tico Times reported the story of Fatima Blandon and her family who are participating in the pilot program. The biogas is generated from coffee wastewater in the milling process and then used in the Blandon family's new methane-burning stove. While there were initial doubts about the taste effects of cooking with biogas, the article reported that the family has benefited from the new stove.

"Cooking with biogas is also much faster than wood, so the family has more free time. Even Francisco has learned a few basics in the kitchen, he sheepishly admitted."

It was in the same region as the Blandon family in Jinotaga where I embarked on my first coffee origin trip with a particular focus women in the coffee industry a few years ago. While hearing of this pilot project is exciting, I'm thrilled to see ways that of utilizing technology to ease the burden of time and promote better health for women. With that said, it also reminded me of the simple but delicious food that women like Fatima cooked for me (probably over a wood-burning stove) during my time in Nicaragua. There is nothing more simple or delicious than arroz con pollo, or rice with chicken. A recipe from Serious Eats below properly shows the traditional Nicaraguan dish.

Nicaraguan Arroz con Pollo


  • This recipe can be cut in half.
  • Chicken may be poached 2 days in advance. To store, place chicken and 3 cups strained broth in airtight container and refrigerate.
  • Rice may be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Refrigerate in an airtight container.
  • For a quicker version of this recipe: Rather than cooking the diced carrots with the rice, substitute them and the frozen peas with 2 1/2 cups of frozen peas-and-carrots. Buy a rotisserie chicken (you'll need about 4 cups shredded chicken) and low-sodium chicken broth instead of poaching your own chicken and making your own broth.

YIELD: serves 8 to 10 ACTIVE TIME: 1 hour TOTAL TIME: 2 hours SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: large soup pot or Dutch oven, instant-read thermometer, tongs, strainer, large bowl, large heavy-bottomed saucepan with lid, large skillet with high sides THIS RECIPE APPEARS IN: From the Archives: Nicaraguan Chicken and RiceLatin American Cuisine: Nicaraguan Arroz con Pollo


For the Chicken

  • 1 whole large chicken (about 4 to 5 pounds), cut into 8 pieces, skin removed
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, peeled and cut into 6 wedges
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and quartered
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 8 cups cold water
  • 1 lime, halved

For the Rice

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into small dice (about 1 cups)
  • 4 cups chicken broth

For the Arroz con Pollo

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces smoked sausage (such as Lil’ Smokies) or Kielbasa sausage, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 1/4 pound sliced deli ham, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3/4 cup drained canned or jarred piquillo peppers, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 6 tablespoons ketchup
  • 3/4 cup pimento-stuffed olives, sliced
  • 1/3 cup capers, drained
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
  • Salt
  • 1 cup (2 ounces) finely grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • Buttered white toast (optional)


  1. For the chicken: Place chicken, onion, bell pepper, garlic, salt, peppercorns, and water (chicken should be submerged 2 inches; add more water if necessary). Squeeze lime juice into pot and add spent lime halves to pot.
  2. Bring to boil over medium heat, then immediately reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until chicken is cooked through (chicken’s temperature should read 160°FF), about 20 minutes.
  3. With tongs, transfer chicken to large bowl. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken into bite-sized pieces, removing and discarding bones. You should have 4 cups shredded chicken.
  4. Strain broth and discard solids. Reserve 4 cups and store the rest for different use.
  5. For the rice: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add oil, onion, garlic, and salt and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook until darkened, about 1 minute.
  6. Stir in rice and carrots and cook, stirring, until rice is completely coated with onion mixture, about 1 minute. Add broth and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  7. Continue to boil until most of the liquid has evaporated and you can see small bubbles on the surface of the rice. Reduce heat to the lowest setting, cover, and cook for 20 minutes until rice is done. Remove from heat and fluff rice with chopsticks or fork.
  8. For the arroz con pollo: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet with high sides. Add sausage and ham and cook over medium heat until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to plate.
  9. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in now empty skillet. Add onion and piquillo peppers and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook until darkened, about 1 minute. Add ketchup and chicken and cook, stirring, until chicken is completely coated in mixture.
  10. Stir in rice, then reserved sausage mixture. Stir in olives, capers, and frozen peas. Cook, stirring occasionally to allow flavors to meld, 10 to 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt.
  11. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and buttered white toast.


Photo: my novice coffee slurping skills in Nicaragua. All rights reserved.