Ever tried to produce a good cup from stale coffee beans or ground ?
Coffee is a fresh food. Of course you know that already but what does “fresh roasted coffee” really mean ?
Unlike many other types of food products stored in various forms of sealed packaging, coffee continues to age (or stale) at a relatively fast rate inside the sealed, unopened pack.
When coffee is fresh roasted, in the initial period from roasting, large quantities of CO2 are emitted – commonly referred to as the “degas” phase.
As the coffee ages, less CO2 is produced, e.g. after 1 week the CO2 emission is about 30% lower and it must be notes that this reduction in CO2 is not linear.
When days and weeks pass from the roast date, eventually, the CO2 emission will be low and thus the aromatics and character of the coffee will have reduced.
Think of it simply as a pressure valve – when released, it is higher in the early stages and then gradually lower as the pressure decreases.
The development of a packaging solution for retaining freshness of coffee beans has evolved with construction using various types of laminated films – typically a 2 or 3 ply (although we do not recommend 2-ply).
The middle layer will have a foil-type or metallic barrier that is designed to retain freshness and then coated (or laminated) with inner and outer layers.
The inner layer is for food grade safety of the packaging contents and the outer layer is generally a cosmetic feature to advertise or promote the brand or describe the contents, etc.
Most coffee bags contain a 1-way valve.
The exception to this rule is some of the older-style packaging from Europe where they would pre-stale ground coffee (in effect allowing the valuable essentials compounds to escape with the CO2) and then pack this stale ground coffee into oxygen reduced vac packs (which are like bricks).
The majority of coffee, particularly whole beans are packed these days in bags that have the 1-way valve. This valve is important for allowing CO2 to exhaust whilst preventing oxygen from entering.
If you have ever seen coffee that was freshly packed, it will swell-up (puffy) until the valve activates. 1-way valves can activate at slightly different pressures which is why some bags will be more puffy than others.
Swelling of a bag that has a 1-way valve can be normal and natural. Not all valves operate at the precise same pressure and occasionally, the odd valve may release at higher pressures, thus retaining more of the CO2 in the bag and result in some swelling.
Heat will also cause swelling of the bag as it accelerates the CO2 production. Similarly, you may find that cold weather causes the opposite problem – sucking CO2 from the bag making it appear like a “brick”.
Relative environment pressure can do this as well, such as when you travel on a plane and place a pack of coffee in your suitcase, the pressure in the cargo area could be dramatically different and cause the 1-way valve to exhaust abnormally, although it’s more likely to be low temperature causing this exhaust.
We use pre-made coffee bags as we believe they are superior in appearance to bags made from rolls on packaging machines that look rather basic with the “pillow” format.
Pre-made bags are more expensive – up to 40% dearer. But it’s that important K-seal at the bottom that makes the bag look more attractive.
Pre-made bags are also more difficult to use in automatic packaging machines.
Coffee bags perform differently depending on the construction materials used in manufacturing the bag. The thicker the metal/aluminum the greater the barrier characteristics and thus a longer shelf life might be achieved – although there are many other factors such as the environment temperature, roast depth, origin of the beans, method of roasting profile, etc that can influence shelf life more than packaging.
As we are a specialty coffee roaster, we do not promote long shelf life of coffees. We find it kind of ludicrous that many coffee roasters providing products for supermarkets place a 12 month (or in the case of the European and some US roasters) a 2 year Use By or Best Before date on their pack.
We recommend coffees are best consumed within 45 – 60 days of the roast date. This is not a strict rule, but again we stress it all comes down to what you personally believe is quality and how you store your coffee.
All of our coffees are packed into cartons. We use brand new cartons that are fresh with the only exception being when odd/awkward shapes or sizes are required.
Roast Dates are printed on bags or on labels as a standard feature – this is non-negotiable standard as it forms an essential component of our product and batch tracking system.
We have a number of commercial grade label printers installed in-house for on-demand printing requirements. These are for packaging our own and our private label coffees with the branding of our clients. The labels are monochrome only – not color. Clients requiring special labels are encouraged to engage label companies and we can help with specification.
Our state-of-the-art roasting facility is being constantly upgraded with the most recent addition in June 2020.
We run three(3) simultaneous packaging lines with a capability to pack close to 420 kgs of coffee per hour using 1kg gusset bags. 500g and 250g bags are subject to discussion given most require some form of manual task.
For our automatic packaging system that uses pre-made bags, there are specific quality requirements for the construction of the bags as some bags may cause problems during fill and seal operation.
In particular, some of the cheaper gusset bags that have recently appeared on the market perform poorly in the packaging process and we reserve the right to decline or reject services where the packaging does not meet our minimum standards.
We can help with consultation on how to achieve the best outcome for packaging.