Let’s face the good news. Working in the coffee industry as a roaster is fun, and many people who do this work also have a passionate commitment to it.
But a roaster’s best efforts may come undone in just one critical step in the process: the packaging. This brief list quickly covers the ways to keep coffee fresh, from your roaster to your customer.
Good coffee packaging must have good barrier properties against oxygen, moisture and light. A good barrier film must be used in the package to prevent oxygen infiltration. The best packaging must also be able to degas the coffee via a one-way valve that releases nitrogen but blocks incoming oxygen. Some roasters use pinholes to release the nitrogen inside; this practice is self-defeating as it lets oxygen in.
Multi-layer laminations make for a good coffee package design because they combine the properties of different materials into a single underlying substance (i.e., a substrate). This can be accomplished with two, three or four layers of laminate material. Biaxially oriented polyester (PET), aluminum foil, metallized PET, thyl vinyl alcohol (EVOH), and polyethylene (PE) are all suitable barriers with different properties. Your packaging suppliers can advise you as to which is best for you.
Knowledgeable customers enjoy the nutrients and antioxidants of coffee. Most roasters aim to meet and even exceed their customers’ expectations. It would be a shame to squander goodwill simply for the want of good and effective packaging.
Roasters can serve customers by providing packaging that can be resealed hermetically (airtight), helping to extend the freshness of their coffee. Top and bottom seals should be smooth, flat and free of large wrinkles. The top and bottom seals should also not appear distorted, curled or burned. They should also have a distinctive seal bar impression across the entire width of the package. The bottom seal flap should fold toward the back of the package. The back seal must not appear distorted, curled or burned. It should also have a defined seal bar impression. An effective barrier-resistant package will have proper gusset alignment on both the top and bottom seals. Lastly, the material should be white in all seal areas when peeled open.
As with any barrier to oxygen or other external influences, a coffee package must not leak. A roaster can protect against leakage in their packages in a variety of ways. One is a Vacuum Pack Test, which is conducted by packaging an inert material (i.e. degassed coffee, plastic resin) under vacuum and observing the package for 24 to 48 hours. Another is a Submerged Leak Test. A finished package with valves should first have the valves covered with tape. Then the finished package must be punctured and inflated to four to seven lbs. The Mead/Bell Jar Test also determines the presence of a gross package leak by submerging a test package into a Mead/Bell Jar. The vacuum is then pulled to 200mm Hg to 350mm Hg. Your coffee packaging supplier should be familiar with details of these methods and be able to advise you of them.
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