Coffee packaging is a complicated topic that has been raising many questions. Roasting is the most critical factor you need to consider when packaging coffee. Most especially the changes occurring in the chemical properties of the coffee during and after roasting.
Understanding the dynamics of roasting helps you understand the foundation of coffee packaging. This includes the strengths and weaknesses of each of the two common packaging methods for coffee: bagging and canning.
In this article, we will discuss the different types of coffee bags and cans along with the pros and cons of each one in extending your coffee’s shelf-life. Do you want to know more? Then keep on reading! Let us start with the bagging methods first in the next section.
#1 Bags With a One-Way Valve
For coffee that is found in supermarkets or any other store and is not ground on-site, coffees packed in bags with a one-way valve are common. The valve, looking like a small round button, is located near the bag’s top part.
- They protect their contents from light and moisture.
- They allow you to pack coffee right after the roasting process without degassing.
- The valve allows the escape of the excess carbon dioxide inside unopened bags. This prevents the bag from exploding when atmospheric pressure rises.
- Carbon dioxide remains inside the bag and pushes out oxygen. Thus, protecting the coffee against oxidation while promoting proper aging.
- When the excess carbon dioxide escapes through the valve, some essential aromas of the coffee may also escape with it. So, you need to open bags with a one-way valve within a week.
#2 Non-Valve Bags
Bags without valves are commonly used for packing fresh coffee at your local cafés or roasters.
- They are practical options for freshly roasted coffee 3 to 5 days beforehand. This allows for enough initial degassing.
- After 3 or more days that the coffee has been packed, you will experience a lot of taste and crema flaws.
- You need to consume coffee that is fresh-packed right away because keeping them sealed will not stop the degassing process.
How Do You Know if a Bagged Coffee is Freshly Roasted?
Some roasters will include the roasting date of the coffee on the bag’s label. But, if in case you were not able to find it, there is another unscientific approach to know if the coffee is still fresh or not.
For bags with a one-way valve, simply hold the bag’s valve to your nose. Then, gently squeeze the bag. If you smell good and intense aromas, the age of the coffee is still good. Otherwise, most of the aromas are already lost if you can’t smell anything.
Extending Your Coffee’s Shelf-Life Through Refrigeration
If you do not intend to finish all of the contents of a coffee bag immediately, you can refrigerate it to extend your coffee’s shelf-life. But first, transfer the contents to a hermetically-sealed container before refrigerating it.
If you want a longer-term method for preserving your coffee, put your open coffee bag in your freezer. Do take note that some aroma and flavor will be lost when you do this. So, it is not recommended to freeze espresso coffees.
#1 Vacuum-Sealed Cans
Vacuum packaging is the most popular method of canning. In this method, after the containers are filled by the can filler, the air inside the cans is “vacuumed” first prior to sealing.
- It protects the packaged coffee from light, oxygen, and moisture better than bags.
- Canned coffee using vacuum packaging can be stored for many months before unsealing.
- Since cans do not have valves to allow gas to escape, the coffee needs to be degassed completely before packing.
- Without degassing, these cans can expand or explode.
- Full degassing before canning removes the volatile aromas of coffee.
#2 Nitrogen-Packed Cans
Unlike in vacuum-sealed cans, the process of nitrogen flushing involves putting freshly-roasted coffee in rigid cans with a one-way valve.
- They protect the coffee from elements that induce staling while allowing proper aging through a calibrated degassing process.
- The introduction of nitrogen gas into the cans promotes proper aging of the coffee.
- The pressure inside the cans increases which slows down degassing in the future.
- They improve the coffee’s quality through a strong aging process during the first 10 days.
- They can be transported in long distances without any quality loss.
- When the introduction of nitrogen gas is not done properly during the canning process, the coffee may not age properly.
Coffee undergoes two opposing processes: aging and staling. Aging is a positive process that naturally occurs on the physical and chemical properties of the coffee. Over time, it optimizes the flavors and aromas of the roasted coffee.
On the other hand, staling is the process that changes the taste and aroma of coffee negatively and ruins the coffee’s quality. Which of these two processes prevails depends on how the coffee is preserved, through bags or cans, after the roasting process.
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