The specialty coffee community will always find a way to demonstrate its innovation, and even now, advancements in the way coffee is packaged are being developed. As important as aesthetics are, packaging designs are becoming increasingly sophisticated. These innovations have allowed the industry to reduce its environmental impact while connecting customers to fresher, better-tasting coffee.
It is with the latter aim in mind that degassing valves are being assessed. While they have always been an integral part of coffee packaging, many have begun to question whether they are still needed. Some roasters have even gone as far as to remove degassing valves from their coffee packaging altogether.
The use of one-way degassing valves in coffee packaging is determined by certain factors, such as the volume of coffee being packaged, and whether the coffee is ground or whole-bean. With this in mind, do all roasters need to use them?
Read on to learn more about how roasters are packaging coffee without degassing valves, and whether this is a trend that is likely to continue.
The role of degassing valves in coffee packaging
Degassing valves are often found in almost all types of coffee packaging and represent one of its key components. When fitted into coffee bags, a degassing valve looks like a large circular disc with several small holes positioned within it. These holes create a one-way airflow system – allowing carbon dioxide (CO2) to leave the packaging while preventing oxygen from entering the sealed bag and reaching the coffee.
In essence, it works by creating an imbalance of pressure between the gases created within the bag and the surrounding atmosphere. When the pressure within the coffee bag is lower than the air outside, the valve stays shut. Alternatively, when the pressure inside the bag is higher than the surrounding air, the valve opens and the gases within the bag are forced out.
After it has been roasted, coffee continues to degas. This is the process of releasing CO2 from within the bean over time. Degassing occurs throughout the time the coffee is in its packaging and may result in the build-up of a large volume of gas. Degassing valves ensure the CO2 produced is consistently forced out of the bag, helping retain the freshness of the coffee.
Do all coffee bags need degassing valves?
The CO2 that coffee releases after roasting will continue to be produced after the beans have been packaged. As coffee bags are sealed, this build-up of gas may cause the packaging to swell, and it may reach a point where it bursts.
So, why is coffee packaging not simply fitted with a series of small holes? This is because it is critical the CO2 is allowed to escape the bag without allowing oxygen to enter and reach the coffee. If coffee is exposed to oxygen it will oxidise, which causes a degradation of flavours and aromatics. In cases where there is a considerable period of time between the beans being packaged and reaching the consumer, this can cause a serious reduction in the quality and complexity of the coffee.
Another benefit is degassing valves continue to work once the coffee bag has been opened. So long as the customer properly re-seals the bag, the degassing valve will keep operating in exactly the same way. This is why they are an effective great way to ensure consumers enjoy the coffee as the roaster intended.
Recently, a number of coffee innovators have showcased new packaging solutions which appear to allow them to keep their coffee fresh without the use of degassing valves. One example of this development comes from the specialty roaster Demitasse. The brand recently made the bold, and somewhat risky decision to remove the one-way degassing valve from its packaging altogether.
Demitasse explained the choice was made based on the brands’ belief that the benefits of using a degassing valve are outweighed by the addition of an extra element of plastic to the packaging. “We couldn’t find any compelling evidence that degassing valves were actually needed for coffee quality and so, that’s a piece of plastic for no good reason,” explained owner Bobak Roshan during a recent interview.
He adds the brand has tested the bags and has had no issues so far, even after shipping several bags across the country. “I can’t promise that there won’t be any difference after, say, two months. Though I do have a three-month-old sealed bag of coffee at home that hasn’t popped, so I’ll test that soon,” Roshan said.
When should I fit degassing valves into my coffee packaging?
For Roshan and his team, the decision to remove degassing valves was made largely down to reducing environmental impact. Notably, it came alongside a major packaging redesign for the roaster, in which sustainability was prioritised at great lengths. So, with each individual piece of plastic being scrutinised, the team made the call that degassing valves could be removed.
Although this has worked well for Demitasse, a good deal of may wonder whether this is the right decision for their business. Frankly, it largely depends on several factors, including customer base, product range, and supply chain. Many roasteries may be unable to stop including degassing valves in their packaging, but for others, this change could be made successfully.
If you’re considering removing degassing valves from your packaging, consider the following:
- What volumes of coffee do you offer? The higher the volume of the coffee, the more carbon dioxide will be produced. Therefore, it is highly recommended degassing valves are fitted for larger bags of coffee.
- How far does your coffee travel? If your coffee is being shipped to customers across the world, then a considerable period of time will pass between when it was roasted and when it will be consumed. Plus, it’s likely the order will travel by air, which increases the pressure on the air inside the bag. In these cases, a degassing valve is the best way to preserve the quality of your product.
- How long do you store your coffee? Assess how tight your supply chain is to realistically determine how quickly your coffee is shipped and delivered to the customer after it has been roasted.
- Do you offer ground coffee? It is important to note ground coffee releases carbon dioxide at a faster pace than whole-bean coffee. Therefore, degassing valves will be even more important when packaging this type of product.
- How is your coffee roasted? Similarly, darker roast coffee releases carbon dioxide at a faster pace than light roast coffee. So, it is particularly important for the packaging of dark roast coffee to be fitted with a degassing valve.
With new tools and resources coming onto the market, coffee roasters have the chance to invest in more sustainable business practices. Switching to recyclable degassing valves and sustainable coffee packaging is one of the most effective ways roasters can begin to reduce their carbon footprint.
MTPak Coffee offers fully recyclable, BPA-free degassing valves, as well as traditional one-way degassing valves. In addition to being versatile, lightweight, and affordable, our valves can be fitted to our entire range of sustainable coffee packaging options. Choose from renewable materials such as kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining.
Plus, we are able to custom-print coffee bags using innovative digital printing technology, with a quick turnaround time of 40-hours and 24-hour shipping time. MTPak Coffee also offers low minimum order quantities (MOQs) to micro-roasters who are looking to remain agile while showcasing brand identity and a commitment to the environment.