For specialty coffee roasters, there are several variables to consider when deciding on packaging. This ranges from colour and shape to materials and additional components. However, one variable that’s often overlooked is the size of coffee bags.
The size of packaging can have a considerable influence not only on the freshness of coffee, but also on its distinct characteristics, including aroma and flavour notes. Beyond this, it will determine how many cups consumers can get out of each bag.
The 12oz coffee bag has become the size of choice for the majority of coffee roasters across the board. But why is this, and how many cups of coffee are in a 12oz coffee bag?
I spoke to Henry Dean, the president and CEO of Boston Stoker Coffee Co. about the brand’s unique coffee packaging design and how many cups of coffee consumers get out of its 12oz bags.
Why are 12oz coffee bags so common?
Roasted coffee is often sold in 350g or 12oz volumes for a number of practical reasons.
For example, during the global Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, the majority of specialty coffee roasters became reliant on selling retail-sized coffee bags directly to consumers.
Selling roasted or whole bean coffee in 350g (12oz) retail bags can make purchasing and production easier to plan and manage. Additionally, one pound of green coffee results in around 350g (12oz) to 370g (13oz) after roasting.
More so, an average family will go through a 12oz bag within one to two weeks. This shortened period between roasting, packaging, and consumption ensures the coffee retains its flavours and aromas by remaining fresh.
Another reason behind the popularity of 12oz coffee bags is price point competition and willingness to purchase. As the price of coffee has steadily risen over time, consumers’ willingness to purchase a one-pound (16oz) bag has declined. When roasters switched to 12oz, they could manipulate the price of a bag to remain within a reasonable price threshold for consumers.
Although 12oz is a relatively small-quantity purchase, there are several benefits to this packaging size for consumers.
Assuming a single person brews one cup using a medium grind of two tablespoons (around 10g or 0.37oz) per cup, they will make an average of 16 cups of coffee per bag. In large markets such as the US, the average consumer drinks at least two cups of coffee per day with almost half drinking between 3-5 cups.
Considering these statistics, a 12oz coffee bag should last between 5 and 7 days for avid drinkers and around two weeks for those who prefer one cup per day.
The short shelf life of a 12oz bag also caters for exploration and encourages consumers to try new coffees without having to commit to large volumes.
How many cups of coffee are in a 12oz bag?
The number of cups of coffee per 12oz bag can depend on several factors. These include the strength of the coffee, grind size, the choice of brewing method, and personal taste preferences.
Depending on taste preferences, a 12oz bag will last longer if less coffee is used to achieve a milder flavour profile. This is determined by the coffee-to-water ratio: the more coffee you use for brewing, the stronger the coffee will be.
Regarding brewing methods, the extraction time and grind size can also contribute to the strength of the cup. For example, an espresso machine, cafetiere, Aeropress, or drip filter machine can produce different flavours.
Boston Stoker Coffee Co, which started in 1973 in Dayton, Ohio, USA offers its customers a choice of 12 oz or 5 lb bags. The brands’ brightly coloured flat-bottom coffee bags feature the trademark Boston Stoker font, which was hand-drawn by Henry’s uncle Jim Carver back in the early 70s.
“Boston Stoker is one of the original charter members of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (now the SCA),” Henry explains. “We also were one of the first companies to embrace direct trade with coffee producers going back to the mid- 1980s with a well known farm called Hacienda La Minita in Costa Rica.”
When asked how many cups of coffee he believes consumers get out of the brand’s 12oz bags, Henry says it depends on how they choose to brew. “If they prefer pour over coffee, they’ll get approximately 14 (350ml) cups of coffee. If they use an automatic brewing method, they will get approximately 20 (350ml) cups of coffee.”
12oz coffee bags: Which packaging materials are best?
It’s important to remember that 12oz is a relatively small amount of coffee. Therefore, specialty coffee roasters must determine which materials are best from a cost saving perspective, as more material will be required to package each roast batch.
“We spent a great deal of time talking about what direction we wanted to go in for our new bags,” Henry explains. The coffee bags used by Boston Stoker Coffee Co. are a combination of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), aluminium, and polyethylene (PE). The bags are fitted with degassing valves and recyclable, resealable zippers.
“We have six of our bags that are signature coffees,” he says. “Each has a custom design and the pattern on the side of each bag is different. Five of those bags represent a different decade of our history and we’ve tried to capture that in the patterns as well.
Henry adds that he wanted to colour coordinate the coffee labels based on five different flavour profiles. ““The blue bags are for all of our non-flavoured coffees, while the red bags present the flavoured coffees.
“The orange labels represent ‘mild’ coffees, the green labels convey ‘balanced’ coffees, and the black labels represent ‘dark roasts’,” he explains. The maroon labels convey more ‘fruity’ coffees and the silver labels represent ‘complex’ coffees.
MTPak Coffee understands the importance of presenting your coffee brand in an exciting way, which is why we work closely with our clients to create bespoke packaging for both roasted coffee and takeaway beverages.
Our range of sustainable coffee bags includes recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable options made from renewable and environmentally friendly materials. Plus, we have a variety of packaging structures to suit your business needs, including stand up pouches and quad seal pouches.
We also offer a line of sustainable takeaway coffee cups made from renewable materials such as recycled kraft paper with an environmentally-friendly PLA lining. Our range includes double or single wall cups, compostable takeaway coffee cups, as well as coffee cup sleeves. Our recyclable takeaway coffee cups are available in five different sizes: 4 oz, 8 oz, 16 oz, 12 oz, 22 oz, and 24 oz.
Images from Boston Stoker Coffee Co.