Are tin tie coffee bags airtight?

Sam Shipiti
October 27, 2023
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Whether they are added to a form-fill-seal packaging machine, or come pre-cut and ready to be glued on, tin ties help ensure a product can be opened and resealed without spilling. 

Notably, the popularity of kraft paper tin tie coffee pouches has grown to such an extent that it now claims one-third of the overall packaging market. 

Tin ties are one of the most affordable ways for many specialty coffee roasters to seal their packaged product. However, are tin tie coffee bags the most effective way to preserve the freshness of roasted coffee? 

And how do they stack up against other sealing options such as resealable zippers? To learn more, I spoke to Louise Priest, the owner of The Creemore Coffee Company

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Tin Ties: Exploring their history in coffee packaging

The use of tin ties in packaging dates back to the 1960s, when inventor Charles Elmore Burford developed a wire-tying mechanism to preserve the freshness of bread.

Also known as twist ties or bag ties, tin ties were originally made from a thin length of covered wire. This wire could be fastened around the end of a bread packet and re-tied whenever the bag was opened, and remains popular today.

Louise shares a similar definition: “It’s a piece of plastic that allows our customers to keep the product secure and fresh once it’s been opened.” She explains that Creemore Coffee Company uses tin tie coffee bags for its 400g roasted coffee and hot chocolate offerings. 

Additionally, the brand uses tin ties for its 3-pack samplers that are available in both medium and dark roasts. 

To allow refolding, most tin ties use wires made of galvanised steel. These are then covered with either polythene, plastic, or paper. Some use a combination of these materials, while others only use a single material.

The plastic or paper coating helps protect the user from hurting themselves with the wire and makes it easier to tie and untie the twist. Tin ties can also come in a range of colours or feature a printed design.

“You roll the top down a few times and seal it with tin ties, ensuring the product inside will stay fresh,” Louise explains. 

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Are tin tie coffee bags airtight?

Oxygen, light, moisture, and heat are coffee’s greatest enemies, according to the National Coffee Association (NCA). Since their introduction to the market, the primary role of tin ties has been to keep the contents of the bag fresh. 

So far, this is working well for Creemore Coffee Company. “We’ve never had any complaints”, Louise notes while talking about customer response to the brand’s tin tie coffee bags and reusable packaging options. 

However, it’s important to note that tin tie coffee bags are not airtight. ‘Airtight’ is defined as ‘not allowing air to escape or pass through’. Therefore, tin tie coffee bags are unlikely to achieve the same level of airtightness when compared to alternatives, such as vacuum-sealed packaging or zippers. 

For those who consume their coffee in a week or less after opening, tin ties are an effective option. “Tin ties coffee bags serve their purpose much better for us,” Louise explains. “We don’t expect our customers to keep that coffee for a long time. To be frank, they run through it pretty quickly!” 

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Tin Ties or zippers: Which is best for coffee bags?

Ziplock bags originated in the 1950s, when inventor Borge Madsen created plastic slide fasteners as an alternative to traditional clothing zippers with interlocking teeth. 

Madsen’s idea was to use plastic tracks fastened by a plastic slider. However, this was unsuitable for clothing, so Max Ausnit and Steven Ausnit, his son, purchased Borge’s patent and refined the zippers to use ‘press-to-close’ mechanisms.  

Additionally, the pair adopted Japanese technology to incorporate zippers into bags, making them more cost-effective for widespread use. Resealable zipper-style bags are now more popular than ever, with several businesses using them for food storage and preservation. 

While tin ties and zippers share the primary purpose of resealing bags, they differ in design, materials, cost, and suitability. For instance, resealable zippers are typically more airtight than tin tie coffee bags because of their design. When closed, zippers create a tighter seal as its interlocking mechanism provides a secure and continuous barrier that prevents air from entering or escaping. 

It’s important to note that both items may use materials that are difficult to recycle. To mitigate this issue, Louise explains that Creemore Coffee Company uses coffee bags that are 60% compostable, except for the valve and tin ties. “However, we instruct our customers to remove these two items, as well as the label, so the bag is as clean as possible when it comes to recycling.”

Louise adds that the tin tie coffee bags lend themselves well to branding, shipping, and when on display. “We don’t want to sell a bag that’s filled with air to make it seem like you are getting a large amount,” she says. This is often a concern with zippers, as some of them appear large yet hold quite little. 

That said, resealable zippers suit larger coffee bags and roasteries that aim to ship their product overseas. “Our large-volume coffee bags use zip closures. Plus, they work well for chocolate and tea packaging,” Louise says.   

Overall, Louise recommends resealable zippers for those torn between the two, but only under certain conditions. “If you’re launching a new brand, coffee bag, or packaging label, zippers are the easiest to use.” Ultimately, the choice between the two depends on the product, packaging size, and the desired level of airtightness.

At MTPak Coffee, we offer roasters and coffee shops a variety of ways to preserve the freshness of roasted coffee. We can help you determine which sealing option is best, whether it be tin ties, loop zippers, tear notches, or ziplocks. 

All of our resealable features can be seamlessly integrated into our recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable coffee bags made from 100% recyclable materials such as kraft paper, rice paper, LDPE, and lined with PLA

Furthermore, we offer a perfect solution for micro-roasters by providing low minimum order quantities (MOQ) on both recyclable and traditional options.

Article images courtesy of The Creemore Coffee Company.

For more information on eco-friendly features for sustainable coffee packaging, contact our team

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