Choosing the right sized coffee bags for your product

Maira Kanai-Nasir
November 24, 2023
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For specialty roasters, there are a number of variables to consider when deciding on coffee packaging, from colour and shape to materials and additional components. However, one variable that’s often overlooked is size.

The size of coffee bags can have a considerable influence not only on the freshness of coffee but also on its distinct characteristics, including aroma and flavour notes. Crucial to this is the amount of space around the coffee when it’s packaged, otherwise known as “headspace”.

To learn more about choosing the right sized coffee bags, I spoke with Shewaan Khan, owner of Yellow Jacket Coffee Roasters, and Daniel González, co-founder of Indigo Coffee Projects.

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Why the size of your coffee bag matters

A crucial part of determining the ideal coffee bag size is headspace. This term refers to the amount of empty air-filled space above the product. As well as serving to protect the coffee by creating a cushion around the beans, headspace is essential in preserving freshness and maintaining a coffee’s characteristics.

Therefore, specialty coffee roasters must always be aware of the amount of headspace within their coffee bags. The reason for this is due to the release of carbon dioxide (CO2). When coffee is roasted, CO2 builds up in the porous structure of the beans before gradually releasing in the days and weeks that follow. The level of CO2 in coffee can affect everything from its aroma to its flavour notes.

When roasted coffee is packaged, it needs a certain amount of headspace in which the released CO2 can sit and create a carbon-rich environment. This helps maintain the pressure between the beans and the air inside the bag, creating an equilibrium that prevents further diffusion.

If, on the other hand, all the CO2 were to immediately escape from the bag, the coffee would degrade quickly and its shelf life would reduce significantly.

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Finding the right sized coffee bags: Factors to consider 

Over time, coffee packaging has evolved, along with the materials used to create it. Coffee bags today are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. However, the most common forms of coffee packaging are often side gusset bags, flat bottom bags, and stand-up pouches.

The size of coffee packaging can range from 25g to 1kg. Commonly, wholesale coffee roasters tend to opt for 1kg coffee bags, as they’re more likely to fit customer demand. Alternatively, micro-roasters or small-scale specialty roasters may find coffee bags between the sizes of 125g and 350g more appealing. 

Within the retail space, consumers are more likely to see coffee bags that are between 200g and 500g in size. This is largely due to space occupation in-store and how the bags appear on the shelf. 

When finding their ideal packaging coffee roasters have to understand their boundaries as a business and consider consumer demand. Beyond this, they have to consider whether the packaging will need additional items, such as degassing valves and zippers. 

However, some specialty coffee roasters may find it less challenging to go with the industry standard. For example, Yellow Jacket Coffee Roasters offers 250g coffee bags made of fully recyclable low-density polyethylene (LDPE). The brand’s coffee bags also feature ziplock seals and degassing valves and fit perfectly into the brand’s custom-printed coffee boxes. 

“When starting Yellow Jacket Coffee Roasters, this bag size was easily accessible as it was the industry standard within South Africa. Additionally, having bags created to suit your brand requirements would often come with a high minimum required quantity. So the choice was more of accessibility rather than requirement,” Shewaan explains. 

He adds that it is essential for coffee roasters to determine market demand. “It is vital to understand your customer requirements and your coffee selection. Before I started the roastery, I’d buy coffee from some of the best roasters in South Africa and around the world and solely drink an espresso-based drink. 

“The problem I faced was that I was chasing the perfect shot from the start and would often use 60% of the bag just to dial in,” Shewaan explains. “When I visited the US, I saw 12oz (340g) coffee bags. These were the perfect size for me as an espresso-based drinker, as I’d have enough coffee to dial in and enjoy the rest of the coffee.”

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Additional factors to consider 

The time between when coffee is roasted and packaged will also determine which packaging size is best. Daniel explains that at Indigo Coffee Projects, coffee is packaged immediately after roasting.

“Degassing valves are a must for all of our coffee bags,” he says. These one-way valves allow for CO2 to leave coffee bags without allowing oxygen to enter. Several factors must be considered when fitting degassing valves into coffee packaging, with the most important being quantity. For instance, coffee roasters offering small quantities, such as samples for tasting, are less likely to be concerned about the coffee bag popping.

The amount of CO2 released is directly proportional to the volume of beans in the bag. If a brand is packing coffee bags larger than 1kg for shipping, it should consider how the effects of degassing will affect the coffee bags.

“It’s tempting to innovate with sizing,” Daniel says. “But, depending on your business, it might not be the best choice unless you can explain to customers why the size differs from the industry standard.”

While he admits many consumers are unlikely to care, it’s important that brands are prepared to answer these questions. 

One of the last factors to consider is sustainability. Tailoring coffee bags so they fit their contents perfectly can help reduce packaging costs and unnecessary waste. 

As experienced specialty coffee packaging experts, MTPak Coffee offers a range of 100% recyclable coffee packaging options made from renewable materials such as kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining. Choose from our range of coffee bag structures to ensure they fit perfectly into your coffee mailer boxes.

All of our coffee packaging options can be fully customised to your specifications, including debossing, embossing, holographic effects, UV spot finishes, and custom printing using digital printing technology. This allows us to offer low minimum order quantities (MOQs) to micro-roasters, as well as a quick turnaround and shipping time.

Additionally, we offer customisable coffee boxes that can help you achieve a unique and memorable identity for your brand. We offer a range of custom coffee mailer boxes of various sizes to accommodate the mailboxes in your markets. Our custom coffee mailer boxes are made from 100% recycled cardboard and are strong, durable, and weather-resistant. These highly customisable and recyclable coffee boxes can be used for ecommerce sales, coffee subscriptions, blind-tasting boxes, and more.

Images courtesy of Yellow Jacket Coffee Roasters and Indigo Coffee Projects.

For more information on custom coffee bags that can be tailored to fit into coffee boxes, contact our team.

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Maira Kanai-Nasir
Maira Kanai-Nasir

Discovering specialty coffee whilst working in Australia, Maira has previously worked in Specialty Coffee as a trainer and coffee product buyer for many years. She currently resides in Dubai, UAE working as a specialty coffee writer, with a strong passion for all things coffee.

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