Designing green bean coffee packaging for consumers

Jane Merchant
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May 14, 2021

Home coffee roasting has soared in popularity in recent years. Driven by the effects of Covid-19 and a desire to be more deeply involved in the coffee supply chain, consumers have increasingly taken to buying their own green beans and roasting them at home.

Roasting equipment retailer Sweet Maria’s reported an 83% increase in sales of their home roasters between 2019 and 2020, while Google searches for “home coffee roasting” have risen by 200%. For specialty roasters, this represents an opportunity to expand their revenue streams by adding green, unroasted coffee beans to their line of offerings.

But how should they be packaged? Do they need different bags to roasted beans? And can they lose freshness if they’re not packaged correctly? To find out, I spoke with Rave’s Head of Coffee, Ashlee Eastwood-Quinn.

Read next: A Complete Guide To Roasting Coffee At Home

Why does green coffee need packaging?

When large quantities of green coffee beans are transported from origin to roastery, they are often stored in large plastic bags, known as GrainPro sacks. These hermetic sacks protect the green coffee from exposure to external factors and prevent the buildup of mould.

However, when a roaster sells green coffee to home roasters in small batches, they require a different type of packaging that can be conveniently handled and stored by consumers. 

Ashlee Eastwood-Quinn is Head of Coffee at Rave, an online roaster that offers green beans alongside its regular selection of roasted coffees. They sell green beans from a range of different origins in 250g and 500g bags. While the branding on these bags is similar to their roasted coffee, the requirements of green beans are different.

“Green coffee has a longer shelf life than its roasted equivalent,” she says. “Generally, its shelf life is one year, but this depends on how the coffee is grown, how long it’s kept in parchment, and the ambient storage temperatures and humidity present.”

Green coffee is highly susceptible to its surroundings, taking on odours, moisture, heat, and oxygen. If exposed to any of these factors for long, it can obscure its distinct characteristics and cause it to lose freshness. As such, it needs to be kept in good quality, high-barrier packaging until roasted.

However, for Ashlee, packaging does more than protect the green coffee inside. She explains that it can help the coffee stand out from the crowd and convey brand identity, much in the same way that roasted coffee packaging does.

How should green beans be packaged?

Poor quality packaging can reduce a coffee’s flavour, aroma, sweetness, and acidity. One study found that improperly packaged green coffee can degrade in three months. These changes weren’t perceptible until cupping several months later. In one instance, a coffee scoring 85 to 86 points dropped below 80 after nine months stored in permeable packaging.

As a result, Ashlee says that unroasted coffee beans should be stored in airtight, multilayer coffee bags similar to those used for roasted coffee.

“To streamline our processing and keep consistency in the brand, we use the same packaging for roasted and unroasted products,” she explains. “The bags we use are recyclable, valved, and resealable for the best possible consumer experience. They’re also lined with a food-grade material and heat sealed to avoid moisture damage or mould development.”

Specialty roasters should also consider the size of the bags they use to package green coffee beans. According to Ashlee, the at-home roaster is normally looking for small units and a large range of options. Therefore, at Rave, their maximum size for green coffee is 500g, as opposed to a kilogram for roasted.

Because green coffee does not contain any carbon dioxide (CO2), its packaging doesn’t require a degassing valve for the release of gases. This helps keep down costs and improve the recyclability of the packaging by limiting the number of additional components.

Correctly packaged, home roasters can expect their green coffee to retain its sensory and physical qualities for up to a year.

What information should be included on the packaging?

When choosing green coffee packaging, Ashlee recommends considering the customer’s experience and what they want to know about the coffee. While this may not be necessary when selling to established roasters, it’s essential when targeting naturally inquisitive home roasters who are new to the practice.

“It helps to have information on where and how the coffee was grown and processed,” Ashlee says. “The country of origin might give you clues as to how the coffee should taste, while its varietal and altitude, how dense the beans are, and the amount of natural sugars present are also important pieces of information.”

“This will give home roasters a starting point as to how they should roast their coffee, at what temperature, and for how long. It will also help them improve their roasting technique and ensure they come back for more green coffee in the future.”

To maintain a minimalist design, roasters may decide to include this information on their website. For example, although Rave Coffee lists certain important points on the bag, more detailed information can be found on their website, including details about the farm.

Another popular option is to include QR codes. QR codes are scannable barcodes that take users to websites, apps, and social media pages. With QR codes, roasters could include extras such as tutorials on how to roast, tips on getting the best from the beans, and more information on the “story” behind the coffee.

The sale of green coffee beans is becoming an increasingly important revenue stream for many specialty roasters, particularly as the effects of Covid-19 continue to be felt.

At MTPak Coffee, we can help you find the perfect packaging for small batches of green coffee, featuring fully customised designs and sustainable inks. Our range of recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable pouches can all be used, whether selling 250g or 500g bags.

For more information on our sustainable coffee packaging, contact our team here.

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