At-home coffee consumption is becoming increasingly common. According to recent research by the National Coffee Association, 79% of coffee drinkers in the US consume their daily brew from the comfort of their home.
However, while people may be well informed when it comes to the coffee they like, they may not have the knowledge or tools to preserve its freshness beyond a few days. This will inevitably obscure the distinct characteristics of the coffee, causing it to lose its flavours and aromas.
For specialty coffee roasters, it’s essential to choose packaging that allows consumers to effectively store their coffee once they bring it home. Not only will it reduce waste and ensure the freshness is preserved, it will also increase the chances of customers returning for more.
To find out about the storing coffee at home, I spoke with Kieran MacRae, the founder of Above Average Coffee.
Why Is It So Important To Store Coffee Properly?
Whether buying pre-ground coffee or beans to grind at home, the way consumers store their coffee can have a profound influence on their overall experience of the product.
As soon as coffee is roasted, it begins to lose freshness due to a combination of internal and external factors. During a roast, coffee beans absorb high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), which starts releasing as soon the roast has finished in a process known as degassing.
If the coffee is exposed to oxygen while it degasses, the CO2 will be replaced by the oxygen and become oxidised. This affects the compounds that give coffee its distinct characteristics, causing it to lose both flavour and aroma.
Similarly, if roasted coffee comes into contact with light, moisture, or heat for a substantial period of time, the rate at which its molecules break down will accelerate and it will quickly lose freshness. The sugars disappear, the acids break down and become bitter, and the aromatic oils evaporate away from the beans – essentially, everything that makes up the perfect cup of coffee.
Kieran MacRae runs Above Average Coffee, a blog dedicated to all-things coffee. He tells me that proper storage should be practised regardless of the initial quality of the coffee.
“If consumers want to get the most from the coffee, then they need to store it properly,” he says. “Otherwise, the flavours start to become flat, no matter what quality of coffee you’ve bought. Personally, if I’ve spent extra money on some top quality beans, I want them to stay top quality for as long as possible.”
Kieran says that, depending on how they’re stored, whole beans stored will last roughly a month before becoming stale, while ground coffee can become stale in a matter of days.
This is because ground coffee has a larger surface area compared to beans, which means it experiences accelerated volatile compound loss, faster rates of degassing, and increased oxidation.
In 2013, The Journal of Food Quality released a study on how storage affects arabica coffee’s sensory qualities. They found that as coffee ages, its phenolic compounds oxidise and generate compounds that taste bitter in the cup.
Therefore, if coffee isn’t stored properly, it can considerably skew customers’ perception of the coffee they buy and, ultimately, influence their decision to purchase it again.
Home Storage: What To Consider When Choosing Packaging
When specialty coffee roasters are choosing packaging for their coffee, it’s important to consider how it may influence a customer’s experience once they have the coffee at home.
According to research by consultant group McKinsey & Company, alongside hygiene and sustainability, consumers primarily want packaging that makes their lives easier.
Stand-up pouches made from multilayer materials, such as kraft paper with polylactic acid (PLA) lining, will effectively seal the product and extend its shelf life. These laminated layers of film keep out oxygen, moisture, and light, while providing durability against punctures and breakages.
In addition to the pouch itself, resealable zip locks, tear notches, and pour spouts are all components that can be added to coffee pouches to make them more user-friendly for end-consumers. Resealable zippers mean that customers can keep their coffee in its original pouch without the need to transfer it to a jar or tin, while pour spouts eliminate the risk of spillage and wasted coffee. With tear notches, consumers know they don’t need any tools to hand in order to open the pouch.
Kieran explains that when he’s buying coffee, he looks for pouches fitted with degassing valves above all. Degassing valves are one-way vents that allow CO2 to escape without letting oxygen in.
“To me, components like degassing valves show some thought has been put into storing the coffee for shipment and that the coffee’s roasters have likely put equal care into their product, too.”
Can Coffee Be Stored In The Refrigerator?
While a consensus over the benefits of storing coffee in the freezer has largely been reached, the concept of storing coffee in the refrigerator remains slightly more contentious.
Kieran tells me that from his experience, no matter the quality of its packaging, storing coffee in the refrigerator causes it to lose freshness and distort its characteristics.
“Your coffee should never go anywhere near the fridge,” he says. “Condensation will form inside the bag and the moisture ruins the flavour of the coffee.”
By its nature, coffee is hygroscopic, which means it readily takes up and retains moisture. When coffee is moved in and out of a refrigerator, the change in temperature causes the build-up of condensation inside the bag. It’s this introduction of moisture that diminishes the coffee’s flavour, often leading to the development of a sour or “off” taste.
To avoid refrigerating or freezing coffee, Kieran says the best option is to only buy as much coffee as you need.
“It’s better to buy it fresh every one to two weeks,” he says. “Buy your coffee fresh from a roaster and, when it’s used up, simply buy some more. The best coffee packaging or containers in the world won’t save coffee that’s been stored for months at a time.”
As more and more consumers enjoy their daily brew from the comfort of their home, it’s important for specialty roasters to provide packaging that will protect and preserve the coffee inside.
At MTPak Coffee, we offer a range of sustainable coffee packaging solutions that will extend your coffee’s shelf life and keep it fresh for longer. Our multilayer pouches are fully customisable, from the materials to the additional components. You can select everything, from spouts and resealable zippers, to ties and degassing valves.
For more information on our sustainable packaging solutions, contact our team here.
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