When buying large quantities of green coffee, one of the biggest challenges is keeping your beans away from external factors such as moisture, temperature, oxygen, and light to maintain freshness for longer.
However, as home roasting has become more popular and with the emergence of more and more micro roasters, we have started to see a greater need for solutions when storing smaller amounts of green coffee.
To learn more, we spoke to coffee professionals who understand green bean storage. They told us what to focus on and where to start when storing smaller volumes of green beans. Read on to learn more.
You might also like our article on how green coffee becomes contaminated.
Why is it important to store green coffee properly?
Green coffee must be stored in the correct way to maintain its freshness and therefore its quality.
While it can retain its quality for a matter of weeks or months, green coffee is still a hygroscopic product. This means that it is particularly sensitive to moisture in the air.
As green coffee is intentionally dried to a target moisture level (around 11% or 12%) before shipping, it’s important to make sure that it doesn’t take on any excess moisture while it is stored. This can cause quality to deteriorate or even lead to mold development.
In addition, because it is so absorbent, improperly stored green coffee can also take on any particularly strong odours or flavours that might be present nearby.
Finally, it’s also important to keep it out of heat and direct sunlight, which can affect green coffee’s quality and freshness.
Renaud Cuchet is the Managing Director of EFICO Central America, a green coffee trading company that has operated in the coffee sector since 1926.
“We have done tests,” he says. “As a result, we know that the critical moments when conventionally packed coffee (i.e. in jute bags) is exposed to quality degradation are inland transportation, port delays (sometimes, the containers are left at dock under the sun), and extreme temperatures and humidity during transshipment).”
As these circumstances are often entirely out of a trader or roaster’s control, making sure that you minimise their impact is crucial.
However, these factors aren’t just a problem during transit. Even once green coffee arrives at the roastery, buyers should take care to store their beans properly, in cool, dry, low-moisture environments and out of direct sunlight.
Hanuman Jain is the CEO and founder of Ecotact, a packaging manufacturer that offers a variety of 9-layer hermetic packaging solutions for a range of agricultural products, including specialty coffee.
He explains that because of this, there is a growing need in the coffee sector for “specialist high-barrier packaging”.
Storing smaller volumes of green coffee
Around the world, green coffee is commonly traded in 60kg bags. When we talk about a “bag” of green coffee, there’s a fairly good chance that it will be 60kg in size.
However, in recent years, importers have started to offer a variable range of sizes, such as 10kg and 25kg bags and boxes, to appeal to the growing micro and home roaster market. These may also be coffees which are slightly rarer or higher in quality.
“Usually, this increase in quality implies a higher price,” Renaud explains. “Subsequently, importers and roasters want to protect the value of, say, micro lots, because they can cost more than double than a conventional coffee.”
Losing any nuance during the shipping process will have a knock-on effect on how the coffee is evaluated and scored. This means that there is always the risk of losing substantial amounts of money if storage is not adequate.
In addition, sending and receiving green coffee samples is part of the buying process for traders and roasters. The quality of these samples will play a vital role in any purchasing decisions. As a result, it’s important that it’s maintained appropriately.
Sweet Maria’s is a company that specialises in supplying home roasters with green coffee and a range of related products. Co-owner Thompson Owen tells me that they have raised the quality of their service by investing in better green coffee storage to improve quality control.
He tells me that it can take months to evaluate a sample, and making sure it’s stored properly is key.
“Storing our green coffee samples from importers in our coffee lab has been important,” he says. “People might not know, but many importers and sample services actually ship green coffee samples in paper bags.
“That’s great because we can put them in our paper recycle bin; however, we often need to store our samples for a longer period of time and refer to them later.”
Even if coffee is kept at the right temperature, keeping air away from green beans is one of the best ways to maintain its freshness.
“Even in our climate, which we consider pretty ideal for green coffee storage, a sample stored in paper will change quickly,” Thompson explains. “If we need to refer to a sample when the coffee we’ve bought lands at the Port of Oakland several months later, a reference sample stored in paper is pretty useless.
“In the beginning, we realised that one of the most important aspects of coffee trading is the sampling exercise,” he tells me. “It creates a lot of value; billions of dollars of trade rest on these samples. However, we saw that a lot of the packaging which was used for the samples was in disarray.
“Because people were using paper bags and other ordinary alternatives, samples would get damaged in transit.”
Tips for storing smaller quantities of green coffee
There are a number of best practices to follow when storing samples or small quantities of green coffee. Following these will make sure the coffee stays fresh for longer, and tastes delicious after it is roasted, ground, and brewed.
- Store your coffee in a cool, dry, dark place, away from direct sunlight and heat
- Elevate your coffee and keep it off the ground (by storing it on shelves, for instance)
- Keep it in a neutral-smelling environment
- Keep it away from any water sources or humidity
- Make sure you don’t store it near anything with a strong odour (such as chemicals or pungent food products)
However, in combination with these tips, the best thing to do is simply use higher-quality packaging from brands such as Ecotact.
“Without good barrier packaging, damage to green coffee can occur very quickly,” Thompson explains.
“We have customers all over the US and to some degree around the world,” he adds. “If we’re shipping to a super hot and arid location or an extremely humid state in the US, we know that green coffee could degrade in a few weeks without proper storage.”
Once a coffee arrives with a roaster, Thompson recommends that they use any kind of hermetic packaging. For home roasters, he says a sealable glass jar, such as a mason jar, is a good place to start.
However, there is no substitute for specially-designed coffee packaging.
Navneet Jain is the Director of Exports at Ecotact. He tells me that the company designed its Troiseal range of bags for both commercial and home roasters, supporting them when they buy small lots of green coffee.
Karishma Sharma is the company’s Head of Marketing. She says: “The Troiseal bag can be reused three times, but at the same time, it’s tamperproof. If somebody tries to break the seal, you get a notification on the seal system, which says the seal has been void.
“The bags are also made from hermetic 9-layer, high-barrier packaging, which keeps coffee farm fresh,” she adds. “This also means that for home roasters, you don’t have to roast, say, 25lbs at once; you can do so in multiple batches.”
How does using better packaging support producers?
Coffee producers invest a lot of time and resources into bringing out the full potential of what their farm has to offer. To fully represent the quality of their coffee, a solid solution for transporting and storing green beans is important.
Ashok Patre is the owner of Ratnagiri Estates, a pioneering specialty coffee farm in India. He says: “A lot of roasters and buyers in the last couple of years have been asking me about vacuum packaging. This is because when we sell a container, it is generally bought by an importer, who then distributes it to individual small micro roasters.
“However, there’s been a delay getting coffees to them, because of all the import problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” Ashok adds. “This means freshness has become a problem; roasters are actually getting the coffees eight or nine months after harvest.”
As a result, this can cause reputational issues for producers with both buyers and roasters alike. Even though the coffee is high in quality when it leaves the farm, extended delays at the port can cause freshness to degrade and leave a bad first impression.
Ashok says that using high-quality packaging for green coffee has been key during the pandemic.
“There has been a lot of positive feedback,” he says. “Using Ecotact packaging has been a great step for us; it’s helped us push and market our coffees. A lot of roasters have come forward to buy our coffees because they’re [small-batch and properly packaged].”
He goes on to explain that smaller bags of coffee are more popular with home and micro roasters for a number of reasons. While the cost, accessibility, and flexibility are all important, the size and physical burden of moving a smaller bag also makes it popular.
“The feedback I got from micro roasters who have used these smaller bags has been positive, and they’re super thrilled because they’re easy to handle,” he says. “They don’t need too much physical force to lift bags and load one.”
If micro or home roasters are operating with as little as one person on shift at a time, lifting 60kg or more can be dangerous.
Ashok adds: “Most of our customers also only do batches of 15kg, as they’re small roasters. For them, the bag size is ideal, and then they don’t end up opening a bag and keeping it exposed for a long time.”
Considering how the home and micro roaster market segments have grown in recent years, finding solutions for storing smaller quantities of green coffee has become essential.
Ultimately, the main priority continues to be freshness. By making sure you store your coffee properly, you can guarantee that your customers’ green beans stay fresh – and make sure they keep coming back for more.
Enjoyed this? You might also like how to protect green coffee from excessive water activity.
Photo credits: Ecotact, Unsplash
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