Coffee Shrub Packaging Options- Vacuum Bricks and Bulk Packaging
We offer two types of packaging for Coffee Shrub: vacuum packed bricks and bulk shipping in a GrainPro-lined burlap bag. Due to the different levels of time and care spent in these two methods, and the volume they respectively allow, we can offer two levels of pricing.
Vacuum packaging is more labor and material intensive and helps protect the integrity of the coffee longer. Vac-packing does not make coffee last forever, in fact there have been some coffees that we've pulled from shrub because of them showing a little wear on the cupping table. GrainPro bags are a multi-layer plastic bag developed for storage of dried grains and have come to be used for coffee. Vacuum packaging works well for smaller volumes - GrainPro bags can be any size and so accommodate much more. There are actually GrainPro container liners - a whole shipping container! The vac-pack volume that we use at Coffee Shrub is close to a single batch size or two depending on the size of roasting equipment used, so that you can use up the coffee once you have unsealed a vac-pack.
The shortcomings of packaging coffee in traditional natural fiber bags are becoming more widely understood; the main issue being the material's inability to stabilize the water activity of the coffee, i.e: the coffee dries out and loses essential flavors. This isn't just a concern during coffees' shipment from origin to port in the U.S., but in many ways it is even more of a concern during transport across the U.S. and storage at a roasting facility.
Water activity is defined as the ratio of the water vapor pressure in a material to the water vapor pressure of pure water at the same temperature, and it is responsible for exchanging materials in and out of a coffee when the moisture equilibrium is thrown out of balance. As a coffee is moved through different environments with dramatic ranges of temperature and humidity, or even stored in a warehouse without a controlled climate of both temperature and humidity, the fluctuating equilibrium of the coffees' water activity can cause the coffee to lose moisture and allow important volatiles that distinguish the coffee to oxidize, or allow the coffee to take on more moisture and along with it take on undesirable flavor characteristics or even molding. Storage in a nitrogen flushed brick protects your green coffee from water activity fluctuations; storage in a Grain-Pro lined jute bag also reduces water activity, but not so completely as vacuum packaging.
We have seen coffee stored in vacuum packages for 8 months or more with virtually no change in flavor, even on exceptionally delicate coffees like Panama Esmeralda Gesha. GrainPro lined jute bags extend the life of a coffee perhaps less - perhaps 6 months or so. Ulitimately, we have found that the length of storage life depends on the coffee. Naturals, as with honey/pulp naturals, should be treated differently. A good washed coffee can spend 6-9 months in GP and cup fresh, if it is stored in a nice cool climate. Vac pack can be a little longer. Again, it is coffee-dependent and environment-dependent.
These new storage options help keep a green coffee as fresh as you can for as long as you can, but even this can't keep it forever. Coffee ages, which has always been one of the things that makes working with exceptional coffees both frustrating and exciting.