Anatomy of Good Coffee Packaging

in Buying Coffee, Coffee and You

2-600x480I meant to write this article a long time ago.  As I traveled around the US and Canada, visiting coffee roasters wherever I went, I noticed that each one packaged their coffee differently.  That is, they provided different information and package choices for their customers.  After seeing so many examples, I wanted to write an article on the information that I felt was critical to the coffee lover.

Fast-forward a couple years later, and I’m opening the Make Good Coffee Co. roastery in San Diego, California and having to make those very same decisions myself.

Read: The Make Good Coffee Co. coming soon!

I decided it was a good time to share the observations I was going to include in that article, and how I’ve incorporated them into the labeling and packaging that I will be offering coffee lovers.

Contact information: This is more important than ever.  While that’s obvious, I’m not only referring to brick-and-mortar contact information.  I’m referring to virtual contact information as well.  For instance, nobody needs my fax number!  But if somebody happened to try my coffee and love it, and they regular interact with some of the same social media platforms as I do, I would be remiss not to share that information.

1-600x303Weight: As specialty coffee has evolved, we are being introduced to finer and finer coffees.  We’re also even more exposed to the poverty in coffee-growing countries, but also the small ways that we can support development in those areas by ensuring farmers get a fair price.  Both of these things combined mean that if you want to drink excellent and sustainably grown coffee, it will cost you a little more.  For the most part, these are worth what you’re paying but to keep the “sticker shock” down, some roasters have migrated from a standard 16oz (1 pound) bag to 12oz.  I didn’t realize this as I started buying my coffee from great local roasters, and believed I was buying a pound at a time when I was really buying 3/4 pound at a time.  I believe the coffee’s weight should definitely be displayed on the label.

5-600x416Roast date: I am adamant about knowing when the coffee I’m drinking was roasted.  Isn’t this why we don’t buy our coffee from the grocery store or Costco or a Starbucks outlet?!  I once had this conversation with a large roaster, who told me that he refused to put the roast date on the bag because he felt his customers would treat it like bread at the grocery store, reaching back for the fresher stuff while the rest became stale.  I can’t agree, and have been recommending on this site that you always check to make sure the roast date is on the bag.

Origin: Speaking of “sticker shock”, the way that cheaper roasters have gotten expensive Hawaii Kona coffee into grocery stores and fast food restaurant chains is by introducing the “Kona Blend”.  To sell coffee defined as such, it only needs to be 10% Kona beans, and 90% whatever.  When you drink this coffee, you literally don’t know 90% of what you’re drinking.  This is unacceptable.  Quality coffee means that you should know exactly where it came from, and preferably, information on the farm and how you’re helping that area by purchasing this coffee.


WHY?: I’m a proponent of selling your “why” before you sell your “what”.  “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek.  While every roaster now has a website that can easily tell their story, I would rather not leave it up to the individual to have to go to that trouble.  In a small amount of space on the label is the opportunity to tell a short story of why you’re roasting, why you’re pouring yourself into this, why the person holding your bag of coffee should care about you when they can find coffee anywhere.

One-way valve: I think this is a given, but I included it here anyway.  The one-way valve on the coffee bag that allows air (and the amazing smell of coffee) out of the bag, but doesn’t allow any in to compromise freshness.  I think this valve is a must!

It was great to come back to this subject out of necessity when I came so close to writing the article a couple years back.  Did I miss anything that you would like to see more on coffee packaging?  What would you like to know about the roaster who prepared this coffee for you, or about the coffee itself?

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