The packaging experiment

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For quite some time, we have wanted to know how to best package our freshly roasted coffee. Currently, we’re using multi-ply bags consisting of lots of petroleum derivatives and aluminum foil. Without actually having researched the matter, we have thought it better to have a one-way degassing valve in our bags. We pack all of our coffees within minutes of roasting. Unless we’re mailing the coffee we do not heat seal our bags.

Yesterday, we started a six-week test: we put our beloved Colombia Huila Monserrate in six different kinds of packaging:

1. Multi-ply plastic/aluminum bag with one-way degassing valve; rolled closed but not sealed;
2. Same as 1.; heat sealed;
3. Low barrier, bio-degradable paper / corn-based plastic liner bag; rolled closed but not sealed;
4. Tin with degassing valve;
5. Tin without degassing valve;
6. A Mazzer Mini standard bean hopper.

We’ll be doing regular blind tastings of 1. and 3. through 6. during our Monday 3pm conventional cuppings and our *new* Thursday 3pm vertical tastings. We’ll be taking notes on cup quality and anything we notice. We’ll throw Packaging 2. into the tasting mix only after three weeks so we can see what difference it makes when we heat seal our regular bags.

Feel free to join the tasting fun and weigh in with your opinion, or, just follow the experiment here on the blog. We’ll be appending our results to this blog post.

Update 1 - six days (cupping on April 5, 2010), Sebastian updating:
I only had a few moments at the cupping table this Monday. Katie had put coffee from five of the six packages on the cupping table. (No. 2, the heat sealed multi-ply bag, is remaining sealed until day 10 or so.) The tasting was blind, i.e. none of us cuppers knew which coffee was which. For, No. 1 (multi-ply, no sealed) won the tasting by a far shot: the coffee tasted brighter and was simply a lot more exciting than the other coffees. It seems, the other cuppers agreed. The experiment continues. Next tasting is on Thursday April 8, 2010 at Ryan’s Vertical Tasting.

Update 2 (cupping on April 12, 2010), Katie updating:

Nice cozy cupping with plenty of time to taste and chat. I mixed up the order of packages from last time to make sure any repeat tasters started with a clean palate. Coffees 3 (tin w/valve) and 4 (multi-ply bag w/valve) garnered the most positive comments–3 seemed the most balanced with enough body and strong, sweet caramel notes. Coffee 4 offered tangy notes with milk chocolate body. I also offered a control coffee: the same coffee, same roast date, packaged in our standard multi-ply bag w/valve for use in the cafe. I wanted to see if there were any strong differences in the experiment coffee and our Slow Bar coffee, since we continuously open and close the bags to brew single origin cups. Coffees 1 (tin w/o valve) and 2 (bag w/o valve) offered similar notes but were lacking the bounce and body of the others.

Thursday’s Vertical Tasting (@3pm) will feature Colombian again, with a few other coffees in various brewing methods. Join us next week and give us your own tasting notes!