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​Shelf life requirements are in the bag for coffee processor

When leading retailers such as Whole Foods Markets, Inc. demanded new packaging requirements, Joe Van Gogh Coffee was ready to take on the challenge. Last fall, the supermarket chain began requiring coffee vendors to nitrogen flush and heat seal all retail coffee bags. The objective was to achieve a best by date that exceeded its existing limit of 14 days from date-of-roast. Research revealed that gas flushed and heat sealed bags could achieve a 120-day best by date following the date-of-roast.

Gas flush is a process for modified atmosphere packaging (MAP). The MAP process uses a flavorless, inert gas (often nitrogen) to displace the flavor-robbing oxygen that shortens the shelf life of coffee. This gives the retailer the ability to deliver the finest beans available and to offer premium coffees with greatly extended shelf life.

“We had no way to flush and seal our coffee bags with our existing equipment”, said Kevin Swenk, production manager at Joe Van Gogh Coffee. “Since we were in all of the Whole Foods locations in the southern region, we needed to comply with the new regulations.”

Joe Van Gogh Coffee began its search for an equipment supplier. It contacted its bag supplier Pacific Bag, Inc. for some guidance. Pacific Bag came back with a couple of recommendations, one of which was a system from Packaging Aids in San Rafael, California.

“We were impressed by the response and knowledge from PAC Machinery (master brand for Packaging Aids, Clamco, Vertrod, Rollbag Systems and Converting Technology),” stated Swenk.

He learned that PAC Machinery manufactured several nozzle-style vacuum sealers designed specifically for the coffee industry, and depending on the production requirement, the high capacity sealers can be equipped with up to six stainless steel nozzles for increased production efficiency. Of particular interest to the team at Joe Van Gogh was the fact that all Packaging Aids coffee vacuum sealers come equipped with gas flush (for modified atmosphere packaging) as a standard feature. Designed specifically for coffee producers, the gas flush feature makes the Packaging Aids vacuum sealers adaptable for both whole bean and ground coffee. Joe Van Gogh selected the Packaging Aids Coffee Pac Vacuum Sealer.

The Coffee Pac has the ability to vacuum, gas flush (if required) and seal four packages per cycle and is capable of up to two to four cycles per minute. This means that Joe Van Gogh can process between 400-800, one-pound bags of coffee per hour, depending upon operator efficiency, seal time required for bag material, and the desired residual oxygen level. The Coffee Pac vacuum sealer uses a high-flow venturi vacuum pump for quiet and powerful operation, plus the venturi allows the coffee particles to pass through without damaging the pump. Designed for maximum uptime, this machine features a particle ejection function that clears the vacuum lines of any coffee debris following each vacuum sealing cycle. The Coffee Pac vacuum sealer can flush a bag with nitrogen (as required by Whole Foods) or any other suitable gas used to preserve coffee freshness. The gas flushing sequence can easily be changed from vacuum then gas, to gas then vacuum, or gas only with no vacuum.

Watch a Coffee Pac Vacuum Sealer in action.