Vacuum Bagging Fresh Roast Coffee Beans

On the commercial coffee LinkedIn group, there was a question on vacuum packing freshly roasted coffee to keep it fresh. When I was at roasting school, we learned how freshly roasted coffee gives off CO2. This is why you need a can or bag with a gas relief valve. Recently, I decided to get a hand vacuum bagging system. It is a low-cost unit available in Canada from Home Hardware for only $20. For a small cost I could experiment with vacuum packing coffee. The bags are reusable but not cheap, at about $1.25 each. As I just want to use the bags for my coffee at home, the price per bag is not a factor. If the coffee was for resale, a much lower cost per bag would be needed.

Vac N Store system from Home Hardware

The Vac N Store kit comes with three bag sizes. My sample roaster does 1/2-pound roasts that fit nicely in the small bag. By sealing the bags, the coffee is not exposed to oxygen, which is what contributes to making coffee stale. What surprised me was how much gas is released by the beans. Here is a bag of just-sealed, freshly roasted coffee. The little hand pump does a fair job of removing air, but is not commercial grade.

Vacuum bagged coffee

Here is the bag 5 days later.

Vacuum bag with released CO2

I was surprised how much air was in the bag. This is not from leaking. Here is a large bag of decaf green coffee beans that I packed several weeks ago. The vacuum seal is still tight.

Decaf Green coffee beans in vacuum bag

I put the bagged roasted coffee in my grinder this morning, and it was very nice. Did it hold the freshness better? I am not sure. I need to do a side-by-side on the same coffee, one roasted a week ago and stored, the other roasted the day before.

My question coming out of this is how do companies like Illy vacuum pack coffee? I believe theirs stays tightly packed because the coffee is ground. Perhaps on the next roasting batch, I will bag 1/2 as beans and in a second bag, 1/2 ground and see how it compares.

Down to Earth – Started by Mother Nature, finished by hand

Walking around the village
A year ago my wife and I spent a week at the Down to Earth Coffee Plantation in Dota/Costa Rica. While I have been trained to roast green coffee beans I had no idea how coffee was grown or harvested.

We learned about everything from planting seeds to transplanting, picking, processing, drying and milling (removing the parchment).

This is an opportunity to experience Costa Rica. We lived in the local village of 300 people 45 minutes by 4×4 from the paved road.

Weighing and Hulling (Removing the Parchment)

When the beans are at 11-12% moisture, they are removed from the parijuelas and bagged. Each bag has the parijuela number that it came from. The bags are then weighed and the results logged.

Weighing and logging the dry beans

Coffee beans have a hard shell covering the bean. Here is the coffee bean anatomy introduced in the Processing the Coffee Cherries article. This illustration from Wikipedia shows the cherry anatomy.
Continue reading “Weighing and Hulling (Removing the Parchment)”

Drying the beans

Wet Coffee Beans just from the cherry

The product of coffee cherry processing is bags of wet coffee beans. These new beans are about 2/3 water. Green beans ready for roasting need to be 11 to 12% moisture, so a significant amount of water has to be removed.

While large commercial processors will use a power unit, small operations use the sun. Beans are spread out to dry. Most spread the beans on a concrete pad; Matias uses drying racks called parijuelas, traditional wood-framed mesh racks.
Continue reading “Drying the beans”

Processing the Coffee Cherries

Once the cherries are picked, the beans are removed and then dried. Processing involves separating the coffee beans from the cherry.

Beans removed from the cherry

Removing the beans from the cherry can be done in several ways:

  1. Ferment-and-Wash Method
  2. Machine-assisted Wet Processing
  3. Dry Process

Ferment-and-Wash is used mainly at large coffee processing factories. On the farm, the crop was processed with the machine-assisted wet process. Cherries that were too small to be machine processed were rejected, then dry processed by hand. Continue reading “Processing the Coffee Cherries”

Picking Coffee Cherries

My first real coffee activity in Costa Rica was picking and processing coffee cherries. Processing removes the beans from the cherry.

Picking Cherries

After an eye-opening drive to the plantation, we rode down the driveway to the parking area beside the house. It is difficult to show in the pictures just how steep the side of the mountain is. I found it a challenge to climb up to the plants. The pickers navigate the slopes while wearing black rubber boots and carrying a 75-pound sack of cherries.

Hard working Panama migrant workers carry out 75-pound bags

Picking coffee is “piece-work” – meaning that the pickers are paid for the quantity collected by volume. With this high-quality coffee you pick only the ripe cherries. A tree will be picked about 4 times during each season, removing only the cherries that are ready for processing. Continue reading “Picking Coffee Cherries”

Maria Biscuits

When Matias and I were at the old plantation, Roberto’s wife would serve us coffee and Maria biscuits. They were wonderful to dunk in the local rich coffee. I was so pleased when I returned to Canada and found them in my local grocery store. Now our nightly coffee includes a few Maria cookies with our coffee.

Galleta María Biscuit

Coffee Tree Final Transplant

In the previous post, “Planting New Coffee Trees,” I discussed coffee seeds, planting the seeds and transplanting the seedling pairs. In this post, I will show how small coffee trees are transplanted to their final location. After being transplanted, the coffee tree will take two years to start to produce coffee in a small quantity. Two years after that, the tree will be producing in full swing. It will need to be fertilized three times a year, during the wet season. Foliar is also applied. Foliar feeding is a technique of feeding plants by applying liquid fertilizer directly to their leaves. After the 5th year, the tree will be pruned for the first time. This will reduce the yield, which up to that point had been increasing every year.

Year Yield
2 10%
3 25%
4 50%
5 100%
Matias maintains the new seedlings

Once the seedlings are one year old, they are ready Continue reading “Coffee Tree Final Transplant”

Planting New Coffee Trees

In this article I will discuss coffee seeds, planting the seeds and transplanting the seedling pairs. In the next post I will show how small coffee trees are transplanted to their final location.


While it is possible to grow a coffee tree from green coffee beans, the germination rate (percentage of beans that sprout and grow) would be small. This is because the process to mill and dry green coffee for roasting kills most of the seeds. For planting a commercial coffee seed is used.

Coffee seeds

These commercial coffee seeds are dry beans with their parchment and a coating to help prevent fungus growth. These seeds are not stripped of the cherry peel in the same way that you peel coffee to be roasted. They are peeled by hand or using a machine with a soft roller in order to prevent damage to the embryo. Also, the seeds are dried in the shade, not directly under the sun like drying coffee to be roasted. The final moisture content of the seed is 25% compared to 11% for the coffee to be roasted. Continue reading “Planting New Coffee Trees”

Coffee Trees and Cherries

Enough with transportation, let’s get on to coffee.

As someone who grew up in North America, I had preconceived idea of what a coffee tree and coffee cherry would look like. I know cherry trees, so I envisioned a tall tree with a fruit rich in pulp.

Coffee trees are about 6 feet tall. If you do not prune coffee trees they will grow to 15 feet or more. The farmers prune the tops to keep all of the fruit at easy picking height.

Roberto with red cherry coffee tree - (needs pruning)
Arabica Caturra (only shows ripeness by turning red)

Continue reading “Coffee Trees and Cherries”