News from 44 North

Packaging choices and ideal coffee storage, a light morning read


Have you ever noticed that our retail coffee bags are not the "standard" vacuum sealed foil pouch "keep fresh" coffee bags you see on most shelves? Well that is intentional!

As we all know the 44N ethos is focused on being eco-friendly, sustainable, fair trade, organic, low carbon footprint, etc, hence the pasta coffee stirrers, organic, fair trade beans, biodegradable cups, composting our spent grounds, etc. For those who don't know, the primary difference between compostable and biodegradable is that compostable products require a specific setting (over 140ºF) in order to break down, whereas biodegradable products break down naturally.

So a bit more about our brown paper retail coffee bags:

  • They are made by a small manufacturer using brown kraft paper that is milled near the manufacturing plant in Wisconsin.
  • The trees come from Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, reducing the cost of transport to be made into bags.
  • The bags are lined with a thin "plastic" film called PLA, which is a polylactic acid biomass plant derived material, typically made from corn or sugar beet pulp.
  • This PLA lining is necessary to act as a barrier because of the oils in the beans.
  • Both materials are made in the USA, meaning our bags are 100% USA made.
  • While our bags are not ideal for long term storage and are not technically compostable it is important to know and share that most marketed compostable bags are not 100% biodegradable.
  • In the case of bags called BioTre and TekPak, 40% of these bags are still part petroleum-based (involving plastics to protect the bag from coffee oils), and only 60% of the bag is compostable. Also these bags are manufactured in China, which creates additional fossil fuels to move the bags halfway around the world to a USA coffee roaster.
  • When using one of these marketed "compostable bags," the end user needs to remove the valve and tin tie and then make sure the bag makes its way to an industrial compost with a heat of minimum 140ºF. Unfortunately most home compost systems do not reach that high of a temperature in New England. And in our area we don't have a commercial composting facility available to us.
  • Our PLA lined bags will deteriorate over time with the tin tie removed, even in a home compost.
  • We actually recommend removing and disposing of the tin tie and then tossing the bags into a fire because the PLA does not emit toxic fumes since it is corn-based.
  • As for storage of the beans, the best thing to do is to store your whole bean coffee in an airtight reusable jar or Airscape container, not only does the coffee remain fresher longer, it is also the most eco-friendly option and they are easily refillable.
  • If you want to learn more about the retail coffee bag compostable/biodegradable conundrum, check out this great article:
And please remember, if buying in person we always welcome your containers.  We can tare them out on our scales, no problem.
To conclude, the basics of coffee storage:
  • Oxygen is the enemy (keep those beans airtight)!
  • Cool, dark pantry is primo (not the freezer)
  • But don't store for too long, drink fresh!

You deserve to taste beans at the height of their flavor (3-16 days after roasting). If you don't drink coffee daily consider buying a 1/2# at a time instead of full pound. Grinding your beans minutes before brewing will also always yield a better cup.

Happy Sipping :)

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