The essential guide to coffee packaging equipment
So you’re considering automating your coffee packaging process. Chances are you have done some research and are a bit overwhelmed. We’re here to help you sort through the plethora of information by providing a straightforward guide to the different kinds of coffee packaging equipment, how they work, what products and bag types they can accommodate, and resources to help you take next steps. So grab a cup of coffee, this might be a long one! Let's jump right in:
Form fill seal equipment
There are two main types of form fill seal packaging equipment: Vertical form fill seal (VFFS) and horizontal form fill seal (HFFS). The main difference being that VFFS machines perform their operations in a vertical manner (taking up less floorspace but requiring additional height) and HFFS machines do so in a horizontal manner (taking up more floorspace with less height).
Vertical form fill seal equipment is by far the most popular and widely-used packaging machine type in the coffee industry. Here’s why:
- Lower cost to entry
- Ability to make both simple and complex bag styles
- Tried, tested, and proven technologies
- Occupies a minimal amount of floorspace
- High speeds achievable
Operation & Speeds
Basically, a VFFS coffee packaging machine uses a forming collar to form coffee bags from a large roll of packaging film (called rollstock), fills the newly formed bags with coffee, and seals them shut. These actions take place very quickly and sometimes simultaneously to the beat of about 30 - 180 bags per minute. Speeds are largely dependent on machine construction and your product. This is a very simplified explanation; if you are interested in the step-by-step operation of VFFS machines see our guide here.
Discrete amounts of coffee are measured and dropped into the VFFS machine by fillers like multi-head scales or augers, usually provided by third-party vendors. These two pieces are almost always ordered together, and most packaging equipment manufacturers offer a single-source option where they take care of quoting, ordering, and integrating all pieces into a cohesive system.
VFFS coffee packaging equipment can handle everything from whole bean to ground to instant coffee.
VFFS equipment can form many different bag styles, the most popular in the coffee industry being:
- Pillow bags for fractional or single-serve packs
- Flat bottom or quad seal bags for retail or bulk packs
- Bag-in-bag style for small fractional packs sealed inside a large outer wrap
This is not an exhaustive list of the bag styles available on VFFS machines, rather, it details what the range of what majority of coffee producers request.
There are many options available for VFFS coffee packaging systems. In high demand is Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP), which is standard in many industries today to preserve freshness and extend shelf life. MAP can take the form of attaching one-way valves to the film during the packaging process that will allow built-up carbon dioxide to escape the package without letting oxygen inside. Another popular MAP option is flushing the bag out with nitrogen gas prior to filling to displace oxygen. For an explanation of other MAP options see our in-depth article here.
Another option many coffee producers want is plow down tape down/tin tie units. This involves adding a certain number of folds to the top of a stand-up bag and taping it down. A tin tie closure can be added as well. This finished bag look is very popular in the coffee industry.
Another option we recommend for coffee packaging systems is the use of vacuum pull belts. Normally, VFFS machines are equipped with friction pull belts, which use friction between the belt and rollstock to grip and transport the film through the system. However, when dealing with a dusty or oily product like coffee, particulates can impede the gripping process and decrease the lifespan of the belts. For this reason, vacuum pull belts, which use vacuum suction to grip the film for transport, are often recommended for coffee applications. Particulates will not impede film transport or cause undue belt wear when using vacuum suction.
We recommend VFFS machines that feature enclosed jaw drives for the coffee industry because they protect moving internal seal jaw components from particulates and build-up that could negatively affect operation. An example of this type of machine is the VFFS M250, which is a top seller in the coffee market.
If speed is the name of the game and you are looking to packaging simple, small fractional packs (pillow bags) of coffee, The VFFS Velocity is a top choice. This machine provides quiet, vibration-free coffee packaging at rates of up to 300 bpm.
Get started with VFFS coffee packaging automation
Here are a few things that may help you on your journey to vertical form fill seal coffee packaging automation:
Fill and seal equipment
Fill and seal machines are commonly known by other names like 'premade pouch machine' or 'automatic pouch filling machine'. There are two main types of fill and seal equipment: Rotary and inline. Rotary fill and seal machines perform their operations in a circular fashion, requiring less floorspace as their starting point is right next to their endpoint. Inline fill and seal machines take up more floorspace as their operations take place in a straight line, with start and end points at opposite ends of the line. Rotary machines are the most popular fill and seal equipment in the coffee industry for the following reasons:
- Lower cost to entry
- Maximizes available plant floorspace
- More ergonomic design for operators
Operation & Speeds
This machine type only fills and seals the bags; it does not form them. Premade bags are loaded into a magazine and fed into the machine where they are gripped one-by-one, opened, filled with coffee, and sealed. For a more in-depth explanation of each step in the process, see our premade pouch machine guide.
Rotary premade pouch machines are available in simplex (one-lane), duplex (two-lane), or quadruplex (four-lane) varieties. Generally, coffee companies opt for a simplex machine unless their throughput needs are higher. Here are the maximum bags per minute (bpm) of the different models to help with your evaluation:
- Simplex (one-lane): 60 bpm max
- Duplex (two-lane): 120 bpm max
- Quadruplex (four-lane): 200 bpm max
Discrete amounts of coffee are measured and dropped into the premade pouch machine by fillers like multi-head scales or augers, usually provided by third-party vendors. These two pieces are almost always ordered together, and most packaging equipment manufacturers offer a single-source option where they take care of quoting, ordering, and integrating all pieces into a cohesive system.
Premade pouch fill and seal machines can package all type of coffee: Whole bean, ground, and instant.
Premade pouch machines can fill and seal almost any type of preformed pouch. Most popular in the coffee industry are quad preformed pouches and stand-up Doy-style premade pouches. These bags can be zippered or non-zippered.
If your preformed bag type is a quad seal package with a four-corner bag opening, additional design considerations and options must be added to the fill and seal machine, which will add extra cost. For this reason, many coffee producers will switch to a premade stand-up pouch with a two corner opening. If a standard quad bag is desired, VFFS may be a better option as it has much more flexibility in bag styles.
A dust hood placed above the filling apparatus is recommended to collect dust and particulates to reduce messes and coating of vital components.
If Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) options are desired, you can still have them on a premade pouch machine! Nitrogen flush is available, but if one-way valves are desired, the valves must be pre-applied by the film supplier.
By far, we find that Viking premade pouch machine models 8S-235 and 8S-285 are the most popular in the coffee market. These are single lane machines that are simple to set up and use. We highly recommend these models for growing coffee producers that are looking to take the plunge and switch from manual packaging to automation.
Get started with fill and seal coffee packaging automation
Here are a few resources that will help you on your journey to fill and seal coffee packaging automation:
Stick pack equipment
Stick pack machines are pretty standard. The main decision to make is how many lanes you require to meet your throughput needs. Anything from 2 to 20 lanes can be accommodated.
Operation & Speed
Stick pack machines operate in much the same way as vertical form fill seal equipment, with just a few differences. A large roll of packaging film is split into however many lanes the machine features, these strips are formed with small forming collars into stick packs, filled with product, and then sealed shut. For a detailed, step-by-step explanation of stick pack machine operation, see our guide here. Stick pack machines generally have a maximum speed of 80 bags per minute per lane, which is 1,200 bags per minute when using the max of 20 lanes!
Discrete amounts of coffee are measured and dropped into the stick pack machine by augers or volumetric fillers, usually provided by third-party vendors. These two pieces are almost always ordered together, and most packaging equipment manufacturers offer a single-source option where they take care of quoting, ordering, and integrating all pieces into a cohesive system.
Stick pack machines can accommodate ground or instant/powdered coffee. Whole beans of coffee are too large to fit through machine components.
You are limited to one main bag type: The stick pack. This can be a stick pack sealed on the top and bottom or a three-side-seal. You can opt for features like tear notches, pour spouts, chain bags, different crimp (seal) styles, and different cut types.
We often recommend dust controlling options like suction nozzles and static elimination for powder coffee packaging.
Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) options include features like gas flush. One-way valves are not an option on stick packs.
If you have different stick sizes and types, you can order change kits that accommodate different packages. The machines must be stopped and parts switched out when a different bag type or size is needed.
Get started with coffee stick pack automation
Contact the coffee packaging experts at Viking Masek today at 920.564.5051 or request a free consultation on our website 24/7.