Taking a peek inside the
black box of coffee transportation

Authors: Tristan Arts, Intern Coffee Quality at Trabocca and Cerianne Bury, Quality Supervisor at Trabocca.

This year, we set out to discover what happens during the transportation of coffee. We started this project because we want to understand how transport can influence the differences between a pre-shipment and an arrival sample.

Of course, multiple influences exist. But we chose to focus on a part of the chain we did not yet fully understand;
transport conditions and packaging.

The transport conditions project

We put together an explorative research, which, although the sample size is small, will hopefully give some foundation to you and others seeking answers.

For the project, we shipped a washed Ethiopian Guji grade-2 in five different packaging types and within two different types of containers. After the research, we found three takeaways.

First up, packaging.

The 3 takeaways of
the transport conditions project

1. Packaging

The packaging is one of the most important factors to keep the product quality stable. The type of material and the build quality are points to consider when choosing packaging.

There are roughly three packaging categories;

  • no hermetic barrier (jute),
  • hermetic barrier (Grainpro),
  • and modified atmosphere packaging (vacuum).

As the project unfolded, we discovered that packaging with a hermetic barrier protects the coffee against atmospheric influences, humidity, and oxygen. It maintains the quality of the coffee.

2. Transport

When transporting large amounts of coffee, the use of containers is inevitable. Containers without climate control are more commonly used but do not offer minimal protection against atmospheric influences.

Climate controlled containers, however, can protect coffee against atmospheric influences. Correct settings are essential. Depending on multiple factors, a container can, in collaboration with packaging, protect and keep the coffee quality stable.

3. Sensory

A more complex part of this research is the sensory result. Although sensory science may seem straightforward, it is quite complicated compared to chemical analysis. This is because we use language to communicate what we smell, taste, and experience.

Communicative experience and wider linguistic knowledge are important when describing a coffee. Calibration and consistency among experts (suppliers, traders, roasters) is necessary when comparing samples. This is especially important when comparing samples before shipment, with samples that arrived in the country of destination.

Download the Transport Conditions Thesis

Want to read all the specific details, materials and methods, results, discussion, and conclusions? Then download the whole thesis here. And, keep an eye out on our website because we will continue to discover more about the packaging, transportation, and the storage of green coffee.