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Which cold brew packaging is best suited for concentrates?

Concentrates are easy to use and require no prep work, making them a favourite cold brew option for businesses and customers. In the US alone, the sales of coffee concentrates (both powdered and liquid) brought in over $480 million in 2023. Global demand is much higher and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 3.5%. 

That said, finding the best packaging for cold brew concentrates is essential for food safety and preserving the beverage’s subtle flavour profile. Cold brew coffee packaging comes in many shapes and sizes, from larger bag-in-box options to small, portable single-serve sachets.

But which cold brew packaging is best suited to preserve the desirable flavours of these concentrates?

I spoke to Krzysztof Barabosz, the CPO and head of coffee at Hard Beans Coffee Roasters, to discuss the unique benefits of each cold brew packaging solution.

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The convenience of cold brew concentrates

Cold brew concentrates offer consumers a delicious beverage with minimal work. These convenient coffee products come in either powdered or liquid form and can be mixed with water or milk for an instant coffee drink. Cold brew concentrate is made in much the same way as cold brew: immersing coarse ground coffee beans in cold water. 

However, for cold brew concentrate, the ratio of coffee to water is much higher. More coffee is used than compared to a standard cold brew to increase the strength. Since the function of this product is to give customers a strong flavour with easy customisation, common additives like sugar and dairy are usually avoided. Maintaining this delicate balance when brewing is important not only for flavour but also to ensure customers don’t hurt themselves.

“Coffee roasters can take several actions to ensure that customers are using their cold brew concentrates safely,” explains Krzysztof. “First, [brands should] provide clear and comprehensive instructions on the packaging regarding the proper dilution ratio is essential to prevent overconsumption of concentrated coffee, which could lead to adverse effects such as caffeine intoxication.” 

Additionally, information on storage requirements, such as refrigeration, can help maintain the product’s quality and safety. Offering educational resources and guidelines on safe consumption practices, including potential allergen information, can further empower consumers to use the product responsibly.

Convenient options such as cold brew concentrates, instant coffee, steeped coffee, and ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee options allow customers to craft a flavourful drink quickly and efficiently, eliminating the need to measure, grind, or brew. Customers can also recreate their favourite recipes from specific brands when they don’t have time to go into a cafe.

Cold brew concentrates are unique because they specifically replicate the smooth, satisfying flavours of cold brew without the lengthy 20 to 24 hour steeping time. “Cold brew concentrates are becoming increasingly popular because they offer consumers the convenience of customisation, allowing them to adjust the strength and flavour by diluting the concentrate with water, milk, milk alternatives, or even juices,” Krzysztof said.

The risks around offering cold brew concentrates

Cold brew concentrates need to remain shelf-stable to avoid spoiling. They also need to retain freshness and complexity so customers aren’t wondering if they should return to traditional brewing methods. This delicate balancing act is achieved during production and packaging. 

Krzysztof notes there are several safety risks that emerge throughout each stage of the process that coffee businesses can’t overlook. 

“One primary concern is microbial contamination during the brewing process, as cold water temperatures may not effectively inhibit the growth of bacteria and other pathogens.” He explains. “Without proper sanitation practices and hygiene measures, the equipment, brewing vessels, and raw materials used in the production process can become sources of contamination.”

Preparing hot coffee takes a few minutes. However, cold brew’s unique brewing method of long steeping times and cold water only increases the risk of pathogens. “Additionally, the extended steeping time required for cold brew concentrates increases the risk of microbial growth if the brewing environment is not adequately controlled,” he continues. “That’s why it’s worth getting interested in innovative and fast cold brewing technologies.”

Packaging introduces a fresh wave of possibilities for cross-contamination or bacterial growth. The coffee must be prepared in a sterile environment, and the packaging must be sterilised. “One primary concern is the potential for microbial contamination during the packaging process, especially if the packaging materials or equipment are not properly sanitised,” Krzysztof says. 

“Cross-contamination from other food products or environmental sources is also a risk, particularly if the packaging area is not adequately segregated from other food processing areas. 

Additionally, improper sealing or closure of packaging containers can compromise the integrity of the product and increase the risk of contamination. Furthermore, if the packaging materials are not suitable for cold brew concentrates, they may leach harmful chemicals or contaminants into the product, posing a safety risk to consumers,” he adds. 

Businesses that use protective, safe, and long-lasting packaging for cold brew concentrates will remain a distinguishing factor for customers. While environmental stability was a significant concern for 67% of US customers in a recent packaging survey, at least 77% were more concerned about shelf life and food safety.

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Which cold brew packaging is best suited for concentrates? 

Brands must choose cold brew packaging that will protect the concentrate from premature spoiling, flavour degradation, and potential damage during transportation. Krzysztof has considered the unique benefits of bottles, bag-in-box, and sachets. 

Bottles are commonly used because of their durability, ease of handling, and ability to preserve the freshness of the concentrate. However, transparent bottles may not be the best option as they do not provide protection against ultraviolet (UV) light, which can lead to UV oxidation and degrade the quality of the product over time,” he says.

Aluminum cans offer similar benefits to bottles, with the added advantage of being lightweight and recyclable, making them ideal for on-the-go consumption. Sachets can be convenient for single servings and are portable, but they may not provide as much protection against external elements compared to bottles or cans. Bag-in-box packaging offers a larger volume capacity and can be more cost-effective for bulk purchases, making it suitable for commercial use.”

Coffee businesses must also account for the unique customer preferences of each industry. For example, bars may prefer the larger quantity of bag-in-box to satisfy high-volume periods. Beyond this, the quick on-tap dispenser also makes it easy for bartenders to create in-demand coffee cocktails quickly.

“Ultimately, the choice of packaging depends on factors such as consumer preferences, convenience, and the intended use of the cold brew concentrate,” Krzysztof concludes. 

Choosing the most compatible cold-brew coffee packaging for your business shouldn’t be an either-or situation. We offer a variety of cold-brew packaging solutions that satisfy both food safety standards and eco-friendly compliance. Cold Brew Pak offers convenient alternatives to bottles and cans, such as single-serve sachets and bag-in-box, to better address your customers’ unique needs. All of our packaging is sustainable sourced and crafted with biodegradable and compostable materials certified by DIN CERTCO.

Images provided courtesy of Hard Beans Coffee Roasters.

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About the author

Ashe is a business writer, marketer, and designer in the coffee, tea, and alcohol niches. She worked as a staff writer for DrinkStack and has been regularly featured in coffee publications such as New Ground Magazine and Fresh Cup Magazine. A committed advocate for sustainability and wellness, she approaches the coffee industry with a critical and passionate perspective.