Shipping Coffee Internationally – The Best Way To Ship Coffee Beans

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What’s The Best Way To Ship Green Coffee Beans? How To Send Roast Coffee Beans?

Coffee is the second largest commodity market next to oil, with over 133 million bags of coffee being exported worldwide on a yearly basis. That’s a total of 7 billion kgs of coffee being traded yearly, a 28 billion dollar market. It’s a business every coffee roaster and farmer wishes to enter, but how easy is it to export coffee? How would one go about shipping green coffee beans and roast coffees?

For specialty coffee roasters especially, the transport of coffee to and from the roastery is a vital part of running a business and one of the hardest aspects. Green coffee beans must arrive in good condition with plenty of time to spare for roasting and packaging. While roasted coffee needs to be able to survive the long journey ahead, and maintain its freshness up until the consumer drinks it. It’s not an easy task to accomplish.

Two of the most common ways of shipping green coffee beans internationally are by sea and by air. When it comes to shipping green coffee beans, the best way is with sea freight. The reason being is that green coffee beans don’t need to travel fast, but they need to travel cheap. Sea freight shipping is no doubt the cheapest way to import/export coffee beans.

When it comes to shipping roasted coffee beans around the world, this is where it gets complicated. Roasted coffee beans have to survive the journey ahead and maintain their freshness up to the consumer end. While sea freight is the cheapest way to import/export coffee, it can also take months until it arrives to its destination. When it comes to roasted coffee beans, you can consider to best preserve the freshness of your coffee when shipped via air or consider sending your coffee via air. Air freight is definitely the best way to send roasted coffee beans, but it is not the cheapest. The benefits of air freight is that it is much faster, reliable and far less likely to experience delays. But it is very expensive when shipping a large amount of coffee.

FILE PHOTO: A worker is seen at a coffee warehouse of the coffee company Simexco Dak Lak Limited in the town of Di An
Connect Thai Coffee Farmers With Businesses around Thailand and exporting abroad for wholesale supplies - Coffee Culture Thailand
How to package your coffee beans for internationally shipping - Coffee Culture THailand

Shipping Coffee Internationally – What You Need To Consider

Like all organic products, coffee is very sensitive to its environment and surroundings. It can be contaminated and tampered by anything from light, moisture, oxygen, heat and so much more. So it’s very important to make sure that your coffee is well protected when shipping your coffee. As those factors can truly affect your coffee bean quality. The worst thing is that if your coffee does not survive the journey from farm to roaster, or roaster to consumer, then all the hard work that goes into producing it would have been wasted. The last thing you will want to do is throw away your coffee beans or worse yet, shipping it back to your origin country. 

One of the main challenges coffee exporters experience is how to prevent their green coffee beans from exposure to moisture. In Jean Nicolas Wintgens’ book, he explains that the moisture content for a healthy bean should be between 11% and 14%. Anything above those ranges will cause the coffee to have pests and mould. So to prevent this, your coffee must be shipped in conditions of no more than 60% humidity.

Another challenge to consider is the impact of temperature changes. Similar to when coffee is moved in and out of a fridge, changes in temperatures during transit can cause the buildup of condensation within the coffee bags. Which causes moisture content to rise, and creating a loss of flavour and aroma in your coffee. You can prevent this NOT by considering when you ship your coffee, but also when it will ship out and when it would arrive. So you can avoid the change over seasons or the harsh seasons in the passing countries.

What’s The Best Way To Ship Green Coffee Beans - Sea Freight Vs Air Freight - Coffee Culture Thailand

Shipping coffee by sea, both for green beans and roasted coffee, is the most common way of transportation. It’s cheap and possible to ship large quantities of coffee in a single trip. When green coffee is shipped via sea, you’ll tend to pay by the container. So you may want to pair up a few buyers in the same destination, suggest to fill up the container or collaborate with another roaster / farmers. The reason that it is best to ship a full container is that it regulates the temperature much more effectively. 

If you are a specialty coffee farmer or roaster than one option to consider is to get a refrigerated container. This helps control the temperature and moisture levels of coffee during the transportation. The reason we suggest this method for specialty coffee is because it does come at a higher price. 

All in all the best ways to ship green coffee beans is with sea freight. 

✔ It’s cheaper

✔ Able to ship larger amount

If you choose to ship roasted coffee beans via sea please do make sure: 

✔ Packaging used is airtight

✔ Packaging material is thick and durable. 

✔ You may want to pack the individual packed coffee bags into another hermetic packaging.

What’s The Best Way To Ship Green Coffee Beans - Air Freight - Coffee Culture Thailand

There is no doubt that shipping coffee via air is the fastest way but much more expensive. Air freight tends to be more reliable in terms of delivery time frame and handling. Making it the most efficient way for shipping roasted coffee beans while preserving its freshness. 

Because of the smaller capacity of planes, air freight is typically used for shipping low volume, 5 to 20 kgs, of coffee. Aside from the high shipping cost, another factor to consider is the change in air pressure. So the recommended way to package your coffee for air freight is a vacuum-sealed packaging. Also make sure to place a sticker over the degassing valves because sharp changes in pressure might damage the valve and its functionalities. Which would then cause the coffee to oxidate, making the coffee lose its freshness as well as become stale. Make sure to remove the stickers immediately once the coffee lands.

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