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New Baggers Keep Coffee Flowing at Co-Packer

Coffee Support installs two vf/f/s machines to produce pillow packs from 2.5 to 14 oz with maximum flexibility and minimal changeover time, as well as dependable support from the supplier.

The Mercury bagger is controlled by an Allen Bradley MicroLogix PLC system with a 7-in. color touchscreen.
The Mercury bagger is controlled by an Allen Bradley MicroLogix PLC system with a 7-in. color touchscreen.

Co-manufacturer/co-packer Coffee Support of Phoenix opened in 2021 as a supplier of specialty coffee products for shops wishing to scale up their business without investing in machinery, labor, or production space. Based on the custom-crush model used for wine, the company offers services that include sourcing of green coffee, roasting, cold brewing, and packing. In addition, the CM&P can help its craft coffee clients create custom blends and design and procure packaging.

Coffee Support’s reputation is built around dependability and service. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of a packaging machinery manufacturer that in fall 2021 supplied the CM&P with a vertical form/fill/seal machine. Less than a week after installation, the machine was down for maintenance, with the supplier offering no immediate options for support. Before the ink was barely dry on the contract, Coffee Support cancelled the agreement.

To find a replacement, company owner and CEO Jason Kyle and Executive Vice President Burke Hodge attended PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2021. It was here they encountered Matrix Packaging Machinery, a ProMach product brand, and its Mercury vf/f/s machine. Finding the bagger to be ideal for their requirements, Kyle and Burke purchased two units on the spot.

“The speed of the equipment was perfect for our needs,” says Kyle. “The reputation of reliability and service were also big factors in our decisions.”

Support extends to pillow packs

Coffee Support operates out of a 40,000-sq-ft facility with eight employees, running packaging equipment from a number of suppliers, including Weigh Right, Codi, and Torr Industries, among others. Its largest customer is a food distribution company doing around 800,000 lb per year of roasted coffee. Its smallest client is a startup cold-brew company doing one pallet of canned cold-brew coffee a month.

Kyle says Coffee Support was launched to address a need in the specialty coffee space for clients to scale while maintaining their craft and quality story. “Equipment and space can be expensive,” Kyle notes. “Many shops have to turn down large opportunities or risk capital. Coffee support allows any shop to take on any volume without the risk of capital or labor challenges.

Watch video    Watch this video on Coffee Support’s services.

“We are structured to act as a seamless extension to our customers’ current business,” he adds.

Coffee Support currently operates three packaging lines. The company bought the initial vf/f/s machine to produce pillow bags in sizes from 3 to 8 oz. The Matrix Mercury bagger is capable of producing pillow packs at speeds to 140/min in bag widths from 2 to 11 in. and in lengths from 3 to 15 in. on a single pull. It can also produce gusseted and flat-bottom bags and a modified Doy pouch.

‘No better fit available’ than the Mercury

In addition to its flexibility to handle a number of bag sizes—with size changeover requiring  just a “couple of turns of the dial,” according to Kyle—the Mercury offers a number of other features that make it a good fit for Coffee Support. The Mercury comes with a stainless steel frame in a small footprint that saves plant floor space and features a NEMA 4X electrical enclosure. Controlling the machine is an Allen Bradley MicroLogix PLC system with a 7-in. color touchscreen that receives and delivers signals to the complete machine and provides timing for the filling system.

According to Matrix, the bagger’s self-centering film-drive system provides precise pressure against the forming tube to allow for optimal film pull control. It also allows the forming tube to be changed without difficult and time-consuming adjustments for new bag widths and uses a single air regulator for adjustment, meaning it can be changed during machine operation.

“The Mercury is easy to use, it’s intuitive, and it’s easy to change over,” says Spencer Johnson, Western Regional Sales Manager for Matrix. “For a contract manufacturer like Coffee Support, they can switch from product to product very quickly, and they can get up and running in almost no time at a very high speed.”

Coffee Support installed two Mercury vf/f/s baggers from Matrix to produce pillow packs ranging from 2.5 to 14 oz for its craft coffee clients.Coffee Support installed two Mercury vf/f/s baggers from Matrix to produce pillow packs ranging from 2.5 to 14 oz for its craft coffee clients.As for the bagger’s film-pull and jaw-motion control, it’s controlled by Kollmorgen P7000 Micro-Stepping Hybrid drive technology, which Matrix says “assures film motion is smooth and jaw timing is accurate for maximum speed based on product and film.”

To ensure the bag is sealed correctly and that alignment is maintained, the Mercury uses Matrix’s Smart Jaw/T-Slot jaw-sealing technology. According to the company, jaw faces can be easily extracted by removing two screws for quick cleaning, maintenance, and changing out of the jaw face.

Matrix adds that other benefits of the Mercury include the placement and configuration of the film roller, which cuts down on film waste during changeover for additional savings, and the bagger’s reduced roller count, which allows for better film starting and stopping for a speed advantage. 

“The Mercury is our most popular model for these types of coffee applications [pillow packs] because it’s a tried-and-true design with years of reliable experience on its resume,” says Johnson. “The machine does not come with a lot of bells and whistles, so it’s very competitively priced. But for running items such as fractional packs for coffee, there really is no better fit available.”

Speedy delivery, easy operation

With time being of the essence, Matrix delivered the new Mercury baggers to Coffee Support at the end of October 2021, just a month after PACK EXPO Las Vegas. Both machines are outfitted with auger fillers from Spee-Dee. One of the baggers operates nine hours a day, five days a week, producing 2.5- and 3-oz pillow packs at speeds from 45 to 55 bags/min. The second machine is set up to run larger bags from 5 to 14 oz, but is used less frequently as current customer demand favors the smaller sizes. Kyle attributes this trend to the ability of the smaller pack to reduce product waste.

Watch video    Watch this video of Coffee Support’s new Matrix baggers.

According to Coffee Support Operations Assistant Alex Mason, the two Mercury baggers “are really easy to set up.” He adds, “For us, our biggest challenge in coffee is the difference in densities for every roast. So, when we’re working with a packaging piece of equipment, we can’t run by volume, we have to run by weight. But the way the Mercury is set up makes it really easy to dial in that weight quickly, and it’s really consistent.”

For the pillow packs themselves, Coffee Support uses several types of film and other material—from heavier, four-ply films to fiber papers. “After making the decision to purchase the equipment, we found the flexibility of switching packaging material to be extremely efficient,” shares Kyle. “This is important when some of our accounts are smaller than most production facilities.”

Supplier service and reliability are a must

As Coffee Support continues to expand, potentially adding an East Coast facility in the near future, Kyle says it will be important for the company to continue to align with national suppliers that place a priority on service and reliability. “Having resources that pick up the phone and call you back may not sound like a big deal these days, but it is,” he says. “We couldn’t be happier with the way things turned out. Matrix is awesome.”

Colleague and Executive Vice President Burke Hodge has been equally impressed with Matrix and with the bagging machinery it supplied. Says Burke, “If you’re looking for redundancy, if you’re looking for quality, you’re looking for time efficiency for your staff, you’re looking for programmability—all they key things that are needed in the manufacturing world—I cannot recommend Matrix highly enough.” 

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