24 Jul Freshness matters: How to find and store coffee beans for maximum taste
As you know from our recent post, the type of grinder you use will make a difference in how your coffee tastes. But – grinding coffee the correct way for the type of drink created alone won’t make coffee taste good.
Fresh beans, a fresh roast, and correct packaging are crucial for a delicious cup.
Knowing if a coffee is fresh takes an understanding of a few key factors.
Most people look for some kind of date stamped on the bag. I’ve seen dates on bags showing: “roasted on” – “good through” – “purchase by”. Here at Rubicon, we use the “roasted on” date on our bags because it allows you to easily calculate how long ago the coffee was roasted.
While this a good place to start, these dates only address the actual roasting of the green bean.
Another freshness factor: the age of the green beans.
Green beans are generally harvested once per year, though there are some areas in the world that have multiple harvests per year. Stored correctly, green beans can last up to two years before roasting. Green beans LOVE a dry area (like Western Colorado).
Since we produce coffee in small batches, our green beans are the ‘current harvest’ so they are always fresh!
What can you do to maintain freshness?
Grinding ONLY the amount of beans needed for your brew each time you brew is best. Keep the remaining beans in whole bean form until you’re ready to brew again. It’s amazing what this small difference will make to a cup of coffee.
Roasted beans HATE light and air, so it’s best to keep your beans in a sealed container (or bag) and in a dark place. Your kitchen cabinet is likely okay.
Our compostable bags have a ‘one way valve’ that allows you to squeeze the air out of the bag once you’ve removed the ones you’re grinding, keeping your beans fresher.
Freshness is definitely important when it comes to coffee! If you want the best cup, it’s important to have freshly roasted coffee from a roastery using fresh green beans – and to brew your coffee immediately after grinding it.
In the earlier days of the U.S. specialty coffee business, coffee roasters started talking about freshness and how important it was to fine tasting coffee. However, there weren’t the scientific methods developed yet to really determine freshness.
Since those days, much has taken place to look closely at freshness.
The Specialty Coffee Association has contributed a lot to our understanding of freshness. Temperature, moisture, and oxygen are the three top drivers that speed up the ‘staling’ of coffee.
We can generally state that higher temperatures accelerate the staling process, while lower temperatures do the opposite. That’s why you want to store coffee in a cool place.
An increase in moisture in roasted coffee beans will speed up oxidation – something that makes coffee stale. Some roasters use water at the end of their roast to slow exothermic reactions to the coffee. There could be a staleness issue when using this process.
Also, when roasted beans are not packed in a sealed bag and are stored in a humid environment, they’ll likely become stale.
Finally, exposing roasted coffee beans to oxygen is probably the most significant factor in making coffee stale. Some research suggests that even a 1 percent increase in oxyygen can result in a 10 percent increase in degradation!
Source: Cardelli, C. & T. P Labuza, Application of Weilbull Hazard Analysis… (2001), 34, 273-278
Many studies have shown that certain actions taken during the roasting process will produce a fresher tasting cup.
Those actions are:
• Packaging coffee as soon as possible after roasting in order to keep it fresh.
• Using nitrogen flushing processes – also known as ‘off-gassing’
• Minimizing the effects of temperature and moisture on roasted coffee
• Using proper packaging processes
At Rubicon Roasting, we package our coffee immediately after we let it off-gas right out of the roaster.
We also use sealed bags with one way valves in them, allowing further off-gassing to take place in the bag as necessary.
Now you’ve been able to read a BUNCH about keeping coffee fresh – bringing awesome tasting coffee right to you. And yet we’ve only scratched the surface.
Do you have any lingering questions about freshness?
Have you ever noticed a big difference in taste with a super-fresh cup of coffee?
Tell us in the comments!