Brew Guide: Coffee Freshness
So you’ve just received your bag of newly roasted coffee and you’re not sure how long it will stay fresh or when the best time to enjoy it will be. Don’t worry. Sometimes it’s not an exact science but we have got you covered!
Coffee Freshness Cheat Sheet
- Buy your coffee as fresh as you can. (We’ve got you here!)
- Drink your coffee over the 4 weeks following its roast date.
- Filter coffees reach their peak flavour after the first 7 days.
- Espresso coffee gets better extraction after a couple of weeks.
- Use the beans immediately after you’ve ground them to avoid rapid oxidation.
- Keep your coffee out of UV light, in a cool, dry place.
- Store the beans in a sealed container (original bag if possible).
- Remove all the air from the container after opening it.
- Avoid buying in bulk if you’re not going to use it quickly.
- Don’t store your coffee in the fridge, it doesn’t like moisture!
Let’s start with what happens to the beans during roasting
Beans go through so much during their lifespan from farm to cup. It makes you wonder, why does coffee start losing its freshness after it's been through the roasting process? To understand this you’re going to have to dig deeper into what’s actually happening to the coffee beans while they’re roasting.
We asked Tim Varney from Stella Coffee to help shed some light on the subject - here is what we learned:
During the roasting process, the structure of the bean cell wall is changing from strong and rigid to brittle and weak. This occurs because the heat builds pressure inside the bean itself, filling it up with gas and getting the bean to a point where it will grind easily and extract well. This is the whole point of roasting – to preserve origin characteristics and to make it easy for us to extract the coffee. Yum!
But how does coffee lose its freshness?
After roasting, the coffee is packaged and sent to your doorstep. Unfortunately, the clock is ticking! A roasted coffee bean's main challenges are oxygen, time, and temperature. Three variables that you simply can’t avoid.
Challenge #1: Oxygen
Before the beans are roasted, the tough exterior is actually protecting the bean from oxygen. After roasting, the exterior is broken down and oxygen is allowed to come in contact with the bean, making it unstable. Once oxygen comes into contact with the roasted bean it immediately starts losing its freshness.
Challenge #2: Temperature
It’s very important to store your fresh coffee somewhere cool and dry. Unfortunately, storing it in the fridge is no good because once you take it out of the fridge the beans will perspire, thanks to temperature variation and condensation. Also, make sure it’s not exposed to light or UV rays as it tends to oxidize surface oils faster, shortening the freshness period.
Challenge #3: Time
This is the variable that everyone’s most worried about! But it might be the one the coffee has the best chance to overcome, with a little help from us coffee lovers of course.
Are those beans you’ve had stored in the cupboard for 5 weeks still good to use? It depends! Using coffee straight away isn’t always or necessarily the best idea and according to some roasters we work with certain blends, roasts or profiles might be better weeks later as nature takes its course. This is often, and especially, the case with specialty grade beans and artisan crafts of roasting. But be careful! This is never the case if you are getting pre-ground coffee and it is not stored properly.
One final note – coffee that’s too fresh can taste fizzy and bland which can take away from the beautiful sweetness it’s supposed to have.
With espresso beans, it’s a lot easier to use them after a couple of weeks when the coffee has degassed, meaning most of the CO2 is gone. The reason for this is it will be easier to dial in your coffee and you’ll have to adjust less from there than you would with super fresh coffee day to day.
Filter roast coffees are easier to play with as you can see the coffee degassing as you bloom. Filter coffees are interesting to try from 7 days after roast and usually tend to change subtly day to day for the next 3 weeks.
Advice from the experts:
“We’ve grasped that well made bread goes stale the following day, nobody wants to eat a donut from the day before as they’ve both deteriorated quickly. Thankfully, coffee staling is a much slower process, but we’ve probably shot ourselves in the foot a little by making such a fuss about it - claiming coffee is totally dead after exactly 13 days and 7 hours, and falling over ourselves to store in bags with “one way” valves, etc, etc. It’s simple really, buy local and fresh, and only as much as you’ll need for the next couple of weeks.” – Tim Varney for Stella Coffee
How fresh is Thieves coffee?
We make sure your coffee always arrives at your door as fresh as possible! Every roaster we feature roasts as close to the shipment, where it arrives in our warehouse and in the next 1-3 days at your door (usually depending on your location, shipping time and weekends). Depending on where you live, the time spent in transit is usually the natural coffee degassing period, making it ideal to drink as soon as it arrives. The coffee degassing period is also why your coffee bags are sometimes puffed up. This is completely normal and all part of coffee's natural cycle.
We hope you have enjoyed this primer on coffee freshness and wish you all happy sipping!