Let's Talk About: 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 it’s sometimes not an exact science but we’ve got you covered!
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’s what we learned:
During the roasting process the structure of the bean cell wall changes 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!
“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 quick smart. 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 few weeks.” – Tim Varney for Stella Coffee
But how does coffee lose its freshness?
After roasting, the coffee is packaged and sent to your doorstep quick smart. 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 many 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 vs. investing in a grinder and grinding well kept beans yourself. There is more to this, coffee that’s too fresh can taste fizzy and bland which can take away from the beautiful sweetness it’s meant 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 c02 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 3-5 weeks.
“Ideally it is shipped in a resealable airtight bag. If not, transfer the beans to an airtight canister, preferably one that has a one way valve. Without the valve the pressure will build and the lid will pop off from the outgassing. Keep it cool, dry and out of direct sunlight. The best way to preserve coffee for extended times is to freeze it, however it can only be defrosted once. So, if you aren’t going to use the whole batch each time you should store it in individual use bags. Preferably vacuum sealed to remove any moisture in its environment which can cause freezer burn.” – Andrea Simon for Criteria 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, Australia Post 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!