Fresh ain’t best

It’s true.
super fresh coffee is not awesome.

Let me explain.

Freshness in food is obviously desired.
Look in the refrigerator crisper to see how unappealing old fruit and veg is.

The problem comes in when we transfer this logic to roasted coffee.

For a really long time large, industrial manufactures were your only option for coffee. Their product could be found on supermarket shelves with a ‘best before’ rather then a ‘roast’ date. The recommended ‘best before’ on coffee is 12 months.

Yep, you can expect your coffee to be up to 12 months old when you buy it from the supermarket.

Smaller companies saw the opportunity to push the ‘freshness’ buzzword in their marketing and thus optimal freshness became an important factor in the consumers mind.
The problem is we have gone too far.

Super fresh coffee is not pleasant.


Before I got into roasting, I believed that the fresher the coffee was the better.
This lasted up until my first roast ever. I brewed a coffee straight out of the cooling tray,

It tasted metallic, unpleasantly mineral like, lacked body and kinda sucked. I was devastated and set the coffee aside, never to see the light of day.

I did however continue to taste this coffee. After 4 days, this coffee was defiantly better. By 10, it was really yummy.

Why?

The roasting process is violent. The coffee bean will expand by 100% and loose 15% of it’s weight. Amino acids react with sugars as they caramelise, causing the coffee to change colour (thanks Maillard). These extreme changes in form and structure require time for the reactions to settle after roasting

In all honesty though, I’m not entirely sure why. This is only a hypothesis.

In my experience though, coffee that was roasted 7 days ago, will taste noticeably more balanced than a fresh batch. This coffee will continue to improve up to 14 days, whereby it will slowly diminish over the course of the next 30, finally leaving us with a flavour profile that after a month will continue to get more and more bland and boring, and harder to get a tasty espresso shot.

So, I may have been a bit misleading in my title.
Coffee that is 12 months old won’t be great, but neither will coffee that is fresh off the flame.
When brewing coffee, try getting something that is a week from roasting and use it up by week 3.

Believe me, it will be better.

Ryan Toleman