It’s obvious. You know that in order to make a balanced cup of coffee, you need fresh coffee beans. But what does “fresh” even mean and how do you make sure you are actually getting it?
1. Look for the Roasted-On Date
Did you know that coffee can be too fresh? If you were to drink your coffee as soon as it was roasted, it would have an astringent feeling and unpleasant taste. That’s because when coffee is roasted, gasses (mostly carbon dioxide) form inside the coffee bean. Over the next few days that carbon dioxide (CO2) begins to escape, rapidly creating an uneven flavor extraction. This negatively affects the taste of the coffee… remember, we’re looking for a balanced cup. It can take several days to over a week for coffee to degas. That’s why roasters will typically let their roasted coffee rest for a few days before selling. It’s also why you see degassing valves like these on coffee packaging.
So, fresher coffee is NOT always best.
As carbon dioxide escapes the coffee beans, it’s replaced by oxygen (this is called oxidation). And oxygen is what causes your coffee to lose its aromatics (the smell of the coffee releasing gasses) and go stale. The length of time can vary by coffee (darker roasts tend to go stale quicker), but a good rule of thumb is that peak coffee flavor will last from around four to six weeks from the roast date if properly stored. Specialty coffee roasters will have a “roasted on” date on the bag, so that you can determine how fresh your coffee really is. Pay extra attention to this date to make sure your coffee hasn’t been sitting on a shelf for several weeks.
Note: coffee is certainly safe to drink for much longer than four to six weeks after the roast date. It just won’t taste as good as it certainly won’t be at its best flavor.
Peak coffee flavor is roughly from one to six weeks after the roast date, otherwise you probably aren’t getting the full flavors and brightness of the coffee.
One other thing to consider is the freshness of the green coffee beans before they are roasted. If green beans have been sitting in storage or have spent a long time being transported, this can negatively impact the flavor once they are roasted. This aged coffee is usually referred to as “old crop” and has a woody and stale flavor. Consider buying coffee roasted near the coffee farm and shipped directly to you. This reduces the chances of those green beans sitting around for too long.
2. Grind for Each Use
Once a bag of ground coffee is opened, its peak flavor will only last for a few hours (some will argue only minutes). That’s because once coffee is ground, gas starts rapidly leaving your beans, causing your coffee to go stale soon after. It essentially hyper-expedites the oxidation process we talked about above. This is why we highly recommend buying whole beans over ground. Ground beans are meant to be enjoyed right away, while whole beans last much longer. Buy whole beans, invest in a coffee grinder, and grind your beans right before you use them. That’s how you ensure you are getting the best flavor.
3. Store in an Airtight Container
When it comes to peak freshness, storing your coffee beans in the original packing it was shipped in isn’t ideal. In order to keep your beans tasting fresher longer, store them in a sealed airtight container at room temperature. As we know, air (as well as light, heat and moisture) will oxidize your coffee, degrading the flavor. So keep your beans safe, away from the oven and sunlight, in a solid reusable canister like this:
While storing coffee in the freezer can preserve coffee, it does affect the taste and we don’t recommend it.
To make sure you are getting that perfect, balanced cup of coffee, check that your coffee is fresh and at the apex of its flavor by doing the following: 1. Purchasing specialty whole coffee beans that have been roasted in the past couple weeks. 2. Storing them in an opaque airtight canister away from light and heat. 3. Grinding your beans per use and drinking right away.
Fresh Means a New Way to Think of Local Coffee
The easiest way to make sure you always have the freshest coffee is to have it delivered to your doorstep every month directly from the source. Gento coffee is roasted in the same country that our farmers grow it: Guatemala. It’s freshly roasted and then shipped directly to you. Your coffee doesn’t grow stale in the hands of a middle man or from sitting on a grocery store shelf. When you think about fresh, local coffee, think about coffee that is roasted by the farmers. Traceable farm-to-cup coffee, as fresh as it gets!