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Does it matter if my coffee beans are fresh?

by Dom Majdandzic 31 Aug 2018
A little while back we asked our customers to tell us what they wanted to know about making coffee at home. We’ve received some great questions, which has inspired numerous blog posts and What Would Dom Do episodes. Likewise, the following question asked by Wade has also been turned into an article and a WWDD episode. Wade asks,

Does it matter if my coffee beans are fresh?

Now before we dive into this question, keep in mind our number one goal is to keep coffee special. Specialty coffee is about experiencing the coffee for all its beauty and uncovering wonderful nuances and intricacies imparted by nature. As we’ve seen throughout the WWDD episodes, there are many aspects to keeping coffee special, and a key contributor is to use fresh-roasted beans. So my quick answer is yes freshness does matter and we should aim to brew our coffee within 4 weeks of it’s roast date. I elaborate on this and share a few more tips in the following article and short video below.

Watch the video

Five simple rules to keep coffee special

Here are five rules that will help you keep your coffee fresh and special, day in day out.

Rule 1: Buy small portions

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There’s no need to stockpile coffee. I’ve noticed some people buy a large amount of coffee to last for a month or longer. Instead, it’s best to buy small portions. This is one key reason why retail bags are usually between 200 - 250g. Ours sit in the middle at 225g. The rule of thumb is to think about how much coffee you’ll drink over the next week and only buy that much.

The impact of CO2 on espresso brewing

If you stockpile coffee for a month, the difference between week 1 and week 4 will be significant. Week 1 to 4 will vary greatly as the CO2 in coffee, which we see in the cup as crema, will dissipate over time. CO2 also reacts as a resistance in espresso brewing. So you will notice that the coffee in week 4 will run much faster than week 1 if you make no grind changes. As the coffee ages the CO2 decreases, which will yield an espresso with a lighter crema. At times you will also notice that it is watery. If you're after a thick, golden crema, you will need to use fresher coffee, grind finer, buy a darker roast, or check the amount you are dosing.

Rule 2: Grind on demand

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If you want to get the best out of your coffee at home, grind on demand. Not only is the release of flavour better, but the brewing will be more consistent. When you break down the cell walls of the coffee through grinding, you release CO2, as it is no longer trapped inside the bean. It is now exposed to oxygen and will dissipate fast. And remember that CO2 contributes to that rich golden crema.

Rule 3: Don’t store coffee in the fridge

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Don't store coffee in the fridge or in the freezer. Your coffee is better stored in a common household pantry, which is dark, moderate and devoid of moisture. Coffee absorbs flavours from its immediate environment. So if it is close to yoghurt, or meat, or pad thai leftovers, it can absorb all those flavours.

Rule 4: Filter brewed coffee is more tolerant

 Filter brewed coffee is less dependant on CO2. So to all my filter pals out there, y’all know that you can drink your coffee much older than an espresso roasted coffee. The impact of CO2 is far less important for filter brewing. Filter brewing does not require resistance from hydraulic expansion that occurs in espresso brewing, and therefore is less impacted by loss of CO2. At White Horse coffee we roast our filter coffees a fraction lighter than espresso. This means there is less impact on the coffee at the roasting stage, therefore retaining more of the internal fibre and gas in the coffee. Hence it is able to be stored and served longer. Think of it like Chinese fried ice cream. If you cook it just right, it's still frozen and can stay intact for several minutes. If you overcook it, ever-so-slightly, the ice cream starts to melt.

Rule 5: Find your own way

 When I was first in coffee the trend was basically roast and drink. Baristas and coffee toffs were all about straight from roaster to grinder to brew and drink. Nowadays with major improvements in farming, processing, roasting, understanding of ageing, and so on, we are seeing coffee brewed and served much older. It’s important to find what you like. Take advice and read articles like this, but at the end of the day find your own way of enjoying coffee. I don't want to tell you how to enjoy coffee - 'do this, don't do that' etc. Rather, I encourage you to shape your own journey and taste the difference. And if we can help you along the path, happy days! Dom

Dom T
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