How Fresh is Best?

November 07, 2012

Most coffee consumers understand that the freshness of coffee is important when preparing their coffee at home.  However it is important to understand that coffee can be too fresh.  During the first 48 hours after roasting the coffee beans are ‘degassing’, this means that during this initial 2 day period the beans still contain volatile gases.  If you were to make an espresso shot within 48 hours you would notice a very voluminous and lumpy extraction, it looks impressive, however the taste comes across a lot lighter and brighter than you would have expected and the depth and fullness of the flavour is not yet apparent.  In general it is recommended to use coffee beans within 3 to 14 days after roasting. 

After 2 weeks the coffee will be past its best, the result is the reverse of fresh roasted coffee.  The flavour will be flat, dark bitter undertones become more evident, and the coffee will actually start to taste stale.  The espresso extractions will be very thin and the crema will disperse very quickly.  Environmental conditions have much to do with how long your coffee will last.  Store the coffee in a cool, dry and dark place.  I’m sure everyone now knows by now that the fridge is a big no no, the effect of condensation will spoil the coffee.  A great spot is on a low shelf in the pantry.  Keep the coffee away from units that generate heat and remember that coffee will not last as long in summer than during winter.  It is possible for coffee to maintain desirable qualities for 20 days in winter but in summer when the humidity climbs coffee life can be shortened to 10 days.

Lastly, when purchasing coffee ensure you know which day the coffee was roasted on.  Don’t settle for ‘packed on’ dates or ‘best before’ dates.  These dates can be misleading if packed well after roasting or if generous shelf life dates are allocated to the beans.  Most importantly talk to your local roaster, they are a resource of information when it comes to understanding coffee.