Is your coffee too fresh?
Browse any aisle in your local supermarket and you’ll see packaging shouting about the freshness of the product inside. But while fruit and veg benefits from being used as soon as possible after picking, coffee needs a little more time to taste its best.
So, how do you know if your coffee’s too fresh? And what can you do to make sure you’re enjoying it at its best?
What does ‘fresh’ mean anyway?
Fresh coffee isn’t coffee in its just-picked state – it refers to the point after roasting when coffee is at its best – usually between four and 14 days after leaving the roastery.
While some of a coffee’s flavours and aromas are down to how and where it was grown, the roast draws out different characteristics that define how your packaged coffee tastes. And while the roasting process makes coffee beans more porous, releasing all the flavours and aromas, which makes for a great experience when you first open the bag, this also means that beans lose their flavours and aromas more quickly too.
Can I drink coffee that’s just been roasted?
You could, but it’s unlikely to be at its best. During the roasting process, the intense heat breaks down sugars and amino acids in the coffee beans into carbon dioxide. In the first few days, after roasting the CO2 trapped in the beans will affect the taste of your coffee, so it needs a few days to rest and release the gas build up. So, it’s a careful balancing act between allowing enough time for the CO2 to dissipate and not leaving the coffee so long that you lose the best of its natural flavours and aromas.
Do different roast levels affect when my coffee’s at its best?
Yes, because different roast levels affect how porous your roasted coffee will be. For darker roasts, you’ll want to start drinking your coffee just a few days after roasting. For lighter roasts, you can wait a bit longer to brew up - around five to 10 days. Dark roasts spend longer in the roaster, making them more porous, which means flavours and aromas will start to escape more quickly too.
Does how I brew my coffee make a difference to how fresh my coffee needs to be?
If you’re using drip or pour over brewing methods, you can start using your coffee a little sooner, but you’ll want to wait until the optimum time for espresso coffees. As espresso coffees are often dark roasts, there’s likely to be a lot of oil on the surface of a just-out-of-the-roaster bean, which can make for an unpleasant taste if used too soon.
Can I still use coffee outside of the freshness window?
You can but again, your coffee won’t be at its best. Most coffees start to lose their flavour after two to three weeks, so while it’s safe to drink coffee for up to six months, you won’t get the same great brewing experience you had when you first brought it home. Some supermarket coffees will have been roasted weeks, if not months before you buy them, and once you’ve tried a roasters best fresh coffee, you may notice that off-the-shelf coffee just doesn’t do it for you.
Want to learn more about what makes our coffee taste so good? Have a look at our other blogs to learn everything there is to know about coffee.