When it comes to your coffee beans,
the fresher the better, right?
Well, yes, but also a big fat no.
There’s a commonly held misconception that beans are their very best – and freshest – straight after roasting but it’s not entirely accurate. When it comes to getting the best out of your beans, there are some pretty strong guidelines to stick to for optimising on their freshness.
Here’s everything you need to know.
First Things First: Why Does it Matter?
You might be wondering if all this buzz around ‘freshness’ is really as big a deal as everyone says.
The short answer: yes.
The longer answer: taste.
Fresh is better – and we’re not just referring to coffee. Think of a delicious cake, whatever type of cake is your favourite cake. Think about it having just been made that morning. It’s still moist, maybe a little warm from the oven. The filling or icing is still sweet and the right side of sticky. Delicious!
Now compare that to a slice of the same cake two weeks later.
Not so appetising right?
Coffee beans are the same(ish, we’ll get to that). With fresher coffee, you can truly pick out all of the distinct flavour notes that you just wouldn’t find in older coffee – berries, hazelnut, a little hint of cocoa. If that all sounds new to you, it’s clear there’s a fresh change to be made. Pun intended.
So, What Does Fresh Mean?
For optimal freshness and drinking time, it’s generally recommended that beans are their best for around 15 days after they’ve been roasted. Your beans will still stay pretty tasty for up to 30 days after roasting, but after this point, they tend to lose a lot of flavour and are generally considered ‘stale’.
It’s those first 15 days after the roast that you’ll really be getting the most out of your beans and all the flavour notes they have to offer.
Is There Such a Thing as Too Fresh?
We’re so glad you asked. The answer to this one is an emphatic yes.
A little known process following the roasting process is the degassing process. This is an incredibly important part of ensuring you get the most out of your beans, and it’s something that many outside of the industry aren’t too familiar with.
Degassing, as the more astute of you may have guessed, is the process of gases being released from the roasted coffee beans. When you roast coffee different gases form inside the bean – including carbon dioxide. These gases need to be released in the first few days after roasting.
To do this, roasters let the beans ‘rest’. Like a little coffee bean nap after all that intense roasting action. Around 40% of the carbon dioxide is released on the first day after roasting through this process.
How Long Does Degassing Take?
Generally, this process can take between 3-5 days, depending on the bean, but there are many other factors that impact this process too. Every coffee is different, and the brewing method and roast profile all need to be taken into account to ensure the consumer gets the most from the beans.
Not allowing appropriate time for this can result in incredibly disappointing brews. If you try to brew immediately after roasting, the gases will still try to escape, resulting in air bubbles and pockets that disrupt the contact between the coffee grounds and the water.
The result? An uneven extraction of flavour and aroma, and an incredibly disappointing coffee taste experience.
How Can You Tell if Your Beans are Fresh and Degassed?
Another little known process you might not have come across is ‘the bloom’.
While the degassing process is essential for helping to disperse some of the carbon dioxide and other gases, a little bit of carbon dioxide is a good thing. The right amount prevents the coffee from going stale and flat.
The bloom process helps this. It’s where you put a small amount of hot water in your ground coffee before brewing. When you do this, you’ll notice a few bubbles emerging – that’s the remaining carbon dioxide being released and indicates that the beans are fresh and ready for brewing.
If the beans haven’t been degassed properly, you’ll notice a much larger ‘bloom’, and it’s likely the ground coffee will bubble over in a fizzy coffee mess.
No bloom at all, however, indicates older beans that could be past their optimal freshness consumption period.
Of course, a quick way to tell how fresh your beans are is to check the roast date.
The Importance of ‘Roast Dates’
A good quality roaster will always put the roast date on their packaged beans.
This helps you ascertain when they were roasted, and keep an estimation of how long their optimum freshness should be for, ensuring you get the most out of them. Roasters won’t sell beans before they’re gone through the appropriate degassing process, it’s safe to assume your packaged beans are ready and waiting for you to make your perfect brew with them.
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