Coffee – Freshness Tips
For the freshest possible coffee the ideal is to obtain unroasted beans, then roast and grind on the same day you plan to brew.
Roasting beans is, however, something of a ‘cooking’ specialty. Unless you’re willing to invest in a fairly expensive piece of equipment, the results are often less than satisfactory. Not to mention that – even when done correctly – it can fill the house with odors that take time to dissipate and can become annoying.
Beans, even after roasting, will stay fresh for a while. Freshly roasted beans naturally release small amounts of carbon dioxide which helps to keep oxygen away from the bean, delaying spoilage. If stored in an airtight container, especially with a drying agent, they’ll retain their good flavor and aroma for up to a week.
Naturally, the closer to roasting they’re ground and consumed the fresher they’ll be. But even after a few days they can still produce a stellar grind and a superior brew. After two weeks the flavor may still be acceptable, even though aroma will no longer be first rate. Whole bean coffeestored at even optimum conditions will be dull after a month.
Key to getting a good cup from purchased roasted beans is to ensure that the skin is unbroken. When that happens, all bets are off. Oils underneath the skin and inside the bean will deteriorate unless frozen, in which case the brew will never be first rate.
When storing beans, be sure to use an airtight container. A glass jar of the type used for instant tea grounds is tempting, but inadequate – there is still too much leakage around the lid. A good glass jar with a rubber seal is best. Many online vendors sell just the ticket. Be sure to store the jar in a cool, dark place since not only air, but also heat and light can contribute to spoiling beans.
Even better, but more expensive, are containers which flush air with an inert gas, then inject the coffee beans which then give off CO2, providing natural protection against spoilage. Beans stored in this way can keep their freshness for several weeks.
The next best thing to home roasting, and an option open even to those with less than stellar cooking skills is grinding at home.
Good grinders are available at moderate prices, are generally easy to use and are not difficult to clean. Many are automated to the point that with very minor experimentation, it’s possible to arrive at consistently good grinds.
Since grinding necessarily breaks the bean skin the same ‘oil spoilage’ problem can arise if the grind isn’t used within a few days. Like roasted beans, only more so, any grounds not consumed within a day should be packed in a desiccating cannister. Those cannisters contain a drying agent, usually beneath a mesh at the bottom, that keep moisture from introducing mold or excess oxygen into the grounds.
If not stored in a desiccating cannister, grounds will lose much flavor within a few hours. Oils will evaporate and, exposed to the air and moisture within the jar, the grounds will deteriorate.
For a superior cup, grind only what you intend to brew and drink everything brewed within an hour. With modern, moderate cost machines there’s no longer any reason to suffer second-rate coffee.