Can coffee be too fresh?
When it comes to the subject of the freshness of coffee, there are mixed messages on this subject. Some people say "the fresher the better". We discuss how time can impact the quality of your cup of coffee.
WHAT HAPPENS TO COFFEE AFTER ROASTING?
STAGE 1 - DEGASSING
When coffee has only just been roasted, the process of 'degassing' begins. Degassing is the CO2 being released from the beans. This happens at a fairly aggressive rate as soon as the beans have been roasted and can happen for for up to a week.
WHAT HAPPENS TO COFFEE WHEN IT STILL DEGASSING?
Due to the aggressive degassing process during the first week after roast, the coffee is constantly changing and going through an unsettled period.
This can cause havoc on anyone 'dialling in' or to put it simply 'adjusting settings' on their grinder and espresso machine to achieve a good extraction. It causes uneven and unpredictable extractions due to the unsettled state of the beans. The settings will need to be changed constantly which is a barista's worst nightmare. You may find that day 3 is much different to day 2, day 4 is different to day 3 etc.
DEGASSING CAN HAVE A NEGATIVE IMPACT ON FLAVOUR
Before the vigorous degassing process finishes, there are still high levels of CO2 in the coffee beans. CO2 can mask some of the flavours and the complex notes and sweetness will not yet be developed. Therefore, the coffee will not yet be at its peak flavour or freshness.
STAGE 2 - OXIDATION
After the initial degassing process, coffee is exposed to oxygen and over time, it will result in coffee going stale. You can reduce the oxidisation rate by appropriately storing your coffee beans. Most coffee is packaged in bags with one way valves. This valve system allows the CO2 to degass and leave the bag but it prevents oxygen getting into the bag.
Every time the bag is opened and closed however, the coffee will be exposed and the oxidisation process is inevitable, even if at a very slow rate.
WHEN IS COFFEE AT IT'S BEST?
At day 7 (7 days after roast), the aggressive degassing process has taken place. However, before excessive oxidation set's in, the coffee is at it's peak and tasting it's best. At this stage, you should be able to taste all the complex flavours and sweet notes from the coffee beans. The coffee is settled and no longer changing state (due to the degassing process) so 'dialling in' (i.e. setting your grinder settings) should be easy and consistent on a daily basis from day 7.
The coffee beans should stay fresh and stable for the next few weeks, providing the beans are stored in an air-tight container and in a cool and dark location.
After a month or so, as the coffee is exposed to more oxygen over time, those complex flavours, intricacy's and characteristics start to fade. This is a gradual process and is what is also known as coffee 'staling'. This will become more evident in lighter to medium roasts where the flavours are more complex and sweet, compared to the darker roasts.
Despite this, coffee does actually have a long shelf life of around a year. The majority of coffee drinkers may not actually notice the taste of stale coffee and will be perfectly happy drinking coffee that was roasted four months ago. This may not be the case for the coffee connoisseurs out there.
An average coffee drinker may buy a bag of coffee from a supermarket or convenience store where the bag has been stored for months. However, for those that have a delicate palette and are really into their coffee, these beans would likely taste very stale. Luckily, in the UK there are so many roasters popping up and coffee shops now storing 'freshly roasted' retail bags that we no longer have to put up with stale coffee.
To summarise, coffee is at its peak in terms of freshness and flavour from day 7 to day 30 after being roasted. Unlike supermarket coffee, here at Maverick Coffee Co, our coffee is always freshly roasted and we allow the coffee to sit and degass for a few days before sending it out to customers, so it arrives through your letterbox ready to dial in and enjoy.