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What is “Fresh” Coffee?

By: Elika Liftee & Lance Hedrick


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These are general guidelines to help you understand and predict how your coffee will act as it ages. There are many factors that can affect your final cup, including and not limited to: Coffee Origin, Coffee Varietal, Coffee Quality, Roast Level, Green Coffee Age, Brewing Techniques, and more.

The Density Rules: Light roasted coffee and high elevation coffee (>1200masl) are more dense and less porous than your average coffee. This means the aging process as described below could occur at a slower rate. While dark roasted coffee and low elevation coffee (<1200masl) are less dense, more porous, and more oil rich. This leads to faster degassing and oxidation compared to your average coffee, causing the processes described below to happen at a faster rate.

What is fresh coffee?
Fresh coffee is whole bean coffee within 2 weeks of the roast date. Ex. A bag of coffee roasted on 12/14 is still “fresh” on 12/27.

Does fresh coffee taste best?
Yes and no. Coffee generally reaches optimal flavor potential between 48hrs after roasting and up to 1 month after roasting.

What makes an optimal cup?
Your Optimal Cup will have the greatest balance of Aroma, Acidity, Sweetness, Body, and Bitterness.

Essentially, it’s the cup that tastes best!
While freshness is a good gauge of your cup's potential aroma, there are many more factors to take into account to achieve your optimal flavor experience.

How does freshness affect Aroma and overall flavor?
The volatile aromatic compounds found in your coffee are carried by the carbon dioxide found in the plant. CO2 is increased in the bean during the roasting process by breaking down sugars and amino acids. In the coffee brewing process CO2 is an extraction barrier and too much can yield an aromatic, but underwhelming cup.
Resting your coffee at least 48hrs will ensure your coffee has had time to degas and allow a more flavorful extraction.
Your coffee should “bloom” during pour over brewing, or have a noticeable crema during espresso brewing if it is gaseous and aromatic. If it is not, then you can expect a stale and boring cup of coffee.

How does freshness affect Acidity and overall flavor?
As your coffee degasses you will begin to increase the amount of acids you can extract from your coffee. This will begin to rise as your coffee degasses and generally peaks near 2 weeks after roast date. From this point oxidation and decomposition will begin to reduce the amount of simple and complex acids available in the bean, and therefore the perceived acidity in your cup.
Higher elevation coffees and high quality coffees with high acidity content can both peak and degrade at a slower rate.

How does freshness affect Sweetness and overall flavor?
After your coffee degasses you can extract the more complex compounds like sugars into your cup. You will notice a significant increase in overall sweetness after at least 48hrs from roast date.
The perceived sweetness in your cup will peak after your acidity begins to break down. In other words your best balance of acidity and sweetness will generally be at or around 10-14 days after roasting. As acidity degrades at a faster rate than sugars, you will notice your perceived sweetness increase even as your acidity lowers past the 14 day mark.

How does freshness affect Body and overall flavor?
Body refers to the oils and insoluble materials that contribute to the texture of your cup of coffee. Think of words like smooth, silky, gritty, or tea-like.
Oils and insoluble are less affected by the CO2 barrier and will be influenced more by your roast level and brewing decisions. So, as your coffee ages the amount of oils and insoluble available remain relatively constant.
Oils oxidize rather quickly and contribute to some of the rancid, bland, and bitter flavor of coffee over that age of 14 days off of roast. Although, this process can happen more quickly or slowly depending on your coffee storage habits. Essentially, the less your coffee is exposed to oxygen, moisture, and the environment, the slower your coffee will oxidize.
Oxidation is a problem that cannot be undone or mitigated by any brewing techniques.

How does freshness affect Bitterness and overall flavor?
Coffee is considered inherently bitter, but there are good bitters and bad bitters, it all comes down to balance. Ex. Milk chocolate is a common flavor not in coffee, but in a cup lacking sweetness and body that chocolate note will turn to drying cocoa powder.
Coffee that has not degassed properly will lack sweetness and acidity, but will have a higher perceived bitterness. Allowing your coffee to lose CO2 will increase the perceived acidity and sugar in your cup and help balance with bitterness.
While bitterness is predominantly affected by roast level and extraction percentage, oxidized coffee will be perceived as more bitter or rancid flavors.
Bitterness is easier to balance in your cup during peak acidity and sweetness period. Generally 10-14 days off of roast.

When should I brew my coffee as Filter?
Filter brews can be brewed as early as 48hrs after roasting, but can be expected to be optimal between 8-14 days after roasting.

When should I brew my coffee as Espresso?
Espresso brewing requires a longer resting period to achieve optimal and consistent results. As a fast brew method, it is more susceptible to the degassing process. You will notice consistent and flavorful espresso brews between 10-14 days after roasting.

How should I store my coffee?

The goal of coffee storage is to decrease the rate of oxidation, this means we are trying to limit the environmental exposure to our beans.

Keep your coffee whole bean. Whole bean coffee is less porous and has less surface area than ground coffee, this will slow oxidation overall.

Keep your coffee in a cool, dry, and dark environment. Heat, moisture, and light will speed the oxidation process of your coffee. Cutting off those factors will increase the life of your whole bean coffee.

Vacuum sealing. Vacuum sealing containers are an excellent way to store your coffee, with greater elimination of oxygen, so long as you follow the other guides this will greatly increase the life and optimal range of your whole bean coffee.

Vacuum packs. Vacuum sealing machines are more aggressive in their vacuuming and can increase the degassing process. This does, however, further slow the oxidation process. The downside of vacuum sealing machines is the loss of CO2 and aroma in your final cup.

Freezing your coffee. We only recommend freezing your coffee if it is either vacuum sealed, or in small airtight containers. Any moisture in your container, or the coffee itself, will crystalize and break apart the cell structure of your coffee. This can potentially cause an inconsistent grind profile and faster oxidation once thawed. In single serve or vacuum containers, freezing can stall the aging process. Ex. If you rest your coffee for 11 days and believe that is optimal, then freezing will stall the coffee as it is at the 11 day mark. However, due to the breakdown of the cell structure it is recommended to grind while frozen and brew immediately, once thawed your coffee will degas and oxidize at a rapid rate.

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Drink coffee with hands bad! Mugs work great though.