Coffee Freshness Matters
I've been in the coffee business for years and one of the first things I was taught at Starbucks was how freshness impacts taste. It seems so basic but today freshness is often sacrificed so roasters can stock up on their inventory levels. Due to fast expansion this is the way to keep costs down but taste is lost along the way to big profits.
To me fresh roasted coffee is like a fresh baguette v/s sliced bread. Gone are the days when customers ask, when was this coffee roasted? We used to train the staff religiously to rotate the bags based on roast date. They knew exactly when the coffees were roasted and so did the customers. We did not sell pre-bagged coffees, we scooped fresh. Fresh roasted coffee came into the first stores 3 times a week.
Most people don't understand how fast coffee stales and turns rancid. Taste is sacrificed. This is why I decided to go to a small company in the Northwest to roast my private labeled coffee, Dawn's Blend. I'm buying from people that roast fresh and ship within 24hrs. Your beans are never older than 7-days which means from roasting to delivery. For me, if I can't ship fresh why bother being in the business. If I want to make it rich I can't do it this way, but silly me I can't help but want freshness first.
I bet most of you notice the taste difference in your newly purchased beans after several days. We are paying the highest prices ever for supposedly fresh coffee but it's old the moment we receive it. Notice the 'best buy' dates on the coffee bags but that doesn't tell you the actual 'roast date'. Sometimes there's only a code and if you ask any barista the date of the coffee I bet they answer 99% of time, "I don't know'. It's just not important anymore but we consumers can change that.
Since old stale coffee will not make you sick, according to the FDA and local Health Departments, they don't bother policing the dates on coffee. Frankly, they don't get it either. Coffee's delicate oils are packed with flavor and antioxidants but have serious health concerns when they are allowed to stale. Your health and the rancid coffee oils are probably up for debate by health gurus who did their homework. If you haven't heard about the issues with rancid oils like olive oil you should probably get educated as. This is just one article from Dr. Andrew Weil that scares me big time about rancidity in oils. He doesn't refer to coffee in this article but this applies to any oils in foods.
I just think we should demand to know 'roast dates' and insist on coffees that are no older than 3-weeks in a 'Flavor Lock' bag. These bags have that little one-way valve that allows gases to escape but stops oxygen from permeating the coffee, which causes it to stale rapidly. These are definitely not fool proof and stop working once the bag is opened. When these bags were first brought to market 30-years ago the standard used by serious specialty coffee companies was 30-days shelf life. Now it is often 6-months or more. This is why I equate this to 'sliced bread'. Yes, it looks like coffee and some aroma is still present but it definitely doesn't taste the same as the fresh roasted beans. You really notice it if you make espresso as the crema is flat. In French Press coffeemakers it just doesn't foam up as much. This is a clear indicator of 'dead' coffee. Notice how the coffee changes and gets flatter each day from the time you opened it. The volatile oils, where you get aroma and taste, are lost in the air. If you buy ground coffee it happens even faster and you'll never get more than 7-days of a optimal taste. That's why it's important to use a coffee grinder every time you brew. Exposing beans to the air, light and moisture deteriorates the coffee rapidly. I'm sure you have smelled coffee brewing in the morning, that's flavor being lost.
I think it's time for us consumers to put the pressure back on companies charging us an arm and a leg for their old stale product.
You are now a more informed buyer so start asking your local barista and supermarket manager when was their coffee roasted and demand the freshest beans you can get.
P.S. Let me know if you are interested in blogs like this and I will keep them coming.