Is fresher coffee better coffee?
When we’re talking about espresso it’s not quite as simple as “fresher, the better.” Coffee freshness is a little more complex compared to fresh veggies or a loaf of bread that might get stale or old over a week. For coffee, “fresh” doesn’t necessarily mean “the best.” Read further to discover more!
Degassing and Oxidation
Freshly roasted coffee needs to be rested for a certain amount of time before it will produce balanced and consistent espresso shots. This is because there are two important forces at play that move and alter the beans changing the coffee freshness. These forces are degassing and oxidation.
The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry describes degassing as, “the release of CO2 during the various phases from roasting to consumption is linked to many important properties and characteristics of coffee.”
Degassing initially happens at a very fast rate causing restlessness in the beans. This isn’t ideal for baristas as it will result in small bubbles when you extract your espresso, inconsistency in the shot and an overall less flavoursome cup of coffee. Letting your coffee beans degas will allow the beans to settle, develop their sweetness and reach their peak flavour. When they have degassed too much, the espresso will become stale and lose flavour.
Oxidation in coffee begins as soon as the beans come out of the roaster. For espresso, we want oxidation to be as slow as possible to keep the beans fresh and full of flavour. We do this by keeping them in one way valve coffee bags, grinding beans fresh for each coffee and after each day of service transferring beans from the coffee hopper to a sealed container or bag. If coffee oxidises too much, much like degassing, the coffee beans will lose their interesting flavour notes and character.
The Peak Window
Considering degassing and oxidation, the peak window to drink espresso is when coffee has been rested for a minimum of 6 days and consumed within a month.
The first couple of days, you want to let the coffee rest and destress after the intensity of the roasting process. After those first few days of degassing, the coffee is ready to be poured for your espresso.
As the coffee beans become exposed more to oxygen, oxidation begins to change the flavour. If you leave coffee resting for around 30 days or more, the coffee beans start to lose their unique characteristics that make a more lively and delicious cup of coffee, making coffee less ‘fresh’.
The peak window to drink espresso varies depending on the coffee beans and how they’re roasted and stored. We ran a series of tests with our roasters to finalise when it is best to drink Karvan coffee as espresso. Results showed that for our roasting profiles, the most delicious window is between around 7 – 30 days after roasting. During this window you will experience the most from your coffee beans in your espresso shots as the extraction is more even and predictable.
However, you can still drink coffee beans for espresso outside of this window; the coffee will just begin to lose its flavour.
We love the way Chris Baca explains his views on coffee aging, degassing and freshness. We would highly recommend watching his video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vx-n7ED74Vc
“During the 15-30 day window the effects of oxidation are beginning to become more apparent but it is not like the coffee instantly goes bad. What you will experience is much less nuance and some of the varietal characteristics and the things that make the coffee really special and intricate will start to fade.”
– Chris Baca, Cat and Cloud.
For wholesalers, we recommend rotating, recording and keeping a tally of your stock. Keep track of the roasting date that’s in fine print at the top of the bag. When a coffee delivery arrives put the new coffee bags at the back and pull the old coffee bags towards the front. Keep a tally of how much coffee you go through weekly so when you place coffee orders you will order according to the demand and not over or under order. It’s very important these steps are consistently followed to ensure you’re making espresso during the coffee bean’s peak window. It’s also best to keep the coffee beans in a pantry type environment with a stable temperature.
For home users, we recommend checking the roast date before buying your coffee beans for espresso. When the beans aren’t in use remember to seal the coffee bag or, transfer the beans to an airtight container.
So, is fresher coffee = better coffee?
Well, it depends, but for Karvan coffee we recommend drinking your espresso between the 7 – 30 day window for peak flavour and experience. Ultimately, what’s going to make your coffee scrumptious is the high quality speciality beans you choose and how you brew and prepare your coffee! Let us know if you need any help.