From the moment you step into the world of specialty coffee, you will begin to be bombarded with differing opinions on what makes coffee great. One of the biggest tips you will get will concern how fresh you keep your coffee, but how fresh is too fresh, or is there even such a thing?
Today we dive into the world that is all brewing fresh coffee. What you will find below will help you cut through all the chatter about fresh coffee and it will you understand what role freshness really does play in the experience that is coffee. My hope is that you can use this to begin to form your own opinion about freshness so you can start tailoring your coffee experience to your tastes. That way every cup you enjoy has the potential of being the best cup you have ever had.
What’s the Big Deal About Brewing Fresh Coffee?
If you have been living in the world of pre-ground coffee bought in large cans, you probably think that all these discussions about coffee freshness are rather silly. It’s understandable. However, you really don’t know what you’re missing.
If you are looking for a truly amazing cup of coffee, you need to consider the freshness. The fresher the coffee, the better the taste, at least in my opinion. If you really want to experience all that coffee has to offer, you must begin considering how important fresh coffee is to making an amazing cup of joe. Of course, just because it is fresh, doesn’t mean it’s good, and some people take freshness to an almost insane level.
The Measures of Freshness
Before we go any further, it is important to understand what I mean when I say fresh coffee. You may think I’m talking about how long a coffee sits in your cupboard, and while that is most definitely part of it, there are two main ways you can measure the freshness of your coffee aroma and CO2. Both of these measures are most definitely impacted by how old your coffee beans are, and I do mean beans. There are no prepackaged cans of pre-ground coffee in my house.
Coffee is about an experience; it is not just a warm drink to have every morning before work. Knowing and understanding how to judge freshness will help you formulate your own roasting and storage strategy for your high end coffee so each cup you make is a true experience and not just something to sip on every morning.
While how your coffee smells may seem trivial in the overall process, in the world of specialty coffee it is as important as how it tastes. Remember, it is part of the overall experience, so the better the aroma the better the coffee. The aroma of coffee is usually one of the first things to go. You can smell a difference in the aroma in just a few days and sometimes even in one day.
That means that if aroma is important to you, then you can say your coffee isn’t fresh after one day. However, if it is a little farther down your list of what is important in your coffee, you could consider your coffee fresh after a few days. But this isn’t the only measurement to consider.
2. Carbon Dioxide
Another important aspect to the freshness of coffee, carbon dioxide (CO2) plays a major role. During the roasting process, CO2 is created. One the roasting is complete, the beans begin to degas themselves over time. Depending on how you like your coffee, you may wish to use the beans early in the degassing process, but others may prefer a bean that has had a little extra time to degas.
During the first week, you do lose aroma but the degassing process continues changing the flavor, but not necessarily losing freshness.
Should You Grind Before Every Brew?
In the world of specialty coffee, grinding just before you brew your coffee has become something of a requirement. But how important is it really?
For some drinks, such as espresso, you want it to be as fresh as possible. However, remember that just because a little time has passed doesn’t mean you can’t brew a great cup of coffee. In fact, there is room for experimentation. You could try, for example, to grind your coffee an hour before you brew, or even a day ahead of time.
In many ways it comes down to your tastes. While I wouldn’t recommend you grind your coffee and then store it for more than a week, there is a little wiggle room in your grinding procedures.
Should You Store Coffee in the Freezer?
So, because so many coffee lovers that have taken the plunge into the world of specialty coffee, many believe that it is necessary to take whatever measures are possible to slow down the aging process of coffee so it stays as fresh as possible. One of these ways is by freezing the coffee or, refrigerating it.
Coffee ages slower when it is cool. For every 10 degrees that you cool coffee, the aging process is slowed down incrementally by a factor of 2. This is most prominently seen in the aroma of the coffee. When you hear that, you probably believe that you should freeze your coffee when you store it. However, you may want to reconsider that choice.
Freezing coffee can alter its structure and even crack the beans. On top of that, the shock to the coffee when you remove it from the freezer even for a very short time can actually harm the coffee far more than just storing it properly at room temperature.
Brew Methods and Freshness
Some brew methods require coffee of different freshness levels in order to provide the best overall experience. Espresso, for example, requires beans that are very fresh, usually no more than a week after roasting, and must be ground and then used not long after the grinding process is complete.
Cold brews and nitro brews, on the other hand, aren’t so strict, allowing you to use beans that are a bit older. Other types of drip brews and single cup presses usually fall somewhere in the middle, although it is often a matter of taste.
It Comes Down to Taste
While every coffee aficionado will give you their own two cents worth of advice on what makes coffee fresh, in the end it is all up to you. But that is what makes coffee so great. Each cup is unique and every coffee drinker will have a different opinion about it. As they say it is our differences that make the world go round, and the very same thing can be said of coffee, as well.
No matter how much freshness gets drilled into your head when you begin to enjoy specialty coffee, remember that it, like so many things in life, isn’t black and white. Different coffees require different levels of freshness for the best experience and, in many cases, it all comes down to your tastes and what you prefer. Each day the coffee ages, the flavor changes. Experiment to see when your coffee makes the best cup it can, at least your opinion. You could find that it takes a day, two days or even almost a week to reach your taste preferences.
Be creative with your coffee, just be sure to store it properly. Improperly stored coffee can ruin the experience and even ruin that expensive coffee you were holding onto for just the right time. There is nothing wrong with trying new things, so play around with the freshness level of your coffee. Each day that passes alters the taste of your coffee. This means that finding just the right time is essential to the experience.
This experimentation is what makes specialty coffee so great. So let yourself loose and try new brewing methods, roasting methods, and even preparation and storage to figure out what works best for you.