July 13, 2016
A few years back, I was working at a coffee shop that offered an expensive Jamaican Blue Mountain every year around Christmas. My store was given a sample to brew and try which we promptly forgot about. One year later, I found that sample and said to myself, “It’s only a year old. It’d be a shame to throw it out. I’ll take it home and brew it!”
Worst cup of coffee I have ever had. And I used to drink value-brand…
The important lesson I learned that day was that age matters. Even really great coffee tastes terrible when it gets old. I’ve since learned that coffee is at its peak flavor potential between two and fifteen days after it’s been roasted. Try to buy your coffee as close to its roasted-on date as possible. If you have the good fortune of getting your coffee the day it was roasted (like the people who pick it up straight from our warehouse), wait at least 24 hours before you brew it. The roasting process causes carbon dioxide to build up inside the coffee beans which needs some time to escape the bean. Otherwise, that CO2 will interfere with the grind and impart some bitter into your cup. Waiting too long to drink your coffee will also negatively affect your coffee’s flavor. Why? Oxidation and decay. After that CO2 exits the beans, oxygen makes its way inside, which leeches off good-tasting materials. After a short time (just over the fifteen-day mark), you’ll have noticeably less flavor complexity in your cup. After six months (or a year, in my unfortunate case), you’ll experience only gnarly, bitter wood flavors. There’s just nothing good left in the beans.
So look for the roasted-on date on your coffee bag before buying it. (Not the “best-by” date. That’s typically six months out from its roast date.) If you can’t find it, don’t waste your money. Run. Far away. Burn the store down behind you*. Only drink fresh roasted coffee. You’ll get your money’s worth and your taste buds will be happier for it!
*Don’t actually burn the store down. That’s called arson, and it’s illegal.