Almost all of the coffee sold in cafes and stores is old. It is not uncommon for coffee bags to sit in tropical warehouses for months or even years, You can’t tell old coffee from fresh coffee by looking at the bag. Coffee bags often say “Fresh” or “Fresh Roasted.” Marketing slogans won’t help you sort out the good coffee.
Some consumers think that fresh coffee beans are dark and oily. They have been fooled by magazine advertisements showing dark, oily beans. All of the flavor in a coffee is contained in the coffee oils in the bean. If the beans are roasted so that the oil bubbles out of the bean, then some of the flavor is lost to evaporation, In addition, oil on the outside of the beans stales and turns rancid when exposed to air. Light and medium roasted coffee beans are brown and dry on the outside. Dark oily coffee beans doesn’t mean they are fresh.
Here are some tips to help you get fresh coffee.
Premium coffee should be drunk within a few day of roasting. Typical supermarket coffee has a sale by date of nine months from the date of roasting. Even if the coffee was “fresh roasted” when it went into the bag it won’t taste fresh months later. Roasted coffee in a typical coffee bag will begin to lose flavor in a few weeks. After months of sitting on a shelf it won’t taste bad, it just won’t taste great. Stale coffee is flat and lifeless. Any subtle flavors that were in the coffee when it was roasted are gone. The coffee you paid a premium for now tastes like commercial grade canned coffee.
If you are buying specialty coffee, you should know the date it was roasted. Coffee roasters that are proud of their coffee put the roast date on the package. Sometimes it is on the label. Often it is on the bottom. It may also be embossed into the seal at the top of the bag. Unopened coffee bags hold freshness but even in unopened bags the coffee slowly degrades. Don’t buy coffee with an old roast date.
Another way you can tell fresh roasted coffee is to see if it “blooms” when you brew it. When coffee is roasted carbon dioxide is created inside the beans. Over time the carbon dioxide leaks out of the beans. When you pour hot water on freshly roasted coffee grounds the carbon dioxide is forced out and the grounds expand and “bloom.” If the grounds don’t expand then the coffee was probably roasted weeks or months ago.
Finally, you can smell the coffee. When I was a child my grandmother used to buy five pound cans of coffee. The first time she opened the can, the entire house smelled like fresh roasted coffee. I never understood why when she opened the can the next day the coffee didn’t smell as good. Now I know that coffee companies add “fresh roasted coffee smell” to canned coffee. If the premium coffee you bought doesn’t have that same fresh roasted smell every time you brew it, the coffee is probably old.
Even if the coffee is fresh roasted it may be coffee that was picked years ago. Most of the coffee sold in stores and coffees was picked years ago. A few years ago Brazil put coffee on the wholesale market that it had stored in warehouses for 30 years . Distributors and roasters bought up the coffee, roasted it and sold it to unsuspecting consumers. Fresh roasted old coffee is still old coffee. If you are paying a premium price for coffee you deserve to get fresh roasted and fresh picked coffee.
Most coffee companies don’t put the crop date on their coffee bags. If they do, the date should be within the last 12 months to be current crop.
Green coffee is stored in burlap bags before it is roasted. Burlap bags are made from jute that has been treated with vegetable oil Over time the flavor of the oil in the jute bags will be absorbed by the green coffee beans. The result is the brewed coffee will have a slight burlap bag taste. Burlap bag taste is an indicator of old coffee beans.
Old coffee loses flavor, If the premium coffee you bought is flat and lifeless it is old. Wine improves with age, coffee doesn’t.
Hula Daddy Kona Coffee LLC is a boutique coffee farm in Kona, Hawaii that grows, processes and roasts its own current crop coffee beans. We grow 7 different varieties of coffee and process them using 4 different methods. We roast date every bag of our coffee.
In 2014 we won the Kona Coffee Cupping Competition. In 2015, we won the Hawaii Cupping Competition. In 2016 and 2017, we came in Second in the Hawaii Cupping Competition and First in the Kona Coffee Cupping Competition. In December 2016, Coffee Review rated our Laura’s Reserve SL-28 as Number 3 in the top Thirty Coffees of 2016