Every time I am asked this question I have to resist the urge to say, “you shouldn’t!” We tend to forget that coffee is a food, full of the same sugars, oils and organic compounds found in other consumables. The short story is that in the ideal (coffee) world, you would buy the amount of freshly roasted coffee that you are able to consume in 1-2 weeks, which is when coffee flavors are at their peak.
“But what about the packaging?” you ask. It is true that our packaging serves as an excellent barrier to oxygen – for a while. The reality is that oxygen still gets through very slowly. After a month of sitting on the shelf, the concentration of oxygen inside a bag is the same as outside. It is not surprising then that our cupping experience shows that a sealed bag only extends the “useful life” of our coffee by about a month. It is important to note that the coffee you buy in the grocery store is commonly a few months out of the roaster.
BUT of course we all wind up storing our coffee, either because we can’t consume it fast enough or we go out of town for a week … etc. Here is how we like to think about it. The enemies of coffee are:
- Other fragrances (e.g. spices, cheese, onions…etc)
So it follows that the ideal environment is a dark, dry place away from spices and other odors. There is an argument to be made for vacuum containers which remove oxygen, however the vacuum does tend to make oils come to the surface of the bean where they are exposed to oxygen each time you open the container.
We often get questions about refrigerators and freezers. If your coffee bag has been opened, the answer is easy – Don’t! While cool is good, these places are both smelly and moist = bad. We can tell you from experience that tuna-flavored coffee “no es bueno!” If the bag is still sealed, the answer is more hotly debated (even among our staff). One school of thought points to the fact that some micro changes can occur with freezing. My advice is for you to do your own experiments if long term storage is necessary, or better yet, adjust the amount of coffee you buy so you are consuming it in 2 weeks or less. Happy sipping!
This is a question we get a lot. You’ve had our coffee, maybe at the Mercato or in the Roasterie and you like it, so you buy a bag to take home. When you brew it, it just doesn’t taste the same.
The truth is that you can easily produce an excellent cup of coffee at home without spending several thousand dollars on brewing equipment! You just need to understand a few basics. Let’s look at a few basics.
Water – Coffee is mostly water so it makes sense that you have to start with good water. Tap water has chlorine and other bad tasting compounds that can taint your cup. On the other hand, if you use reverse osmosis water, the coffee doesn’t have enough minerals for flavor compounds to attach to and you wind up with a flat tasting coffee. A charcoal filter will remove the chlorine and bad tasting compounds fairly effectively. The ideal water for coffee has total dissolved solids (TDS) between 50 ppm and 150 ppm. Sparkletts and Arrowhead generally have water that are in this range.
Grind - Coffee grinders are the Rodney Dangerfield of coffee – they get no respect! The truth is that a correctly ground coffee will allow the water to flow more evenly over the grinds and better extract the flavors. A good quality burr grinder will make a much bigger difference than you might expect. I can’t tell you how many times customers come back after getting a good grinder and go on and on about the difference.
Coffee - Freshness is critical. Coffee is at it’s flavor peak during the first week after roasting and after 30 days of exposure to air, it has lost most of it’s flavor and will soon begin to taste stale or even rancid!
Brewing systems – The biggest problem with your average $15-$25 coffee maker you can pick up at the local discount store is that they don’t get the water hot enough. Your water needs to be between 195F and 205F for optimal extraction. There are a few machines on the market that will do a great job such as the Technivorm, but be prepared to spend $300. You can get terrific quality coffee for very little however with a simple French Press or pour over system such as a Chemex. There are a plethora of other brewing systems which we will explore in a subsequent blog.
A good porcelain mug that has been preheated with hot water will make a big difference and don’t let it sit. There is an old Italian expression, “il cliente aspetta per il caffè, il caffè non aspetta il cliente,” which translates “The customer waits for the coffee, the coffee does not wait for the customer.”