Wine gets better with age, but coffee doesn’t! You want your coffee beans to be as fresh as possible to enjoy all the flavors and aroma of your favorite coffee variety. But how do you know if the beans in your recently bought bag are indeed fresh?
First thing to know – the expiration date on the label doesn’t mean much. It might say that coffee is good for another year, but one year is a long time and by the end of it the beans will have lost a lot of flavor, even if the bag is tightly sealed.
Green coffee beans cannot be used for your regular brew as they don’t taste like much, it is the roasting process that brings out all the subtle flavors and aromas in them.
Now, the roasting process evaporates the moisture and draws out oily substances to the exterior of the beans, giving them a glossy appearance. However, these substances are not technically oils, they are volatile compounds and they start evaporating after being exposed to air.
This is something you want to avoid as much of the flavor is locked in those volatile compounds. So, you want to use those beans as soon as possible after roasting, which means you have to check if the beans are oily. If they have a shiny film on the coat and leave a little oil residue on your hand, the beans are fresh.
Another trick to use is checking if they still release carbon dioxide. After roasting, when the beans cool down, they start releasing CO2 in a process called degassing which can last for a few weeks.
Beans that are packed during this time will be put in a bag with a one-way valve to allow the release of the gas. If your bag has this little round plastic thingy on it, the beans were packed right after roasting, whereas if they didn’t bother to put a release valve those beans were probably left waiting in some warehouse for months. Not fresh at all!
If you buy bulk coffee you can test their freshness by putting a handful in a resealable plastic bag. Press out the air and wait for a day or two. If the beans are still degassing the plastic bag, it will puff up with CO2.
Let’s look at it this way, coffee beans are the seeds of a fruit called cherry, which grows in the coffee tree. They’re technically food and, like any other food, they go bad over time. The carbs in the coffee beans go stale, lipids go rancid, while the volatile organic compounds mentioned above evaporate. Stale coffee will taste flat and yucky!
The best thing you can do is keep the beans in an air-tight container, stored in a dark cool place.
Many people want to know if you can store coffee in the fridge. Well, you can, but it won’t help much as far as freshness is concerned.
And, before you even ask, you cannot store coffee in the freezer. I mean you can if you want to, but freezing will basically destroy all the flavor! Your coffee will be ruined.
However, if freshness is not your main concern, coffee stored in an airtight container can still be used for a few months past its expiration date.
Remember, the best way to determine if your coffee beans are fresh is to check if they have a shiny coat and leave an oily residue on your hands. Coffee loses much of its flavor over time, so don’t buy in big quantities unless it’s an extraordinary deal!
Does Coffee Go Bad?
4 simple ways to tell if your coffee beans are freshly roasted