We all love the freshness of a coffee from your favorite cafe. However, what if we told you that you can replicate this at home?
When you’re shopping for coffee, you might see “use by” or “best before” dates printed on the packaging. To make the freshest cup of coffee, you should actually be looking at the “roast date” instead. We’ll explain how looking at the roast date can help you figure out how fresh your coffee will be.
What is a roast date?
So, how does this differ from a roast, use by or best before date? According to the Food Standard Agency (FSA), when we look at the use by, we reference the safety of consuming certain food and drink whereas the best before looks to the quality of food. Roast dates on the other hand are typically used for coffee as opposed to whole or shelf foods. In layman's terms, the roast date on your bag of coffee denotes the date on which your coffee has been roasted.
What do we mean by roasting your coffee?
The roasting process is when we take our green coffee beans and transform them into the brown beans that we know and love in our morning routines. It is during this time that coffee will take on the flavors that we are used to.
How long does coffee stay fresh for?
The answer to this has many different answers. From looking at the packet of coffee beans to how you store them - these factors will all have an important impact on how long your coffee will stay ‘fresh’.
Although you may notice that coffee does have the tendency to maintain a very long shelf, the freshness of your beans may leave after approximately a week following roasting. This is due to the degassing process that begins immediately after coffee beans have been roasted.
Another way in which we can look at how long coffee will stay fresh is through the bagging type of the beans. For example, if you purchase coffee in a paper-tin tie bag, then your coffee will remain fresh for approximately 1-2 weeks after buying. On the other hand, packaging that is valve-sealing can remain fresh for up to 6 months before opening. Of course, as previously mentioned, the way in which you store your coffee beans after opening them will also play a role in maintaining the longevity of your coffee’s freshness.
Does fresher mean better?
Fresher does not necessarily mean that your coffee is better. When you purchase whole bean coffee, chances are, it’s still degassing. Therefore, you want a coffee that is closer to completing this process than one that is hot off the roaster.
As we said, coffee beans will typically remain fresh for up to 2 weeks after roasting them, so there is no rush to buy the freshest coffee if you plan on drinking it that day.
How to tell if your coffee is old
You can tell if your coffee is old by smelling your coffee beans before you brew them. If they don’t smell right, it’s probably time to throw them away.
If you can’t tell if they’re old or not, try brewing them. If your cuppa tastes bitter or sour, then the beans you’re using are definitely too old! This is because once the degassing process is finished and oxygen starts to enter the bean, coffee loses its flavor and becomes stale.
What your coffee roast dates don’t tell you
It is still important to remember that coffee is not one size fits all. Each style of coffee is different and will have different roast profiles as a result. While one blend may be best seven days after roasting, another may take two weeks to reach their prime taste.
Take for instance, Bean & Bean Coffee’s Downtown Blend. We recommend that you consume our coffee closer to the date of roasting, which is always achievable since we aim to send our coffee beans to you within a few days of roasting! However, our blend will remain fresh for up to 3 months from the roast date.
Time to get brewing!
Roast dates are important for determining how fresh your coffee will be and allow you to work to figure out when the prime time to drink them will be. While it may seem that buying a bag that was roasted that day would be the best bet for ‘freshness’, sometimes, leaving the coffee beans to degas for a while may actually help you achieve the perfect cup of coffee.
Here at Bean and Bean, our most premium coffees are roasted in nano-batches each week (which basically means they're roasted as close to on-demand as you can get). If you want to order coffee that's as fresh as possible, try these bestsellers: