Monday, April 6, 2009

How to tell if your coffee is fresh

Late last week, I was running low on beans and just happened to be in Seattle, so I dropped by Stumptown Roasters to pick up a bag. Even though my fist review of them put them slightly behind some of the other local shops, they are a much better shop than 4.0 on a 5.0 scale. When I need beans or just want some coffee to drink, I just seem to go there instead of some other places. A day or so before I went to REI in downtown Seattle to get a water sterilizer for my wife's upcoming trip to India. Espresso Vivace is right accross the street, so if I'm that close I'm going to get some coffee there. I got an espresso since I didn't have a bunch of time to sit around (isn't that what espresso is all about?). Since I went to Stumptown a day later, I ordered an espresso there for comparison purposes. Honestly, I assumed that the Espresso Vivace would be slightly better, but I was wrong. They tasted similar, but the Stumptown Espresso had a caramely sweet finish. Damn, it was good.

Enough rambling, on to he reason for the post: freshly roasted coffee. The primary way to tell if coffee is fresh without even tasting it is to watch it when it is brewing. Take a look at this video:

This is some Honduras Finca El Puente that was 4 days old when I brewed it. As roasted coffee ages, it continues to off-gas to a point when it becomes stale. When you brew freshly roasted coffee, you can watch the coffee bubble as the gas is released. Midway through the video, you can clearly see the coffee bubble. That is the signal of good things to come. Most of the stuff that you buy in a grocery store is going to be stale by the time that you brew it. I've heard that some of the larger coffee roasters use a technique to help keep the coffee fresh. They package the coffee quickly after it is roasted in a sealed bag. The off-gassing that occurs naturally keeps everything sealed away from oxygen which helps to preserve the coffee.

If you enjoy drinking fresh coffee, try to seek out a local roaster. If you don't have a roaster nearby, most of the coffee shops that I've reviewed will ship their coffee. It is well worth it. I used to add half & half to my coffee. I just realized why. The answer is very simple: I made crappy coffee and the half & half just covered the bad taste. When you make good, fresh coffee adding dairy just kills the subtle nuances of the coffee. Go out and get some good coffee. Life is too short to drink crappy coffee.


Luo Yang said...

Your comment to half&half is more than exact.

I've compared Clover offering from Starbucks at downtown Bellevue and Trabant Coffee&Chai near UW (which is very good at espresso drinks, too). The cup from Starbucks is much more watery than the other one, and I have to add half&half so that I can finish the whole 12oz. (Though with half&half, Clover coffee is incredibly smooth)

Mike Rupp said...

I've had Clover coffee from the downtown Bellevue Starbucks, Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago, and Trabant on 2nd Ave. I think all of them were really good cups of coffee. IMHO, the Clover Coffee is just good French press coffee that has less mouthfeel. It still comes down to the quality of the beans going into the machine. I'm not 100% sure, but I think that Starbucks makes small batches of roasts for their Clover machines. They are not the standard burnt coffee beans that they use for the regular coffee.

My Coffee Home Business said...

I get my coffee from JavaFit Coffee. They roast their coffee within days of them getting it. They also nitrogen inject their bags of coffee to get all the oxyegen out. From field to my cup is only 2 weeks. The coffee beans are Arabica from Latin America. The roaster CLR is in Miami Florida.

Lancer Kind said...

About how long can you leave your coffee beans sitting around before they reach the "toss the beans" point?

I assume espresso benefits from bresh espresso beans too.

pumpkin coffee beans said...

Seriously you have posted very interesting post and selected an appreciative topic. Because I think every person who is coffee addict want to know that how to know that coffee is fresh or not.

Michelle said...

Will have to remember this the next time I buy a cup of coffee!