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Coffee Freshness: When is it Best to Brew?

Coffee Freshness: When is it Best to Brew?

It’s a question we’re often asked, how long does your coffee last?
And the answer is more complicated than you might think. Fresher is not always better.

Coffee doesn’t go off. It won’t spoil or go bad at a certain point. It’s not like milk, meat or even fruit. That’s why coffee in the supermarket has a best before date twelve months away. But that doesn’t mean that it’s good for twelve months.

Coffee roasting freshness

We label our coffee with a roast date. From the day we roasted those beans. So you should brew the coffee right away, right? 

Not quite. 

Coffee needs a few days to degas. After roasting, coffee continues to emit carbon dioxide. If you brew that coffee too soon, then the flavours won’t have developed and the CO2 can have a negative effect on the cup.

In particular, with espresso, if the coffee is too fresh, then it’s hard to dial in and the crema can be extra bubbly. The roasting process forms carbon dioxide that is then extracted under the pressure of the espresso machine.

Whenever we grind coffee, it interacts with the air and oxidises. Ground coffee will stale as soon as you grind it. If you don’t own one, buying a grinder and grinding fresh is the single best thing you can do to improve your coffee.

When buying pre-ground specialty coffee, then you are not drinking it at its best. No matter what the packaging says about valves and pre flushing with nitrogen, that ground coffee is sub-optimal. 

If you haven't already, buy a grinder!

When is Optimal to use the coffee?

There’s a difference between espresso and other brew methods. The pressure from the espresso machine draws the CO2 from the ground coffee and creates crema. Leaving the coffee to degas for a few days allows it to settle down and for the flavours to stabilize.

Coffee roasting on a probat coffee roaster

For Espresso

We recommend waiting at least five to seven days from the roast date, and it just gets better from there. The peak is often between fourteen and twenty-one days. This is hard to manage. Even in our roastery espresso bar, it's a constant struggle to not be using super fresh coffee.

But at our espresso bar in Ballarat, Cobb’s Coffee, they have plenty of storage and they brew the coffee when it's between 14 to 21 days. And it’s always the most delicious coffee I drink.
Week old coffee is good but there’s a big difference when you drink espresso that is two to three weeks old, then it’s delicious.

Competitors in Barista Competitions will work out when to roast the coffee on the exact day that they need before the comp and it’s often thirty days earlier.

For Filter Coffee

If you are brewing with a method with a longer brew time, from Aeropress to Plunger to Pour Over. Then it doesn’t need to age as long. Think more like three to five days and then try to use it up before it’s a month old.

Filter coffee with a v60

So How Should I Store My Coffee?

In an airtight container in a cool, dark place is a good start. Direct sunlight is the enemy, avoid it at all costs. Storing it in the bag it came in can work fine. Our 250g bags are resealable and work well. 

One tip that will help is to fold it so there is no air left at the top. You can then hold it down with a rubber band or even a peg. To go deeper into why that might be a good idea, check out this video from UK coffee roaster Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood.

Freshness is important but there are other things to consider. Make sure you have a good grinder. Buy good coffee. Grind immediately before you brew. Enjoy.