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Care and feeding of your new pet

A long time ago, somebody once said that roasted coffee is much like fresh baked bread. Kind of random, sure, but once you think about it, the simile makes a lot of sense. Imagine taking a loaf out of the oven, slicing off a piece while it’s still hot enough to melt butter. Later in the day, the bread is still pretty awesome, but now you have to spread the butter over it, and now you really get a sense of what it should taste like. A few days down the road, the bread is still better that what you buy at the market, but it’s beginning to stale. And finally, a week or so later, that bread ain’t so great anymore.

Coffee is strikingly similar.

Fresh coffee is great day of roast, in fact, most of the coffees I sample roast get consumed the same day. Some coffees need a day or two for the flavors to develop, de-gas, and for the oils to do their thing. A week to ten days later, the coffee is still better than what you find in the bulk bins at the grocery store, but the oils have begun to break down, and the flavors and aroma have noticeably taken a hit. Another week or so later, and the coffee seems kind of bland and lifeless. Beyond that, and you might as well be drinking freeze dried coffee.

There are four things that you are battling when storing coffee for any amount of time: Air, light, heat, and moisture. Given enough time, any one of these will degrade the quality of your coffee, some faster than others.

Unless you are going through a tremendous volume of coffee, you’re going to want to store it properly. Ideally, you are should store your un-brewed coffee in an opaque, air tight container, and placed somewhere cool, dry, and dark.

When I was a kid, my mother had one of those old aluminum canister sets that she kept her coffee it. She also had one for flour, sugar, and tea as well.


It worked well, but could have been better if it had some sort of gasket that made it airtight. It would have worked even better if she didn’t keep it in the cupboard over the stove.

A couple of other places that are not ideal for coffee storage is in the freezer or the refrigerator. Not only are both places known for smelling a bit off at times but as the coffee comes back to room temperature, moisture may form from condensation.

All this goes for whole bean, if you’re getting your coffee ground, the timeline is even shorter. Once the ground coffee has that chocolaty smell, it’s probably good and stale, unless of course you are buying chocolate flavored coffee.

Keeping with the bread metaphor, buying bulk coffee pre-round is a bit like toasting the whole loaf.


Author: Dave Turner

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