There’s nothing quite like fresh coffee. The smell envelops you with a warm aromatic hug, the first sip stimulates your taste buds, and your mind wakes up to receive the tasty goodness. But how fresh does it need to be? Can you do anything at home to improve the freshness of your coffee? Is there something you should look for when buying coffee to ensure it’s not 18 months old?
The first thing is to look for a bag with a valve on it. When coffee is first roasted, it starts releasing carbon dioxide (CO2). If it’s bagged promptly as it’s supposed to be, the CO2 released will push the oxygen out of the bag which will help the coffee retain its freshness. Oxygen is the enemy of freshness, so the less oxygen that touches the coffee, the longer it will stay fresh tasting.
On that note, the second thing is to check whether there is still gas in the bag. If you see a bag that looks like it’s been vacuum sealed, that means it was bagged after the coffee finished releasing its CO2. This is a sign of stale coffee, so avoid it! Companies will sometimes vacuum-seal their bags to remove the oxygen, relying on the CO2 to help keep the coffee fresh. If the beans are stale, no CO2 will be released and the bag will keep it’s vacuum-seal appearance.
Finally, check for dates! Often, larger companies will stamp a “use by” date on the bag, so watch for that. Some grocery stores are better than others about this, but unfortunately it’s not unusual to see old coffee on the shelves.
One last note: While proper bagging and brewing within the date given definitely help, nothing will make a coffee taste fresher than it really is. The CO2 will cause the coffee to taste fresh immediately upon opening, but within a day, it’ll taste as old as it actually is. So the only real solution to have confidence in getting truly fresh coffee is to get it from a reputable craft roastery, like Maritime Roasters!