Announcing Our New Advice Column, "Ask Aunt Bean!"
Our customers often preface their coffee-related questions with, “Well this is probably stupid…” or “I know I’m not supposed to do X….” We believe there are no stupid questions and that coffee snobbery shuts people down and prevents them from reaching their full brewing potential! If there’s anything you’ve ever wanted to know about coffee growing, importing, roasting, storing, brewing, or anything else, you may send your inquiries to info@redrockroasters and Aunt Bean will answer them anonymously! Read our first column below:
Dear Aunt Bean,
I had a bunch of different coffee gifted to me and it wasn’t very good, so I stashed it away in the closet and then found it when Konmari-ing. I threw it all in the compost, but would it have been okay to drink?
Dear Mx. Komposter,
This is a great question. In order to answer it, I’m going to review what the best practices are for coffee freshness, and then I’m going to recommend ways to break the rules, bearing in mind that with the incredible hard work coffee producers but into each bean, it’s a crying shame to waste any coffee.
If you want to read in depth about offgassing, etc, check out our post titled, Coffee Freshness and You. In a nutshell, you should try to:
Buy only what you will consume within a couple of weeks at a time
Use whole beans and grind just before brewing
Store your coffee away from heat, sunlight, moisture, and air
We can’t guarantee our coffee will taste good if these practices aren’t followed. In the event that you have hoarded coffee and rediscovered it months down the line, I would advise you to triage the situation.
Is the coffee ground? If so, the compost probably IS the only place for it.
If it’s whole bean, give it a sniff. Is it rancid? Don’t use it.
Is it just stale? Just lacking the delicious aroma it once had but not yet disgusting? We can work with that!
The thing I would advise anyone to do with past-its-prime-but-not-rancid coffee is to make cold brew out of it! The cold brewing process is actually really bad at extracting aromatic compounds from coffee compared to brewing with hot water, so while it can kind of be a waste of the freshest, most delicate coffees, it also can be a way to turn old coffee into a basically sweet, mellow, drinkable brew! Older coffee comes out sweeter than fresher coffee in a lot of cases, and cold brew can definitely produce that result.
Beyond advising you to make cold brew out of your truly ancient beans, I’d like to share a schedule of the brew methods I like to employ for different stages of the coffee offgassing process.
Days 1-7 after roasting: Any paper-filter brew method, manual or machine. This is when most of the offgassing is happening, and hot pourover brewing at this stage will allow us to pick up lots of interesting, delicate aromatics like citrusy and fruit notes.
Days 7-21 after roasting: We prefer not to use coffee for espresso until it is at least a week old. By this time it has lost a substantial amount of aroma, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Very fresh coffee can make very astringent, thin espresso. Espresso made from coffee that’s a couple weeks old is substantially sweeter and usually more rounded.
After Day 21: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with drinking month-old coffee. I’d be afraid they’d take away my roaster license for saying that except I’ve been doing this for so long I’m not afraid to be a little controversial. It’s not bread. You will lose those exquisite specialty flavors like bergamot or Meyer lemon or gardenia. But you’ll probably get a deeply sweet, mellow brew, which is good in a different way.
Remember that the roast date is on the bottom of every bag of Red Rock Roasters coffee. If you purchase our coffee from a supermarket, it has been flushed with food-grade nitrogen for a much longer shelf life of up to three months, so the rules above do apply to coffee purchased directly from us, or from any roaster who doesn’t use nitro flushing.