Is The Coffee Roast Date Important?
Knowing just how fresh your coffee beans are is one of the many challenges faced by someone new to home coffee brewing. Unlike other foods that have a use by date or best before date, coffee typically has a roast date as well as a best before date in some cases.
Unlike other perishable food coffee isn’t going to make you sick if it is a little past its prime, however there is a window of ideal freshness that you should know if you are serious about great tasting coffee. So when it comes to choosing fresh coffee you need to be paying special attention to the roast date. However, this is where it gets a little confusing because that alone won’t let you know if the coffee is actually any good.
Confused? If you want to get your hands on the freshest coffee possible read on, because I’ve got all the answers you need regarding the coffee roasting date – and some of the answers might actually surprise you.
What’s the Ideal Roasting Date?
When you buy coffee try and treat it like a regular perishable food such as bread so only buy enough coffee to get you through the week, I recommend you don’t bulk buy.
When looking at the roast date on the coffee you intend to buy I suggest searching for coffee that has been roasted anywhere within 7 to 21 days from the said roasted date, any coffee in this time frame should be fine. That being said, if the roaster has labeled the peak roast age on the packaging take that into consideration because not all coffee is going to be the same.
It has long been understood by coffee geeks, roasters, and barista’s that coffee is at its best and ready to consume anywhere between 7 and 14 days after it has been roasted. If the coffee has been roasted under 7 days ago it’s simply too fresh and is still releasing CO2 and degassing. This degassing will actually hinder the extraction of the ground coffee particles during the brewing process.
On the other hand, coffee that is older than say 14 days is viewed as being stale and the coffee’s sweetness and acidity is in decline at this stage, but this isn’t true with all coffee or roasters.
So with so many variables such as bean quality and the actual roasting process playing a role in just how fresh your coffee is you should never judge the quality of the coffee beans solely on the roast dates. Unlike fresh food you can’t judge the freshness by sight or touch such as the bruising on an onion, or the firmness of an avocado so at the very least, you’ll need to open the bag of coffee, taste, and then evaluate (see: coffee cupping). This is even more true with a batch of coffee you have never tried before.
Is Fresher Really Better?
Fresher really isn’t better when it comes to whole coffee, as I talked about above if your coffee is too fresh it is still degassing (releasing CO2). The misconception of the fresher the coffee the better comes from artisan and small batch coffee roasters trying to differentiate themselves from the bigger commercial coffee roasters by selling by the roast date instead of the expiry date found on other commercial bags of coffee to try and be superior from the competition as somehow being of a better quality and a higher standard.
When Is Your Coffee Too Old?
This is a constant debate with coffee geeks but while roasting professionals typically claim average age ceilings on their roasted coffee, there are simply too many variables to give a definitive answer.
Why is there so much confusion figuring out when coffee is past its prime? For starters the actual coffee plays a significant role in how well it ages once roasted. Also different coffee roasters will apply their personal roasting style which can change a coffee’s profile, causing it to age or peak differently.
So as you can see having a coffee roast date set-in-stone is extremely difficult if not impossible with so many variables coming into play. Where some types of coffee will come into their prime within 14 days others can be at their best closer to 30 days from the date of roast. The only way to truly know of your coffee is at its best is to taste and when in doubt ask your local roaster or barista who will always be able to give you the best advice on a specific coffee.