Roast dates. Freshness. Staleness. Freezer. Fridge. Cupboard.
All these things are spoken of when talking about coffee & how to enjoy & preserve the beans you spend your hard earned money on. Rightly so! Coffee is a luxury & we should take care of the nice things we buy.
That said, through all my years in the food & beverage industry...just in the coffee world, there are many ideas, some good, some bad, & I think we have to go through them & make some things a little clearer.
How many times have you or someone you know pick up a bag of coffee & look at the roast date only to scoff & put it back with the comment "Pff, it's from last week! (2 weeks ago, 3 weeks ago, etc.) Happens all the time, right?
Well, what if we told you that concept is keeping you from the best cups, with the most clarity & sweetness?
Roast dates are ESSENTIAL when it comes to packaging coffee. It's like wine that has no year on it, would be pretty weird right? (we've known many bottles like this, they were all trash) With this said, the DATE matters, but just like wine, knowing WHEN to drink it is another thing completely.
Whether it's just your crappytire coffee maker, chemex, aeropress, v60, siphon, or any other method you enjoy making coffee with, you want the best results every time. WE won't touch on grinders and all the rest of it here, we're ONLY talking about the AGE of your beans, so look for another post regarding that.
When it comes to making coffee by way of the above mentioned methods, you're ideally looking to let those beans rest AT LEAST 7 DAYS.
In the first days it will smell a lot smokier, more intense, which could be attractive. About 2-3 days after roast some coffees smell SO good but, trust us, it's a trap.
Personally, we find 7 is rarely enough which is why with all the BFF's we say 9 days minimum, but 7 can be ok, too but that's the minimum. THE MINIMUM.
Although each coffee has its own sweet spot, generally speaking 7-14 day minimum is the generally agreed up timeline where coffee has enough time to release all those unwanted "yuckies" and you're left with just pure deliciousness.
Our view on drip coffee tasting amazing is that, within a 2 month period, you're getting the very BEST of the beans you choose to buy. There are coffees that taste amazing as a drip coffee up until a solid 3 months, but we personally try to drink our drip things within 2 months for prime enjoyment!
Ideally, if you're making espresso, you need the coffee to rest for a WHILE. Fresh coffee still has hundreds of volatiles in it that will translate into really terrible smokey, bitter, and acrid flavors. You'll see TONS of crema if you try to pull super fresh coffee. That crema is NOT going to enhance your coffee experience. It's not like just making a dark roast that has aged and it's so soluble that the reaction is intense and full, therefor produces excess crema, that's a tad different.
That crema is part of the volatiles you do not want to be drinking. It's bitter, acrid, dry, & honestly, gross. Crema is a part of espresso extraction, it always will be, but it's important to understand what is normal, & what will ultimately hinder your drinking experience.
Any coffee being used as espresso MUST rest for at least 14 days before trying to extract, if you're attempting to get the very best out of your coffee. On the far end of the spectrum, lighter coffees being used as espresso, for example, like at SEY in Brooklyn, are generally aged well over a month. The last time I had a super juicy espresso at SEY, the roast date went back just under 3 months.
Coffee can turn into incredible espresso up until the 3 month mark. Surprised? Don't be! Even if it has passed the 3 month mark, don't let that scare you, a week or 2 after shouldn't make too much of a difference. In general, a good rule to remember is, lighter coffees will need MORE rest time in order to make your best espresso & darker coffees, which have had more structural impairment due to roasting, will need less.
It's a crazy thing, all this information. We know it may contradict what you've heard, what you were taught, maybe what the person you trust most with your coffee has told you. We get it. That's why we invite you to experiment with your coffee, as we have, & as countless other coffee pros have. Just know that, when in doubt, REACH OUT!
-The QC TEAM