Thinking of brewing a great coffee using stale beans? Impossible. Even with the fanciest machine. As a general rule, try using your beans within 5-30 days of roasting. Look out for the 'roasted on' date on the bag, never the 'use by'. This is rarely guaranteed with with the stuff you get from a supermarket shelf. So seek out freshness, and your tastebuds will thank you for it.
They say it started in the '80s with a movement away from the cheaper robusta beans found on the supermarket shelf. Driven by quality and sustainability, It was the moment coffee went from a global commodity to something local, small batch and artisanal. These coffees have been handled with attention to quality from the farm level onwards, allowing roasters to really push the boundaries of flavor in the cup.
Roast degrees have an enormous impact on the final flavor of coffee beans, and embody some of their own typical characteristics: go lighter for bright acidity and delicate flavors, medium for balanced sweetness and acidity, or darker for a richer, sharper cup.
In the world of specialty coffee, origin matters. A lot. Everything about a place will affect the end result, from soil, climate and altitude to growing conditions and processing methods. Knowing who farmed the coffee is just as important as who roasted it. No two stories are the same!
What's in it for us? Well, spotting our favorite experiences in a cup of coffee is all the more rewarding when we start to recognize, say, the telltale candy aromas of Yirgacheffe in Ethiopia or a comforting pecan pie richness in a lot from Southeast Brazil. The more origins we're lucky enough to taste, the better.
Ok, this is where it gets a little science-y. Coffee has more than 800 volatile compounds. Like wine, there is an enormous range of aromas and flavors such as chocolate, fruity, nutty, smokey and more to explore. Top that with different blends and origins, and you'll start to appreciate the depths of new discoveries to be had out there!
Look after your beans by keeping them well away from moisture, heat, light and oxygen. If beans are exposed to these things, those wonderful natural oils will rapidly deteriorate and dull in flavor.
In short? It's simple. Store them in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.