freshness of the roast, defining coffee freshness

Fresh Coffee

A Re-Freshed Approach to Coffee

Our guiding company principals are fresh coffee, fair trade, green business.

Fresh Coffee is about re-introducing consumers to the natural sweetness and aroma of a beverage with distinctive regional tastes and flavours. It is pure enjoyment for coffee lovers. It is also the economic driver of our business and our reason for being!

The Facts on Coffee Freshness

Since the turn of the 20th century, the industrialization of the coffee supply chain has centralized production, processing, roasting, grinding, packaging and distribution. Most important is that the multinationals, wishing to avoid the logistical problems of operating a network of roasters to supply fresh coffee in local markets, took full control of roasting through large centralized plants.

By doing so, the resulting supply chain has dramatically increased the distribution time of roast and ground coffee from literally days to at best 2 to 3 weeks, and typically 3 to 4 months for retail/pre-packaged coffee. In addition, and of significant importance, they ignore the fact that fresh roasted coffee goes stale (definition: not fresh, bitter) within 3-7 days after roasting regardless of packaging.

  • The truth is, over 95% of the coffee consumed in North America is stale.
  • Consumers have been misinformed – they believe packaging keeps coffee fresh – this is simply not true.
  • Green beans remain fresh for a period of 1 to 10 years depending on the variety (most about 3 years).
  • Once roasted, coffee beans keep their full, rich taste for only 3-7 days, due to vapour pressures that exhaust coffee of its flavour within days after roasting.
  • Once ground, roasted beans last 3-5 hours before losing the volatile fresh flavours.

The Basic Science Behind Coffee Freshness

Un-roasted coffee beans look like roasted coffee beans except they are green, slightly smaller, tasteless and odourless. It takes 15 minutes to roast a green bean at 400°F. During the roasting process, sugars and carbohydrates inside the green bean caramelize in a chemical reaction called pyrolysis that creates over 800 volatile, water soluble, coffee oils, giving coffee 100% of its familiar taste. Brewing is simply the extraction of these oils from the roasted grounds using hot water. However, freshness is momentary; a function of the time elapsed after roasting. Packaging cannot preserve freshness.

The reason? A single fresh roasted coffee bean produces seven times its volume in inert gas (mainly carbon dioxide) and in quantity, is sufficient to explode conventional packaging (hence the predominant use of metal canisters, vacuum bricks, and foil bags with one way valves). It takes five days for roasting gases to leave the bean, naturally. During this time, the gas binds with coffee oils. 85% of coffee’s fresh taste is carried away as aroma by escaping roasting gases. After the gas is gone, oxygen readily penetrates the bean, turning all remaining oils rancid. Bitterness sets in at this point. Grinding accelerates the staling process to 4 hours (creates a greater surface area) and brewing to 15 minutes (water contains oxygen, which attack and destroys coffee oils upon contact).

In short, coffee, like bread, has a short shelf life. It is twice as complex as the finest red wine and just as volatile. Roasted coffee must be consumed within 5 days after roasting to considered truly fresh. Grind only before brewing. (Source: Michael Sivetz)