So you know from our other posts that fresh coffee beans are absolutely essential! But how do you know they’re fresh? You can’t just browse the grocery aisle and look at all the coffee on the shelf in hopes that they were roasted recently. Chances are, this isn’t going to happen. Buying fresh coffee beans is going to mean you have to find your favorite roaster.
The freshest beans come directly from the roaster.
Why is this important? Because after coffee beans are roasted, they begin to go through a process called degassing. Within a matter of minutes. This ages the bean from the moment it’s exposed to air. The longer it degases, the more bitter the brew will taste.
What is Degassing? It happens during roasting. When the beans are heated, carbon dioxide develops inside the bean. The CO2 must be released for at least two weeks before consumption or you will get a brewed cup of unextracted yuck.
You also have to be aware of how they are stored. Oxidation happens when carbon dioxide is released and replaced with oxygen. Roasters have to be aware of humidity and temperature when the beans are stored. Most good roasters will have a valve on their bags that will let the CO2 out without letting the oxygen in.
Most of the time, you aren’t going to find a roast date on the bag of beans. If you purchase your beans in a grocery store, chances are they have been on the shelf for a little while. The best way to make sure you get fresh is to buy directly from the roaster.
One of my favorite mail-order coffee bean subscriptions is Lifeboost Coffee. They roast their coffee with a tried and true process to ensure the best taste. They also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee if you aren’t happy so you can’t lose.
This is going to be different depending on the roast. Lightly roasted beans won’t be glossy like a dark roast. Coffee beans are full of oils and other compounds that give them flavor. This is what comes out during the brewing process and gives their unique flavor and aroma.
Usually, these beans are light brown in color with little oil on the surface. They have been roasted for the least amount of time so they will keep most of their flavors.
They have a slight acidity with crisp floral notes. Lightly roasted beans are not bitter and have a sweet and fruity aroma. These beans tend to be denser than the other roasts which can make grinding them a little bit more difficult.
Medium roasted beans are a shade darker than lightly roasted beans and don’t have much oil on the surface. They tend to have a smooth taste with an exotic flavor that can be caramel or sweet like honey. They are more balanced with only a slight bitterness.
Dark roast coffee isn’t for everyone. They have a dark brown appearance with a more shiny surface from the oils. They are more acidic and can have a smoky flavor because of the roasting time.
Most dark roast beans have a chocolate taste or an earthy, woodsy aroma. They rich with aroma and tend to have the least amount of caffeine.
Why you need Whole Bean
As we mentioned before, grinding your beans right before roasting is always the best choice. This will ensure that the coffee beans are as fresh as possible. Grinding them accelerates the aging process of the beans. So if you use preground, they aren’t going to taste as good as freshly ground. Trust me.
The Best Places for Fresh Coffee Beans
Buying fresh coffee beans online opens you up to so many possibilities in terms of choices. I love a good medium air roasted bean which I usually order from Invader Coffee. I also like the coffee subscription from LifeBoost Coffee.
When you buy online, you can be sure (check with each roaster) that the beans are freshly roasted. Most places roast depending on their demand and send fresh beans out with each order.
Directly from the Roaster
Most coffee roasters offer their own varieties of fresh coffee. If you order directly, you can guarantee freshness but might be limited in origin choice.
You can also get your beans from a local roaster. We have a great one in the town I live in called Jittery Joes.
Cafes or Baristas
The majority of specialty coffee beans are used in cafes around the world. The freshness might not be as good as ordering directly but I promise it’s better than the grocery aisle. Plus, they really know how to brew the perfect cup.
When is the Bean too Old?
This is going to be purely a taste preference. Tons of variables that go into a bean’s freshness are completely out of your control. Different coffees can age differently. Most have reached their best day before day 30 from when it was roasted.
I would also steer clear of coffee from Amazon if you are buying fresh coffee beans. Chances are, these beans have been sent into an Amazon warehouse to wait to be ordered and sent out. This probably means the beans have sat for months. You can take that chance if you so choose but I would rather order direct.
Choosing Great Whole Bean Coffee
There are a few things to consider when choosing the best whole bean. There are a few factors you need to consider.
What is your brew method?
There are different bean choices that work best for each brewing method. I love the Pour Over method the best so I usually try to find a bean with a flavor note that I enjoy. Invader Coffee has a whiskey blend that I love to use because you can taste molasses, caramel and vanilla along with the whiskey.
What flavor are you looking for?
Most people already know what flavors they enjoy most from a great coffee bean. Certain flavors will be present in certain beans. For example, the fruity and floral flavors will be found in a light roast while the dark roasts will have the smoky full bodied taste.
The best tasting beans will always be roasted within 30 days. The good roasters will let you know the roast date. But, picking the best flavor for your fresh beans is a personal preference.
Do you have a favorite? Comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear about it.