We love fresh coffee. But is it possible for coffee to be too fresh?
A new study published by our friends at Cafe Kreyol suggests that most coffees reach their peak a week or more after roasting.
In fact, just one of the 21 coffees that Cafe Kreyol studied reached peak flavor at 24 hours after roasting. Nearly 75% of the coffees reached their peak at least eight days after roasting and a handful tasted best more than two weeks after roasting.
For coffee professionals, this data is interesting because it’s widely believed that quality control sampling should be done on very fresh coffee — 24 hours after roasting, per the recommendation of the Speciality Coffee Association.
It has implications for the consumers, too. We will always advocate for freshly roasted coffee, and we say it’s a lot like produce: the fresher the better. It’s the reason why we write roast dates on our packaging.
But, the truth is, not only are you not likely to notice a difference between coffee that is two days and two weeks off roast, but the older one might even taste better!
Of course, with so much variety in types of coffee and roasting styles, it’s difficult to establish definitive rules. One of those variables that affects coffee freshness is degree of roast. When coffee is roasted, carbon dioxide (CO2) is discharged from the bean not only while the coffee is in the machine but well after roasting is finished.
This process of degassing happens much slower for a lightly roasted coffee, which is more dense than a darkly roasted coffee, which suggests that light roasts benefit more from longer resting periods after roasting.
How is this information actionable for the average coffee drinker? A few things might be worth keeping in mind:
➡️ When shopping for roasted coffee, pay attention to roast dates on the packaging, but don’t dismiss one that is a week or two off roast, especially if you want to use it right away. It might just be coming into its own.
➡️ If you have a denser, lighter roasted coffee (like this or this, for example) and it’s very fresh (2-3 days off roast), consider waiting another week or so before brewing. You might experience stronger aromas and more vibrant flavors.
➡️ Once you’ve purchased coffee, store it in a cool, dry location away from direct sunlight. Because coffee is porous and absorbs moisture, it’s best not kept in a refrigerator or freezer.