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Serious Eats: To Freeze or Not to Freeze Coffee Beans

Postby jasonmolinari on Fri Sep 17, 2010 9:17 pm

http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/09/shou...beans.html

She finds the frozen coffee undrinkable swill. Any ideas as to why the difference to kens experiments? Other than the fact that the tastings were not single or double blind.

Edited to add: The author of the article is a barista trainer at Counter Culture Coffee.
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Postby earlgrey_44 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 11:03 pm

Perhaps there's a clue in her "explanation" of how an "ice box" works.

It's true that freezers and refrigerators both remove heat from and dehydrate things you put in them, but to say that the dehydrating or evaporation effect is part of the preservation process, as she does, is laughable. That's why you wrap or containerize food in the fridge - to prevent dehydration. :roll:

I believe Jim and Ken's results in part because I also believe my own lyin' tastebuds. Properly frozen whole bean coffee tastes fine despite being frozen for quite a few weeks.
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Postby Ken Fox on Sat Sep 18, 2010 12:38 am

If you have never participated in a blind tasting type experiment, it is an enormous eye-opener, no matter what it is that you are tasting.

Before the various espresso blind tasting experiments were even conceived, which have looked at the differences between espresso machine pumps (vibratory vs. rotary) and previously frozen vs. never frozen coffee, I had the benefit of two prior sets of experiences. The least important was exposure to carefully designed experiments tested with statistics in college, and the more significant was a year and a half spent on a tasting panel for a wine publication back in the early 1980s when I lived in San Diego. Although the latter experience was more informal and not statistically analyzed, it was composed of a group of about 16 people (about 12 of whom would show up on any given weekly or more frequent) tasting session, all of whom collected fine wines and by definition had at least somewhat of a wine palate.

The publication was the California Grapevine, which to my knowledge is still being published. Back in its day it actually had a following like Parker's Wine Advocate has today, but I'd imagine it has since fallen into obscurity. The publisher/owner would have 12 wines each night that he'd pre-selected, that were usually of the same type, from the same area, however he often threw in a "ringer" or two. A "ringer" in this parlance is, for example, a bottle of a red Bordeaux thrown into a tasting of California Cabernets, to see if the blind tasters could tell the difference. Often we knew that there was a ringer, and in any case, even if we didn't know the presence of ringers was so frequent that people got used to presuming their presence even if it was not pre-announced. The wines were camouflaged in brown paper bags and known to us tasters as #s 1 to 12. They were only identified later, after we had discussed them as a group, which was preceded by written "ballots" being passed in right after the blind tastings.

It was quite an education doing this blind tasting gig about 6x a month, over an 18 month span, watching both my own behavior and that of the others in the group. Again, this was an experienced group of wine drinkers all of whom had wine cellars and who were serious wine collectors. Every tasting at least one person (often more) would very seriously embarrass themselves, proclaiming they had found a "ringer" and it was XXX wine and it was this and that from this and that other location than the other wines came from. Occasionally the person was right, and it was really impressive, but more often the person or persons just made fools out of themselves. You could also easily embarrass yourself by preferring what should have been an obviously inferior wine to one considered to be "top of class." And I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't shown to be a fool in this enterprise more times than I would like to remember.

Don't ever overestimate your own tasting ability. Don't ever imagine that you are immune from this sort of potential embarrassment. If whatever it is that is being compared is not compared blinded, in a test design that doesn't prejudice what you will think when you judge something, then the results are totally meaningless. And I don't care what someone thinks of their own tasting abilities. I don't care if someone thinks they are experienced in what they are tasting. I don't care if they think they are "supertasters." Very few people will not be humbled by a real, extensive, experience with blind tasting.

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Postby another_jim on Sat Sep 18, 2010 1:20 am

I would have serious reservations on their advice for boiling water, never mind freezing coffee ...

I looked at a few dozen tips and recipes. The standard posters on this site are people who have read every cookbook and restaurant guide, but who rarely cook from scratch. They will have made or tasted a dish once, or maybe even a few times, before posting or commenting on it. How much credence would you give on this forum to the tips of someone who, in their lives, has tasted coffee a half dozen times?

I'm sure there are lots of people who cook daily, only from scratch, and who have made their favorite dishes hundreds or thousands of times; but they don't seem to be posting on serious eats.
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Postby jasonmolinari on Sat Sep 18, 2010 6:26 am

Jim, this particular tasting was done by a trainer from counter culture. That's why I was kind of surprised.

I agree with you Ken. I didn't think it would make such a drastic difference to turn the frozen coffee to undrinkable though.
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Postby RapidCoffee on Sat Sep 18, 2010 12:31 pm

Unfortunately this appears to be correct:
About the author: Erin Meister ... trains baristas and inspires coffee-driven people for Counter Culture Coffee.

Despite Erin's credentials, additional nonsense unsupported assertions may be found throughout her short article. First, on grinding frozen beans:
Avoid putting still-frozen beans through a burr grinder. Moisture on your burrs is a one-way ticket to Rustville. If you must freeze definitely be sure to defrost.

Defrosting seems like a good idea. But I've ground frozen beans on several occasions, and not had any problems with rust. Perhaps moisture from condensation is more of an issue in the humid southeast.

Second, on freezing preground coffee:
The preground samples, however, were a totally different animal. While the room-temperature-stored sample produced a noticeably "meh" cup that lacked sparkle and had a bitter finish, the frozen grounds turned into a cup of buttery, maple syrupy deliciousness—just as good as the fresh whole beans did.

Freezing directly after grinding allows the coffee to hang on to the delicate aromatics

Just like you, my first reaction was, "Wait...what?" But it kinda makes sense.

Uh... no, it doesn't. According to Erin, freezing whole beans is akin to taste death, but freezing preground coffee works great. In that case, we should all be using frozen preground coffee, right? :roll:

IMHO this article is for amusement only.
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Postby Sherman on Sat Sep 18, 2010 3:07 pm

Before anyone decides to put Erin Meister on a balance scale and weigh her against a duck... the article as written seems to be targeted at the casual user. Not quite the H-B crowd, to be sure. If I were a casual user and reading the article, I'd think twice about freezing my coffee as well. Then again, "freezing" could mean "toss the semi-closed bag into the freezer door".

Let's bear in mind that the experiments and resultant recommendations are fairly specific -
In this experiment, a very specific methodology was employed, and exactly how far one can deviate from it and expect to get good results is unclear. The previously frozen coffee we used was frozen immediately after roasting, within about an hour, in semi-airtight packaging in a very cold freezer (about -15°F / -26°C). It was then defrosted, only once, within the same packaging before it was exposed to outside air, reducing or eliminating the possibility of condensation.


Perhaps the only sin committed here was one of omission; "you can freeze coffee with good results, but it's a more involved process" , with any mention of readership being disinclined to go to such lengths graciously omitted.

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Postby Sherman on Sat Sep 18, 2010 3:17 pm

jasonmolinari wrote:Edited to add: The author of the article is a barista trainer at Counter Culture Coffee.


Point taken.

Counterpoint: The title is "barista trainer". I'd wager that most baristas, trainers included, don't go to the lengths of experimentation and rigor that are seemingly commonplace on HB.

IMHO, barista skills would include:

- Pull a proper shot, including visual & taste troubleshooting
- Steam milk for cappas and lattes
- Pour passable latte art
- Know a little bit about the terroirs involved in that shot/cup

Given the enthusiasm and vigor that is evident in HB, it seems like we're the Tea Partiers of coffee. :D

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Postby RapidCoffee on Sat Sep 18, 2010 3:23 pm

Sherman wrote:Before anyone decides to put Erin Meister on a balance scale and weigh her against a duck... the article as written seems to be targeted at the casual user.

I fail to see your point. The Serious Eats article is pure unadulterated crap. It does the coffee drinking community a disservice by disseminating erroneous information.

Your quote, by the way, comes from from Ken Fox's article on H-B - not Erin's article on Serious Eats.

Sherman wrote:Given the enthusiasm and vigor that is evident in HB, it seems like we're the Tea Partiers of coffee.

Speak for yourself. :evil:
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Postby Ken Fox on Sat Sep 18, 2010 3:24 pm

Sherman wrote:
IMHO, barista skills would include:

- Pull a proper shot, including visual & taste troubleshooting
- Steam milk for cappas and lattes
- Pour passable latte art
- Know a little bit about the terroirs involved in that shot/cup



That would be my definition, too, however it is at odds with the view, not infrequently expressed on this board, that being a barista is a career, and one that requires a skill set of the same magnitude as a three star chef.

Sherman wrote:Before anyone decides to put Erin Meister on a balance scale and weigh her against a duck...


Have you gotten your birds mixed up? Ducks are those things in the AFLACK commercials. I was thinking, turkey.

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