Coffee going from tasty to lifeless in hours or max few days

Coffee preparation techniques besides espresso like pourover.
CoffeeIsWeird

#1: Post by CoffeeIsWeird »

Hi Coffee Community,

I've been struggling with making coffee since I started, about a year ago, so I thought I'll give it a shot and ask this community :-)

Here's a recent example. On Monday I opened a bag of lightly-roasted Ethiopian natural, Guji Region, tasting notes: blueberry & lemon, a recognised light-roaster in this country coffee scene. At that point the bag was 6 days post-roast. First pourover brew - tasting notes couldn't be more accurate, maybe a tad thin but super enjoyable (one of my best coffees ever). I kept my brew parameters identical and made the second brew minutes after - same lovely flavors. Third brew a couple of hours later - most of the flavour gone. And both yesterday (Tuesday) and today (Wednesday), the beans stayed completely flavourless, empty, tasting notes fully gone, it tasted like sweetened water with some bitter/ashy flavours instead.

Usually that's it. No brewing adjustment seems to get the flavors back. In the past I've occasionally managed to get a tasty brew again when I gave up on the beans for 2-3 weeks and then remember they're still there - suddenly the good flavour was magically back. It won't stay for long of course and then it dies out again.

For the record, I've measured the TDS with my VST refractometer so it has remained consistent around 1.22% and the resulting Extraction Yield around 18% - which does describe well the flavour experience in the first two brews (lovely clean flavours, maybe needing a tiniest bit of extraction extra to be fuller). Dose 12g, water 200g, yield around 178g of beverage, brew temperature 94C/201F (in general I've tried anything from 90-100C/194-212F but higher temps often amplify the bitter ashy aspect). Same Method/TDS/EY on day 2 - the coffee comes out completely lifeless.

In order to minimise anything to do with my technique I've used the most repeatable brew method I have - self-regulating and water-distributing Gabi Master A, same temp, same grind, same coffee-friendly water (Tesco Ashbeck - KH20, GH42, TDS75, popular in local coffee shops). I tried it in cupping as well but the flavour was gone too. In the past I've had similar experiences with V60, April Brewer, Clever and Espresso, I've tried blooming, non-blooming, stirring, rao spinning, tapping, pouring central or spirals, slower or faster, higher or lower, different temps, ratios, grind sizes, and grinders, waters (Volvic, TWW), coarse-grind+multiple-pours, fine-grind+fewer-pours etc. - so I don't think it's brew method related.

My grinder is 1Zpresso K-Plus which works well - I asked a couple of good local coffee shops to brew a pourover with it and it came out fantastic, with clean flavours, I couldn't tell it apart from their EK43. I've also tried my Niche Zero and the resulting brew was flavourless - so I don't think it's grinder related.

Today I experimented with a couple of brews at coarser grind settings (usual 6.6; today 7.0, 7.5, 8.7 and 12.0) - all were dull and empty with that ashy bitterness in the background. Going finer usually hits that wall of harshness/bitterness around somewhere 5.5-6.5 depending on the recipe/beans.

I've tried keeping beans in the original bag, expelling air or not, tried using Airscape, as well single-portioning the beans and/or freezing them. But it seems nothing can prevent that flavour disappearing soon after opening the bag. My best case was about 3 days of flavour for Colombian beans (Diego Bermudez) before it started gradually going duller and bitter.

I don't have COVID nor any flu, my flatmates have experienced my coffee the same way, and I really do love lightly-roasted specialty coffee in local shops which come out pleasant, flavorful, often leave a nice aftertaste. In fact I can't remember any shop serving me a coffee with my usual home-style defects at all.

It seems that beans should stay tasty for days/weeks if kept away from heat, moisture, light and oxygen. Any tips what I might be doing wrong or experiments to try?

Espresso Vision: the perfect cup of coffee starts with understanding your roast
Sponsored by Espresso Vision
Rjreusch

#2: Post by Rjreusch »

I have had occasions with natural processed coffee that the more intense fruity flavors tend to be the first to dissipate. Even a matter of days or a week can make a difference. However, the coffee still was good and very enjoyable over a fairly long period of time. Just a bit different flavor profile with less fruitiness. So, what you are experiencing seems odd to me. I also feel blueberry flavor in particular disappears rather quickly but I could be way off base with that observation.
★ Helpful

CoffeeIsWeird (original poster)

#3: Post by CoffeeIsWeird (original poster) »

Thanks, Bob. Yeah, I've heard that naturals are more prone to this issue but this seems to happen for every coffee for me.

So 30 minutes ago I opened another bag. This time lightly roasted Colombian Anaerobic Natural (sorry for these naturals, normally I buy washed but this order was more experimental). Roasted 8 Nov (Monday), opened today on 18 Nov (Thursday) so ten days post roast.

As expected from the first portions of the bag all the brews came out fantastic:

1) Cupping - my usual recipe with Volvic water
2) Gabi Master A Dripper - 12g in, 200g water, 172.5g out, temp 94C/201F, grind setting 6.6 on my 1Zpresso KPlus: TDS 1.33%, EY 19.81%
3) Gabi Master A Dripper - 12g in, 200.7g water, 173.6g out, temp 94C/201F, grind setting 6.4 on my 1Zpresso KPlus: TDS 1.35%, EY 20.24%

All brews full of boozy cherry flavor, no harsh/bitter/dull defects at all. Easily on par with the best filter coffees I've had in my favorite specialty coffee shops in London. I wouldn't normally choose "boozy" coffee on a regular basis, but it's great for a change and I do appreciate how well it came out. Co-tasted with one more person.

Now, my guess is that this coffee will turn completely lifeless in the next days.

DamianWarS
Supporter ♡

#4: Post by DamianWarS »

CoffeeIsWeird wrote:Hi Coffee Community,

I've been struggling with making coffee since I started, about a year ago, so I thought I'll give it a shot and ask this community :-)

Here's a recent example. On Monday I opened a bag of lightly-roasted Ethiopian natural, Guji Region, tasting notes: blueberry & lemon, a recognised light-roaster in this country coffee scene. At that point the bag was 6 days post-roast. First pourover brew - tasting notes couldn't be more accurate, maybe a tad thin but super enjoyable (one of my best coffees ever). I kept my brew parameters identical and made the second brew minutes after - same lovely flavors. Third brew a couple of hours later - most of the flavour gone. And both yesterday (Tuesday) and today (Wednesday), the beans stayed completely flavourless, empty, tasting notes fully gone, it tasted like sweetened water with some bitter/ashy flavours instead.

Usually that's it. No brewing adjustment seems to get the flavors back. In the past I've occasionally managed to get a tasty brew again when I gave up on the beans for 2-3 weeks and then remember they're still there - suddenly the good flavour was magically back. It won't stay for long of course and then it dies out again.

For the record, I've measured the TDS with my VST refractometer so it has remained consistent around 1.22% and the resulting Extraction Yield around 18% - which does describe well the flavour experience in the first two brews (lovely clean flavours, maybe needing a tiniest bit of extraction extra to be fuller). Dose 12g, water 200g, yield around 178g of beverage, brew temperature 94C/201F (in general I've tried anything from 90-100C/194-212F but higher temps often amplify the bitter ashy aspect). Same Method/TDS/EY on day 2 - the coffee comes out completely lifeless.

In order to minimise anything to do with my technique I've used the most repeatable brew method I have - self-regulating and water-distributing Gabi Master A, same temp, same grind, same coffee-friendly water (Tesco Ashbeck - KH20, GH42, TDS75, popular in local coffee shops). I tried it in cupping as well but the flavour was gone too. In the past I've had similar experiences with V60, April Brewer, Clever and Espresso, I've tried blooming, non-blooming, stirring, rao spinning, tapping, pouring central or spirals, slower or faster, higher or lower, different temps, ratios, grind sizes, and grinders, waters (Volvic, TWW), coarse-grind+multiple-pours, fine-grind+fewer-pours etc. - so I don't think it's brew method related.

My grinder is 1Zpresso K-Plus which works well - I asked a couple of good local coffee shops to brew a pourover with it and it came out fantastic, with clean flavours, I couldn't tell it apart from their EK43. I've also tried my Niche Zero and the resulting brew was flavourless - so I don't think it's grinder related.

Today I experimented with a couple of brews at coarser grind settings (usual 6.6; today 7.0, 7.5, 8.7 and 12.0) - all were dull and empty with that ashy bitterness in the background. Going finer usually hits that wall of harshness/bitterness around somewhere 5.5-6.5 depending on the recipe/beans.

I've tried keeping beans in the original bag, expelling air or not, tried using Airscape, as well single-portioning the beans and/or freezing them. But it seems nothing can prevent that flavour disappearing soon after opening the bag. My best case was about 3 days of flavour for Colombian beans (Diego Bermudez) before it started gradually going duller and bitter.

I don't have COVID nor any flu, my flatmates have experienced my coffee the same way, and I really do love lightly-roasted specialty coffee in local shops which come out pleasant, flavorful, often leave a nice aftertaste. In fact I can't remember any shop serving me a coffee with my usual home-style defects at all.

It seems that beans should stay tasty for days/weeks if kept away from heat, moisture, light and oxygen. Any tips what I might be doing wrong or experiments to try?
"bitter/ashy flavours" sounds like a roast defect to me, especially with lightly roasted beans. For example, if the roaster doesn't have good airflow during the roast smoke will build up in the drum and it will negatively affect the coffee. I lot of things can contribute to ashy flavours and if the roaster uses more of a direct conduction heat over indirect convection it's going to be harsher on the beans. dull flavorless coffee can also be a characteristic of a roast defect, the roast stalled or flatlined too long imparting a baked flavour.

There's always better methods/equipment but you shouldn't get that dramatic of change and I wouldn't say anything is wrong with your technique. Among coffee compounds, aroma is the most volatile but I would only be guessing how that is affecting your experience as I've never had coffee change so quickly. my biggest flag is the "bitter/ashy flavours" and regardless of how old your coffee is that's not a characteristic that should be coming out. if it was a darker roast then you could argue it's typical of that roast profile but not a light roast. I would check for other roast defects like tipping which is a little black dot that appears at the end of the coffee bean. tipping can be really bad but even a little black dot present in most coffee beans can make the coffee taste like an ashtray. other problems could be a lot of broken beans or different sizes of beans or lots of peaberries will roast at different rates. Try and sort a dose of equal sizes beans without any visible defects and compare that with an unsorted dose. You can also just pop a bean in your mouth and crunch it and the most dominant notes will come out, if it's ashy then the brew will be ashy but the presence of good acidity is a good thing (depending on the processing method).

Other problems could be old coffee which would dull the flavours (but that doesn't explain the ashy flavours) and you could check how well the coffee blooms, if it doesn't bloom (no floating coffee) then it's old coffee and you're roaster is selling you old beans but I would suspect this is a problem with a roast defect, not old beans. I usually don't say anything with roast defects (I just don't buy from them again) but if it's a local roaster and you're able to drop in I would visit them and bring your beans. especially if there's tipping your roaster should automatically refund you but if you can taste it together they can offer you their thoughts on the roast and for business sake should give you a free bag of coffee. if you get the same problem with them, change your roaster.

if this is a problem you can't seem to figure out you might want to try and cup coffee with other coffees. when you taste coffee in isolation it can be hard to identify what's good and what's not, or what's more lemon forward and what's fruity, bitter, etc... When you cup different coffees together those differences because a lot more noticeable and with a minimum of 3 coffees you can pull out which one is more bitter, more acidic, more fruity, etc... fairly quickly and it can change your perception of the coffee. contrasting coffee like this can bring out the qualities (or defects) of the coffee than if isolated. professional cuppers grade coffee always comparing other coffees and never alone. James Hoffmann does a great video of a tasting session with someone who doesn't like coffee and it is really simple but effective. if this is something you are struggling with in general with all coffee something like is a great learning experience.

Auctor
Supporter ❤

#5: Post by Auctor »

I think I have the same general problem as the OP. When I first open the bag, assuming I like the coffee, it's amazing. That first and even second cup is fantastic. Then, as days go by, I notice less flavor, less intensity, and a slight move to bitter. By Day 5-7, I can barely stomach the coffee anymore. The story is the same even if the bag is 30 days post roast - the first cup or two is usually amazing, and then (depending on some factors), it's either a gradual decline, or a steep one. Tried a variety of fixes (to limited success):

1) Only buy and use <15 days post roast coffee
2) Open the bag, single dose, and freeze everything
3) Open the bag, put into different zip lock bags, single dose 3-5 servings and freeze everything

While I don't have my finger on the why yet, there are some hypotheses I've come up with (in slight order of preference):

1) Hedonic adaptation - After a while of drinking the same great coffee, your palate changes and notices it less (I think the same applies to wearing cologne)
1a) Lack of comparison - Without another, different cup, it becomes more challenging for your mind to consistently capture the complexity, because the only frame of reference is comparing to itself (your last cup)
2) Palate fatigue - There may be such thing as trying too hard to taste every last drop of a cup, and eventually your palate is exhausted and loses its ability to taste the nuances from the first cup
3) Palate oversensitivity - This could go a couple of different ways - there are some that are incredibly good at judging flavor (i am not one of them yet), but i suspect that just because I can't taste blackberry in coffee, it doesn't mean that i can't taste a change in aroma and quality of the bean as it ages over time - it could be that some folks can discern these changes better than others

Again, not sure what the best explanation is, but over the past year of sampling well over 100 different coffees, these are my best theories.

Jonk

#6: Post by Jonk »

Auctor wrote:When I first open the bag, assuming I like the coffee, it's amazing.
This is often my experience as well. Even with my home roasts, the first is often the best, even though it really shouldn't be. I think it's the thrill of new flavor, and then the taste buds are quickly spoiled and hoping for something new.

txxt
Supporter ♡

#7: Post by txxt » replying to Jonk »

I would put money on palate fatigue here. Or sub optimal roasts or greens. I've absolutely had Sidama roasts of mine start out very nice then drop off precipitously in blueberry flavor if I had some unexpected behavior during roasting and others be able to hold steady for a week or more before starting to degrade.

ECM Manufacture: @ecmespresso #weliveespresso
Sponsored by ECM Manufacture
CoffeeIsWeird (original poster)

#8: Post by CoffeeIsWeird (original poster) »

Thanks everybody.

Recently I came back from holidays amd tried a bag of coffee that my girlfriend had opened 5 days before. She said she'd had some fruit on the day of opening. When I tried it for the first time, it was already lifeless, dull like sweetened water, with some bitter, harsh.

It's not about palate fatigue. The change is too dramatic. It's not just mild flavor fading. And I've tasted my coffee side by side, with another coffee or tea for that matter.

It's not about this particular roaster either. That includes big international names like Koppi, Coffee Collective, April, Morgon. It's just across the board for me. I've never had a bag that lasted well even for a week (to be fair as a newbie brewer I must have been making some brewing errors as well - that's why I'm sticking to Gabi for now to minimize any of my technique flaws).

And we don't have any tasting issues, flus, covids etc. in this house ;-)

User avatar
mkane
Supporter ♡

#9: Post by mkane »

Interesting thread and the reason we bought a vacuum pump to seal our mason jars. A 1qt jar holds one of our 340g roasts. Long story short I now break these into 170g doses, seal and keep them in the pantry or freeze them. Curious to see if it curtails fall off.

BackstreetRoaster

#10: Post by BackstreetRoaster »

I have also been observing this phenomenon and I've been trying to figure out the cause of it, I am leaning towards c02 being the cause, I have a Nicaraguan washed from girl who grind at the moment that has done just as described above, it had an amazing balance and sparkle 5 days after roast and day one of opening, the next day slightly more dull, and the third day a bitter mess, I feel it was roasted to a medium level with a long mid section for body, but it's actually maybe over roasted and only held up by the c02 which adds the sparkle once that's dulled you are left with the roasted notes, they however will die down hopefully with another rest of 5 to 7 days and then it will be great again although not the same as day one because the actual coffee has changed and will keep changing as it oxidises I'm guessing however but this is my current not very scientific theory.