4-5 month old beans for espresso - underrated?

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.
dsc106

#1: Post by dsc106 »

To clarify, I am picky with my coffee. I live in Portland, can easily taste the difference between Starbucks and local roasters, and between different beans and different roasters. I can also notice the difference when I make pourovers as the coffees age from 5-10 range and when in the 20+ day range.

I have a coffee subscription to Coava and get a new bag every 2 weeks, and I happen to have some whole bean bags left over in the closet which have been stored after being opened, but re-rolled up tightly in their original vacuum bag from November. Sometimes when I need an afternoon hit of caffeine and don't want to rip through my freshest bag too fast, I will pull beans from some old bags.

Today, I ground it up with my Niche Zero made a small iced double shot with milk (probably a 1:1 espresso milk ratio, over ice, stirred and diluted a bit) from a bag of coffee roasted in late November - so just over 4 months old now. I thought the drink tasted GOOD. Not GREAT, but not at all off putting in anyway. It was smooth, earthy, and plenty pleasing enough for an afternoon iced milk drink. No, I couldn't pick out the distinct flavors like I can with my fresher coffee - they seemed to have mellowed into a more one dimensional nutty earthiness - and no, I didn't try it straight up. But for a milk based drink, it was perfectly suitable and I wouldn't complain getting it somewhere. It was MUCH, MUCH better than anything you'd get from say a Starbucks. Not bitter, not sour.

This is not just a one-off - I have been surprised a handful of times now at the flavor from older beans and it's made me rethink this whole 2-3 week shelf life. What is your experience? For milk based espresso drinks (or maybe even other drink types?) is the ticking timer on coffee a bit overstated? These high quality but older whole beans, while not the same nuance experience as when a couple weeks off roast, certainly did not turn "BAD". I was surprised to find them perfectly serviceable and miles better than most non specialty shops coffee.

Thoughts/experiences?

tennisman03110

#2: Post by tennisman03110 »

Is old coffee underrated, no.

Sure, it's not bad and it tastes fine with milk. Might be drinkable black.

But at one point that coffee was fresh roasted and excellent. You've "wasted" the farming, roasting and delivery of what's a ticking time bomb. You paid good money to shove it in a closet.

Would you buy a triple IPA straight from the canning line and stash it in the fridge for 4 months? I really hope not.

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dsc106 (original poster)

#3: Post by dsc106 (original poster) »

tennisman03110 wrote:Would you buy a triple IPA straight from the canning line and stash it in the fridge for 4 months? I really hope not.
No, my point/discovery is more so that if I bought a bunch and them couldn't drink them fast enough before my next fresh batch came in, I would not throw away the beer that had been stashed for 4 months under the false pretense that it was rubbish.
tennisman03110 wrote:Is old coffee underrated, no. Sure, it's not bad and it tastes fine with milk.
I see, my discovery was that I haven't heard many people refer to 4-5 month old coffee as "not bad and tastes fine with milk", I've generally been under the impression that after a month or so it's just bitter and stale tasting, AKA, chuck that trash out - and under that narrative then I would say, yes, old coffee has been underrated.

I was hoping to hear others experiences and opinions as perhaps this is old news to everyone, it is news to me - I've never bothered to ever try and drink 4-5 month old quality beans and I'm surprised/happy to hear you say it's not bad and tastes fine with milk. Not because that is how I prefer my coffee, but because I often end up either having to over or under order, and I rarely want to under order, so it's nice to know that that I needn't be on such a strict timer if I have 100g of coffee left over here or there I can still enjoy it as an Affogato or something.

tennisman03110

#4: Post by tennisman03110 »

I get your point, in a way. Can't say I know many people who ever thought to throw away older coffee.

But I grew up around Folgers and Dunkin Donuts. If you judge everything off this site alone, maybe your views are a bit different.

Using a larger sample size, i.e. the everday population, most people would say fresh coffee is overrated. In my opinion.

dsc106 (original poster)

#5: Post by dsc106 (original poster) »

Ahh I see, yeah living in PDX and off enthusiast sites it's sort of been rotten eggs after 3 weeks, maybe 4.

Good to know. Certainly want freshest for my main rhythm, but happy to have some older stuff on hand for when needed.

Philg
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#6: Post by Philg »

One thing I learned from this site that wasn't common knowledge when they were doing the testing and figuring it out, is that you can store your beans in the freezer and they'll keep much better. I'm not careful and don't have an especially good freezer but months old coffee still makes good espresso - it tastes good to me, but the more quantitive measure is that it pours about the same as when it was first frozen.

Tj.

#7: Post by Tj. »

tennisman03110 wrote:Is old coffee underrated, no.

Sure, it's not bad and it tastes fine with milk. Might be drinkable black.

But at one point that coffee was fresh roasted and excellent. You've "wasted" the farming, roasting and delivery of what's a ticking time bomb. You paid good money to shove it in a closet.

Would you buy a triple IPA straight from the canning line and stash it in the fridge for 4 months? I really hope not.
Would you rather have a fresh bottle of wine or lay it down in a cool dark place for a few months/years? Depends on the wine. Coffee beans are too different from alcohol to compare.

The 3-4 week shelf life is mostly fanboy talk in my opinion. There is a lot of discussion on the effects of aging coffee and blind ratings can favor bags that are several months old if kept in a sealed bag. An open bag that is several months old won't be taking home any trophies but can still taste excellent in the cup, to the point that most snobby coffee drinkers would not know they are drinking older coffee. I have noticed older beans are more difficult to extract evenly under the high pressure of espresso which is why I would still recommend fresher 1-2 week old coffee just for beginner home baristas, experienced people can make their own opinions.

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Nickriders

#8: Post by Nickriders »

Great question!! A good workaround on your problem would be to vacuum seal and deep freeze the extra beans that you have. If done at or before optimal days post roast, you'll grow a nice Cellars of beans. I've been enjoying some awesome coffee that were store that way in filter and espresso and it was between 90 to 100% as it was beforehand. If your grinder single dose, it is a plus to grind direct from the freezer.

N.

tennisman03110

#9: Post by tennisman03110 »

Tj. wrote:Would you rather have a fresh bottle of wine or lay it down in a cool dark place for a few months/years? Depends on the wine. Coffee beans are too different from alcohol to compare.

The 3-4 week shelf life is mostly fanboy talk in my opinion. There is a lot of discussion on the effects of aging coffee and blind ratings can favor bags that are several months old if kept in a sealed bag. An open bag that is several months old won't be taking home any trophies but can still taste excellent in the cup, to the point that most snobby coffee drinkers would not know they are drinking older coffee. I have noticed older beans are more difficult to extract evenly under the high pressure of espresso which is why I would still recommend fresher 1-2 week old coffee just for beginner home baristas, experienced people can make their own opinions.
First off, I compared a Triple IPA to roasted coffee. I said nothing of wine, so you're jumping to many conclusions rhetorically asking about all alcohol.

Secondly, you seem to contradict yourself. You say some blind ratings favor old bags, yet conclude 1-2 week old coffee is best.

The original post is about espresso. Your profile says you only do pourover. It's well known espresso is the most demanding and requires the most precision, including fresh (but not too fresh) beans.

I standby my initial thoughts. Old coffee beans are not underrated. After a few weeks, almost all beans start to go downhill, even if that's a slow drop. See discussions on freezing.

Tj.

#10: Post by Tj. » replying to tennisman03110 »

I was showing how an analogy can be used to make any point you want but it doesn't really provide any support.

A lot of coffee will still tastes good well outside the optimal date. I also said that coffee can be at its absolute best several months past roast. I ended by saying espresso is harder to extract than drip and for whatever reason, it is easier to pull shots using 1 week old beans than 1 month but not that the espresso tastes worse if properly extracted. Everyone can taste coffee changing over time and I think people are fast to assume it is old and bad rather than trying to dial it in to make it taste good. Anyone using a bad grinder won't be able to easily pull a good shot with coffee that is even just a week opened. For instance, my work kitchen used to have a Breville Smart Grinder Pro which was only sufficient for fresh beans. Past week old beans, it couldn't grind fine and even enough to prevent channeling. People also have preconceived opinions when they know a bag is older.

I'm just trying to say that coffee is variable and if you aren't buying black beans, they can age positively. Aged coffee can taste sweeter and more balanced, particularly light roasts which I prefer for espresso rather than milks drinks. Some coffees well past it's prime can taste almost indistinguishable from when it was first roasted when properly extracted.

It's fine if you disagree or have not experienced this but this is my experience and I'm not alone. These comments are relevant as OP is talking about older coffee that tastes great and I am saying that it's not an anomaly. (Though OP may not be super well versed in coffee as they compared it to Starbucks lol).

Yeah, I sold off my espresso equipment when I moved this year. Plan on picking up new stuff later. Doesn't change the above. I judge coffees by cupping, I see no reason why the brew method matters other than the time and skill it tastes to find the flavors.