Coffees that don't freeze well

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.
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#1: Post by yakster »

I thought I'd start a thread for people who regularly freeze roasted coffee but find that some of their coffees don't freeze well and suffer a significant loss of flavor when frozen.

I noticed this recently with the Uganda Kaproron Sipi Falls Raised Bed Natural Organic Crown Jewel and I've stopped storing this coffee in the freezer. The other jar from the same roast that I had stored in my coffee cupboard was fine. I hadn't noticed this before with washed or other natural processed coffees.

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#2: Post by spressomon »

Good idea yakster!

I have been freezing coffee beans for quite a few years now and although not 100%, many of the naturally processed beans just don't survive completely intact after freezing; even after only being in the deep freeze for a couple weeks. Having said that, lately I have shifted to not vac sealing my glass canning jars with the natural processed beans and they seem to hold up better compared to vac sealing. All anecdotal as I have not done blind taste tests.

Freezer: Minus 15-17ºF (actual), manual defrost chest style freezer.
No Espresso = Depresso

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#3: Post by baldheadracing »

This is kind of hard to pin down as I suspect that both the green coffee and the roast contribute. So, some food for thought:

First, I think that a coffee that deteriorates taste-wise relatively quickly when stored in room temperature conditions will do the same in colder conditions. Also, I suspect moisture and water activity play a role, but I've never measured these.

With my own roasts:
- I have never noticed this with roasts taken beyond the end of first crack; only in roasts where I drop during first crack;
- my sample roasts have never lasted very long. I have tried freezing sample roasts only a couple times and gave up. I use an iRoast2 for sample roasting so the roasting technology could be a factor as well;
- the naturals where I've noticed this have all been pretty rustic; the kind of coffee that you want to screen for sand and pebbles, and run a magnet through.

With purchased roasts:
- again, I've only noticed this with a few light-roasted coffees; never anything light-medium or more developed;
- it has never happened to me when the light-roasted beans have been rock-hard - if you have a hand grinder then you'll know what I'm talking about. (I'm not referring to white coffee. White roasts break grinders.)
- I buy novel processes (e.g., anaerobic, carbonic maceration) one or two times a year. When I do, I always try to get the coffee in sets offering the same green processed in multiple ways, e.g, washed, natural, and anaerobic. These sets are invariably light-roasted. They're also invariably expensive, so there is a strong desire to freeze to stretch the coffee out. So far, freezing has never worked out; the frozen novel processes lose complexity, lose 'wow' on the tongue, become flat. I'm not saying that is always the case; but I have stopped freezing these types of coffees, and change brew method instead. I'll cup the coffees first - at the cost of some of these sets, I better be able to taste a difference blinded! - then pourover, then espresso, and, at the end of the bags, Turkish.

I'm curious to hear about other's experiences. I'd sure like to be able to preserve all coffees for longer.
What I'm interested in is my worst espresso being fantastic - James Hoffmann
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#4: Post by ojt »

Haven't done any real testing about this but sometimes I think the freezing does affect the taste of some coffees. Recently I had a stroke of bad luck with Ethiopian coffees and one of my suspicions was the freezing of them. My freezing method is pretty rudimentary: I just tape any valve openings closed and throw the bags into freezer while still closed, then take out one bag at the time and consume the whole bag before taking another one out.

So, I have questioned myself:
- Does the freezing affect the taste adversely in some cases?
- Does the freezing affect the post thaw ageing adversely, making the coffee age faster or just different?
- Am I just doing it all wrong? This is likely but then with many many coffees it has all gone very well, no issues.

Perhaps I need to get two or more bags of same coffee, maybe even of two different coffees (say Ehtiopian and a Colombian for example) and make a semi serious test with just one brew method (I vary with three or four different methods).

Interesting discussion point, thanks! Let's see where this leads.

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#5: Post by EddyQ »

This is an interesting finding that I believe I may have experienced, but could not be certain because I did not have that jar that wasn't frozen. I think the poor flavor was a Ethiopian natural and had been frozen for maybe three weeks. I probably figured it was the aging and not the cold.

So it does make me want to test some of my future roasts and find out. What should I do? Do we think the simple act of freezing causes a shift of flavor? Would an single overnight be a good test? Or should I go for a week with two identical jars? I probably should do both. Find out how they differ as they age at different temps. But keeping the jars sealed may be important too.
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#6: Post by baldheadracing » replying to EddyQ »

An example of what I've done:
1. roast;
2. taste the coffee every couple days or so until the taste is good, for example, seven days.;
3. at that point, split the roast and freeze half (or some proportion);
4. keep drinking/tasting the unfrozen coffee for another two-three weeks, or until one is confident that the unfrozen coffee doesn't taste as good as it did back in step 2;
5. pull out the frozen coffee, and cup it against the always-unfrozen coffee. I use the simple judgement of ordering the cups from best to worst tasting. I'd recommend three bowls of each coffee; six bowls total. (The minimum is two bowls of each coffee, and the SCA cupping standard is five bowls of each coffee IIRC.)

Possible outcomes from the cupping:
- If freezing works well, then the frozen coffee 'should' taste as good as the coffee did back at step 2, before it was frozen. However, that is a difficult comparison to make;
- If freezing helps, then the frozen coffee should taste better than the always-unfrozen coffee;
- If freezing doesn't help, then the frozen coffee should taste the same or worse than the unfrozen coffee.
What I'm interested in is my worst espresso being fantastic - James Hoffmann


#7: Post by DavidMLewis »

I have had good results using George Howell's method, including with naturals: I double-bag the coffee and freeze it, then remove what I'm going to use and grind still frozen, returning the bag to the freezer without delay. I have tried a comparison using a bag of the same coffee left out on the counter, and much prefer the consistency of the frozen. Of course that's a sample of one with no blinding, so of only anecdotal use.


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#8: Post by yakster (original poster) »

I'd like to see this thread stay on topic of specific coffees that don't freeze well. We have plenty of other threads on how to freeze coffee and whether or not to freeze coffee, I though we might explore specific coffees that don't freeze well for people who have good experiences freezing their coffee.

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