How to recognize stale coffee?

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

#1: Post by fdoenz » Mar 18, 2017, 3:58 am

I guess typical newbie question! Is there a way to recognize easily stale coffee before grinding? By odor, colour...or other? Is it possible to identify a stale bean under a microscope? For a newbie like me who still has a problem to distinguish good and bad coffee, it would be nice to eliminate stale coffee as there are so many variables which can go wrong in espresso preparation!!
Many thanks in advance for your inputs!!

h3yn0w

#2: Post by h3yn0w » Mar 18, 2017, 8:37 am

Only buy beans that have the roast date on the package, and ensure they are no more than a couple weeks old. If they don't have the roast date , 99.9% of the time they are stale.

fdoenz

#3: Post by fdoenz » Mar 18, 2017, 8:50 am

Yes, I started doing this, but being not in the US, it's harder to find suggestions of good coffee suppliers in Switzerland and around....but is there some easy or obvious sign of a stale bean? Color, tint? Smell.....

RockyIII
Supporter ♡

#4: Post by RockyIII » replying to fdoenz » Mar 18, 2017, 9:09 am

I just avoid using beans after two weeks from the roast date. I don't know how to tell from the beans if they are stale, but I can tell when I brew and taste. At my usual grind setting for the beans, the extraction runs faster with less crema, and the taste is off.

Rocky

Nick Name

#5: Post by Nick Name » Mar 18, 2017, 10:42 am

fdoenz wrote:Yes, I started doing this, but being not in the US, it's harder to find suggestions of good coffee suppliers in Switzerland and around....but is there some easy or obvious sign of a stale bean? Color, tint? Smell.....
If you don't know the roast date then it is extremely difficult to determine whether the coffee is stale or not without tasting it. Stale coffee tastes bland and not fresh like a fresh roast should. Obviously it varies depending on how old the roast is. So it's common sense to assume that if you don't know the roast date then the coffee most likely is stale.

It is not that difficult to get good fresh roasts in Europe. The are lots of artisan roasters that have webshops. There are already one or two posts about them, but my favorites are:
https://shop.squaremilecoffee.com
https://www.thebarn.de
https://www.timwendelboe.no
https://coffeecollective.dk
https://www.hasbean.co.uk
https://ravecoffee.co.uk

If you order coffee by large quantities (more than you consume within two weeks), you might want to consider freezing your beans to slow down the staling process.

User avatar
HB
Admin

#6: Post by HB » Mar 18, 2017, 10:55 am

fdoenz wrote:Is there a way to recognize easily stale coffee before grinding? By odor, colour...or other?
Stale coffee will usually have a sheen of oil at the surface. Really stale coffee eventually loses its sheen and smells like cardboard and ash. If you don't know the roast date, grinding a small sample will reveal if it's fresh, somewhat fresh, stale, or really stale by smell. As I explained in the video below, you can also feel the difference (6:40):
When you rub the coffee between your fingers, you should feel some moisture (oil) with fresher coffee. If it feels grainy, dry, and doesn't stick together at all, it's stale. Finally, really fresh coffee smells wonderful when ground. Sniff the doser! I know that sounds weird, but it's a dead giveaway of stale coffee. Stale coffee will have very little smell while fresh coffee is wonderfully fragrant for the first seconds after having been ground.
Dan Kehn

Nick Name

#7: Post by Nick Name » Mar 18, 2017, 5:41 pm

Dan makes a good point on how to see if the coffee is stale before you grind it. But I think the most valuable question is how to know if the coffee is stale before buying (and paying for) it. The thing is that if you don't know the roast date or if you don't know (and trust) your roaster, you'll never know if the coffee is stale or not before you've given your money away.

Of course, there's always the option of roasting your own coffee. But that will be one more rabbit hole in your coffee hobby. :wink:

User avatar
Spitz.me

#8: Post by Spitz.me » Mar 18, 2017, 7:02 pm

If you have no way of knowing the freshness of a bag of coffee, it's stale. Yes, huge generalization, but the truth 99% of the time. The few times you might hit the jackpot aren't worth it in the long run. Head on over to the Italian blend aisle and pick up some Kimbo superior blend and have a go at that. It's stale, but it can still be quite delicious. High quality Italian blends can also be hit or miss, but we have a whole thread with this info.
I know I've pulled a great shot when the flavour is 'like a beany taste that tastes like a bean'.

DeGaulle

#9: Post by DeGaulle » Jul 02, 2017, 10:20 am

To resurrect a 4-month old thread: I just finished a 250 gram bag of Colombia Supremo that I picked up last week during a brief vacation trip from a very nice store of coffee and tea supplies. The owner roasts his own beans, but upon purchase, loads the beans into the bag from one of those behind-the-counter containers, so you have no way of knowing about the freshness. I opened the bag yesterday, spent half the bag dialing-in because I had to tweak the grinder to the burr-meeting-burr point to get the flow rate right. It showed no apparent crema flaws and tasted quite OK, although with a very narrow margin between balanced and overtly bitter. Also I noticed the level of grinds was reaching to the basket rim even after applying WDT, something that I had previously noticed with stale coffee, even though I dose no more than 16.5 grams into a 17 grams basket. Today I reverted to a bag of Guatemala SO 10 days post roast and after reading this thread I felt and smelled the grinds of the last bit of Colombia that I purged out of the grinder and then the fresher grinds of the Guatemala and it made a world of difference; the Colombia grinds lacked aroma and smelled what I would describe as somewhat "murky", the fresher grinds exhibited far more and very pleasant aromas. So above all: know your roast date.
Bert

roadman

#10: Post by roadman » Jul 02, 2017, 1:47 pm

To find fresh coffee in Switzerland you'll need to order direct from a specialty roaster. You can't just walk into the local Migros and grab a bag. :D

If you'd like get you beans near you and also try before you buy, Boréal Coffee is about 30 minutes from Morges.

You can also order fresh high quality coffee in CH by post from:
Kaffeepur
Kafischmitte
Rast