Why is there no standard for coffee freshness? - Page 2

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.
bernie (original poster)

#11: Post by bernie (original poster) »

JimWright wrote:Seems to me that perhaps the roaster should just be putting "best by"
dates on the bags rather than, or in addition to, the roast date...? Or
perhaps just putting right on the bag that the beans are best within
7-14 days of roast (or sub in whatever number the roaster's
experimentation reveals). This way, at least some of the buying public
might figure out that they bought stale beans at some point, and look
for fresher ones next time.
The issue is that with no standard the roaster can put "best if used by 2015". If it is sitting next to a bag with "roasted on 7/1/08-The SCAA freshness standard is 10 days from the date of roast" the message is clear. Otherwise, with no standard, everybody gets to claim they are selling fresh roasted coffee. It puts those of us who do adhere to a standard at a distinct disadvantage.

User avatar

#12: Post by JimWright »

True, but some beans certainly handle aging differently than others - I've had some coffees that were still fine at two weeks or even longer, and others that were clearly stale at 10 days.

Also, keep in mind that the standards for freshness of the people posting here are probably way above what would be considered acceptable by most consumers - would you feel the same if the standard the SCAA adopted, in order to accommodate *$ and other non-premier roasters, were three months? Two? One?

User avatar

#13: Post by vanboom »

I agree, different beans handle freshness differently, but mostly the caffeine in coffee creates some "odd" behavior in the market. Kenneth Davids mentioned in his book about Home Roasting that coffee is one of those "foods" that people will consume no matter how "stale" it gets. Coffee does stay edible for a long time - especially if you doctor it up with cream, sugar, and other flavorings. And most people just want a cheap dose of caffeine anyway...they will sacrifice a lot of freshness and flavor for a cheap "kick".

Given that, and my experience with any beans purchased from a non-specialty coffee store - I would guess that 99% of all coffee sold is stale by the standards of home roasters and others on this site. If the SCAA produced a freshness standard or adopted a "roasted on" system, my guess would be that there would be more financial harm than good because the percentage of the market brewing espresso at home with barista skill is very small.

IMHO, SCAA freshness standards or not the availability of truly fresh coffee can only be achieved by roasting your own.


User avatar

#14: Post by HB »

vanboom wrote:IMHO, SCAA freshness standards or not the availability of truly fresh coffee can only be achieved by roasting your own.
If you define "truly fresh" as only hours from cooling, I would agree, but many online coffee roasters deliver to your door within 2 days and practically all deliver in 3 days. There are some roasters whose espresso blends are still actively degassing when they arrive (e.g., Caffe Fresco). Some cities and larger towns benefit from local roasters. For example, Counter Culture Coffee is 3 miles from my office and they host an open espresso lab Fridays at 7:30am and public cuppings Fridays at 10am.

Mike Walsh has tried to convince me a few times to take up home roasting. I am interested, but my lack of free time and the ample supply of excellent professional roasters online make it very difficult for me to justify the extra effort.

Related topics: Homeroasted coffee vs. commercially roasted "pro" coffee and Experience great professional coffees before you start home roasting.
Dan Kehn

User avatar

#15: Post by JimWright »

Yeah, I've gotten plenty of Intelligentsia, La Mill and Barefoot (when driving home from San Jose) beans less than 24 hours from roast and found them not only fresh but sometimes better after a few days of rest - I don't think home roasting is the only way to get great beans for those us who live in places where we have easy access to good roasters. That said, if I lived somewhere else, I'd probably be adding that to my obsessive coffee behavior too... and then again, I guess I've never actually had beans that were brewed just minutes off the roaster, so perhaps I don't know what I'm missing...

You know those home coffee makers that grind and brew? This would suggest the next step in that evolution... roast, grind and brew, feed it green beans and a couple of hours later (or presumably on timer), out comes the freshest possible coffee short of living on a plantation...

User avatar

#16: Post by sweaner »

The only standard I would support would be the addition of a "Roasted On" date. Then the consumer would decide how fresh they need it. If we disposed of all coffee that was more than 2 weeks from roast we would have a major shortage.
LMWDP #248

User avatar

#17: Post by cafeIKE »

vanboom wrote:IMHO, SCAA freshness standards or not the availability of truly fresh coffee can only be achieved by roasting your own.
Fresh != Great
Mediocre fresh is almost certainly better than extremely stale great, causing many a home roaster to miss the distinction.

As a home roaster with almost a decade of smoke in my eyes, the effort required to achieve great home roasted coffee is out of all proportion to the benefit. OTOH, if one wants to truly understand coffee, home roasting is an instructor nonpareil.

A decade ago, fresh and great, for large parts of the country may have been interchangable. It's probably still true for many areas of the world. But today, almost anywhere in the U.S., one can receive great coffee within 24 to 48 hours of roasting. For espresso, that's perfect, less so for other brew methods.

Side notes for some local roasters:
- A couple of weeks back, I purchased a couple of pounds of organic espresso and the PBC said it was roasted that morning. When I opened the bag later that day, it stank like stale coffee.
- I called another shop yesterday to enquire when the espresso was last roasted : "I don't know, but it's fresh."
- Another roaster PBC told me that I did not need to worry about when it was roasted because the 1-way valve and bag kept it fresh "forever".

In the last couple of month's I've poured more than $100 of "fresh" whole bean coffee straight into the compost because, although many purveyors talk the talk, they don't walk the walk. :twisted: Caveat emptor.

Roasters need to put their houses in order before the public will beat a path to their door.

User avatar

#18: Post by vanboom »

Ian's point is well taken, as a home roaster you do have to take the time to understand what you are doing. But not having a roaster, you are at the mercy of...
  • Last week my Genecafe broke, so I went about town buying beans from 3 different well known coffee shops that claim to roast their own beans daily. In each case the claim was "roasted today" or "roasted yesterday" when I inquired about the freshness. Every batch I purchased was terrible - really stale tasting - missing my Gene terribly stale - turn me into a tea drinker stale.
These shops gave me a "roasted on" assurance, but I don't think it was the truth, nothing but the truth.

User avatar

#19: Post by JimWright »

Crickey. The posts to this thread are scary re: the state of the business.

If coffee roasters (hopefully excluding top-of-the-game roasters, though I've questioned that once or twice) regularly flat out lie about the freshness of their coffee, as one might surmise given the posts above, then perhaps a standard is needed not for how fresh coffee has to be in order to be called "SCAA Fresh", but for audited roast dates to ensure that the claimed roast date is correct!

Perhaps people are using the "scooped on" date... :roll:


#20: Post by zin1953 »

vanboom wrote:IMHO, SCAA freshness standards or not the availability of truly fresh coffee can only be achieved by roasting your own.
Don, just for information's sake, I live in Berkeley, CA. I've had shipments from Espresso Vivace in Seattle arrive as little as two days after roasting via USPS Priority Mail. Indeed, that's the norm --order on Sunday or by Monday AM, coffee arrives on Wednesday; order on Friday, and it generally arrives on Monday (once not until Tuesday).

I don't pretend to understand the United States Postal Service, but that's one day quicker (on average) than either Flying Goat or Ecco Caffe -- both of which are in Sonoma Co., about an hour's drive or so away from me (with average traffic, and avoiding the rush hour).

And I agree with the others who've stated that different roasts/beans handle -- well, perhaps "handling freshness" isn't the best way to put it; let's say that some "turn stale more rapidly" than others. I've made myself what I consider truly great shots with beans as "young" as 4-5 days after roasting, as well as 7-10 days and -- once -- even 2+ weeks after roasting.

C'est la vie . . .

A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.