Why is there no standard for coffee freshness?

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

#1: Post by bernie »

...split from Why are there no espresso machine standards? by moderator...

BobS wrote:Even more, I find it odd the SCAA goes to lengths to certify machines yet don't pressure for some basic standards that can be verified.
Yup. Another standard they will not address is freshness of coffee. They tout how important it is, but for years I have lobbied to establish a standard such as "The SCAA standard for fresh coffee is that it be used no more than 10 days post-roast". Easy enough. No "enforcement", no validation, just a standard. Those of us roasters who meet that standard could really use the promotional advantage. Those who roast and hold for months (they do) or dump in bins would not meet the standard, but there would be nothing but "we do meet the standard and here it is" sorts of advertising, etc. Makes you wonder, eh? If freshness is so important then why won't the leading association set a standard? Because of the large roasters who can't meet the standard? Because those who ship can't meet the standard? Makes you wonder. Makes me crazy.
Bernie

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zin1953

#2: Post by zin1953 »

Bernie, I think you hit the nail on the head.
bernie wrote:If freshness is so important then why won't the leading association set a standard? Because of the large roasters who can't meet the standard? Because those who ship can't meet the standard?
If one checks the Starbuck's thread re: "Scooped On" dating . . .
If one looks inside just about any retail café, the coffee is in bulk bins -- how fresh is that? is the bin completely emptied and swept out prior to being "refilled? and how can the customer know?
And buying coffee pre-packaged in bags at the market???

When I worked for a well-known Napa Valley winery in the late-1970s, I also served on the Public Relations Committee with The Wine Institute. What giants like Gallo wanted to do (or not do) was a far cry from what well-known, traditional Napa Valley producers wanted to do (or not do), which was itself a far cry from what small, high-end (then known as "boutique") wineries wanted to do (or not do) . . .

Cheers,
Jason
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

BobS

#3: Post by BobS »

zin1953 wrote:Bernie, I think you hit the nail on the head.

Jason
Yes, I agree with Bernie. I wonder if there's some kind "neutral" labeling system that everyone can agree
with? To toss something out - Red shows 1 day to 14 days after roast, Green shows 15 days to 30 days
after roast, Yellow shows 31+ days after roast.

btw - Jason, sorry about my previous statement, I wasn't trying to argue, but it did come across as such.
I should have been more considerate about my choice of verbage.


Bob

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espressoed

#4: Post by espressoed »

Bernie indeed raises a key issue. What's most interesting to me are the small roasters who wholesale packaged coffee to boutique markets but do nothing about how long their coffee remains on those shelves. They tout themselves as a cut above the jumbo roasters but in practice behave essentially the same in this regard.

I'm going out of town soon and couldn't justify putting in an order right now with CCC, Intelly, or Gimme! because I wouldn't use it up before my departure. So, last Saturday night (6/28) I decided to stop in at the nearest Whole Foods in northern NJ, as Coffee Labs indicated on their website that one could buy their coffee at that location. I've been wanting to try it for some time. Local region roaster, chance for fresh beans. Interesting experience. This WF had packaged coffee from Dean's Beans, Gorilla, Coffee Labs, and a couple of other roasters on hand. I was psyched to see six or eight different coffees from Coffee Labs. Until I looked at the roast dates. One had the choice of 4/3, 4/17, 5/3, 6/3, and 6/17, spread throughout the offerings. And each lb. only $15.99! Other brands had similarly old roast dates. No Coffee Labs pour moi--bought a lb. of Gorilla's Espresso-A-Go-Go roasted on 6/24 for $11.99. (There was older Gorilla there, too, but lots of fresh roast.)

Bottom line is, OK, what do I expect from a market. But you know, I can't hold the roasters blameless. They talk a good game but clearly don't care at the wholesale level once someone's paid them for their beans. But it's their name on the label, and their coffee that's gonna taste like sh** if someone buys it.

House plants and flowers that are sold in supermarkets are on consignment; the stock is maintained by the nursery that provides them and unsold stock is removed regularly. I know it's not quite the same situation with coffee, but if a roaster is delivering beans regularly they should also regularly check out the current stock and have an agreement/plan with the market to remove unsold stale coffee. Or at least mark it down. $15.99 for a stale lb. of Coffee Labs from April? There's gotta be a way to address this.

I'm not singling out Coffee Labs for this, they simply provided the ready anecdote for this discussion. I'm still really eager to try their coffee. It's just gonna have to wait until I can source it fresh.
All the coffee in Ethiopia won't make me a morning person.

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HB
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#5: Post by HB »

espressoed wrote:Bottom line is, OK, what do I expect from a market. But you know, I can't hold the roasters blameless. They talk a good game but clearly don't care at the wholesale level once someone's paid them for their beans.
Roasters don't decide the sell by date, the seller does. Whole Foods dictates 90 days minimum shelf life for the products they sell, though I understand some roasters have negotiated less. With luck your favorite will be popular and see faster turnover.
Dan Kehn

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espressoed

#6: Post by espressoed »

I know that the roasters don't control the sell by date as it presently stands. But nonetheless their "roasted on" date is still on the package. I'm flummoxed by the fact that they're apparently OK with their old garbage sitting on the shelf for sale. For that they must accept some blame.

I'm suggesting that there has to be a way to work out a better set of circumstances in this regard and, as you suggest, maybe some roasters have done so. Coffee Labs' stock at the WF I visited was, I'd guess, about 95% stale and 5% 11 days from roast. Gorilla's stock at that WF was somewhere around 80% within four days of roast. Perhaps that's a sales phenomenon, perhaps it's a fluke. We've no way of knowing. I'm simply agreeing with those who suggest the need for a standard for fresh coffee. From a freshness perspective the current state of affairs makes these roasters no better than Starbucks when bought in the market. That reduces their image/reputation, not that of anyone else.
All the coffee in Ethiopia won't make me a morning person.

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HB
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#7: Post by HB »

I agree the roaster shares part of the blame, but I would begin by speaking with the manager at Whole Foods. They're responsible for the product rotation and complaints from regular customers should not fall on deaf ears. In our area they market themselves as a specialty food store and this is an opportunity to call them on it.
Dan Kehn

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zin1953

#8: Post by zin1953 »

In an ideal world, coffee beans would be sold in and to supermarkets like potato chips, bread, and milk. Stock would be rotated out, and the vendor would pick up the out-of-date inventory . . .
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

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espressoed

#9: Post by espressoed »

That's what I was getting at, Jason. Thanks for stating it more articulately.

Dan, we're in agreement with your last post. I would have taken it up with the mgr. but it was a Saturday evening, I had to be elsewhere, and I'm not a regular customer--I'd never shopped there before. This WF is about 28 miles from my home; it just happens to be in an area where I am once or twice a month. I do plan to go back to survey the situation and will mention it if I don't see any difference--but probably won't consider buying there anymore if it's going to be a roll of the dice for freshness.
All the coffee in Ethiopia won't make me a morning person.

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JimWright

#10: Post by JimWright »

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.