If you enjoy drinking coffee, you may find yourself thinking of great ways to brew coffee.
One of the facts you’ll come across is that fresh coffee beans make the best coffee. But that must leave you with many questions.
A common one is, “when are coffee beans fresh?” Are they fresh as long as they have not reached their expiry date, or does freshness depend on the roasting date?
Finding out the answer to this question can help you to improve your coffee brewing skills.
It’s the best way to ensure you always enjoy full-bodied, flavorful brews regardless of the type of coffee beans you purchase.
Let’s start by looking at how the roasting date determines when you can use coffee beans.
Does the Roasting Date Determine the Freshness of Coffee Beans?
Although you can brew coffee from green coffee beans, roasting them enhances their flavor.
They stop tasting and smelling like grass or green peppers and release the warm aroma and flavor of coffee that we all love.
Roasting coffee beans also makes them more porous, which allows the hot water to permeate them easing the extraction process.
Every bag of coffee beans has a roast date, and expiry date stamped on it.
The roast date tells you when coffee beans were roasted, while the expiry date indicates when they may go stale.
You may think that the best coffee beans are those that are fresh off the roaster, but that’s not the case.
Coffee beans need time to rest before you can brew coffee with them, just like you allow a grilled steak to rest before eating it.
That will give them time to release carbon dioxide and other gases left in them after roasting that will acidify your coffee.
Insufficiently degassed coffee beans brew under-extracted coffee. That occurs because the excess carbon dioxide and other gases in them obstruct hot water during the brewing process.
Over degassed coffee beans create space for oxygen to flow into the beans, causing oxidation and making them stale.
40 percent of the gasses in coffee beans seep out of them within a day of the roasting process.
Darker roasts degass faster than light roasts because they become more porous during roasting.
That’s why dark roasts take 3-5 days to degass, while light roasts take 5 – 10 days.
It’s also important to note that coffee beans continue to release their oils after the roasting process. These oils go rancid the more you keep coffee beans around.
You should use coffee beans when they have appropriately degassed and their oils are still fresh enough to make aromatic, flavorful coffee. When is this?
The Best Time to Use Coffee Beans After Roasting Them
Coffee roasters recommend you wait 3 – 7 days before grinding freshly roasted coffee beans.
That will give the coffee beans enough time to complete the degassing process, even after the coffee beans are packaged.
You can use dark roasts earlier than light roasts because the more you roast coffee beans, the less carbon dioxide is left in them.
That means you can brew coffee using dark roast beans within 3 days of the roasting process and light roasts at least 5 -10 days after their roast date.
The coffee brewing process you choose will also determine the best time to use coffee beans.
If you use a drip coffee maker or pour-over coffee maker, start using coffee beans 3 – 7 days after the roast date when they have completed most of the degassing process.
The best coffee beans for cold brewing are those that are at least 10 – 14 days past their roast date.
And when it comes to Espresso coffee brewing, use coffee beans that have been roasted at least 7-11 days before you buy them.
In general, coffee beans 7 – 21 days past their roast date make the best coffee beverages.
If you must use coffee beans whose roast date is beyond five weeks, don’t go past the 2-month mark.
Otherwise, you will always get flat, tasting coffee with unbalanced flavor notes.
Where to Buy the Best Coffee Beans?
Now that you know when coffee beans are at their best, it may be a good idea to find out where to get freshly roasted coffee beans.
Grocery stores and supermarkets have the least fresh coffee beans you can find.
Many of them produce bitter, sour, or flat-tasting coffee because they have gone too far beyond their roast date.
Buy your coffee beans from specialty coffee roasters, who always degass their coffee beans properly before they sell them.
If you buy them from a coffee beans store or coffee shop, choose coffee beans packed in bags with one-way valves. These bags allow for proper degassing without exposing coffee beans to oxidation.
Avoid buying coffee beans in bulk and order from roasters who deliver to your doorstep.
That way, you can buy small quantities of excellent coffee and use them when they are at their best.
It’s also important to read the flavor descriptions and origin information that roasters and coffee sellers use to describe their coffee.
Flavor descriptions give you an idea of how your coffee will taste. Even if a bag of coffee beans is freshly roasted, if words like dark chocolate, citrus, or nutty are used to describe them, you can expect bitter, acidic, or bad-flavored coffee.
The origin information on a coffee bag will help you to pick coffee from farmers with a reputation for using the best farming practices. That will assure you the coffee roasters have used high-quality coffee beans.
Some of the terms to look for on a bag of coffee beans are USDA Organic coffee certification, SCA coffee certification, and Fair Trade Coffee Certification.
Remember that coffee beans start to degrade once you open the bag regardless of their quality. Always empty your good coffee beans into an air-tight container to keep moisture, air, heat, and other contaminants from degrading their quality.
Now you know when coffee beans are at their best and how long to use them for coffee brewing.
Once you buy the freshest coffee, you will notice a reduction in the sugar, milk, or flavored syrups you put in your coffee beverages.
You will also discover the flavor notes that make up different coffee beans broadening your knowledge of coffee varieties.
That will ensure your coffee drinking experiences are always pleasant to your palate and senses.