Stop Buying Coffee Without a Roast Date
If you’ve bought our coffee, or coffee from a small-batch or other quality coffee roaster, you may have noticed a “roasted on” date for each bag.
Roasters who do this want to let you know how ‘old’ your beans are, so that any time you want to brew, you’ll know just how far you are from the roast date. That amount of time matters because, after a certain period, the quality of roasted coffee degrades, leading to a worse cup of coffee. Now, there is some disagreement about how old is too old for coffee beans, but everyone, even companies who do not date their bags (not that they'd publicly admit it) agrees that anything over two months is too old.
Roasters who don’t date their bags want to manipulate you.
Dating bags is a tricky decision for any coffee roaster. It’s a risk to post a roast date because if a roaster has any trouble selling their coffee, the roast date advertises that the beans are older. On the other hand, refusing to include a roast date indicates that a roaster prefers their customers not know the age of the beans.
I don’t want to sound too harsh, but the reality is that roasters who don’t post roast dates are trying to profit from their customers’ ignorance. Everyone in the industry knows that freshness is important, yet these roasters take steps, like including "use by" dates (some of which are months if not years after roasting) on their bags to explicitly deceive customers. The only way this deception will continue to work is if customers don’t know or don’t care about how beans degrade over time.
Oxidation ruins coffee.
Literally every piece of available empirical data shows that coffee quality degrades over time and that fresher coffee smells and tastes better. When coffee beans are roasted, their oils and flesh of the bean are heated, forcing some of the oil to the exterior. This exposes those oils to oxygen, which begins the process of oxidation. Just like red wine or olive oil, coffee exposed to oxygen for too long will oxidize and begin to taste flat. This is called “staling” in the coffee industry.
Over time, all coffee will start to taste dusty, like cardboard, or even a little funky (from rancid oil). Also, if your coffee was stored improperly (in an open-air environment, in direct sunlight, or around other strong odors) you may also notice some off-flavors. That doesn’t mean it’s undrinkable or that you can’t use it for other purposes (cold brew, cooking, etc.) only that you’re no longer getting your best cup or the coffee the roaster was aiming for. Many roasters will claim they take precautions to prevent oxidation, like vacuum sealing. But as I wrote about K-cups in a previous blog, these precautions are not effective in preventing oxidation (especially when the coffee is pre-ground). The best precautions against oxidation that commercial packaging technology has to offer, like nitrogen vacuum sealing, only postpones oxidation - nothing can prevent it.
Start buying fresh coffee.
At Sunshower, because we are a very small batch producer, we roast all of our coffee to order and never ship out old beans. But we aren’t the only ones! All reputable local roasters date their bags and are dedicated to selling fresh coffee. And if you’re buying from a grocery store, even some of their coffee may have roast dates. If they don’t have any dated coffee, ask them to carry some! When you’ve advanced in your coffee consumption to the point of buying whole beans, grinding at home, or maybe even having your own pourover or espresso setup, don't waste your time and money on stale beans.
TLDR: Do not buy coffee without a roast date on the bag! If there’s no roast date, it’s because the roaster does not want you to know how old it is. And freshness matters.