Freshly Roasted Coffees

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Where green coffee will stay fresh for as long as two years, roasted coffee lasts--at peak--about three to perhaps five days. The type of roast is immaterial. By type of roast, I'm referring to character and process, at one end of which scale are the dark roasts for espresso and the other the cinnamon light roasts. The fact that the bean is roasted is the issue. It's small wonder, then, that home roasting has taken hold the way it has, whether in a hot air popcorn popper, a gas oven, or a traditional stove-top popper.

But the gourmet coffee industry focuses mostly on regional or local commercial roasting. This means packing to ensure that the freshness lasts as long as possible. Airtight sealed bagging is the typical method for most retail coffee producers. It enables both beans and grind to hold their freshness long enough for a good stretch of shelf-life and shipping time into the consumer's kitchen. Although technically airtight packaging gives coffees a two-year life, if you want that freshly roasted taste, you'll want to buy and brew as close to a roasting date as possible.

Keeping Freshly Roasted Coffee Fresh at Home

It is accepted that airtight and cool are the best conditions. Too much air, heat, light, and moisture drain the freshness from coffee at a rapid rate. But how far does all this go? Because the process is chemical, it's fairly easy to understand. Coffee beans at room temperature release carbon dioxide. Air--that is, the oxygen in it--accelerates the process, as do light and warm temperatures.

One long-standing debate revolves around refrigerating and freezing coffee. The real issue here is the moisture factor, which simply dilutes the flavor of the coffee. Freezing coffee beans, however, does stop or at least severely retard the chemical process of the counter top. At the same time, the moisture is being introduced. All in all, it's probably better to avoid freezing your coffee. If you do, you still want to use it within two weeks or so.

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