Who hasn’t had the experience of buying more coffee than they have consumed, and it has aged? Depending on the coffee bean, the roast and the extraction method, the optimum time to consume this coffee is between the first and fifth week after roasting.
But is it possible to enjoy a coffee over five weeks old?
Coffee that is more than five weeks old (after roasting) will have lost almost all of its aroma and flavour. The first thing to do is to avoid getting into this situation. But if you already have an aged coffee on your hands, you can apply some changes that will allow you to get more flavour out of this coffee.
How to prevent coffee from getting old
At first glance, it seems easy to prevent coffee from ageing before we consume it. However, several factors go unnoticed, so we should pay close attention.
Follow these tips before you buy your coffee, and you will avoid drinking it many months past its roasting date.
Look at the roasting date and not the expiry date
Every food product we buy has an elaboration date and an expiry date. But if you think about it, we always look at the best-before date rather than the elaboration date. In coffee, the roasting date is one you should pay attention to.
If you start looking at the roasting date, you will probably never buy coffee in supermarkets again, as these coffees can be there for years. Remember that coffee is best only a week or two after roasting.
Note: Most coffees found in supermarkets do not indicate the roasting date of the coffee beans.
Buy coffee in small quantities or freeze it
I never recommend buying coffee in large quantities precisely because we want it to be as fresh as possible after the first few days of degassing.
Let’s say you want to buy a lot of coffee because you want to take advantage of a discount on shipping costs or a special offer. You can freeze it if you are sure you will not consume it before it gets old.
Buy coffee beans instead of ground coffee
If you have read this blog before, you will know that I always recommend a good grinder as a first investment if you want to get started in the world of coffee. A grinder will help you achieve high-quality brews at home.
Buy light-roasted coffee instead of dark-roasted coffee
A coffee with a dark roast, which has undergone much degradation in the roasting process, oxidises much faster than a light roast. Thus, a light roast coffee will withstand time much better than a dark roast and retain some aroma and flavours.
On the other hand, a dark roast coffee may feel stale after a few months, as the volatile flavour and aroma compounds are more easily lost.
How to prepare and get the best out of an old coffee
If you have several months of coffee, you don’t have to throw it away. Although it will have oxidised too much by now, and its aroma and flavour will have faded, some methods and adjustments will bring out the best in that coffee bean.
You must first choose the extraction method to prepare this coffee for the best result. I recommend an immersion method like the Aeropress, French Press or Siphon.
This is because when coffee is old and oxidised, it generates more channels during extraction, resulting in an uneven extraction. That is why I would not recommend a drip coffee like the Chemex, percolation or espresso.
We can increase three variables from the brewing method for higher extraction. Of course, it won’t be the same as when the coffee is super fresh, but we will be able to get a better result:
Adjust the grind finer
If we have a grinder at home, we can modify the grind to obtain a slightly finer ground coffee. We can get more flavours out of the water by having a more finely ground coffee.
Increase the coffee dose
If you want to extract a little more flavour from the coffee, you should slightly increase your coffee dose by 10-15%. For example, if you use a dose of 14 grams, you should try 16 grams this time.
Remember that you have to “play” with these settings because if you have ground finer and increase the amount of coffee, you might get even worse results than expected before the adjustment.
Increase the water temperature
As mentioned before, you can try increasing the water temperature slightly to extract more flavour from the old beans. You should do this gradually and be careful if you combine it with the above adjustments.
If we overdo it by increasing the temperature, we could end up in the opposite place to the desired one and extract a much more acidic and rancid coffee.