Storing Roasted Coffee Beans

October 3, 2005

Ken Wilson has put together a great summary of some exhaustive threads on proper storage of roasted beans.

There are a lot of details, but the upshot seems to be:

  1. Staleness becomes noticable after 10 days
  2. Open or closed containers make little difference
  3. Vacuum storage can reduce flavor loss, but only with a substantial vacuum – 29 inches of mercury limited it to 2.5%, 27″ to 10%, 25″ to 30%; 20 inches of mercury was the same as not bothering (does anyone know how much vacuum a kitchen vacuum sealer pulls?)
  4. Vacuum storage does not contribute to flavor loss
  5. Refrigerating or freezing leads to off tastes

The moral of the story here seems to be “buy freshly roasted or roast your own, and use them up before 10 days (wait two days after roasting for de-gassing)”

Single Origins, Melanges & Espresso Blends

August 22, 2005

For me, one of the true joys of home roasting is exploring the vast array of flavors available in different origins of coffees. Each area (and even each farm, and each year) has its own predominant and subtle flavors and aromas.

Most of the flavors of an origin are easiest to find in medium roasts — from a light “City” roast (just at “first crack” when the steam flashes out of the bean, and it goes from a yellow or tan to a brown) to slightly above “Full City” (a darker roast, just into “second crack”, and before the bean starts to get noticably oily).

At each level of roast, different flavors predominate — berries, citrus, floral notes, earthiness, chocolate, caramel, nuts… Some of these are present right away, some take 24 – 72 hours after the roast to develop.
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Cool Those Beans

May 30, 2005

Over on INeedCoffee, James Cameron writes about the need to rapidly cool coffee beans as soon as they’re done roasting.

The number one problem in producing great coffee roasted at home is the failure to cool the roast quickly after roasting. Coffee is ”roasted” rather than “baked” and for good reason. When roasted properly at high heat quickly allowing convection between the heat source and beans as well as from bean to bean you will avoid “baking” your beans. The baking of coffee beans renders them flat and void of the brightness and zip they should have. Baking occurs when the beans are roasted too slowly or allowed to remain in a slowly decelerating heated situation. When this happens the coffee is losing the zip it has at peak of roast.

The manufactured home roasters that I have seen or heard of all have the same problem; they lack a good cooling system. It is virtually impossible to cool your roast quickly enough in the same chamber that they were, moments ago, roasting in. We in the industry uses sample roasters which are all outfitted with a separate cooling pan built to cool the roast as quickly as possible. We watch the roast checking it with a small scoop we insert into the roasting chamber about every 15 seconds when the roast is nearing the profile we desire. When the roast hits the desired profile we immediately dump it into a cool and operating cooling pan and generally stir it to speed the cooling along further.

James goes on to give some great simple ideas for constructing your own efficient home roast cooler.

My iRoast immediately shifts into a cooling mode as soon as it’s done roasting, turning the fan up on high and pumping room temperature air into the roasting chamber for about four minutes, but James is probably right — the residual heat in the chamber has a lot of thermal inertia, and a lot of that chill is being sunk into cooling the chamber instead of the beans.

I may have to give one or two of these cooling ideas a try. The only downside is that it’s going to take some careful handling with oven mitts to open the iRoast chamber before it’s done cooling — that puppy gets HOT.

How to buy good coffee

May 25, 2005

So you’re tired of drinking the Folgers, but you’ve found out that buying “exotic” coffees is something of a crap-shoot? Or perhaps you’ve learned the hard way that “expensive” doesn’t always mean good…

What you may need is INeedCoffee’s new General Guide to Buying Coffee.

It’s not comprehensive or in depth by any means, but it will give you a general idea of the kind of taste you should expect from various regional varieties of coffee.

There are also some good head’s up tips for “gotchas” –

So last time I went down to the store and bought some nice fancy Kona coffee, however it tasted no better than the regular coffee I have been buying over the years.

Coffee regulations in the United States only require manufacturers to specify that they are selling 100% coffee. This allows coffee manufacturers to blend 10% of an expensive type of Kona coffee with a much cheaper grade and advertise is it as Kona Coffee. This not only soils the reputation of Kona coffee, but it is a very dishonest trick. Therefore when you buy international coffee, make sure they specify that it is 100% from the country and crop advertised.