Category Archives: Tips – Brew

How Long Do Coffee Beans Last?

When you purchase fresh coffee beans, you’ll probably notice a roast date labeled on the bag and you might wonder: “How long do coffee beans last?” “Do coffee beans expire?” At Seattle Coffee Gear, we receive these questions a lot and it’s a tough one to answer. We adhere to roaster guidelines for freshness and that right there is the keyword: freshness. Not expiration in the way most people understand it like a sour glass of milk. We could quickly agree that those foul smelling notes mean the milk has expired, but open coffee roasted six months ago and there probably won’t be that telltale reek. However, your nose may detect something is different. Coffee is volatile and the coffee industry only agrees on one fact: coffee changes.

To answer the question, “How long do coffee beans last?” Let’s be frank: Until it stops tasting good. Let’s break down what “good” coffee is.

Coffee Freshness

In the coffee community, freshness is generally agreed upon by the roast date. The closer it is to the roast date, the fresher the beans. The moment coffee is roasted it begins to stale thanks to oxidation, not time. Of course, the more time oxygen has to work on the beans, the more it’ll stale. However, roasters haven’t agreed upon what “stale” means for coffee. As James Hoffman puts it in The World Atlas of Coffee; “The specialty coffee industry has failed to make a real impact because there is no strong agreement on how quickly coffee goes stale, and at what point it will have passed its best-before date.” Our practice at Seattle Coffee Gear is to follow the individual roaster’s guidelines, which are between two and four weeks then we’ll pull the coffee off the shelf.

How long the coffee freshness lasts after roasting also depends on roaster’s processes like the packaging. There are different types of bags like the triple-ply foil that prevent fresh air from getting in while a valve allows carbon dioxide out. It’s a common packaging we see with our roasters and at your local grocery store. There are also packaging techniques that factor in coffee freshness such as nitrogen flushing. This process, used by Lavazza, helps preserve coffee beans by flushing away the oxygen and so temporarily eliminates it going stale. We say temporarily because as soon as you open the bag, oxygen finds its way in and begins to stale your coffee.

How To Tell If Coffee Is Bad

We know you were thinking about it. You’re probably sniffing your bag of beans trying to decide if it was bad or stale. Your nose is your best detector. “The human tongue can only really taste five flavors—sour, sweet, salty, bitter and umami,” our Portland store manager, Joe, says. “The nose, however, is a magical input drive that can delineate between thousands and thousands of distinct compounds and the brain processes this information in the same place/way. Smell and taste are intimately linked.” So when your nose can’t smell the coffee, you can assume the flavor is gone.

Of course, what’s most important for coffee drinkers is flavor, and the freshest beans don’t guarantee the best flavor. In fact, we’ve brewed beans a month past their roast date and loved them. We’ve had those same beans right after roasting and preferred the aged beans. That’s why we think how long coffee beans last can be gauged by flavor. Each coffee’s flavor profile is different, but once the volatile aromatics break down, so does the flavor. Think of it in terms of cooking. The oils carry the flavor and so when the oils in coffee are gone, so is the flavor. “As they are volatile, these compounds slowly leach from the coffee so the older it is the less interesting it will taste,” writes Hoffman.

Storing Coffee

The best way to store and keep your coffee as fresh as possible—because inevitably, you will open your freshly roasted beans and start the cycle of oxidation—is to keep it in a cool, dry place. Oxygen and moisture are the enemies of coffee. Once water comes in contact with beans, it starts the brewing process and extracts the flavor. That’s why products like the AirScape Coffee Bean Canister are excellent to keep around since it uses a one-way valve to push out oxygen and air-tight lid to keep out the elements—hello, fresh coffee.

Freezing coffee, then, seems like a bad idea but it’s a trend we’ve seen in the coffee community. It’s not all misplaced either. Done properly, freezing coffee has its benefits. One benefit is using it for espresso to extract a richer, thicker body. If you freeze ground coffee, it’ll dissolve faster in hot water and produce a fuller flavor. However, once you take the coffee out of the freezer, you can’t let it thaw. Any moisture that condenses on the beans will start the extraction process on your coffee. A way around this is to measure the dosage for how much coffee you’ll need.

How Long Do Coffee Beans Last?

In the coffee community, the word expired describes coffee differently than other foods like milk. There’s no defined expiration or best-by date for coffee. We can only guarantee that coffee is volatile substance and therefore will rapidly change. How long coffee beans last also depends on the type—sorry didn’t mean to throw you a curveball. Ground coffee, for example, has more surface area for oxygen to leach out the flavor compounds. If you wanted to keep your coffee fresher longer, we’d recommend leaving the beans whole and grinding them only when you’re ready.

Lastly, the best way to determine if your coffee is fresh, like we’ve discussed, is to follow your senses. If you no longer taste the notes you love, it’s safe to say your coffee expired and it’s time for a new bag. What’s really important is if you still enjoy your coffee regardless of the best-by date. Of course, at Seattle Coffee Gear, we make sure to adhere to roaster’s guidelines and pull coffee that’s past the freshness date provided. While we enjoy sipping our coffee sooner rather than later, we follow our senses and let the coffee speak for itself.

Fresca Coffee Recipe

Are you as ready for summer as we are? We thought we’d start off the week with a tall glass of—Fresca coffee? Trust us, you have to try it before you write it off. We’re using Fresca but our coffee pal Ricardo sent in the original recipe using Sprite, which he called the “AeroSprite.” Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

As Ricardo’s recipe name suggests, we’re brewing our coffee in the AeroPress. We picked up a fresh bag of 49th Parallel’s Longitude 123 W for those sweet, dried fruit notes to complement the lime and Fresca—oh, by the way, there’s some lime in this recipe. We thought that might get your attention. We turned to our trusty Breville Smart Grinder Pro to grind our coffee into consistent table salt-sized grounds.

Equipment:

Brew Method: Inverted AeroPress

Ingredients

  • 30 grams coffee
  • 200 grams Fresca or Sprite
  • 100 grams ice
  • 100 grams water
  • 2 lime wedges
  1. Heat water to 195 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Grind coffee into table salt-sized or medium fine grounds. Turn the AeroPress upside down with the plunger in and add 30 grams of coffee.
  3. Add water to AeroPress and brew for one minute.
  4. While you’re brewing, add 100 grams of ice to your glass and then pour cold Fresca on top.
  5. Squeeze two lime wedges into the glass and if you’re feeling fancy, stick a couple of wedges to the side of the glass.
  6. Plunge the AeroPress over the glass with Fresca—don’t miss the show! The coffee creates beautiful swirls.
  7. Stir the coffee into the Fresca and take a big sip—I told you to trust us! It’s perfect for summer.

Coffee On The Brain: What’s Happening When Roasting Coffee Beans?

Let’s get cracking on today’s coffee lesson. Today we’ll dive into the chemical process that transforms those green beans into the aromatic, brown beans we’re all familiar with. The process is so complex, it’s not fully understood, but what we do know, we’ll share with you on this episode of Coffee On The Brain.

Roastingcoffeebeans_infographic

Roasting coffee beans produce over 800 aroma and flavor compounds. There are two chemical component groups, volatile and nonvolatile, that occur during the roasting process. The volatile components create the aroma while the nonvolatile create the basic flavors that we get from coffee such as bitterness or sourness. Caffeine falls into the nonvolatile category and accounts for some of the bitterness in your cup.

Now to the good stuff: the roasting stages. Each stage goes through a number of endothermic and exothermic phases. To sum it up, the endothermic phase is when the beans absorb the energy in the form of heat whereas the exothermic phase the beans release the energy. It’s easy to remember “en” as “in” and “ex” as “exit,” for those of you taking notes.

Try roasting coffee beans right in your own home. We’ve got the Behmor 1600 Plus Home Coffee Roaster and Velton’s Bonsai Green Beans – Unroasted to create the right roast for you. You’ll have the freshest coffee on the block and a perfect conversation starter during your next brunch out. Check out this video we’ve made with the Behmor roaster and give it a try!

Roasting Stages

Stage One: Endothermic

The green beans absorb energy in the form of heat, lose moisture and mass and begin to turn yellow in color. Beans will give off a toast or popcorn smell.

Stage Two: First Crack

Heat released in the form of steam creates a large crack during the exothermic phase. The beans double in size and turn light brown.

Stage Three: Pyrolysis

Fats and sugars in the beans continue to break down and develop the aromas and flavors we know and love.  Roaster’s typically stop roasting during this stage.

Stage Four: Second Crack

Pressure formed by various gasses crack the beans again. The beans deepen to a medium to dark brown and begin to develop a sheen as oils are pushed to the surface.

Stage Five: Final Roast

Most roasters will stop prior to the second crack to retain the bean’s flavor. The longer the beans are roasted, the less unique flavored is preserved.

Crew Review: Cuppow Mason Jar Cold Brew Kit

Mason jars, coffee socks and cold brew coffee. You might be thinking this all sounds like an episode straight from Portlandia. But we assure you, coffee-lovers, it’s no joke! The Cuppow Mason Jar Cold Brew Kit is just that: a cold brewing mason jar kit with an organic cotton (we heard you laughing) CoffeeSock to brew your coffee grounds in.

While you might be laughing still, this summer-friendly cold brew is going to knock your socks off (pun intended) with its deliciously smooth flavor.

Check out our full video below to see how quick and easy it is to use the Cuppow Mason Jar Cold Brew Kit.

Cuppow Mason Jar Cold Brew Kit

What it comes with:

  • Organic cotton CoffeeSock Cold Brew Filter, created by Cuppow
  • 32-ounce mason jar

How it works:

  1. If this is your first time using the CoffeeSock, make sure to boil it before you use it.
  2. Take your CoffeeSock and put it inside the mason jar. Fold the open end of the sock over the top of the jar, so it creates a nice opening for coffee grounds.
  3. Add three ounces of coarsely ground coffee into the sock.
  4. Grab 24 ounces of cold water. Add some of your cold water to let the grounds bloom, just like you do with a pour over.
  5. Add the remaining water into the jar.
  6. Close up the CoffeeSock using the built-in tie, so it’s nice and tight to make sure no grounds end up in your coffee.
  7. Stick it in the fridge for 12 hours or up to a day to brew.
  8. When the time is up, take out the CoffeeSock, squeeze it out and pour yourself a cold cup of coffee! (This makes a concentrated cup, so if it’s too strong for your taste, add water or milk. Enjoy!)

P.S. Go ahead and drink it straight from the mason jar—we’re Seattle Coffee Gear, after all, we won’t judge.

Latte Art University

Latte Art UniversityCongratulations! On behalf of Seattle Coffee Gear and the faculty of the School Of Coffee Extraction, we are pleased to offer you admission to the Ph.D. program at Latte Art University.

That’s right folks! Gail is going to Latte Art University and you get go along for the ride. We teamed up with Max from Spotted Cow Coffee Company to bring to you a full week of Latte Art training! Max has been a barista with Spotted Cow for quite some time now, even venturing into the Barista Competition Circuit!

In this week long course, Max and Gail will explore everything you need to know in order to produce excellent latte art. (Hint: It begins even before you take the milk out of the refrigerator!)

Max will demonstrate how to produce some of the basic latte art shapes, including the heart and the rosetta! He will also be discussing the best alternative milks out there for latte art, as well as sharing some tips and tricks to producing great latte art on a single boiler machine!

So grab your frothing pitchers and a bag of freshly roasted coffee and practice alongside Gail as she goes through the program here at Latte Art University.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss a lesson! And as always, thanks for watching!

 

 

Morning Maintenance: Programming a PID

Time and temperature. If you break down the essentials of a good cup of coffee/shot of espresso you will arrive at two variables: time and temperature.Silvia PID

It doesn’t matter how fresh your coffee is or how expertly roasted it was. If your brewing time and temperature are not correct, you end up with something you don’t want to drink. So what’s the best way to control those two variables? With a PID of course.

Especially on a single boiler machine, where the boiler temperature will fluctuate between brew temp and steam temp, a PID will help you dial in a delicious shot of espresso, every time.

In the Morning Maintenance video below Gail will show you how to program your PID on the Rancilio Silvia. The PID’s we install on the Silvia will allow you to control the brew temperature, pre-infusuion time, pre-infusion wait time, and brew time.

Once you know how to program your machine, it’s fun to experiment with different temperatures and times for the same coffee. Each variable will bring out different flavors in your cup! Yum!

Be sure to subscribe to our channel for more videos! Subscribe to our channel by clicking here!

 

Ask Gail: Bitter and Sour Espresso Shots!

Sour EspressoBitter and sour espresso shots, oh my! Getting that perfect espresso shot takes time and practice. But knowing what to taste for and what adjustments to make goes a long way to pulling that perfect shot.

Espresso shots can have two extremes, either an overly bitter shot or a very sour shot. Both of which are very easy to recognize. But how do you go about fixing the off flavors? We asked Gail to give us the run down.

So if you espresso shot tastes sour check out the video below to find out the cure!

 

Does your espresso shot taste overly bitter? Watch the following video for some helpful tips!

 

Did you find these videos helpful? Then you might want to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more videos just like these!

 

A Look Inside A Breville Oracle

Breville OracleIn case you haven’t noticed, we like to take things apart here at Seattle Coffee Gear. So anytime we are offered a Breville Oracle that is cut in half, we obviously take it.

And now we get to share it with you!

The Breville Oracle is a cross between a super-automatic and a semi-automactic espresso machine. Which means we knew there would be parts inside we had never seen before! Gail was particularly interested in looking at the auto tamping machinery. And of course it was just as cool as we imagined.

Take a look at the video below to see what the insides of the Breville Oracle looks like! You will not be disappointed.

 

 

SCG In Portland: Dialing In A Grinder

Dialing In A GrinderWhen pulling espresso there are 4 things that should be on the front of your mind. The beans, the grind, the tamp and the timing. We are going to focus on the grind right now because it can be one of the more difficult things to really nail. Your grind consistency is going to effected by the bean you are using, how fresh that bean is, the humidly in the room, heck, even your mood! So dialing in your grinder so you can pull your shot in the appropriate amount of time is essential!

Let me start out with a word of warning: dialing in a grinder will use up a lot of coffee, especially if your machine is new. So be prepared to grind up to a pound of coffee!

The trick to dialing in a grinder is keeping all your other variables consistent. So your dose, grind distribution and tamp pressure should be exactly the same every time. That way you know that it is just the texture of the grind that is affecting your timing.

Speaking on timing, this is how you will know which direction to adjust your grinder. The goal is to pull a double shot of two ounces in 25-30 seconds. If your shot reaches two ounces in, say, 15 seconds then you know your grind is way too course. A finer grind will slow your extraction time. On the other end, if it takes 35 seconds to reach that two ounce mark, your espresso will be over extracted. Adjusting the grinder to be more course will fix this.

Remember, when adjusting your grinder you should be making small adjustments. Sometimes one step is all it will take! Also be sure to grind at least a double portafilter worth of beans after each adjustment and throw that out. Otherwise you will have grounds from the previous setting muddling up your shot.

Watch the video below for the in depth tutorial on how to dial in a coffee grinder. And while you are at it, subscribe to our YouTube channel!

 

 

 

Ask Gail: How Many Grams Fit In a Portafilter?

portafilterWhen you get your first espresso machine the first thing you want to do is pull a shot! As you are grinding out your beans you may ask yourself, how much coffee am I supposed to grind into my portafilter?

Well the answer is, it depends. As you may already know brewing espresso is a balancing act of multiple variables. And even the slightest change in a  variable can drastically change your result! So the numbers below are an average amount of coffee that should go into each portafilter.

Your grind setting will affect this amount, how oily the coffee you are using will affect the amount, even the humidly in your room will have an effect! So precede with caution. :)

Under typical situations a single basket will hold 11 grams of coffee. A double basket will hold 17 grams. And a triple basket will hold 21 grams of the good stuff!

Watch the Ask Gail video below and be sure to subscribe to our channel for all the latest videos :) Click here to subscribe if you haven’t already!