Fresh is best! Kopi’s tips for roasting, grinding and storing coffee
Fresh coffee is fresh coffee… right? Well, no, not exactly. Freshly brewed is one thing, and freshly bought can mean just about anything. But freshly roasted and freshly ground – now that’s what we mean by fresh coffee. At Kopi we go to the ends of the earth to source freshly roasted and freshly ground coffee. Here’s why it matters so much.
Coffee is a delicate substance. We tend to think of it as a staple, something that can be chucked in the cupboard as a vacuum-packed brick and left there until the apocalypse, but that’s actually not so. The smell, flavour and very nature of coffee changes enormously in the minutes, hours and days after roasting and then after grinding. Coffee left in a cupboard for any amount of time goes stale surprising quickly.
Coffee freshness depends on three things: when it was roasted, when it was ground, and how – and for how long – it has been stored. Here’s how to maximise freshness on each of these points.
At Kopi we firmly believe that fresh is best. The fresher the roast (ideally less than two weeks ago), the better the coffee. In fact, only in the case of an aged coffee (like our Sumatra Aged Mandheling) are we prepared to accept a different view. The flavour of the brew, the natural oils, the scent… all of these are at their most wonderful with a fresh roast.
If you’re used to drinking stale coffee you probably can’t tell there’s anything wrong with it. But try this little experiment: brew two cups of the same blend of coffee, one with beans roasted within the past few days, and one with beans roasted at least a month ago. Now taste the difference: the younger coffee has more flavour and body. It smells better and it’s even more active during the brewing process, producing more foam or crema.
Generally speaking, roasted beans start to go stale after two weeks, even if they are stored in optimum conditions (more on that later). The big coffee brands buy, roast, grind, pack and ship beans in bulk – this is how they manage to sell product at such a low price point. Big quantities of product take a lot of time to roast, grind and pack. By the time that coffee ends up on the supermarket shelf, it’s not fresh anymore. In fact, most of it is rather stale.
For those who think small-batch coffee like Kopi is a splurge, consider that when you buy your slightly-lower-priced supermarket roast – even the priciest coffee chain option –you’re actually spending your hard-earned money on stale coffee. Hardly a better deal, is it?
The second secret of freshness is grinding: the less time that passes between grinding and brewing, the better. We reckon ground coffee loses a lot of its flavour in the first 20 minutes post-grinding as the natural oils evaporate and the coffee dries out. In a perfect world, the freshest cup of coffee would be the one you grind just before brewing.
Not everyone has access to a coffee grinder – frankly, not everyone wants to deal with the work of grinding their own coffee! – but if you are a purist or want to try something special, grinding your own coffee is the way to go. The top-of-the-line option for coffee grinders is a burr mill. These can be expensive, but a good one, if cared for well, should be a long-term investment. If you want to keep costs down, a blade grinder will do the trick too. A good one should cost less than £50 and should allow you to grind coffee for various brewing methods, from cafetiere to espresso. We always test and curate the best ones we can find in our Kopi Shop.
Maintaining freshness: the secrets of coffee storage
Last time we checked, technology hadn’t yet managed to completely preserve the freshness of just-roasted coffee. Stored coffee becomes stale coffee. But there are a few things you can do to keep your coffee fresher for longer.
First of all, buy coffee in small quantities, as you need it. If you don’t drink more than a couple of cups a week, skip the bumper pack. It’ll only get stale and tasteless. Good coffee is one of life’s pleasures, and we think those who sip sparingly of this pleasure ought to ensure they drink the best coffee they can.
Once you’ve got your coffee in the house, store it sensibly. This means stashing it in a dry place that’s neither especially warm nor especially cold (no freezer or fridge storage, please – the cold and the moisture are a detriment to flavour), and somewhere that light can’t get at it. This is why we make our Kopi bags black and resealable: to keep the light and air out and the flavour in.