For the freshest possible coffee the ideal is to obtain unroasted beans, then roast and grind on the same day
you plan to brew.
Roasting beans is, however, something of a 'cooking'
specialty. Unless you're willing to invest in a fairly
expensive piece of equipment, the results are often less
than satisfactory. Not to mention that - even when done
correctly - it can fill the house with odors that take time
to dissipate and can become annoying.
Beans, even after roasting, will stay fresh for a while.
Freshly roasted beans naturally release small amounts
of carbon dioxide which helps to keep oxygen away
from the bean, delaying spoilage. If stored in an airtight
container, especially with a drying agent, they'll retain
their good flavor and aroma for up to a week.
Naturally, the closer to roasting they're ground and consumed the fresher they'll be. But even after a few days
they can still produce a stellar grind and a superior brew. After two weeks the flavor may still be acceptable,
even though aroma will no longer be first rate. Whole bean coffee stored at even optimum conditions will be
dull after a month.
Key to getting a good cup from purchased roasted beans is to ensure that the skin is unbroken. When that
happens, all bets are off. Oils underneath the skin and inside the bean will deteriorate unless frozen, in which
case the brew will never be first rate.
When storing beans, be sure to use an airtight container. A glass jar of the type used for instant tea grounds is
tempting, but inadequate - there is still too much leakage around the lid. A good glass jar with a rubber seal is
best. Many online vendors sell just the ticket. Be sure to store the jar in a cool, dark place since not only air,
but also heat and light can contribute to spoiling beans.
Even better, but more expensive, are containers which flush air with an inert gas, then inject the coffee beans
which then give off CO2, providing natural protection against spoilage. Beans stored in this way can keep their
freshness for several weeks.
The next best thing to home roasting, and an option open even to those with less than stellar cooking skills is
grinding at home.
Good grinders are available at moderate prices, are generally easy to use and are not difficult to clean. Many
are automated to the point that with very minor experimentation, it's possible to arrive at consistently good
Since grinding necessarily breaks the bean skin the same 'oil spoilage' problem can arise if the grind isn't used
within a few days. Like roasted beans, only more so, any grounds not consumed within a day should be
packed in a desiccating cannister. Those cannisters contain a drying agent, usually beneath a mesh at the
bottom, that keep moisture from introducing mold or excess oxygen into the grounds.
If not stored in a desiccating cannister, grounds will lose much flavor within a few hours. Oils will evaporate
and, exposed to the air and moisture within the jar, the grounds will deteriorate.
For a superior cup, grind only what you intend to brew and drink everything brewed within an hour. With
modern, moderate cost machines there's no longer any reason to suffer second-rate coffee.
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