How To Tell If Coffee Beans Are Stale - The Singapore Way

How To Tell If Coffee Beans Are Stale - the Singapore Way

To make a really fresh cup of coffee (espresso, milk drinks, drip, moka pot, french press, chemex, v60, etc) you need whole coffee beans used within 4 weeks of their roast date. The other method is smelling it, you can read more to find out how.

It doesn't really matter what sort of fancy vacuum containers you use, or even freezing it (which I don't recommend in Singapore or the tropics due to water condensation in our humid environment which just makes it worse when you take it out of your freezer)

Yes 4 weeks is about as long as you would really want to store your beans for prior to extracting your coffee because chemical changes take place fairly rapidly after a bean is roasted. The oils within the coffee bean start to become less aromatic and then progress to the point where it starts to become flat and then smell rancid.

Some roasted beans tend to hold their flavours a little longer than others, depending on the variety or origin of bean but they all stay fresh within the 4 weeks of roasting. After that time period, it's all highly variable.

Grinding Finer To Compensate

If you aren't using a super-automatic coffee machine like a Jura for the office pantry, chances are you might be using a E61 grouphead (Rocket, Profitec, Gaggia, Rancillo) or (if you have a bigger bank balance, maybe you're using a GS group like a Synesso / La Marzocco / Slayer) espresso machine.

You might even be doing manual coffee extraction methods like the French Press or Drip and will need to use a grinder. 

So whatever your choice of extraction, you will find that from 2 weeks of the roast date, you start to need to adjust your coffee grind settings a little more towards the finer side so you create a slower flow.

Note: This helps with maximising your extraction of the grounds and into the cup using the 88-95 degree water that will be pushed through by your machine, which makes sure your water doesn't bypass some of those delicious grounds.

So as you get into "stale-bean" territory, your grind settings seem to get finer and finer and at some point, the coffee just doesn't have any brightness or punch to it, it would typical taste flat, but if you aren't a snob, it's still drinkable within 8 weeks but beyond that, it's anybody's guess. But it wouldn't taste any better, that's for sure. 

Smell It, Does it Smell?

Open the container where you choose to store your beans, does it smell like it came out of the roaster not too long ago? Does it have those slightly fruity nutty flavours with each whiff? If you answered yes: then you're good to use it.

However, if you're unsure of the roasting period of the batch of beans, and it smells a tad bit sour and musky, chances are it's probably stale. The simple trick is to get acquainted with smelling some older roasted beans and they almost certainly smell similar when they all get stale. 

I guess it's a little like knowing when those roasted nuts you bought 3 months ago just don't smell the same, and they certainly don't taste the same, the oils inside those nuts just taste like they've "aged", and yes, coffee beans are similar in that way too!


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