A discussion came up last week with some of our customers about how to best store coffee. This post is aimed at explaining and clairifying how to best do this.
But before we start talking about storing your coffee, Let's talk a bit about the long journey your coffee has gone through before arriving to you and in your cup.
Here are some of those hands involved
Did you know that a coffee bean is actually the seed of a coffee cherry?
When the farmer plants his coffee trees, he needs to wait 3-5 years (depending the variety) before finally being able to harvest the coffee cherries.
The coffee cherries become deep red when they are ripe to be harvested.
Usually there is one major harvest per year. In most countries, this harvest is done by hand. A good picker usually picks 100 to 200 lbs of cherries each day, which will produce 40lbs of green coffee beans.
Once the coffee has been picked, processing needs to begin as soon as possible to avoid the beans to spoil.
Depending on location, there are two main methods of processing coffee:
the wet method and the dry method
The Dry method is a very old method that is still used in countries with sparse water access. The freshly picked cherries are spread out on big 'patios' to dry in the sun. The cherries are then raked and turned throughout the day. At night or during rain, they are covered to prevent them from getting wet. Depending on the weather, this process might continue for several weeks.
The Wet Method removes the pulp from the coffee cherry after harvesting so the bean is dried with only the parchment skin left on.
The freshly harvested cherries are passed through a pulping machine to separate the skin and pulp from the bean. Then they are separated by weight as they pas through water channels. The lighter beans float to the top, while the heavier ripe beans sink to the bottom. They are passed through a series of rotating drums which separate them by size.
After separation, the beans are transported to large, water-filled fermentation tanks. Depending on the condition of the beans, the climate and the altitude, they will remain in these tanks for anywhere from 12 to 48 hours.
When fermentation is complete, the beans feel rough to the touch. The beans are rinsed by going through additional water channels, and are ready for drying.
Before being exported, parchment coffee is processed in the following manner:
Hulling machinery removes the parchment layer from wet processed coffee.
Polishing is an optional process where any silver skin that remains on the beans after hulling is removed by machine.
Grading and Sorting is done by size and weight, and beans are also reviewed for color flaws or other imperfections.
Beans are sized by being passed through a series of screens. They are also sorted pneumatically by using an air jet to separate heavy from light beans.
Finally, defective beans are removed either by hand or by machinery. Beans that are unsatisfactory due to deficiencies (unacceptable size or color, over-fermented beans, insect-damaged, unhulled) are removed. In many countries, this process is done both by machine and by hand, ensuring that only the finest quality coffee beans are exported.
The milled beans are now referred to as green beans and are bagged in Jute bags (depending on location) of 132 lbs or 152 lbs. they are then stacked on pallets and into containers ready for shipping to the importers around the world.
Upon arrival at the importers' warehouse. te beans are then sample roasted and tested for quality and taste.
After all this handling and traveling, Here is where we come in, your local micro or nano roastery.
Here at our roastery, we do the last handling of the coffee beans, by transforming them from a hard green bean to a delectable roasted coffee bean, ready to prepare your farorite drink.
The roaster that roasts your coffee makes it his/her mission to respect all those that have handled the coffee before him by roasting these precious beans with the utmost care. The roasting process is complicated and is continually changing. Especially when roasting like us, with the heat of the wood fire, we cannot just turn of the gas if the beans are over roasting, under roasting or are not following the so called profile.
Roasting with the radiant heat of a wood fire is a pure work of art that requires experience, expertise and a nose for things.
Depending on outdoor temperature and humidity, the type of beans and processing method, the roast will be different. However, the things that decide the roast are a combination of Time, Temperature, Look and Smell.
Once the roasting process is complete, the beans are directly cooled in the cooling bin, from where they are placed in a container to be directly packaged.
In our roastery, we pack the coffee right after roasting it. to seal the freshness in the bag. However, coffee has to degas for 24 hours after roasting. Thanks to a one way degassing valve in our bags, the degassing gasses can escape but no fresh oxygen can come in. Keeping the coffee fresh and all the qualities, aromas and flavours locked in the beans.
And this is where you come along! You, the consumer making the right choice to purchase freshly roasted coffee.
For you to pay respect to all those people that have worked so hard to make this beautiful product that you're about to use to make your morning coffee, you can do your part by storing it right.
Here a few tips on that:
What to Avoid in Coffee Storage
Coffee Storage Locations
- Cool, dark, dry places (such as pantries and cabinets) are best for coffee storage.
- Countertops that are away from direct sunlight and other sources of heat can be appropriate if you use opaque, airtight storage vessels.
Coffee storage locations to avoid:
- Fridges should be avoided because they are moist. Coffee beans are porous once roasted, and will absorb any smells from around them. If you're meaning to neutralize the smell in your fridge, you can definitely place an open bag of coffee beans in the fridge, much like you would with baking soda. However, if you want to enjoy the maximum flavour and quality of coffee, it's best not to put it in the fridge.
- Warm spots, like above/next to the oven or in cabinets that get hot from exposure to sunlight or cooking equipment.
- Freezers are subject to constant debate, it's up to you. Just make sure that when you do freeze your beans, freeze them at at least -18 celsius. When you take the bag of coffee out of the freezer, don't put it back! Lastly, Your coffee beans will have a shorter shelf life once frozen.
Coffee storage containers:
- Once coffee’s original packaging is opened, coffee starts to lose its freshness.
- Glass, ceramic or non-reactive metal containers with airtight gaskets are ideal for storing coffee.
- Coffee can be stored fresh in clear, glass canisters or clear plastic ware only if the canisters are kept in a cool, dark place.
- For countertop storage, opaque, airtight containers are best.
May your coffee have the respect it deserves and may you have pleasure in every sip of this delicious and precious drink!
Atlin Mountain Coffee roasters
Indirect heat, wood fire roasted coffees.
Photo credit for all images: Annelies vos
Sources: (NCA USA, About food)