It’s very satisfying to start the day with a great cup of coffee. It’s like fuel that fires up your body and gives you that needed boost to be at your best for the whole day.
But this perfect beginning can easily be ruined by a cup of stale coffee.
Have you had that experience before?
If not yet, lucky you. But for those who had the unfortunate moment of sipping a stale coffee, I feel you. It can be very frustrating.
What Makes Coffee Taste Stale?
There are at least three common reasons why coffee can go stale.
There is a prescribed water temperature in order to achieve the perfect cup of coffee. To best enjoy coffee, the water used should be between 195 degrees to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything lower or higher than this temperature range will affect the taste of coffee. Often, when we leave our coffee in a mug, it will only take about 5 minutes and the temperature significantly drops. Temperature plays an important role in keeping good tasting coffee.
- Hygiene and cleaning
No matter how fresh the coffee is, if we use a dirty coffee brewer or an unclean mug, this can easily affect the taste of our coffee. For example, a coffee maker that has calcified deposits or mineral build up due to water hardness can easily alter the taste of coffee. A coffee mug that has been used so many times and has been subjected to poor cleaning practices can also contribute to the change in coffee taste.
- Bad ground coffee
Coffee beans can go bad. Ground coffee can go bad. And if these end up in your coffee, it’s going to be one bad coffee.
How fast does ground coffee go bad?
Ground coffee is an agricultural product. Just like any other fresh produce, it has a specific shelf life. Think about best before date or consume on or before date. Taking in consideration of this will ensure that you can have a perfect tasting cup of coffee.
According to coffee roasters, green coffee beans have a longer shelf life. Some say that it can last for up to 12 months, when stored properly.
Once green coffee beans are roasted, they lose some of their freshness. Heat plays a factor in this process. When coffee beans are roasted, they start expelling carbon dioxide. The coffee beans are exposed to oxygen.
Oxygen easily affects the composition of organic matter, like coffee beans. The more it is exposed to oxygen, the faster it will decay. When coffee beans are roasted, they are exposed to heat and oxygen. Double whammy?
Given these conditions, coffee beans often have a shelf life of 3 to 6 months. Coffee roasters often pack coffee beans in airtight, vacuum-sealed bags in order to preserve its freshness.
How about pre-ground beans?
There are several factors to consider when it comes to pre ground beans.
- Roasted on date. Knowing this will help you determine how long it has been since the coffee beans were roasted and ground. Unfortunately, some supermarket pre ground coffee packs do not indicate this date. In this case, buy at your own risk.
- Consume before date. Knowing this will help you determine how close it is to the 24-month shelf life. Technically, coffee has no expiry date. At least not in the sense of mold growing among the particles of ground coffee. It takes a consider amount of moisture for mold to grow inside an airtight, vacuum-sealed pack of coffee. However, perishable, agriculture-based products like coffee have a maximum shelf life of 24 months. If you see the consume before date that is almost a few months away from the 24-month period, choose wisely and shop for a better, fresher pack.
Pre ground coffee should be consumed immediately. If you buy a pack of pre ground coffee, consume it within a week.
Otherwise, you will notice that the taste of your coffee changes every day. The quality will diminish day after day, until your next cup of coffee tastes bitter and dull.
Do not wait for this day to come. You will be sorry you had to taste this kind of stale coffee.
Why does coffee ground go bad quickly?
Unlike coffee beans, ground coffee has more surface area. The whole beans are broken down into smaller particles and each of these particles are exposed to the four main enemies of coffee: air, moisture, heat and light.
- Air – Oxygen is the number one enemy of coffee. It speeds up the decay of the coffee beans. One way to reduce exposure to air is keep ground coffee in airtight, vacuum-sealed container.
- Moisture – Too much moisture can cause mold and mildew build up. This will easily make your ground coffee bad. While you can let it air dry, the molds could affect the taste of your coffee beans and the stale-like smell can retain even after you brew it. You can place your coffee beans in a vacuum-seal pack, zip lock or airtight containers to avoid exposure to sudden temperature change and humidity.
- Temperature – Ideally, ground coffee can be kept at room temperature, which generally falls between 20 and 25ºC (68 to 77ºF).
- Light levels – Pack coffee beans and store away from direct sunlight. Too much light can cause premature aging and it can lose aroma and flavor faster than expected.
How can you keep ground coffee fresh?
You may start to think that ground coffee are so sensitive. In a sense, yes. If you want fresh, great tasting coffee, you really need to choose your ground coffee with care.
Here are some tips on how you can make a perfect cup of coffee using fresh ground coffee.
Make your own roast.
Since unroasted, green coffee beans can last up to 12 months, keeping unroasted beans seem to be a good idea. However, keep in mind that you will need to roast beans every time you need to make a cup of coffee. There are quick ways to roast your own coffee beans. You can use a stovetop popcorn maker. Just keep a watch on the coffee beans and keep moving the beans around to ensure even roasting. Watch the color change until you achieve the roast that you love.
Buy less whole beans.
If roasting your own coffee sounds too intimidating, you can always buy whole beans and grind the beans on the demand. Coffee roasters can now be contacted online, through social media handles and coffee forum groups. This way, you can get in touch with the roasters and inquire about freshly roasted coffee beans. You can buy whole beans good for a month. Also, invest in a simple burr grinder.
Buy less ground coffee.
If you feel that grinding beans can be tedious and you want something really easy to prepare, buy ground coffee that’s good for a week. A week is the optimum shelf life for pre ground coffee. Choose the type of coffee beans you like from your favorite coffee shop and ask them to grind it. Keep in mind the kind of grind that you need, depending on your coffee brewer at home. If you have an espresso machine, make sure to choose fine ground, dark roast coffee. If you have a moka pot or an automatic drip machine, choose and semi coarse ground coffee. If you love using a French press, choose a coarse ground coffee.
Consume brewed coffee in an hour.
Brewed coffee can taste good for an hour. Beyond that, no matter how fresh your ground coffee is, you will end up with a stale cup. If you cannot drink your coffee immediately, make sure to store the coffee in an insulated, double wall travel mug. This will keep your brewed coffee fresh for up to six hours.