Ask Gail

  • Ask Gail: How Long Do Coffee Beans Last?

    When you purchase fresh coffee beans, you’ll probably notice a roast date labeled on the bag and you might wonder: “How long do coffee beans last?” “Do coffee beans expire?” At Seattle Coffee Gear, we receive these questions a lot and it's a tough one to answer. We adhere to roaster guidelines for freshness and that right there is the keyword: freshness. Not expiration in the way most people understand it like a sour glass of milk. We could quickly agree that those foul smelling notes mean the milk has expired, but open coffee roasted six months ago and there probably won’t be that telltale reek. However, your nose may detect something is different. Coffee is volatile and the coffee industry only agrees on one fact: coffee changes.

    To answer the question, “How long do coffee beans last?” Let’s be frank: Until it stops tasting good. Let’s break down what “good” coffee is.

    Coffee Freshness

    In the coffee community, freshness is generally agreed upon by the roast date. The closer it is to the roast date, the fresher the beans. The moment coffee is roasted it begins to stale thanks to oxidation, not time. Of course, the more time oxygen has to work on the beans, the more it’ll stale. However, roasters haven’t agreed upon what “stale” means for coffee. As James Hoffman puts it in The World Atlas of Coffee; “The specialty coffee industry has failed to make a real impact because there is no strong agreement on how quickly coffee goes stale, and at what point it will have passed its best-before date.” Our practice at Seattle Coffee Gear is to follow the individual roaster’s guidelines, which are between two and four weeks then we’ll pull the coffee off the shelf.

    How long the coffee freshness lasts after roasting also depends on roaster’s processes like the packaging. There are different types of bags like the triple-ply foil that prevent fresh air from getting in while a valve allows carbon dioxide out. It’s a common packaging we see with our roasters and at your local grocery store. There are also packaging techniques that factor in coffee freshness such as nitrogen flushing. This process, used by Lavazza, helps preserve coffee beans by flushing away the oxygen and so temporarily eliminates it going stale. We say temporarily because as soon as you open the bag, oxygen finds its way in and begins to stale your coffee.

    How To Tell If Coffee Is Bad

    We know you were thinking about it. You’re probably sniffing your bag of beans trying to decide if it was bad or stale. Your nose is your best detector. “The human tongue can only really taste five flavors—sour, sweet, salty, bitter and umami,” our Portland store manager, Joe, says. “The nose, however, is a magical input drive that can delineate between thousands and thousands of distinct compounds and the brain processes this information in the same place/way. Smell and taste are intimately linked.” So when your nose can’t smell the coffee, you can assume the flavor is gone.

    Of course, what’s most important for coffee drinkers is flavor, and the freshest beans don’t guarantee the best flavor. In fact, we’ve brewed beans a month past their roast date and loved them. We’ve had those same beans right after roasting and preferred the aged beans. That’s why we think how long coffee beans last can be gauged by flavor. Each coffee’s flavor profile is different, but once the volatile aromatics break down, so does the flavor. Think of it in terms of cooking. The oils carry the flavor and so when the oils in coffee are gone, so is the flavor. “As they are volatile, these compounds slowly leach from the coffee so the older it is the less interesting it will taste,” writes Hoffman.

    Storing Coffee

    The best way to store and keep your coffee as fresh as possible—because inevitably, you will open your freshly roasted beans and start the cycle of oxidation—is to keep it in a cool, dry place. Oxygen and moisture are the enemies of coffee. Once water comes in contact with beans, it starts the brewing process and extracts the flavor. That’s why products like the AirScape Coffee Bean Canister are excellent to keep around since it uses a one-way valve to push out oxygen and air-tight lid to keep out the elements—hello, fresh coffee.

    Freezing coffee, then, seems like a bad idea but it’s a trend we’ve seen in the coffee community. It’s not all misplaced either. Done properly, freezing coffee has its benefits. One benefit is using it for espresso to extract a richer, thicker body. If you freeze ground coffee, it’ll dissolve faster in hot water and produce a fuller flavor. However, once you take the coffee out of the freezer, you can’t let it thaw. Any moisture that condenses on the beans will start the extraction process on your coffee. A way around this is to measure the dosage for how much coffee you’ll need.

    How Long Do Coffee Beans Last?

    In the coffee community, the word expired describes coffee differently than other foods like milk. There’s no defined expiration or best-by date for coffee. We can only guarantee that coffee is volatile substance and therefore will rapidly change. How long coffee beans last also depends on the type—sorry didn’t mean to throw you a curveball. Ground coffee, for example, has more surface area for oxygen to leach out the flavor compounds. If you wanted to keep your coffee fresher longer, we’d recommend leaving the beans whole and grinding them only when you’re ready.

    Lastly, the best way to determine if your coffee is fresh, like we’ve discussed, is to follow your senses. If you no longer taste the notes you love, it’s safe to say your coffee expired and it’s time for a new bag. What’s really important is if you still enjoy your coffee regardless of the best-by date. Of course, at Seattle Coffee Gear, we make sure to adhere to roaster’s guidelines and pull coffee that’s past the freshness date provided. While we enjoy sipping our coffee sooner rather than later, we follow our senses and let the coffee speak for itself.

  • Ask Gail: How To Sign Up for SCG Subscriptions!

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    Imagine waltzing into the office and throwing a friendly “hello” to Gail before making a beeline to the kitchen. You expect to be greeted by the aroma of piping hot coffee but the stale air and huddle of co-workers around the pot confirm your suspicions. You ran out of coffee. Again.

    Why run out of coffee when you can get fresh roasted beans delivered straight to your home or office? We launched SCG Subscriptions to put the pep back in your step and free your mornings for important tasks like brewing another pot. With SCG Subscriptions, you can have selected coffee, tea and cleaning supplies mailed directly to you!

    If that’s not the definition of convenience, then this certainly will be! We made it super easy to sign up and change your subscription. Here’s how it’s done:

    Step 1. First, you’ll need a Seattle Coffee Gear Account. If you don’t already have one, you’ll be prompted to create one or log in before you can set up your subscription. 

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    Step 2. To start your subscription, go to seattlecoffeegear.com. For an example run-through, we’ll subscribe to—you guessed it—coffee! Click on the “Coffee & Tea” tab and browse through the coffee based on their flavor profile and specialities. Currently, we offer SCG Subscription on most coffees, teas and cleaning supplies.

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    Step 3. Choose an item and click on the photo to get more information. This is also where you will subscribe to that item.

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    Step 4. On items that are available for SCG Subscription, under the “Add to Cart” button is the “Subscribe” button. Click on “Subscribe” and the website will prompt you to login to your SCG Account.

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    Step 5. Log in to your account and fill out the subscription information. In your account, you will be able to:

    • Adjust frequency between every week, two weeks, a month or two months for delivery
    • Address who’s receiving the delivery
    • Change your address when you move
    • Add, change or cancel your order at any time!

    That’s all there is to it! Watch the full video below with Gail and Miranda as they explain the awesome convenience of this new feature!

  • Ask Gail: Adjusting Your Grind Based On Roast Level

    On this episode of Ask Gail, we were asked if you need to adjust your grinder setting based on the roast level? The short answer is: Yes!

    Watch the short and sweet video on how different variables (sounds like high school science class) affect the grind of your beans and, ultimately, the taste of your coffee.

    Have some burning questions for Gail? Leave us a comment on YouTube!

    Tips & Tricks

    You’ve probably been advised not to put dark roasts into your superautomatic. If this is news to you, stop putting those oily, dark roasts into your superautomatic! You’ll just clog it up and get frustrated when the machine stops making caffeinated goodness.

  • Ask Gail: Bitter and Sour Espresso Shots!

    Sour EspressoBitter and sour espresso shots, oh my! Getting that perfect espresso shot takes time and practice. But knowing what to taste for and what adjustments to make goes a long way to pulling that perfect shot.

    Espresso shots can have two extremes, either an overly bitter shot or a very sour shot. Both of which are very easy to recognize. But how do you go about fixing the off flavors? We asked Gail to give us the run down.

    So if you espresso shot tastes sour check out the video below to find out the cure!

    Does your espresso shot taste overly bitter? Watch the following video for some helpful tips!

    Did you find these videos helpful? Then you might want to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more videos just like these!

     

  • Ask Gail: Does Water Quality For Espresso Matter?

    Water QualityWe are always stressing the importance of the coffee beans when it comes to espresso. But what about the other half of the shot? What role does the water quality play?

    We know too many minerals will lead to scale build up in the machine. But what effect does this have on flavor? Does espresso taste different based on the water being used to brew?

    Gail found out. Watch the Ask Gail video below and then head over to our YouTube Channel and subscribe!

  • Ask Gail: Coffee Bean Comparison

    coffee beanWe all know that we shouldn't use a oily coffee bean on a superautomatic espresso machine because it will eventually clog it up, which can be costly to fix.

    But the question still remains, what does an oily coffee bean look like? Where in the proverbial sand is the line drawn?

    Well you are in luck because Gail is here to answer your questions! She took a few different beans from a few different roasters and compared them based just on their looks.

    Be sure to check out the video below! Do you have a question for Gail? Ask her in the comment section on YouTube!

     

  • Ask Gail: Can I Use Grindz In A Superautomatic?

    GrindzWe are always say, the cleaner you keep you espresso machine the longer it will last. And we will continue to say so until the end of time. But sometimes cleaning your machine improperly can cause more damage than just leaving it dirty! Who woulda thought?

    Case in point, using Grindz in a superautomatic espresso machine. Running Grindz Cleaner through your burr grinder every few weeks will work wonders  in terms of keeping your grinder clean and keeping your coffee tasting fresh. It also happens to be  all-natural, gluten free and completely food safe. But this is only useful on a stand alone grinder!

    If used in a superautomatic, the Grindz will go into the brew unit and expand due to the brewing water. This expansion is really bad for the inside of your superautomatic, and will cause damage.

    Watch the full Ask Gail below, and don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for daily coffee videos!

     

     

  • Ask Gail: Coffee Cans vs. Coffee Bags

    The question was asked, why are some coffees bagged in cans while other coffees are bagged in, well, bags? A great example of this can be found in Lavazza's product line. The Qualita Oro Espresso comes in a can while the Top Class Espresso comes in a bag, and this goes on and on. So what is the real reason for the different packaging, coffee cans and coffee bags?coffee can

    Naturally, we had to Ask Gail. She looked into this for us and came up with her own hypothesis. And it really came down to two things:

    Cost and availability of equipment.

    For a local roaster, packaging his or her roasted coffee in a can just isn't  feasible. The equipment and space to store said equipment would simply cost too much. So why then do we see cans of coffee on the shelves? It turns out the raw cost of a can is cheaper than the raw cost of bag. So for a roaster at a large enough scale it would make business sense to package some coffees in a can.

    Be sure to watch the full video below! Do you have a question for Gail? Ask her in the comment section on Youtube! And while you are there, subscribe to our channel :)

  • Ask Gail: Lavazza's Packaging Change?

    Lavazza's packagingJust as soon as you get used to something, it changes. Believe you me when I say, I get it! It can be frustrating, especially when you really loved what was changed.

    Well I have some good news for you. It's what is on the inside that counts! In case you don't know what I am talking about, Lavazza updated some of their packaging a little bit ago. And to be honest, I rather like the change, it looks more fresh! But what does Lavazza's packaging change really mean?

    But like I said, it is what is on the inside that counts :) And even though Lavazza's packaging is new and improved they didn't change the coffee. So when you order your new bag of coffee, you won't be able to taste a difference (because there isn't any!)

    Gail can assure you this. Watch the video below to see what Gail's speculation is as to why the change happened! Then head over to our YouTube channel to see what else Gail has been up too!

     

  • Ask Gail: How Many Grams Fit In a Portafilter?

    portafilterWhen you get your first espresso machine the first thing you want to do is pull a shot! As you are grinding out your beans you may ask yourself, how much coffee am I supposed to grind into my portafilter?

    Well the answer is, it depends. As you may already know brewing espresso is a balancing act of multiple variables. And even the slightest change in a  variable can drastically change your result! So the numbers below are an average amount of coffee that should go into each portafilter.

    Your grind setting will affect this amount, how oily the coffee you are using will affect the amount, even the humidly in your room will have an effect! So precede with caution. :)

    Under typical situations a single basket will hold 11 grams of coffee. A double basket will hold 17 grams. And a triple basket will hold 21 grams of the good stuff!

    Watch the Ask Gail video below and be sure to subscribe to our channel for all the latest videos :) Click here to subscribe if you haven't already!

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