By Martin Diedrich
Before we grind and brew our beans to make coffee, it must
first be roasted. When we brew the roasted and ground beans, we are extracting the very delicate,
aromatic flavor essences and oils that we enjoy in the cup. Before the coffee is roasted,
these essences are in their natural, rested, stable condition and don’t taste at all like
what we think of as coffee. It is the roasting process that gives the beans the look, taste,
and aroma we expect from the coffee. And roasting is the magic moment that triggers the freshness
stopwatch on the coffee’s shelf life.
Martin roasts on a
manufactured by his brother,
Stephan Diedrich, in Idaho.
Coffee is typically roasted in specialized machines for 10 to 20 minutes at temperatures
ranging from 425 to 475 degrees. The exposure to such high extremes of heat is a tremendous
shock to the structure of the bean, causing it to dramatically metamorphose into the roasted
bean. It is from the roasted bean that we then extract the intensely flavorful, aromatic beverage
that goes into our cup.
This abrupt transformation also highly destabilizes the delicate flavor essences so that they
begin to decompose and go stale from the time they are done being roasted. The staling accelerates
so quickly that within two weeks from the day the coffee was roasted, more than half of the
original flavor is lost forever.
The most technologically sophisticated packaging available today does little to slow the staling
of roasted coffee beans. Freezing is out of the question. You should no more freeze a great
coffee than you would a great wine. Grinding is not a remedy for resuscitating stale coffee
either. That would be the same as saying that the shelf life of bread begins when you slice
If bread is a day old, it is immediately relegated to the half-price shelf. We should be as
particular about the freshness of our coffee. To get the most flavor from your brew, you must
have fresh roasted coffee. The indisputable truth is that no coffee is fresh if it isn't fresh