For years now, baristas in competitions have been playing with frozen coffee. Roasters have been playing with frozen greens to preserve them and even growers have been investigating freezing at some points in their processing of nanolots to see whether there is something in the cup. We’re all for experimentation.
Beanscene magazine reported on it two years ago and for home users, the times are ‘a changing” as well.
What, why and how?
We all know that coffee once roasted has a finite life. Within a few weeks of leaving the roaster, it’s pretty much dead.
Supermarket coffee? Almost guaranteed to be dead and coffee without a roast date on it? In our opinion, if the roaster’s not telling you, there is something to hide. Probably dead. Pre-ground? Definitely dead.
Big roasters play with nitrogen flushing and/or vacuum packaging of their beans beans to try to slow deterioration a little and these methods do help- somewhat. In our experience, even with these methods, once opened- the deterioration is very rapid. You get somewhat of a suspended animation until you reanimate and then it’s downhill. Fast.
The deterioration of Decaf out of the roaster is even more rapid. Within a week, it’s struggling even when packaged in airtight containers and stored in a cool place. So, if you buy beans every few weeks or perhaps even less frequently, they’re quite possibly stale when you buy them and definitely stale by the time you finish them.
Freezing is a thing- with caveats…
Our coffee consumption can be highish, but regardless, there are days when post-dinner, geez it’d be nice to have one more cup. Decaf filter perhaps?
We always have a good decaf on hand and can roast it fresh each week, but even then and when stored in a cool place in an airtight container, it’s done before we’re done with it. Beans to bin… This is wasteful and also disrespectful to the supply chain when chances are that a worker in a far-off country picked the beans one by one.
We have switched to freezing and it definitely works. Frozen beans after even two weeks show very little deterioration in the cup. It’s comprehensively the way to go.
So, how should I do it?
The critical thing when working this way, is that you grind frozen.
What works may differ from home to home, but don’t let them thaw. Some users are pre-weighing into small airtight bags, some are using bean cellars: Weber Workshops makes some beautiful, albeit expensive ones.
What works for us is to store our beans in small Airscape containers and quickly grab what we need and then the beans go straight back to the freezer…
Once measured out (and you get to skip the measuring if you have pre-weighed), immediately grind them frozen for your chosen use. This method requires a satisfactory single-dosing grinder. Plenty of grinders do this pretty well. You might hand-grind or use a good purpose specific grinder. Some of our favourites are the Eureka Mignon series (and they even do a single dose specific variant now), HeyCafe H1, Mahlkonig X54 and for those who have just won the lottery, Weber Workshops produce some incredible Holy Grail grinders.
The proof is in the cup…
Try it for yourself: Same two week old coffee (you’ll know that because you’re purchasing from a roaster who provides roast dates), same technique and perhaps get your partner or a buddy to facilitate a blind sampling. We’ll be extremely surprised if you can’t pick the difference.