What are the rules for storing coffee?

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When coffee is roasted, it’s packed into the sealable, light proof bags that you see on the shelves at Relish.  One important feature of all these bags is a little plastic one-way valve that the supermarkets call aroma valves. Whilst you can squeeze the bag and smell the coffee, they serve a much more important purpose.

When beans come out of a coffee roaster they are packed with carbon dioxide gas trapped within the cellulose structure, this is natural and a result of the roasting process, . This gas slowly leaks out of the beans over the first few days and without the valve, the bag would gently inflate but ultimately explode.

Beans in a sealed bag are in a dry, stable atmosphere of pure CO2, this helps keep them fresh. Once opened, you introduce moisture and oxygen which accelerates the staling process. Once ground, the massive increase in surface area exposed to moisture and oxygen results in rapid staling and within minutes, your coffee loses a little of it’s magic. So the first rule is keep the beans as beans!

At Relish we like to use and sell coffee that’s less than a month old (from roast), but dependent on the roast process, some coffee last upto 3 months in good condition. Past then, your coffee starts to taste noticeably stale. Dull, flat, a little bit like cooked cardboard, with none of the delicious aromas that make speciality coffees so worth the extra pennies.

So, how do you keep coffee as fresh as possible for as long as possible? The enemies of coffee are moisture, sunlight and time. Handily the same enemies of biscuits; so little and often, fresh and whole bean. Keep in an airtight container, away from light and moisture. Most good coffee bags are resealable, but a good kilner type jar works well, just keep it clean.

If you're buying your coffee ground, don't. You need to buy a grinder. It doesn’t have be expensive and will usually last for years. However, there are different types of grinder that I talk about on the Brew course, don’t just go for the cheapest or the one that matches your food processor!

Oh, and what mustn’t you do? Keep your coffee in the fridge or freezer. Ever.

Better Brewing

How do you brew your coffee at home? Do you brew it at all? Maybe you open a jar of instant and roughly measure a teaspoon into a mug and add boiling water?

Until I opened a coffee shop back in 2006, I was a pretty sure I liked Douwe Egberts ‘Gold’. I’d make it a little stronger than most and add half a spoon of demerara sugar and a dash of whole milk to get it just the way I liked it. I enjoyed the ‘pop’ as I plunged the spoon through the paper seal on a new jar, and having lived a chunk of my teenaged years in Holland I fancied the dutch knew a thing or two about coffee so I was drinking a good thing.

Thankfully, while searching for a suitable location for Relish, I chose to indulge my slightly obsessive streak and learn a bit about coffee. I entered the UK Barista championships in 2006 and met a man called James Hoffmann who has become possibly the best known coffee geek in the world and now owns Square Mile Coffee Roasters.

It was after sharing a cafetiere of an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe with him that I decided to explore making better coffee at home.

What I learnt was that unlike espresso, it isn’t really the equipment that matters, it’s almost everything else. The beans, the roaster, the grinder, the water, the temperature, the steep time, the ratios and the recipe. My favourite piece of brew kit cost me about £6 and has lasted several years, it’s as simple as it gets but I’m pretty sure I get to drink a near perfect coffee every morning because I understand the ‘everything else’

On Sunday 17th April I’m sharing that knowledge in a little course I’m giving. It’s called Better Brewing at Home. It’s at Relish, it starts at 9am. I’ll feed you freshly baked croissant and way too much coffee and fill your mind with the important stuff so that with a little practice you’ll be making yourself a much better coffee in the morning.

The course is £60 and there are just 5 spaces left. Call us on 01208 814214 or drop me an email via the website if you’d like to book.

 

Hugo