SHOULD YOU FREEZE COFFEE BEANS?

We recently received the following email from a customer

I’ve recently purchased some of your superb coffee beans. We have used one packet and have put the other 2 pks in the freezer as suggested on your web site. I’ve seen conflicting advice on freezing coffee beans – some say never put the beans in the freezer while others recommend it. 

Could you throw some light on the subject for me?

Here is our response!

Dear John,

Thanks for the feedback on the quality of our work in respect to our coffee. I will pass this on to the rest of our team.

You have opened up what most people in the industry consider a ‘can of worms’!

The debate over whether to freeze or not to freeze coffee it has been raging for some time and I daresay will continue to well into the future. The question is whether freezing coffee affects the quality and freshness of the coffee. Whilst I know that many people will disagree with me out there, my opinion is based on bench testing over many years, and the feedback provided to me from customers all around the world who received coffee being tested in a frozen state stored it in a frozen state and consumed that coffee over many months, whilst at the same time keeping tasting noteswhich they presented back to me. I too did the same from this end.

The overwhelming conclusion is that freezing greatly extends the shelf life of ‘well roasted’ coffee. On the other hand, it does little to extend the shelf life of not so well roasted coffee. Also, unless a strict process is followed in the way coffee is stored (frozen), de frosted, and then used these factors will also contribute to diminishing the condition of your coffee in the cup. But more on this last point later.

At this stage it would be prudent for me to explain what I mean by well roasted coffee. Roasting coffee is actually a science not an activity based on ‘passion’. Having the latter is good in that it motivates you to get up every morning, but being able to get the best result out of coffee beans means that as a roaster you must be able two almost certainly guarantee consistency at the highest possible quality. The hard part is measuring how consistent you are during the roasting process, and then matching that process to the quality outcome. The former requires hundreds of thousands of dollars of machinery modifications and the use of high end lab equipment. And to gauge the latter there must be a detailed understanding of what is possible on the quality scale. You only know what you know, you don’t know what you don’t know. It is my contention that most roasters have not had enough exposure to a combination of both of these areas enabling them to truly understand how far they could push the envelope.

Much & Moore coffee is an example of what I mean.

If you notice, we do not make a big song and debts about where the beans actually come from, or their antecedents. Many roasters wax lyrical about the fineness or greatness of what they use. In essence, there are a handful of major green bean brokers in Australia, and despite claims, very few roasters buy outside of these supply channels. What this means is that nearly every roaster is using similar beans!

So the question then is why you are so appreciative of the taste of Mutch & Moore coffee? The answer: – we minimise the damage done to the coffee in the roasting machine. And the way we do that is by understanding the impact every step in the roasting process has on the green beans, measuring the impact in a scientific way, then recalibrating the roasting process (the brains of the machine) to decrease any damage even further. At its heart, boutique roasting is ad hoc and delivers either under roasted (sour/acidic) or baked, lifeless, two-dimensional coffee blends to the market. Either way the consumer gets less than what those beans can deliver. And if they have been damaged in the roast they do not survive for long on the shelf. What’s more freezing does nothing to extend the shelf life. Purveyors of such coffee are prone to not only making comments such as coffee is best had up to 5 days after roasting, they are most likely to tell you not to freeze the coffee. inevitably they drew these conclusions from taste testing their own product over the course of one week to 2 weeks and consistently found a great quality drop off in taste quality after for five days. Bench testing most products in the marketplace has taught me that the starting taste quality (or what I call the taste footprint) of most boutique coffees start off very small purely because of the battering the beans experienced during the roasting process.

On the other hand, if the damage done to the coffee beans in the roast is minimised to a negligible or near negligible level then it stands to reason the coffee will end up with a larger taste footprint. Also, as you probably know there are over 800 chemical compounds which are found in coffee beans. There are 12 chemical compounds which scientists know for sure are directly linked to flavour and aroma development. The development of these chemical compounds cannot be measured by eye or by smell. In other words it has nothing to do with colour of the roast. And only one specialised piece of equipment costing thousands of dollars can tell us whether we have fully develop those 12 chemical compounds. It naturally follows that if we had done a good job developing those 12 chemical compounds then the other 788 chemical compounds would be better developed too. And it is for this reason that we can extend the deepness and richness of similar coffee beans to what other roasters use.

There are many benefits. Apart from the deepness and richness of flavour, shelf-life extends by weeks. The coffee also becomes more flexible – allowing/forgiving individuals with varied skill levels while still producing a decent flavour in the cup. And, most importantly for this discussion, such coffee can be frozen. Once brought back to life you would be hard pressed to notice any flagging of the taste profile. As I said earlier many customers have attested to this experience.

But if you follow these few simple steps you should never have a problem:-

  • Freeze your Mutch & Moore Coffee immediately upon receipt but only if you intend not to use it up within 4 weeks.
  • Once you need to access your frozen coffee take one bag out at the time as required.
  • Never open and use the coffee unless you can guarantee it is at room temperature.
  • Once you open a coffee bag never put it back in the freezer or the fridge – scrunch up the bag, put an elastic bag around it, put the bag in an airtight container, and store in a cool dark place.
  • A few simple rules, but worth following.

But try not to bore you with too much science but as you are understanding by now there is a lot more I can add.

I hope this answers your question, but if not do not hesitate to contact me.

Keep spreading the word about Mutch & Moore coffee!