Why your coffee doesn't taste as good as it could...
Like me, you probably get levels of excitement that are well out of proportion to what’s actually going down - some coffee has landed on your door mat. Once you’ve read the farmers back story on an overly designed postcard and got weirdly excited about an altitude figure you have no context for, you filter some water, sacrifice five worthy grams to displace the retention in your conical burr grinder and you begin brewing an exact weight of the good stuff with, what you know with all of your heart to be an excellent and reliable brew recipe and method. What a time to be alive. You sit down, with your pre-heated, pre-tentious drinking vessel of choice and pour out your first mouthful of this coffees destiny. You’ve prepared your mind to be blown.
What ensues is some underwhelm at best and full blown disappointment at worst.
And 9 times out of 10 here’s why: Your coffee hasn’t rested. When you order from a speciality roaster, your coffee is almost always roasted to order and shipped to you the same day, giving you incredibly fresh coffee. Unfortunately, coffee brewed within 24 or 48 hours of roasting has rarely entered it’s flavour sweet spot. So when you come to taste it, the flavours and cup quality you were promised just aren’t there.
So why does it need to rest? You may have heard the word ‘degassing’ thrown around and it’s largely for this reason. Freshly roasted coffee can take days or even weeks to fully release all the CO2 from the roasting process and become more stable. While CO2 won’t taste of much and won’t hang around in your coffee cup, it does affect the extraction during brewing. Whilst all the magnesium and calcium in the water are trying to get at ground coffee, carbon dioxide is bursting out and making a right hash of your once reliable brewing method.
So you could compensate, right? You always see a varying size of bloom when hot water first hits your grounds which is this release of gas - So bloom for longer? Leave it a minute instead of 30 seconds? Or use more water for your bloom - 1:4 coffee to water instead of 1:2 or 1:3? Won’t this get rid of more gas before the majority of the brew hits your cup? Or even grind your coffee half an hour before brewing and leave it out?
Sure, some of these things might improve the cup but when you’re adding even more variables to the tight rope walk that is hand brewing coffee, where your main ingredient is unstable in an immeasurable, unquantifiable way, all the caffeine in the world won’t relieve that headache.
So here’s the plan: Let it rest - let is degas. It’s why your coffee bag has a valve on it. And actual time periods; at a minimum, 3 days after roasting but try whole week if you’re not excited by the flavour after 3 days. And you have 4-6 weeks before its going to significantly degrade so try not to rush it - some coffees can taste it's best a month after roasting. A good idea is to be ordering your next bag while you still have a weeks worth sitting in your cupboard.