The word “fresh” is constantly thrown around with coffee. That gas station has “fresh” brewed coffee. The grocery store sells “fresh” coffee. Of course, every cafe is selling “fresh” coffee. So what actually matters when it comes to freshness and is it really that important? “Fresh” is a relative term; something is only fresh in relationship to a point in time and a process. This article on green coffee freshness is the first in our series on freshness and coffee.
Green coffee freshness? What in the world is that? I thought we were talking about when my coffee was roasted or when I opened the bag?
When people speak about freshness, they’re usually talking about freshness in relationship to when the coffee was roasted or when it was brewed. As an agricultural product, coffee is highly seasonal with most coffee growing regions harvesting only once or twice per year. So, while we’re used having coffee all year round, few realize that coffee from a particular place can be in season or out of season.
The length of time green (unroasted) coffee stays fresh depends on a variety of factors - growing conditions, how it was processed and cared for, etc, but the quality of green coffee begins to decline at some point after its harvest and processing. In our experience, this decline begins to be noticeable as early as 9 months after harvest and more commonly about 12 months after harvest. Logistically, coffees take roughly 3 months (or more during a global pandemic) to get to North America after harvest, so that timeline is practically shorter for us as roasters.
It’s worth noting that, however, the quality of some coffees improves over the first few months after their harvest, so there’s not a clear cut formula for green coffee freshness. Nonetheless, green coffee freshness does matter and few outside of the industry are aware of this. We take green coffee freshness very seriously, and put a tremendous amount of effort (and a considerable amount of money) into selling fresh crop coffees.
What does all this mean to you, brewing coffee at home? First, we'd encourage you to try different coffees at different times of year. While you may love that one origin, as you see new coffees showing up on our website, consider trying those origins as they are typically what's most in season. Our Roaster's Choice subscription is a great way to taste through the coffee seasons. Second, we wanted to start the freshness conversation with green coffee because the more you at home understand what goes into coffee and understand it as a delicate, agricultural product, the more you'll be able to appreciate what you're brewing and drinking. This appreciation, we believe, leads to increased pleasure and enjoyment of coffee, which is what we're all here for, right?