Do you roast your own coffee beans?

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xevious
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Do you roast your own coffee beans?

OK, I came across this TEDx video that… well… be warned—if you’re a coffee lover, you’re not gonna like what you learn here.


What you didn’t know about coffee: Asher Yaron at TEDx Ubud

Premise: Coffee beans, once roasted, is a “living thing.” It’s organic and it has a short shelf-life. The roasting process changes the dried beans from an inert, “stored” thing into a complex organic compound that is rich in nutrients, antioxidants, and flavor. And sadly, this lasts about a week. You really don’t have any sure way of preserving the state of these beans once roasted. Your only imperative is to take a portion, grind it up into coffee grounds, and brew it as you need it.

What that means is that most of the coffee on the market that you buy, is dead. After that week, the nutrients and flavor diminish drastically. Certainly you can have coffee roasted a few months ago that tastes quite good to your palate for coffee as you’ve got it right now. And the caffeine content is still good. Because that’s what you’re used to. But like sleeping on a 15 year old spring mattress, what you’re used to isn’t necessary all that great. Once you’ve tasted coffee roasted within the week and brewed right after grinding… you basically never want to go back.

That’s the gist of this video. It helps explain why so many coffee aficionados in the Western hemisphere have gone to the trouble of roasting their own coffee beans. Meanwhile, in some of the most dirt poor communities you can find in Africa and India, there are people who roast their own coffee beans as a matter of course on a daily basis.

I’m not on this bandwagon yet. But after reading up on a few blogs about how people are doing it and even with the most simplistic of appliances (some people use an air popcorn popper, others just a cast iron skillet), I’m very intrigued and going to make a serious exploration of it.

I’m curious if anyone here is into roasting their own coffee beans — would you be able to share how you do it? Thanks!

Edited by: xevious on 07/31/2022 - 16:49
ChrisGarrett
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I’ve roasted for 18+ years.

I don’t know who Ted is.

Oxidation is coffee’s mortal enemy.

Don’t store coffee, roasted coffee, or green beans in the freezer, as a sealed glass jar and the cupboard is sufficient, unless you live in a tropical rainforest, in a grass hut.

Chris

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ChrisGarrett wrote:
I don’t know who Ted is.

I think he’s Bill’s pal. They go on excellent adventures.

 

But yeah, I just leave whole-beans in the come-with bag. At least they’re foil-lined so should be gas-impermeable (except for the CO2 vent).

Once I open the bag, I’ll fill a small jar that’s about week’s worth of usage, refill as needed, and keep the come-with bag squeezed as compactly as possible.

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I’ve been home roasting since around 1985. I use a Poppery 1 with variac heat and air flow control and temperature probes for bean and heater. This is a relatively crude and totally manual roaster but it gets the job done with precision in spite of this.

I will take exception to a few things he says:

  • Fresh roast coffee has a “shelf life” before staling a bit longer than 1 week. I will say 2 up to 3 weeks if stored well.( cool and sealed container) Darker roasts stale faster than lighter roasts. Deep freezing roasted coffee can extend the freshness somewhat as well.
  • For Espresso the optimum time from roast to brew is a bit longer that 11 hours… I would say 2-3 days rest is more optimum. This results in better extraction and balanced flavor. Again, darker roast needs less rest.
  • While coffee roasting can be as simple and easy as popping corn, like most things, to do it well requires a good bit more commitment, patience, practice, experience, skill, proper equipment and control. Getting started is relatively easy though.
  • No mention is made about the importance of starting with quality green beans; very important as well.
  • Green beans also will go stale, with a time line of 1-3 years after harvest if properly stored. Some deep freeze greens and get good results for much longer.
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I’ve been at it since 2010 — first on an iRoast 2, then a Behmor 1600, and now an Aillio Bullet R1. Part of my interest in flashlights is the need for high-CRI light to examine the beans during roasting. You can be terribly misled by both high CCT and poor CRI. Green tint is particularly problematic because it makes different shades of brown all look gray.

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I have not roasted my own coffee in 20 years, I was a kid and gave up fast. But, now I ONLY buy fresh roasted beans. When you make espresso, you notice old beans so damn fast it’s not even funny. To properly drive this point home, I would imagine (don’t know) that it’s like you’re trying to have sex with someone who’s just laying lifeless. The point is that as you can imagine, that doesn’t sound very fun. It can achieve the desired outcome, but doesn’t leave the greatest taste in our mouth.

Anyway, I would say that his 7 day rule is easily more true and magnified on espresso, but coffee can still be good enough for 2-3 weeks. But he’s right, if you could roast more often, a day or 2 would be consistently the best. When you get fresh espresso drinks, the flavors dance on your tongue because they have such a silky creamy vibrant and robust body. When you’re used to that, then get an old-bean espresso drink…it no joke, ends up tasting like soda with all the carbonation gone. You definitely notice it in other methods too, but on espresso, when you’re used to fresh beans, it’s a huge slap on the tongue.

Everyone knows I’m an Espressionado, so family on vacation has brought me beans from all over the world. Paris, Greece, Hawaii and more, just not Italy yet (sigh). Not too sad really because most of it arrives old anyway, so it’s a huge let down usually. Sometimes if you’re lucky, you get it right at the end of it’s life still. So you can get a few good drinks, but it dries so fast after opening at that point (like 1-2 days). I had a $50 half-pound of Kona that was DOA. And that was on top of being dark roast (also very bad for exquisite espresso). I got a fresher non-dark roast from Hana Coffee Company that thoroughly out-performed the Kona in every single category.

Most don’t get it, they’re like “what do you mean the coffee is too old”? I explain that proper espresso machines bring out every single flavor in a bean. That means everything from, Berries to fruits to chocolate and every sweet ester your coffee can secrete. But, if your coffee is even slightly burnt, guess what, that char will be magnified in your cup too. If it’s slightly old, that void of flavor will be magnified too. So being used to quality espresso is a gift, but kinda a curse too because it really limits your coffee sources.

I give everyone in my family my espresso drinks, so they hear me out because the proof is in the pudding. Everyone’s eyebrows go up every time they get one, and I constantly get asked “where is MY coffee” when I come over. But I still get some joking eye rolls from like my brother who recently brought me some Nates from Kentucky beans. I gave it away to my mom when the date passed, like I do with all my month-old coffee’s. But he see’s me doing this even with coffee’s I buy, so he can’t really act like it’s a slight.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is, this guy is right. But it’s pretty common knowledge for enthusiasts in the same way we know not to go looking for flashlights at Target. This guy is just forming the message for the masses. Or maybe, the masses that can take a trip to Bali it seems, but I digress. I would honestly love a damn good roaster and constantly fresh beans, so his message is still spot on about the beans needing to be fresh. When you do pour-over, a fresh coffee literally blooms and rises like a slow atomic bomb explosion. Fresh FRESH coffee beans is just one of those things (especially for espresso) that when you get there, going backwards is basically like you now being forced to buy all your future flashlights from either CVS or Walgreens only.

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Great post, now you have me interested.

Not what we have but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.

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ChrisGarrett wrote:
I’ve roasted for 18+ years. I don’t know who Ted is. Oxidation is coffee’s mortal enemy. Don’t store coffee, roasted coffee, or green beans in the freezer, as a sealed glass jar and the cupboard is sufficient, unless you live in a tropical rainforest, in a grass hut. Chris

 

I used to roast my own beans with an iRoast Silly Now I just buy roasted beans in bulk and freeze most once the package arrives. My tastebuds aren't refined enough to notice any degradation from freezing. I grind beans right out of the freezer. 

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LumenMax wrote:

ChrisGarrett wrote:
I’ve roasted for 18+ years. I don’t know who Ted is. Oxidation is coffee’s mortal enemy. Don’t store coffee, roasted coffee, or green beans in the freezer, as a sealed glass jar and the cupboard is sufficient, unless you live in a tropical rainforest, in a grass hut. Chris

 

I used to roast my own beans with an iRoast Silly Now I just buy roasted beans in bulk and freeze most once the package arrives. My tastebuds aren’t refined enough to notice any degradation from freezing. I grind beans right out of the freezer. 

I’m still using my iRoast v.1 and it’s still chugging along after 18 years.

I drink Eight O’clock 100% Colombian Peaks when I’m out of green beans, which is now!

I’m a green bean roaster, but not a coffee snob.

Chris

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@Lojik wrote:
To properly drive this point home, I would imagine (don’t know) that it’s like you’re trying to have sex with someone who’s just laying lifeless. The point is that as you can imagine, that doesn’t sound very fun. It can achieve the desired outcome, but doesn’t leave the greatest taste in our mouth.

Uhhhh… well…

Nope, I won’t. I promise, I won’t. 🤡

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ChrisGarrett wrote:
I drink Eight O’clock 100% Colombian Peaks when I’m out of green beans, which is now!

That’s funny, ‘cause I think that’s exactly what I just got a coupla days ago.

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ChrisGarrett
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Lightbringer wrote:
ChrisGarrett wrote:
I drink Eight O’clock 100% Colombian Peaks when I’m out of green beans, which is now!

That’s funny, ‘cause I think that’s exactly what I just got a coupla days ago.

In one form, or another, they’ve been around for a hundred years, or so.

Good stuff IMO and even better on a BOGO deal.

Chris

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since LumenMax posted: “…buy roasted beans in bulk and freeze most once the package arrives.”…
how long do the frozen beans remain “good enough” to make coffee you would actually want to drink?

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ChrisGarrett wrote:
In one form, or another, they’ve been around for a hundred years, or so.

Good stuff IMO and even better or a BOGO deal.

Yeh, I remember as a kid, mum getting 8:00 at the local A&P.

Measure out the beans from a huge hopper, put ‘em through the industrial-strength grinding machine, and right into an empty bag loaded up under the spout.

No such thing as grinding ‘em at home back then, so that was as close to fresh-ground as anyone could get.

It’s still a commodity coffee, not “gourmet” or “specialty” or anything, but they’re good enough for me.

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xevious
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Thanks everyone for chiming in. Great to know that there’s coffee nerds on BLF, or just folks who have enjoyed doing home coffee bean roasting. Good stuff here, walking away with more knowledge. I’m definitely encouraged to give it a go. Maybe I can find a used iRoast or similar locally and grab one just for a cheap entry point into doing home roasting.

ChrisGarrett wrote:
Lightbringer wrote:
ChrisGarrett wrote:
I drink Eight O’clock 100% Colombian Peaks when I’m out of green beans, which is now!

That’s funny, ‘cause I think that’s exactly what I just got a coupla days ago.

In one form, or another, they’ve been around for a hundred years, or so.

Good stuff IMO and even better or a BOGO deal.

I find Eight O’Clock Peaks is pretty decent, for the price. I don’t know if “Signature Select” is exclusive to ACME, but I discovered their beans recently. Their medium roast (with the Indian woman graphic on it) is really quite decent. Before the supply chain probs you could get a 2 lb bag for $10! Now it’s up to $15.
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turkeydance wrote:
since LumenMax posted: “…buy roasted beans in bulk and freeze most once the package arrives.”… how long do the frozen beans remain “good enough” to make coffee you would actually want to drink?

Nobody who’s into coffee freezes their coffee.

Chris

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ChrisGarrett wrote:
turkeydance wrote:
since LumenMax posted: "...buy roasted beans in bulk and freeze most once the package arrives."... how long do the frozen beans remain "good enough" to make coffee you would actually want to drink?
Nobody who’s into coffee freezes their coffee. Chris

 

Then I stand alone on top of my castle of frozen beans, holding a bottomless portafilter in the air. 

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LumenMax wrote:

ChrisGarrett wrote:
turkeydance wrote:
since LumenMax posted: “…buy roasted beans in bulk and freeze most once the package arrives.”… how long do the frozen beans remain “good enough” to make coffee you would actually want to drink?
Nobody who’s into coffee freezes their coffee. Chris

 

Then I stand alone on top of my castle of frozen beans, holding a bottomless portafilter in the air. 

Don’t trust me and just Google it.

Or better yet, just roast in smaller batches and drink it. Then start the process over.

Chris

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turkeydance wrote:
since LumenMax posted: "...buy roasted beans in bulk and freeze most once the package arrives."... how long do the frozen beans remain "good enough" to make coffee you would actually want to drink?

 

I find the beans themselves make more of a difference than freezing. Fresh is best, of course, but to save $, I buy in bulk and for me, it works well enough. Try buying 1lb of your favorite beans and freezing a small bag. Try the frozen beans next day and then try them again in a month. See if you can tell the difference.

 

Coffee machine: Rocket Espresso R58

Grinder: Compak K6

Drink: Cortados 

 

Beans: 5lb bags of Stumptown Hair Bender, Redbird Ethiopian Aricha, Storyville Prologue, etc. Stumptown Hair Bender beans do well in the freezer.

LumenMax
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ChrisGarrett wrote:
LumenMax wrote:

ChrisGarrett wrote:
turkeydance wrote:
since LumenMax posted: "...buy roasted beans in bulk and freeze most once the package arrives."... how long do the frozen beans remain "good enough" to make coffee you would actually want to drink?
Nobody who’s into coffee freezes their coffee. Chris

 

Then I stand alone on top of my castle of frozen beans, holding a bottomless portafilter in the air. 

Don’t trust me and just Google it. Or better yet, just roast in smaller batches and drink it. Then start the process over. Chris

 

Not an issue of trust. It's a matter of time and economy. I prefer fresh, of course, but freezing is fine for me.

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Almost everyone drinks coffee that’s burned to a crisp, and they like it that way. If you give them specialty coffee that’s been recently roasted and with a proper level of roast, they won’t like it. They are so used to the burned flavor that they think that’s what coffee should taste like. A “medium roast” from the grocery store is darker than any specialty roaster will ever roast their beans. Specialty coffee is always dry in appearance, the beans do not appear oily, because it is not roasted to that degree.

The shelf life is not so critical as people in this thread are claiming. If you get coffee that was roasted within the week, and then it takes you a month to consume it, it’ll still taste good at that point.

I consumed farm direct Kona for about 5 years straight but in the last several years I’ve been trying specialty coffee from a few select roasters. Specialty beans are sold by the pallet at auction. A little tip for how to get the best coffee in the world: go to these auction websites and see who is listed as winning the auctions. Buy beans from them.

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This is what drove me to start home roasting in 1985; Coffees were roasted too dark for my taste!
An oily sheen on the bean is the tell tale of a dark roast. The cell structure of the bean has been fractured and the oils released. These beans will go rancid faster than a medium or light roast because the oils are exposed.

My preference is mostly for a medium roast for espresso. ‘Full City’, fully developed body, and roast flavors (like chocolate and nut) but preserving the more subtle origin flavors (such as fruit and floral notes). This is the roast zone after ‘first crack’ and before ‘second crack’ begins.

I’m not sure why the dark roast has been so promoted except that it will be easier to produce a consistent flavor profile and you can also hide the flavor defects of lower quality beans.

To quote Thomson Owen of Sweet Marias; “Coffee is a crop, not a can of pop!” Consistency from crop to crop should not be expected.

If you are a mass coffee producer and you want a consistent flavor year after year, roasting so dark that all the distinctive character is lost is one way to do it! And you can easily get by with lower cost and quality commodity beans.

Today we have much more choice in roasting styles thanks to all the variety of artisan roasters. You can find super light nordic style roasts like what Tim Wendelboe has championed (that barely taste like coffee!) all the way to the charred remains like some that Charbucks and Peet’s are still doing.

I try to draw analogy with other foods and cooking but they all fall short as the complexity of flavor development chemistry of coffee is like nothing else! But we have all toasted bread, and probably burned it black as well! Think of the flavor differences between a perfectly golden brown and a blackened piece of toast. One is sweet with caramel and browning flavor while the burnt toast is bitter and acrid.

Look at all the flavor differences you can get by cooking an onion differently from the raw hot and pungent (analogy fail here as green coffee beans are in no way palatable!) to a soft sweet fully caramelized French onion soup. If you blackened the onion here it will be bitter not sweet and you may as well toss it and start over!

The other part of home roasting besides always having fresh roasted coffee is being able to source the green beans you like during the crop harvest cycle and then roasting them to your own preferred taste! It’s just another home cooking culinary experience! Great flavor rewards here!

I also like to bake bread. Compare fresh bread out of the oven to week old store bought mass produced bread.

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Yeah, I always compare overly-roasted coffee as “tasting like an ashtray”.

I once made the mistake of getting oily beans. Vile. Clogged up my grinder and made it a beeyotch to clean. Was glad when I choked down the last of it and got new.

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xevious
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turkeydance wrote:
since LumenMax posted: “…buy roasted beans in bulk and freeze most once the package arrives.”…
how long do the frozen beans remain “good enough” to make coffee you would actually want to drink?
Everything I’ve read thus far points to never freezing… because the extreme cold sucks moisture out of the beans, and that’s the last thing you want to happen.
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LowLumen wrote:
This is what drove me to start home roasting in 1985; Coffees were roasted too dark for my taste!
An oily sheen on the bean is the tell tale of a dark roast. The cell structure of the bean has been fractured and the oils released. These beans will go rancid faster than a medium or light roast because the oils are exposed.

My preference is mostly for a medium roast for espresso. ‘Full City’, fully developed body, and roast flavors (like chocolate and nut) but preserving the more subtle origin flavors (such as fruit and floral notes). This is the roast zone after ‘first crack’ and before ‘second crack’ begins.

I’m not sure why the dark roast has been so promoted except that it will be easier to produce a consistent flavor profile and you can also hide the flavor defects of lower quality beans.

To quote Thomson Owen of Sweet Marias; “Coffee is a crop, not a can of pop!” Consistency from crop to crop should not be expected.

If you are a mass coffee producer and you want a consistent flavor year after year, roasting so dark that all the distinctive character is lost is one way to do it! And you can easily get by with lower cost and quality commodity beans.

Today we have much more choice in roasting styles thanks to all the variety of artisan roasters. You can find super light nordic style roasts like what Tim Wendelboe has championed (that barely taste like coffee!) all the way to the charred remains like some that Charbucks and Peet’s are still doing.

I try to draw analogy with other foods and cooking but they all fall short as the complexity of flavor development chemistry of coffee is like nothing else! But we have all toasted bread, and probably burned it black as well! Think of the flavor differences between a perfectly golden brown and a blackened piece of toast. One is sweet with caramel and browning flavor while the burnt toast is bitter and acrid.

Look at all the flavor differences you can get by cooking an onion differently from the raw hot and pungent (analogy fail here as green coffee beans are in no way palatable!) to a soft sweet fully caramelized French onion soup. If you blackened the onion here it will be bitter not sweet and you may as well toss it and start over!

The other part of home roasting besides always having fresh roasted coffee is being able to source the green beans you like during the crop harvest cycle and then roasting them to your own preferred taste! It’s just another home cooking culinary experience! Great flavor rewards here! be
I also like to bake bread. Compare fresh bread out of the oven to week old store bought mass produced bread.

Well said. Roasting coffee is just a special case of roasting anything that contains proteins and sugars. As you raise the temperature you’ll progress through drying, Maillard reactions, caramelization, carbonization, and ultimately combustion. I think of City roast as being dominated by origin and Maillard flavors, Full City to Vienna as increasingly dominated by caramelization, and French and Italian as being progressively ruined by carbonization. By the full carbonization stage, all bean character is lost — it’s literally just charcoal.

xevious
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LowLumen wrote:
This is what drove me to start home roasting in 1985; Coffees were roasted too dark for my taste!
An oily sheen on the bean is the tell tale of a dark roast. The cell structure of the bean has been fractured and the oils released. These beans will go rancid faster than a medium or light roast because the oils are exposed.
Starbucks is notorious for over-roasting their beans. “Dark roast” inherently requires more roasting, but most of the time it seems companies do it too long… and hence, the oily sheen that you mention.

It’s like somehow most people got the idea that the darker the roast, the “richer and more potent” the coffee. And this just isn’t the case. You can brew a strong coffee from medium roasted beans. I’ve also found that medium roast just tastes better, after some trial and error buying. The logic seems to fit — you roast to a medium darkness and you don’t lose the quality characteristics of the beans, a flavorful and appealing taste. Dark roast goes too far. It can smell more intense, but in taste it’s almost always bitter… requiring sugar and milk to temper it, make up for what’s lost.

The absolute best coffee should be so good that you would only want to drink it black. Next, for coffee that’s a little bitter, adding milk softens it. And then finally dark roasted coffee that’s bitter & acidic requires also adding sugar. That has been one of the “litmus tests” for me—if all I need to do is add milk for the coffee to taste good, then it’s decent. I’m really eager to get to that point where even milk isn’t necessary.

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xevious wrote:
LowLumen wrote:
This is what drove me to start home roasting in 1985; Coffees were roasted too dark for my taste!
An oily sheen on the bean is the tell tale of a dark roast. The cell structure of the bean has been fractured and the oils released. These beans will go rancid faster than a medium or light roast because the oils are exposed.
Starbucks is notorious for over-roasting their beans. “Dark roast” inherently requires more roasting, but most of the time it seems companies do it too long… and hence, the oily sheen that you mention.

It’s like somehow most people got the idea that the darker the roast, the “richer and more potent” the coffee. And this just isn’t the case. You can brew a strong coffee from medium roasted beans. I’ve also found that medium roast just tastes better, after some trial and error buying. The logic seems to fit — you roast to a medium darkness and you don’t lose the quality characteristics of the beans, a flavorful and appealing taste. Dark roast goes too far. It can smell more intense, but in taste it’s almost always bitter… requiring sugar and milk to temper it, make up for what’s lost.

The absolute best coffee should be so good that you would only want to drink it black. Next, for coffee that’s a little bitter, adding milk softens it. And then finally coffee that’s bitter & acidic requires also adding sugar.

I think this “darker = richer” association is due to the fact that a bag of dark-roasted beans has a stronger smell than a bag of light-roasted beans, due to the flavorful oils being pushed out to the surface of the bean. But this doesn’t translate to the brewed cup, which is all that really matters.

Hoop
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And because the bag says “Dark, Rich, and Bold!” on it.

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Lightbringer wrote:
ChrisGarrett wrote:
In one form, or another, they’ve been around for a hundred years, or so.

Good stuff IMO and even better or a BOGO deal.

Yeh, I remember as a kid, mum getting 8:00 at the local A&P.

Measure out the beans from a huge hopper, put ‘em through the industrial-strength grinding machine, and right into an empty bag loaded up under the spout.

No such thing as grinding ‘em at home back then, so that was as close to fresh-ground as anyone could get.

It’s still a commodity coffee, not “gourmet” or “specialty” or anything, but they’re good enough for me.


Thats what my folks used to do also. We used to drive about 20 miles to get to the A&P.
LumenMax
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xevious wrote:
turkeydance wrote:
since LumenMax posted: "...buy roasted beans in bulk and freeze most once the package arrives."... how long do the frozen beans remain "good enough" to make coffee you would actually want to drink?
Everything I've read thus far points to never freezing... because the extreme cold sucks moisture out of the beans, and that's the last thing you want to happen.

 

How refined are you taste buds? I've been freezing beans for years now in 5lb increments. Only issue is when I get certain beans, but most do fine in the freezer. Also, some beans require resting on arrival before freezing. 

 

If you have the option not to freeze (buy/roast small batches), then an air-tight container works very well.

Sk9
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They say oxidation is the enemy of freshness. Chemical reactions slow down with lower temp. The reasons not to freeze never made sense to me. I’ve tried freezing, it works.

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