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How Coffee Freshness Really Works

I bought some bagels recently, and I noticed after six days they were moldy. Does that mean they were still 'fresh' on day 5? Nope. Fresh bagels are the ones you get straight from the store, and they're as squishy as a TempurPedic mattress. After 24 hours, they're not stale, but I wouldn’t call them fresh.

Coffee works the same way. About 6 months after roast, almost everyone will agree that coffee is not only un-fresh, but truly stale. If you're lucky it will taste like cheerios, if you're unlucky it will taste like socks. That's because it's being eaten by microorganisms like mold, yeast, and bacteria. It's an organic decay process.

Changes in freshness are chemical processes. For the first three days after roast, your coffee will actually get better. It's off-gassing CO2 that gets trapped inside the beans when they're roasted*. Coffee experts are familiar with the 'bloom'**, and may have noticed that fresher coffee blooms more. Letting our coffee sit for a few days is a bit like pre-blooming the coffee and it lets us get a more even extraction. There are also theories that the acids in coffee continue to change for a few days after roasting. Coffee has tannins just like wine, perhaps a few days of aging benefits coffee the same way it benefits a bottle of wine?

The main process affecting freshness is oxidation. When you bite an apple, the surface turns brown. This this the process of oxidation, and it also happens to coffee. (Yes, it's also the process that causes metal to rust.) If the coffee hasn't been ground, the process is slow and will take a few weeks. Unground coffee will be noticeably less fresh to experts after 10 days, and regular people will notice a change after 2-4 weeks. However, if the coffee is ground the process happens very quickly. Experts can taste a difference in 4 minutes, beginners can tell after a few hours.

So to answer the question, how long does coffee last, it peaks on day 3, can be considered "not fresh" after 2-4 weeks, and it truly stale after 6 months.

We work hard for freshness

Our tasting flights are a great way to get consistently fresh coffee. We never sit on inventory. Each week's shipments are scheduled to arrive on the same day, we pack it all over night, and get it back in the mail the next day. No time is wasted, and customers usually get their coffee within 7-10 days of roasting. It's not the 3-day peak, but it falls firmly within the range of fresh, especially if you're sampling coffees side-by-side and therefore working through them quickly.

Buying from the roaster is the only way to get coffee at its peak

If you absolutely must have coffee at its three day peak, we have a solution for you too. The All-Stars subscription ships 12oz bags straight from the roaster, on the day it's roasted so your coffee is super fresh. Expect it to arrive in 3 days, maybe 5 if something goes wrong.

Not only is it our freshest subscription option, it's also our cheapest on a per-oz basis, and it's our most delicious coffees, as voted on by our community. No other subscription service offers that because no other subscription service has our awesome app. So what are you waiting for?

Join All-Stars today!

* Roasting a coffee bean is a process similar to burning a log. Starches and carbohydrates are converted into simpler carbohydrates (and ash) as energy is released, oxygen is consumed, and carbon dioxide released. But the CO2 stays trapped inside the bean, kind of like PopRocks!

** A 'bloom' is when freshly ground coffee first gets wet and off-gasses a lot of CO2. It puffs up like a baking cookie and little steam volcanos erupt. Coffee nerds love posting pictures of this on Instagram.