I’ve been thinking about the freshness of my coffee quite a bit these days ever since I managed to acquire a large whole-bean selection due to my own splurges in combination with gifts from generous friends and vendors. I’m the only coffee drinker at home, more or less, so this sudden windfall of freshly roasted coffee simultaneously delighted and horrified me. I could almost hear the clock ticking away in the background, counting down the time I had to get my brew on before everything started tasting like cardboard.
How fresh is fresh enough? Or, conversely, how old is too old?
On that subject, I came across some general guidelines with respect to freshness while forum-surfing recently. I’m pretty confident that the Babbie referred to in Babbies’s Rule, quoted below, is Chris Babbie (aka Psyd on Home-Barista.com; see here also}. Credit where credit’s due, right?
Babbie's Rule of Fifteens:*
Green beans should be used in fifteen months.
Roasted beans should be used in fifteen days.
Ground beans should be used in fifteen minutes.
Extracted beans should be served in fifteen seconds.
*Caveat from Chris: "These are generalities, and depend on the bean, the environment, and your tastes. While there are occasional outliers, anyone that suggests that these are way off would arouse my suspicions. Especially about his tastes... ; >"
Let’s focus on the second line re: roasted beans. 15 days is a little more strict than what’s become my practice, which is to allow 30 days post-roast. I’m not saying there’s no drop-off in flavor between 15 and 30 days; rather, I’m simply willing to accept the potential decline in cup quality up until my beans reach that 30-day mark. After a month, however, I’m likely to toss whatever’s left over.
Is that overly lenient? Overly ruthless? I’d be curious to see what you all think. In the meantime, I’ll be exploring freezing small quantities of whole bean within 4-5 days of roasting in order to skirt the issue entirely.