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Tasty stale coffee.

One of the many joys working in the coffee industry, is trying endless amount of different coffees, in season being offered. For a year, I was subscribed to weekly and monthly coffee subscription from 2 of my favorite roastery. I’ve learnt so much by tasting different coffees itself, but what I was left with was countless amount of bags of half finished or even some unopened bags. I’m sure we all had this, but I want to focus on our customers, who buy these freshly roasted coffees from our shops.

Recently there has been substantial interest in manual filter brewing method from the customers, and beans have been flying off the shelves. If the beans were roasted on 1st of February, if FedEX does there jobs properly, it could be on the shop shelves on the 3rd of February. Now, we say that coffees taste the best when its ‘fresh’, where generally it is between 2nd day of roasting to 14th day of roasting. Now, I’m not saying it will suddenly taste horrible after 14 days, it will have so much factors affecting this, such as type of coffee, level of roast and also storage. Don’t we all agree that you can drink milk 2~3 days after its best before by dates if they are refrigerated well? Same goes for eggs and many other product.

So customers have generally, 10~12days window to enjoy their coffee whilst its fresh, if its a 250g bag thats around 21g~ 25g of coffee being consumed every day to enjoy them whilst its fresh. Presonally, if you don’t drink coffee every morning, I reckon you won’t be able to finish the bag in time, or you’ll get another subscription coffee and the old coffees are long forgotten.

So, people spend an average of £6 to £13 on bags of coffee, and most likely, they will have around 100g~150g of coffee still in the bag after 2~3 weeks, so what do you do with them? Well, there are lots of things on internet like using old coffees to use as compost, leaving them in fridge and even face pack! I wanted to find out if there are any guide lines, outlining what they can do to make decent cup of coffee using beans over 3 weeks old, rather than throwing it away. Even on the coffee bags, it states, ‘enjoy within 4weeks of roast’. So should people use the same method of brewing for all those 4 weeks? Should they be put off brewing with coffee 3 weeks or 4 weeks old?

-This isn’t a definitive guide to brew good coffee using old coffee, I firmly believe in using fresh coffee will deliver the best result in the cup!

- I will outline the changes you make to your recipe using old coffee from using fresh.

- its an experiment, and I’m not saying it will work for every coffee, as I’ve said before, there are lots of variables to take on board. - If anyone finds something other than what I state below, please comment!

- PLEASE remember, I’m NOT saying you can make the same QUALITY as fresh coffee but something you can enjoy without spitting them out, and actually drinking it rather than putting them in your fridge or your face.

So I wanted to experiment with a coffee I was familiar to, so I chose El Salvador Finca La Illusion roasted by Has Bean, because its on our shops brew menu as well as the espresso, so I know this coffee pretty well. Also luckily, I had an unopened bag of La Illusion which is 5 month old, one which is 4 weeks old and one which is 3 days old. So, I will brew these coffees, with extact amount of dose and water, time and temperature may vary. After brewing, tasting them and mojoing them, then make several changes to find that spot where the old coffees can produce ‘acceptable’ cup.

Firstly, I cupped these 3 coffees, and rated them with scale of 0~10, within different categories.

You can see from the cupping scores that 5month old coffee didn’t do so well, expected really, but surprisingly had the best body from those 3 coffees.

What really surprised me was, how pleasant 4 weeks old coffee tasted like, the only major difference between 3 day roast coffee was lack in overall complexity, but in terms of acidity, it was bright and lively.

So, I decided to brew these coffees as V60 pourover, I know I can’t brew these coffees consistently, but I tried to keep everything the same and mojo the  result which is below.

The result showed that with same dose, water, similar time and technique, as the beans that I used got older, more I extracted from the coffee. This has a correlation to the perceived bitterness I tasted from the cupping result.

With this result, I decided that it wasn’t really worth experimenting further with 5 month old beans, as they didn’t really taste good as V60, very stale, boring and bitter. These were worth going into the fridge and faces.

However, 4 weeks old coffee looked promising, it was bright, some sweetness with nice light body but had unpleasant bitterness coming through. Lacked in the complexity, exciting acidity, sweetness and the body compared to 3days old roast, but I wanted to change how I brewed the 4 weeks old roast to make it taste better and acceptable.

So this is what I’ve changed.

So, the dose was increased by 1g (6.25% increase from original dose) and amount of water reduced by 15g( 6.25% decrease from original dose).

Surprisingly, using the 6.25% increase and decrease method, When I slightly underextracted the brew, I’ve made myself a cup of coffee which was substantially better than one I made before, ok, it still wasn’t good as 3 days old roast, but there was increase in that sparkling acidity and complexity, though sweetness and body was still missing- it was an acceptable cup.

I would be interested to see if anyone experiments with 6.25% increase and decrease method I used with different coffee and brewing method, using old coffees to see if they get a positive result like me.

I know for the experienced coffee professionals, you guys don’t have to read this blog to figure out how to brew decent cup with stale coffee, again, this post is to help(hopefully) home brewers and having fun and learning myself. And please don’t  think I’m weird telling people to try stale coffee, but If you can make yourself a half decent cup of coffee when you have no fresh coffee at home; using 4~6weeks old coffee, and doing some experiments and having fun whilst doing so, I don’t see why people should be trying it. 

In this industry, you learn so much by tasting, tasting is believing!

Comments are welcome!

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Just add water. Not.

One thing that confused me before coming to Korea, is the method of extraction using Kono or Hario drip(V60) method. Every single video I saw, no on used scales or timers. So since coming to Korea, I’ve drank aloooot of manual drip filter coffees.

I’m writing this post because I’m at a point where it kind of annoys me(personally) after finding out how they extract coffee. It is the method of ‘Just add water’.

Back in London, the coffee to water ratio varies between 60~65g/Litre, this is my personal preference. So, for 1 cup brew, I used 15grams of coffee and 240g of water and extraction time of 2:15sec and I do stir.

In Seoul, I’m seeing baristas weighing coffees with spoon, which is supposed to be 7g per scoop, using alot of coffee for one extraction and no timer or scales being used.

The weird thing is at the end, they add water to the coffee and dilute it heavily, and Korean people(not all but some) are calling this the ‘Korean style’.

I’ve asked several baristas the ratios they use, the most used method was this:

Coffee: 25~30g

Water: 150g

Time: Unknow

Grind: Very coarse(Near french press)

Water temp: 85~90C

So, with that method, the brew ratio becomes 183.33g/Litre, this is way out of charts, though people say we shouldn’t rely on 50 year old data, the method above doesn’t really make sense. The end product you get out of it is dark, syrupy, heavily underextracted brew, so what do they do to it?

They add around 100g of water to it and dilute it, and it tastes like watery vitamin drink.

It’s like, you extract a ristretto and add some water and call it double shot espresso. Yes, it might be the same weight as a double shot of espresso but it isn’t the same drink because double shot of espresso and diluted espresso is made differently. Double shot of espresso(if extracted correctly) tastes good because it has the balance between the sour and the bitter. First part of extraction is very sour because there are much more soluble solids present than water. Extraction occuring at the end is very watery and bitter. Balance between these produces a drink which is not sour nor bitter. If you add water to  ristretto, yes, you will resuced the TDS% but EXT% won’t change.

Let me emphasis again, majority of coffee I’ve drank was Kenyan or COE coffees. So why do this to these coffees? Majority of answers I got was

1. Because they don’t like the bitter aftertaste

2. Because Kenyan and COE coffees have delicate and bright acidity, thus extraction should be cut when the coffee has reached it peak in terms of acidity, then dilute it to loosen the flavor.

3. Cup of Excellence coffees have very clean aftertaste with nice acidity, so to express that in the cup, they cut the extraction in the first minute and dilute it to make it taste ‘Clean’.

I have no right as a coffee person to tell people its wrong, If they think its how it should be done, ok its fair, they’ve bought the greens and roasted and extracted it. But I just think they should look at other variables which affect the quality, flavor,sweetness,aroma,acidity, bitterness and balance of the cup.

Yes, Kenyan coffees have lovely acidity so do COE coffees, coffee people love acidity, and are very sensitive about bitterness. They should be going backwards to seek out the problem why coffee tastes bitter and bland, not seeking ways to emphasis the acidity by underextracting and diluting it.

Such as:

1. Roast profile, isit roasted correctly? Isit too dark ?

2. Method of extraction, can the barista justify why he/she is extracting that way, experimenting with different method? Do you use scales? Timers?

3. Crop, isit a past crop? Is the green too old? Can you check what the year of the crop is?

4. Grind setting and burrs, isit time to change the burrs? is the grind setting correct? Isit time to clean the burrs?

5. Water, isit filtered well? Have you check the ppm of the water you are using?

I know I sound like a little child winging at what other people do, but honestly, it really doesn’t taste good, nd people are paying alot of money to drink it.

It is painful to watch all these good beans being diluted down, without showing its full potential in the cup, I really do hope people start to experiment with brew ratio, brew method and new roast file and let the beans speak for it self, not that first syrupy, underextracted liquid added to water.

Just add water?

Food for thought.