In the first part of our interview with coffee barista Chris Bayer, we learned his secrets for choosing your coffee beans wisely. Now that you've made a good selection and brought it home, there's still plenty to do to make your coffee taste great… and plenty you can do to mess it up! Bayer’s tips below on storing coffee and brewing coffee will ensure that what you sip will be unforgettably good.
The best way to store your coffee
Ask three coffee fans and you’ll likely get three different answers.
One thing’s for sure, according to Bayer: “I definitely recommend that you do not store your coffee in the freezer. Freezing can damage the natural oil soluble compounds in the coffee, changing the flavor, and not for the better.”
As for the choosing between storing coffee at room temperature vs. refrigerator, “It won’t make much of a difference, at least in my case, because I never buy more than a ten day supply of coffee, because I definitely taste the difference between freshly roasted coffee and that which has aged even just two weeks. Within two weeks, the difference between coffee stored in the fridge vs. coffee stored at room temperature will be negligible.”
Bayer does advise that, if you buy your coffee in larger quantities, you may find slight freshness advantages over time if you store it in the refrigerator.
Whole bean coffee vs. ground coffee storage?
How important is it to buy the bean whole instead of ground, or to store it ground vs. whole bean? Let’s face it, it’s a lot more convenient to pre-grind your coffee (or buying ground coffee) instead of grinding the bean daily in a coffee grinder when you’re ready to brew it.
Convenient, yes. But Bayer advises against pre-grinding and storing the coffee beans ground. “Keep in mind that the enemy to coffee freshness and flavor is air – oxidation,” Bayer says. “The moment you grind the beans, the volume of air-exposed surfaces has just gone up exponentially. And more air exposure means more oxidation, making the coffee taste stale much sooner.”
Airtight is right!
This begs the question, Why then is coffee sometimes sold in paper bags, or with a foil bag with an air vent?
Here’s why: “For the first few days right after roasting, the coffee beans need to ‘breathe’ – to have a way of letting their naturally occurring but volatile gases escape,” Bayer explains. By the time you’ve bought the coffee, unless it’s fresh off the roaster, the beans have likely had time to breathe, and can be transferred to an airtight container when you get home.
The best way to prepare your coffee for brewing
The general rule is that, if your coffee brewing method is faster (such as when using an espresso machine) you’ll want to use a finer grind so the coffee captures more flavor faster. By comparison, the water in a drip coffee maker will be passing slowly over the coffee and needn’t be as fine.
The best way to brew coffee
Bayer’s preferred process is called the Chemex pourover. You can learn more about pourovers here and the Chemex pourover method here. But briefly, the pourover method typically involves putting the grinds in a cone-shaped plastic form (or glass with Chemex) and then pouring the water over the coffee grinds, which drip through a paper filter and then directly into a coffee mug or small carafe. Bayer says, “Pouring the water by hand, you can choose to do so slowly, which brings out more of the flavor.”
If you choose the pourover method, “Wait a few seconds after the water finishes boiling before pouring the water over the coffee – a method referred to as ‘just off the boil,’” Bayer says. The theory is that boiling-hot water in pourover can scald the beans, negatively changing the flavor characteristics.
But don’t let it sit too long, especially if it’s “cooking” on a burner/warmer. Bayer cautions that the coffee loses its aromatic quality when it sits too long after brewing. It’s the oxidation thing again; sitting in a pot for hours alters the flavor. Enjoy it fresh!
Better-than-standard cuppa joe
There is one risk in following these coffee making tips; going out for a cup of coffee will never be the same. “Once you’ve learned how to make a really good cup of coffee in your own kitchen,” Bayer warns with a smile, “you will likely be disappointed when you know how much better a cup of coffee can be!”