Friday, 15 July 2011

Coffee: Should it be Freshly Ground?

Having recently been for coffee training at Monmouth, who supply the Draft House, I was impressed by the utterly anal thoroughness of their approach. An article of faith there is that coffee must be freshly-ground. Even a few hours renders it undrinkable. After tweeting that I was on my way there, I then received this from my old wine buddy Saverio Grazioli-Venier (yeah, crazy name...):

Do not believe in the myth that freshly ground coffee is better. Not at all. Just like most wines it needs some time (roughly 10 days) to balance out the harsh green notes and mellow out the acidity. Again like wine, when it's too old (4 weeks plus in this case) it develops tertiary aromas - unlike wine these tertiary aromas are very unpleasant. Think burnt rubber. What is crucial is how it is packaged, where it is kept to rest after grounding (cool/dry place, no sunlight, limited exposure to oxygen), and that it be delivered to you at the right time (between 1-2 weeks after roasting for example).

You are better off using a supplier that guarantees well stored "commercial coffee" than an artisan roaster that buys the best beans in the world but keeps them exposed to the elements after roasting. Early oxidisation is the result of the latter and is often the cause of bitterness in coffee. Illy for example, albeit boring I know, guarantees through it’s sophisticated packaging a product that is consistent and always at peak potential when opened. An artisan producer that understands storage is of course the best possible option but they are rare, particularly in the UK. I think Monmouth for example consistently under delivers given the excellent raw ingredients it starts out with.

Who's right? Please help.


  1. I dont understand the concept of grinding in advance to allow different flavours to develop AND keeping O2 away from the bean? How can those two things be done? If they're saying that some exposure to air will change an improve the flavour of ground coffee then fine, but surely that means you NEED some oxidation. Confusing.

  2. I rather agree with you, Mark (just back from Sicily).