One of the things that we do to promote excellent coffee-drinking is to stamp each bag of coffee with a ‘Roasted-On Date”. It’s part of a committment to greater tranparency into our business and it gives you, as the purchaser, important information up which enables you to make a wiser purchase decision. We believe every coffee roaster or coffee retailer should be able to tell you exactly when the coffee you are drinking was roasted.
Coffee is not a product like milk, it will not sour or harm you if it is old. It is a roasted product… comparable to baked bread, and it simply loses flavor and turns stale. This fact enables most commercial coffee retailers to give you an expiration date that provides absolutely no valuable information. Typically the expiration date is between 6 – 24 months from the roast date!
Think about that… You could buy a bag a coffee at the grocery store, then enroll in a junior college and graduate with your associate’s degree all before you reach the expiration date of that bag of coffee. Does that sound tasty to you?
The biggest problem with all of this is that they do not tell you how far off the expiration date is from the actual roast date. So you are left to guess or just grab a bag in ignorance. Grocery stores are huge businesses, though, with a lot of inventory, so maybe we can overlook that and simply keep our expectations low about the quality of coffee it is possible to get at the grocery store.
But what about coffee retailers? Businesses who are supposedly primarily dedicated to this product. Can they tell you when your coffee was roasted, so you can enjoy it somewhere during it’s peak of flavor (typically 3-14 days after roast)? Ask them! It is not an unreasonable question. You wouldn’t buy month-old bread from your favorite bakery would you? I know that I wouldn’t.
Transparency in business transactions is never easy, but it is necessary to run a respectable business with integrity. We have had to give away (and rarely throw away) coffee that has gone too far past it’s roasted on date. And we have no choice because the “Roasted-On Date” stamped on the bag is glaring at us… keeping us honest. We do this because we want the best product to represent us and because we have a relationship with our customers that we value.
So ask your coffee shop or coffee retailer when their coffee was roasted and expect an satisfactory answer!