What to look for when buying coffee in-store
Picture this: You’re at the market, doing your regular grocery rounds. As you pick up produce, meats, dairy, and bread, what do you check for? Freshness. The fresher the product, the better it is. This is a universal truth for many foods—and that includes coffee.
Why does freshness matter for coffee?
Unlike, say, produce or dairy, coffee is technically shelf-stable, meaning that it won’t actually spoil over time. It won’t go sour like milk or turn brown like that bag of lettuce you bought … how many weeks ago? But just because the beans don’t actually spoil doesn’t mean old beans are as good as fresh ones. They go stale.
The moment coffee beans come out of the roaster, they are at their peak. Caramelization is at the perfect point of development, and the oils are at their most complex and aromatic. When you grind and brew freshly ground beans, you are getting the full complement of flavors and aromas those beans have to offer.
Over time, that complexity is lost. Aging is a subtractive process. The oils go dull and flat, and the more delicate aromas dissipate. The beans’ signature flavors lose their luster. Brazil’s signature chocolate notes, Ethiopia’s wildly floral aromatics, Costa Rica’s zingy citrus, all will slowly fade as the beans age. After a while all you’re left with is beans that just taste woody or bitter. Odds are you’ve had a cup made from beans like that more than once.
Alfred Peet knew that it was crucial to have the shortest time possible between the roaster and the customer. That’s why we send out our coffees immediately after roasting, either directly to your doorstep if you ordered here on our website, or via our own fleet, whisking those freshly roasted beans to our coffeebars or straight to grocery shelves.
How do I know how fresh my coffee is?
Quite honestly, for a lot of coffee you see in the grocery store, you simply don’t. At best, it might be marked with an expiration date, but that date could be quite a long time out—literally years—from when it was roasted.
We recommend drinking coffee made with beans that have been roasted within 90 days. That’s why we mark every bag of Peet’s with its roast date. By measuring freshness in days, not months or years, we hold ourselves to higher freshness standards than others.
The closer to the roast date, the fresher the coffee. The roast date on our bags always tells you exactly how fresh the coffee inside is, so be sure to check it on the bag. And if you’ve had a bag lying around a while, make sure to check it’s still fresh.
How do I keep coffee beans fresh?
Some people store their coffee beans in the refrigerator or freezer, but that’s not what we recommend. Once opened, coffee beans should always be kept in an airtight container, at room temperature, and away from sunlight to retain optimum freshness. Storing the coffee this way will help retain the beans’ flavors and aromas, but it can only stave off the forces of staling so long. After 90 days, it’s time to get yourself a nice, freshly roasted bag of Peet’s.