Freshness really matters
Most people have never tasted fresh coffee. I'm here to tell you that coffee tastes way better when it is fresh, and if you seek out good coffee, you owe it to yourself to try it. Order some from me, or go down to your local artisan roaster and get a bag that is less than a week or two old, then get back to me. I'll wait.
One thing I want to get out of the way right up top: to enjoy fresh coffee you absolutely must grind the beans at the time you brew the coffee. Pre-ground beans are never fresh, and will never taste great. We will not offer them because it defeats the point of what we are trying to do! This is due to simple science (oxidation) so please don't feel judged by this statement. Many people have become familiar with and enjoy the flavor of "not fresh" coffee-- cream and sugar can work magic! We also understand that for many consumers, coffee is consumed for utility. Maybe these folks will still enjoy fresh coffee on the weekends or holidays when they have the time to indulge.
The US Coffee industry is huge and growing, and the market offers something for nearly every consumer. However, freshly roasted beans are still quite hard to obtain. You will never find it at a Starbucks, and only rarely at a grocery store. Artisan roasters do offer fresh coffee locally and online, but it is priced out of what most folks are willing to spend on a bag of coffee ($13-20 for a standard 12 oz. bag, not including shipping)
Here is a breakdown of the bags of coffee you are likely to find on grocery store shelves:
$3-5: commodity, likely robusta* beans, cheap, bitter and acrid
* there are two types of coffee beans- robusta and arabica. Robusta beans are easier to grow and have more caffeine, but don't taste as good.
$5-10: mid-tier brands, arabica beans that are 2+ months old and have a 2 year expiration sticker. You might get lucky and get a decently fresh 1-2 month old bag. It will be hard to tell though because there will be an expiration date, not a roasted on date.
$10-15: high quality, arabica, artisan-roasted beans that are probably at least a month or two old. You might get lucky every now and then, and find a bag that is less than a month old.
Fresh coffee can be a bit hard to come by, but we think it's worth it. It will not be bitter, and nuanced flavors are still vibrant! Some folks have asked me if I would be able to pick out fresh vs. not fresh coffee in a blind taste test. I bet I would have a pretty high accuracy, because there is a pretty big difference. But if you allowed me brew it via pour over method, I would correctly identify the fresh coffee 100% of the time, simply because of the visual hints of the CO2 bubbles... the first few days after roasting, the brew would fizz like soda. Even after a month there will still be some noticeable bubbling.
What about buying coffee online or saving trips if your local roaster is farther away? Does it make sense to buy multiple bags of coffee at one time to save on shipping or delivery costs? A good rule of thumb is that you never want to buy more than you can drink in 2 months.
The recommended water:coffee ratio for the most common kind of brewer, a drip brewer, is 17:1. So if your household drinks a pot of coffee a day, that's about 50 oz. of water and 3 oz. of coffee beans. A bag of coffee is 12 oz. so it will last you 4 days.
I hope that this post was informative and helpful. I was intentional about not getting too bogged down in the science, but perhaps I will dive into that in a future blog post! Please feel free to leave a comment below. I would be glad to answer any questions you have, or hear any lessons you have to teach me!