There are a lot of things that science can't explain and taste is one of them. Science may say that coffee shouldn't lose flavor in the freezer, but the facts prove otherwise.
In our endless search for the perfect cup of coffee, my wife and I have spent lots of time and money on practical experiments with coffee, almost always in blind taste tests. To insure absolute freshness control, I always roast my own beans, with an iRoast II. Note: If you are starting with vacuum sealed coffee, then you can't get measurable results, since that coffee is already at least a couple of weeks old by the time it hits the store shelves.
In our tests, we will prepare four cups of coffee (2 for each of us) from beans that have been stored in different ways or may be fresh roasted. Only I know which cup is which of the cups my wife drinks from and only she knows which of my cups is which. We use no cream, sugar or other flavoring.
We have tried freezing whole beans for as little as a week and as long as a month. When the beans are frozen, we always allow the beans to warm to room temperature, before brewing (we varied the time from 4 to 8 hours). If the beans from the freezer are older than one week, but less than two, both my wife and I have a 75% record of identifying the coffee from the older beans, which is twice that of mere chance. If the frozen beans are older than two weeks, neither of us ever missed identifying the older coffee.
As a cross check, we tried side-by-side, blind taste tests of two coffees, where one roast was stored in the freezer and the other stored in a vacuum container for the same period of time. In those cases, only I could tell the difference and only on coffee less than two weeks old. After two weeks, there is no salvaging it. The results were roughly the same, regardless of whether we brewed drip or espresso.
In general, we have determined that we both can taste a decided difference between coffee that is six days old and coffee that is 10 days old, if the beans were stored at room temperature. That window moves to seven and 12 days, if the coffee is kept in the freezer. In other words, storing coffee in a freezer might keep it fresh one or two days longer and that's at the outside.
I understand that scientists say that oxidation is what causes coffee to lose body. If so, then if you could roast in a vacuum and keep oxygen from reaching the roasted beans until just before brewing, it might make a significant difference. I suspect that this might explain why Nespresso pods brew a cup of coffee that is almost as good as fresh roast. That's just a guess, on my part, however.
Now having said all that, I imagine that most people are not as serious about their coffee as are we and thus, might not be able to tell the difference between the frozen and room-temperature coffees over longer periods of time. But, if you just have to have the very best cup of coffee possible, there is only one choice. Roast your own, store it in a sealed container, at room temperature and brew it in 1 to 5 days (fresh roast needs several hours to develop, after roasting). If you run out of fresh roast or don't have the time to fool with traditional brewing, Nespresso offers a reasonable alternative, but even that doesn't offer the pungent body of fresh roast. Anything less than one of those two options and you might as well drink store brand.
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This FAQ is Copyright (C) 1994,1995 by Alex Lopez-Ortiz.
This FAQ is Copyright Ã‚Â© 1998,2001 by Daniel Owen. This text, in whole or in part, may not be sold in any medium, including, but not limited to, electronic, CD-ROM, or published in print, without the explicit, written permission of Daniel Owen.