If you ask me to point out the trand in coffee that made the most noise last years, provoked more discussions, motivated people to experiment. and in the end of it almost in every case got easily integrated in the daily routine of coffee professionals and enthusiasts – I will say “freezing”.
I use the word “trand”, because it is something relatively recent in mass – but I clearly remember one episode in my life, that happened around 3 years ago.
Me and my boss at the time were in an origin trip, and were visiting one of the coffee professionals I admire and highly respect, roaster, owner of the finca, trainer, judge (and many things more), and she invited us to have a coffee in her coffee shop. We chose the beans (Natural Pacamara it was, but correct me if I am wrong) – and then in front of us barista opened a freezer, took out the beans, measured the necessary amount… We couldn’t believe our eyes. We heard so much before about how bad it is, never do it, absolutely a no-no – and here she is, using frozen beans for our aeropress. We asked if she finds freezing being a good way of storing the beans. She said “Absolutely yes. I do it for a long time already”.
We were sitting outside, looking at the mountains, enjoying the fresh wind, literally in hundreds of meters from coffee plantations. Of course we didn’t believe it would taste good. After all, who would? We silently agreed to not to say anything out loud out of our respect, but… I mean, seriously? It looked at some point like a joke! Specialty coffee in the freezer?…
There is no need to say that barista brought it, and it tasted good. It. Tasted. Good. Yes, coffee made out of frozen beans stored in the open (!), not airtight bags – tasted acceptable.
We haven’t adopted the practice, but probably became a tiny little bit more open minded after that.
I personally started to freeze months after this. Out of practical reasons. I was living in the Central America at that point, and somebody brought me freshly roasted Tim Wendelboe’s Caballero Catuai. I had to store it, because I wanted to enjoy it longer. In that part of the world where I was getting something roasted outside of the country, especially – Europe, especially – Wendelboe, was a rare thing. So I froze it.
It was my first attempt ever. I bought those special bags and a hand pump, that I found, luckily for me, in the supermarket nextdoors. Measured the doses that I use for v60 at home, and froze them dosed. To take out the necessary dose and not to make an extra move of opening a whole bag. I read, I think it was Matt Perger, that this way it is better. And I stored them in the freezer, hoping for the best. Seriously, because the coffee was fantastic, and I was risking it all putting it there to freeze.
To make a long story short, don’t use hand pumps if you want to be taken seriously in the world of coffee freezing. Some of the bags were not well packed, and they opened. And of course absorbed all the smell of the fridge, absorbed the moisture, and the coffee was nasty. Others survived. And made it possible for me something that sounds pretty crazy: enjoy a cup of superb Tim Wendelboe’s coffee in Central America months and months after the roast date while continue being deliscious.
My routine now doesn’t include manual pump anymore, but it does include freezing the beans packed under vacuum.
And here we have, in two words, a simple way to almost stop aging of the coffee beans, and not to get worried about changing the ratio, grind size, way of brewing based on how much time passed after the roast date. You brew exactly the same as you got it the first time. Months after the roast date.
Not to mention other bonuses you get due to freezing – better particle distribution, less coffee “dust” that leads to overextraction – and cleaner, crispier cup in the end. Even better than before freezing.
Necessary equipment? Vacuum sealer + special bags. Exactly the ones that chefs are using to pack the food in to cook sous-vide. They are pretty popular right now, and you can get one easily under 100 euros, and if you gonna be attentive for promotions – even under 50.
Freezing the beans in the vacuum bags has become a part of my routine now, wherever I am receiving new coffee and don’t want it to be stale fast, knowing that I will not drink it all at once, or when I want to have lots of samples to cup, or when I am roasting and want to keep comparing different batches… You are not playing against the time any more. I think it is worth some money spent.
It is still left to discover if it works as good with the ground coffee as it is working with the beans. Probaby yes, if you freeze then first, then take out, grind, vacuum pack, and freeze again in portions… There is the whole field to experiment, just thinking out loud…