How to Check Coffee Beans for Freshness

We’ve all been there – finding ourselves with a plethora of coffee beans on grocery store shelves and wondering which one is best for us. It is easy to get carried away and buy more than we need – besides, you can’t go through all of them fast enough. But how can we know if the coffee beans are fresh?

You might as well learn about the characteristics of good coffee beans. Here are four ways to tell if your coffee beans are indeed fresh.

white mug containing coffee beans

Are the Coffee Beans Still Shiny?

Coffee beans are full of acids, oils, and other compounds – together they give coffee its flavour. When these coffee beans are roasted, the extreme heat draws out oils, which then coat the exterior side of the bean, giving it a slightly shiny appearance. This glossy appearance will fade with time, giving you an idea about its freshness.

Note that some beans don’t produce excessive oil, so this test isn’t always an accurate indicator.

Look for Residue

Another way to evaluate the freshness of coffee beans is to place some of them on your hands. Squeeze the coffee beans gently and look for traces of residues. If the coffee beans are fresh, they will leave a small amount of oily residue on your hands. Note that darker roasts tend to leave more residue than lighter roasts, so it’s important to keep this in mind when carrying out the test. For the most part, the residue test should help you decide if the coffee beans are fresh or not.

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Look for a Valve in the Coffee Bag

Freshly roasted beans are known for releasing an excessive amount of carbon dioxide. This is why most coffee bean suppliers in Melbourne supply fresh coffee in sealed bags with valves, allowing the carbon dioxide to escape without negatively affecting its freshness. If the sealed bag doesn’t have a valve and there are no signs of the bag inflating like a balloon, this means that the beans were probably not fresh at the time of packaging. Check with your coffee bean vendor to learn more.

Do the Plastic Bag Test

Another effective way to test the freshness of your coffee beans is to place a handful of them in a resealable plastic bag. Remove excess air and let the bag sit on the kitchen counter overnight.

If the coffee beans were freshly roasted (within 7 to 10 days), the bag will balloon up as carbon dioxide is released gradually from them. If the bag remains flat, the coffee beans are, more likely than not, past their prime.

Pro tip: Be sure to use a truly airtight container for this to work. If the carbon dioxide finds a way to escape, the bag simply won’t puff up, and you may have to do the test all over again with a new batch!

 So there you have it, four quick home tests to verify the freshness of your coffee beans. Let us know if we missed something, and we may update this list with new information.

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