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Why Doesn't Coffee Taste as Good as it Smells?

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

In my homesteading quest for good clean foods, I decided to conquer the perfect cup of coffee. I always questioned why coffee never tasted as good as it smelled, no matter the kind, type, grind, or storing method. I even rebuilt my old antique grinder to get the perfect burr grind.

It wasn't until I stumbled across a TED talk about a man in Brazil who was pioneering the best cup of coffee in the world and he gave away all of his secrets. I tuned in and took notes, and here is what I learned. It changed my life and turned me into a coffee snob.

Coffee never tastes as good as it smells because it is stale when you get it home and into your pot. More so if you purchase it in vacuum-sealed bags. The magic in coffee happens right after roasting if you want to get super technical, twelve hours after roasting!

Right after roasting coffee beans, they start to off-gas carbon-dioxide. This is what carries the magical aroma to your nose. At twelve hours, the off-gassing levels out, leaving just enough in the beans for a superb, smooth flavor. This fresh aroma enters your nose when you drink, lighting up your brain with more than just a taste sensation. (Fast-food french-fries are engineered to do the same thing.)

Beans that are commercially packaged for shipping have completely off-gassed and are long dead by the time they reach the store shelf. Those fancy bags with the gimmicky vent to remove all air while storing is just that, a gimmick. This is sometimes why when you buy coffee in a tub, there seems to be a bulge in the Mylar cover, and once you pop it open, you experience the last of the magic aroma. It never smells as good a few days later, no matter how you store it.

I had to try roasting for myself, so I ordered some organic green beans from Amazon, and I went to work with the only thing I had on hand to roast coffee with... an air popcorn popper. I filled the air popper cavity a quarter-way full and went to work shaking the entire machine until the unroasted green coffee beans browned and started to pop and crack, sounding a bit like mini-popcorn. The cracking noise and dark color signify that the beans are done as they are roasted and releasing their carbon dioxide.

I jarred up the fresh-roasted coffee beans to wait twelve hours. The next morning I got out my French-press. I heated filtered water to an exact 212-degrees. This was a bit of extra work, and I questioned it as I took my first sip. I wasn't prepared to experience a Paris-Bistro moment in my homestead kitchen out in the middle of nowhere, Kansas, but I did. This was THE perfect cup of coffee. I could hear angels singing about how perfect the rest of my day would be, hammering down hard chores, due to this glorious, ideal moment between me and my coffee mug first thing this morning.

Well, that was three years ago, and I have been roasting coffee twice a month ever since. I'm ruined forever. I can't buy store-bought coffee that I think even comes close. Fancy-high-end coffee shops don't make it right. The coffee taste is stale and lacks the smoothness of a fresh roast.

I have since changed the way I roast coffee. I use an old rotisserie, fashion a foil lid, and make it outside on the porch as the roast creates a good deal of smoke and the coffee makes chaff. I toss the coffee beans back and forth between two sieves to let the chaff blow away. I find the work feels quite down-home and next to my roots. I will roast outside when the weather is in the teens, raining, or scorching hot. Nothing will make me go back to store-bought. Green coffee beans are also more affordable as they are unprocessed. The coffee keeps for a week or two without losing too much flavor in a tightly sealed mason jar. A tightly sealed mason jar filled with coffee will open with a hiss as the fresh beans let out a breath when you open the jar. It's that fresh!

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