Sometimes when you’re looking for inspiration it pops up right under your nose. After an overwhelming day of traffic on the blog I was a little stumped as to where I’d go next on my posts when a little bag was dropped on the table in front of me by a tiny little postman who was gone as soon as he had appeared.
The bag turned out to be a bag of beans I had ordered back in October and had somehow gotten lost in post, which probably explained the postman’s hasty departure. I had subsequently received a replacement bag, and so had thought no more about it, until now.
It had obviously been stuck down the side of some overloaded post truck because the bag was pretty worn, but importantly it had not been pierced. What makes the delivery even more special was the fact that I had I ordered a fresh bag last Friday…which also arrived, today!
So, you can probably see where I’m going with this. I had two bags of premium quality beans, both roasted by an excellent roaster, bagged immediately, and unopened thereafter. However, one is roast-dated December 8th and the other, October 27th. So here’s what I decided to do.
I would put them through identical 3-cup cafetieres and test the results. The prevailing opinion at the moment, just to lay it out, is that fresh beans are best and the deterioration is slower once opened. Therefore, the older beans should be of a lesser quality after opening and should decline in quality at a more rapid rate thereafter.
So, first thing I took note of was the condition of the beans and even though the older ones seemed a little more withered, it was so negligible as to suggest that I was making it up. So I called it evens. I ground the beans for cafetiere and admittedly the volatile aromas coming off the newer batch were a lot more pungent than the older batch, but I was still hugely impressed with the older batch. Another point for the December bag, partial credit for its older brother.
There really wasn’t much between the two when it came to the fragrance off the wet grounds and as the clock ticked away, the bloom that formed on both cafetieres was nearly identical. The big difference however was in breaking the crust, where the newer bean was, how can I describe this, stickier? There was more resistance in breaking the crust on the December batch and the aroma that shot up as I cracked the “biscuit” was more intense and pungent.
So having waited four minutes and plunged I went on for the taste. This coffee, I must admit, has been my favourite coffee that I’ve tasted all year, and true to form none of what I found in the cup was bad. The December bean was undoubtedly more flavoursome and had all the acidity and effervescence that I love about this coffee. On the otherhand the older bean was exactly the same on all counts, just not to the same extent. It was kind of like watching a movie then flicking on surround sound. Its the same experience but just a bit more, there!
I really have to admit though that even when I was taking notes for this post I was always thinking that it was never going to go up because the older one would be terrible, but it wasn’t. In fact, I really enjoyed both. It was as if they were both from the same bag, but one had been made a little less precisely.
The fact of the matter is that the older one was still quite good, even after the guts of two months, although I’m sure it helped that the bag had just been opened. Another factor that may have influenced the surprising performance of the senior bean was that I used a 3 cup. This is my favourite size cafetiere (I have two as prefare to make two 3 cups rather than one 8 cup) as the results are usually more consisitent and forgiving than a larger french press. In five days time I’ll have another bash, and if the results are the still the same, I’m in trouble.Watch this space.