My friends and colleagues know me now as the coffee guy. I don’t try to hide it one bit. But rather, I like offering suggestions around drinking good coffee. One of the things that I always start discussing is why I don’t buy coffee from the supermarket. 

Coffee is now enjoyed and relied upon so many ways. There are a lot of people who enjoy brewing coffee at home using something like a Cafetiere. But what some may not know is that using coffee from the supermarket, they are not experiencing coffee at it’s best. This is because supermarket coffee is not ‘fresh’ therefore lacking taste. In this post, I am going to discuss the issues with supermarket coffee and where you can get really delicious coffee.

Why is supermarket coffee not fresh?

The reason why supermarket coffee is not fresh is that the companies selling the coffee are more interested in shelf life. If you go into one of the supermarkets, you will see all the bags of coffee have an expiry date within 12 to 24 months. The coffee that is sold at this point is definately not fresh.

You might be thinking then what is fresh coffee? When I began brewing coffee at home I would always come across videos and posts advising to use ‘Freshly Ground Coffee’. I was buying pre-ground coffee from brands such as Illy and Lavezza. But when I used to go to some local coffee shops then the taste was much different and much better. These coffee shops would roast their own coffee and have it prepared for customers to consume.

Coffee is at its most fresh once it has been ground down to a uniform size from a wholebean. Once it’s been grounded, the coffee starts degassing and actually starts losing flavour quite quickly. So once you ground your coffee then that is the best time to brew and drink. I will grind coffee beans every morning so I can take it to work. My colleagues always point prominent aroma of the coffee everytime I walk by with a cup.

So we have established pre-ground coffee is not fresh and we need to purchase whole bean coffee. But even whole bean coffee sold in the supermarkets has an expiry date. Does this mean it will be fresh after grinding? Not necessarily, because the companies selling coffee in the supermarket still want the shelf life of whole bean coffee extended as long as possible. So what is the trick to longer shelf life for coffee…over-roasting. 

The Roast Date vs Best Before Date

When I purchased coffee from supermarkets, I never really paid attention to the dates on the packaging. Mainly because they would only have the best before the date. However, the coffee sold in local coffee shops would have the roast date visible on the packaging.

Again, coffee is going to be fresh when recently roasted. These roasters who put roast dates are advertising that the freshness of the coffee to the buyer. They will also advise that you should really buy coffee within one month of roasting. Unlike coffee in supermarkets where the big brands like Lavezza just state the Best Best Before date sometime late next year.

But how do supermarket branded coffee avoid coffee going stale quickly? The answer is over-roasting. As discussed, coffee has natural and wonderful flavours when the processing from bean to cup has been done right. What supermarket branded coffee sellers do is over roast to increase the shelf life. Unfortunately, over-roasting masks out the natural taste of the coffee and therefore the coffee will taste bitter. 

Where do you buy fresh coffee from?

Okay, Let’s discuss where you can buy good coffee. There are a number of UK-based companies who obtain great coffee directly from the farmers themselves. They are not paying cheap either, in fact, it costs more because of the quality of the coffee. So online companies like Pact and Hasbean are great examples of directed trading with the source. They also post the coffee to your door which is really convenient. Another company that I believe produces some of the best tasting coffee is Square Mile Coffee Roasters. It’s slightly expensive then the companies I mentioned above but  supermarket coffee does not even come close to the quality they produce. 

Apart from these online companies, there are also number of independent coffee shops and roasters that sell coffee too. This is how I experienced better-tasting coffee. Buying from the cafe who roast their coffee means you are not only helping local business but purchasing coffee that will taste great at home. These coffee shops will also advise you on what coffee will work best with your coffee brewer at home. So go and see if your favourite coffee shop sells coffee. But remember to look out for a roast date!

Should you stop buying supermarket coffee?

So should you be buying coffee from the supermarket? Well, that is your decision at the end of the day. I am just suggesting that you can find fresher and better-tasting coffee elsewhere. Supermarkets won’t stop selling coffee that was roasted 3 months ago, they will end up with wasted coffee otherwise. I did see one coffee brand in Sainsbury’s that actually put the roast date on but it was over 2 months old. Although I respect that, I rather pay for fresher coffee. 

For me, trying out specialty coffee from around the world has been a great experience. I do like the companies I buy coffee from because they have direct trade with the source. The coffee itself has been taken care of from the start until you brew it. For that reason, I don’t need to buy supermarket coffee. 

But my only suggestion is if you brew coffee at home then definitely try some specialty coffee. Pact Coffee is a good starting point because they provide a subscription service that you have a lot of control over. But hey, if you are happy with the coffee you get in the supermarket then stay happy. I will also stay happy with my non-supermarket coffee. 

 

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