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Yet another thread about freezing roast beans at home
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Buckley
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Posted Sun Mar 3, 2013, 6:02am
Subject: Yet another thread about freezing roast beans at home
 

This thread is being started in response to a discussion generated in the course of amassing large quantities (to some, 5 lbs.) of Redbird espresso beans in the posting http://coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso/blends/482544 (last page of 46).  This aside is being started in General Discussions in order not to hijack the thread.  As the title implies this is yet another discussion concerning the freezer storage of coffee beans, with specific reference to the blind taste testing done by Jim Schulman and Ken Fox and published on Home-Barista.com Click Here (www.home-barista.com)  To those who are familiar with the study, there is nothing new discussed here.

Dear JimOD,

Your interest in the Fox/Schulman study is understandable since it is the only study available to us that attempts to apply a blinded taste test determination to the question of the quality of coffee that had been frozen and thawed prior to infusion.  With apologies to the memory of Michael Sivetz, it constitutes the only objective criteria regarding the frozen storage of coffee; no other aspect of frozen storage is addressed outside of the methods of this study.  Generalizations that attempt to extrapolate from these data to other methods (our own) are therefore assumption, conjecture and opinion.

There is no mention of possible proprietary research at some coffee interest organization or any other independent research.  If your tenacity uncovers other credible research, then this would be the perfect place to report it.

JimOD Said:

“What is your source for the statement - " ... it will not be possible to get the cryostability of the chest freezer or the ability to store coffee for two months without deterioration, as was noted in that study."  I understand it is not possible for the refrigerator freezer to be as stable as the chest freezer, but does this make it impossible to store coffee without detectable taste deterioration for two months?

Posted March 2, 2013 link

I apologize for being unclear about my statement.  It is conjecture and opinion since no outstanding work in the vein of Fox/Schulman has been performed using refrigerator freezers.  My opinion is based on my exposure to guidelines for the frozen storage or processing of tissue samples and to the performance of cryogens for magnetic resonance imaging, both a part of my prior work.  I misused the term cryostability.  It is used to refer both to the performance of the low temperature sustaining system and also to the effect upon the frozen food or tissue sample. In this case the more correct use of the term would be to apply it to the behavior of the coffee in the freezer, as in “it will not be possible to get the same cryostability of the coffee in the refrigerator freezer as in the chest freezer.”  

While refrigerator freezers are used for critical applications such as vaccine and tissue storage, their use is too frequently a source of embarrassing or devastating mistakes and they are permitted with stringent oversight.  It is highly suggested in some states and mandated in others that freezer temperatures be recorded twice per day at the minimum or there are available thermometers that measure interval minimum and maximum temperatures that are also part of some guidelines.  I will be bold enough to make further assumptions in this regard: 1. A gradual decline in the flavor quality of coffee is difficult to register and usually not perceived until a fresh batch of the same roast is tasted in proximity to the last of the declining batch. 2. Most people storing coffee in their refrigerator freezers have no idea what the temperature of their freezer is at any given time of day and (3) for those who do, they have no idea what the accurate diurnal variation in temperature is and (4) hardly anyone who stores coffee in their freezer inspects or cleans the thick carpet of dust that coats the heat exchange coils of the condenser in the rear of the refrigerator housing.  Thus the value of well-designed objective studies such as Fox/Schulman over anecdotal evidence.  As a disclaimer, I mention the regulatory requirements of using a refrigerator freezer for critical application not because I suggest that Coffeegeeks become additionally OCD with regard to using same, but to show that the critical use of refrigerator freezers requires monitoring to offset their recognized inherent unreliability for long term stable storage.

JimOD Said:

“What standard of cryostability is required?  Is a 6 degree deviation too much?”

Posted March 2, 2013 link

You and I would both like to know the answer to that question.  Presently, that objective study has not been performed, to my knowledge.

JimOD Said:

“What is the normal temperature deviation in a modern, top-end refrigerator freezer?”

Posted March 2, 2013 link

 I move frequently and, when I have to equip myself with appliances, I buy used.  From my extensive experience, I would say that the person best able to answer that question is the used refrigerator dealer.  As a group, they are knowledgeable and resourceful and they have always proven to me that they know more about a refrigerator model than the salesman who sold it new.  If I had to put words in their collective mouths, I again conjecture that it would be, “There is great variability in the range of deviation among top end refrigerator freezers”.  Even if we restrict ourselves to top end with separate thermostats for the refrigerator and the freezer (the vast majority of refrigerator/freezers sold only have one thermostat), there are freezers that defrost by timers and freezers that have defrost cut-off thermostats.  Then there are side-by-side units like you have that lose most of their chilled air every time you open the freezer door unless you move like Bruce Lee.  Freezer bins help a little.  Side-by-sides use 45% more energy to maintain cooling than the same size top and bottom or bottom and top units.  Don’t feel bad; I had a Subzero side-by-side for six years.  (One can never hope to fit a full size frozen pizza into a side-by-side freezer.)  The architecture of refrigerator/freezers is way too dissimilar to chance any hope that there would be a normal for temperature deviation.  Age of unit would be another significant variable.  I have been told that if your ice cubes tend to shrink in the ice cube tray, then that is indicative of significant temperature swings within the refrigerator's freezer compartment; it never will happen in a chest freezer.

All we know about storing coffee in our refrigerator freezers appears to be purely anecdotal.  Anecdote relies upon one person's memory of what the coffee tasted like yesterday and, as we all know, taste memory is unreliable; if it weren’t, then tasting notes would not be necessary during cupping.  The other significant variable is the variability of our performance with our machines.  My final assumption is that it is hard to taste the decline of coffee freshness during the course of one given week or frozen for a month given the variability of our shots unless we happen to own or work with a very stable infuser such as a LM or equivalent.  One answer to this question is to abandon the practice of  the 'home barista anecdote' and run studies similar in robustness to the Fox/Schulman project, but using several types of home refrigerator freezers.  The other answer regarding home freezer coffee storage is, “that is how I have done it and the espresso tastes fine to me.”  

An inquiry may have more than one correct answer, although not all answers are correct.
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JimOD
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JimOD
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Posted Sun Mar 3, 2013, 4:55pm
Subject: Re: Yet another thread about freezing roast beans at home
 

Buckley,

I did some measurements of my freezer temperature today to determine cooling loss and recovery after the door is opened for a given amount of time.  I placed a digital thermometer at the front of a shelf, nearest the door, to try and get a reading in the area with maximum temperature fluctuation.  The thermometer probe was placed near a jar of coffee, so I am measuring the temperature of the air around the stored coffee.  The initial temperature was -6F.

After the door was open 30 sec the temperature rose to 2F, a rise of 8 degrees above initial temperature.
After the door was open 60 sec the temperature rose to 17F, a rise of 23 degrees above initial temperature.
After the door was open 90 sec the temperature rose to 40F, a rise of 46 degrees above initial temperature.

I closed the door after 90 sec to begin measuring recovery time.  I had determined from earlier observation of family members during the week that the freezer is rarely open longer than 30 seconds, and I have never observed it open for longer than 60 seconds during my week of observation.

After the door was closed for 1 min the temperature fell to 30F, a recovery of 10 degrees below the last observed temperature with the door open.
2 min   23F   recovery of 17 degrees
10 min  10F  recovery of 30 degrees
25 min   2F   recovery of 38 degrees, back to temperature loss when door was open 30 sec.
39 min   -3F  recovery of 43 degrees
53 min   -3F  recovery of 43 degrees, temperature is only ticking down by 10ths of degrees over several minutes at this time, and I stopped measurements.

I measured a significant increase in temperature, with slow recovery time.

I took a second set of measurements after placing two of the jars of coffee into a soft insulated lunch bag.  The two jars fit snugly.  The top had a zipper type closure.  I opened the zipper just enough to put the probe into the bag, again measuring the temperature of the air surrounding the jars of coffee.

The initial temperature in the bag was -1F.

After the door was open 30 sec the temperature stayed at -1F, no rise above initial temperature.
After the door was open 60 sec the temperature rose to 0F, a rise of 1 degree above initial temperature.
After the door was open 90 sec the temperature stayed at 0F, a rise of 1 degree above initial temperature.

I closed the door after 90 sec to begin measuring recovery time.

After the door was closed for 1 min the temperature rose to 1F, a rise of 2 degrees above initial temperature.  There appears to be a lag time within the insulated bag.
2 min   2F   rise of 3 degrees.  The lag time is still affecting the temperature.
6 min   3F   rise of 4 degrees.  The lag time is still affecting the temperature.
7 min   2F   recovery of one degree over the highest recorded temperatue in the insulated bag.  Recovery has begun at this time, and I stopped the measurements.

The total observed rise in temperatue of the air surrounding the uninsulated coffee jars was 46 degrees, compared to a total observed rise of the air surrounding the insulated jars of 4 degrees.

Concerning the issue of thermostat control, my freezer has a seperate control.  It is a dial from 1 to 8, with 8 being the coldest.  My dial has been set to 4 since this discussion began back on the other thread.  Today, I have begun moving the dial up one number, and will measure the temperature each 24 hours, to see how cold I can get the freezer.

Three things now come to mind that would allow a refrigerator/freezer to more closely simulate a chest freezer.

  1.  When opening the freezer door, do so for the shortest amount of time.
  2.  Put the coffee bean containers in an insulated environment within the freezer.
  3.  Adjust the thermostat to the coldest setting.

 
My tongue is burned
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CoffeeRoastersClub
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Posted Sun Mar 3, 2013, 5:31pm
Subject: Re: Yet another thread about freezing roast beans at home
 

Kind of OT, but related:  I often ponder whether anyone has froze beans in liquid nitrogen to preserve their cellular structure and essence, like they did with Walt Disney's head Click Here (weeklyworldnews.com)  

I would think it would be the ultimate way to freeze just roasted beans, FWIW.

Thoughts?

Len

 
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JimOD
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JimOD
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Posted Sun Mar 3, 2013, 8:20pm
Subject: Re: Yet another thread about freezing roast beans at home
 

Len,

I think you're on to something.

 
My tongue is burned
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AlexKilpatrick
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Posted Sun Mar 3, 2013, 9:25pm
Subject: Re: Yet another thread about freezing roast beans at home
 

It would be hard to scoop out the beans with that head in there.  They would get lodged in his nose, mouth,  and ears.
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Buckley
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Posted Sun Mar 3, 2013, 10:00pm
Subject: Re: Yet another thread about freezing roast beans at home
 

CoffeeRoastersClub Said:

Kind of OT, but related:  I often ponder whether anyone has froze beans in liquid nitrogen to preserve their cellular structure and essence

Posted March 3, 2013 link

Dear Len,

Well, I think that weekly courier delivery of one week's supply of your favorite beans might be more cost effective.

But you do bring up an interesting point.  From a food preservation standpoint, it should work, and better than throwing it into a freezer.  You see, freezers are not designed for freezing.  They are designed and rated to receive and store already frozen food.  Businesses that freeze food have much lower temperature chambers for that purpose and it is generally accepted that quick frozen is the best preservation method for food, at least food with a high water content; I do not know if it generallizes to coffee beans, but it might.  Some high-end household refrigerator/freezers have a freezing section in the freezer compartment for freezing, but they are not as powerful as commercial, dedicated freezing chambers, obviously.  So, much of what we use our freezers for, they were not technically designed to do, and this goes for the freezing of coffee.

I do not know why contact with dry ice causes food to 'freezer burn'.  Perhaps because dry ice sublimates and the contact cannot be maintained for very long; once the dry ice is gone, the temperature increase surrounding the frozen food may cause regional 'freeze drying', or 'freezer burn'.

Parenthetically, Walt Disney was cremated and interred in Glendale, California.   Disney died in December 1966.   The first known human cryonic preservation was performed on James Bedford in January 1967, a few weeks later.  Thick food material, such as James Bedford, requires slow cooling/freezing to preserve cell structure while most small food items benefit from being frozen quickly, as in your LN idea.

Buckley
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Buckley
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Joined: 25 Jan 2011
Posts: 414
Location: Baltimore, USA
Expertise: I love coffee

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Posted Sun Mar 3, 2013, 10:03pm
Subject: Re: Yet another thread about freezing roast beans at home
 

JimOD Said:

The total observed rise in temperatue of the air surrounding the uninsulated coffee jars was 46 degrees, compared to a total observed rise of the air surrounding the insulated jars of 4 degrees.

Posted March 3, 2013 link

Dear Jim,

You are in a good location to find skilled coffee tasters and skilled baristas.  A bunch of those insulated lunch packs, each with its own min/max temperature excursion thermometer (Fridge-tags cost about $20 each) might provide the raw material to replicate the Fox/Schulman study using your refrigerator.  Can you rouse interest in any of the local experts?

Buckley
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JimOD
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JimOD
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Posted Mon Mar 4, 2013, 8:55am
Subject: Re: Yet another thread about freezing roast beans at home
 

Buckley Said:

Dear Jim,

You are in a good location to find skilled coffee tasters and skilled baristas.  A bunch of those insulated lunch packs, each with its own min/max temperature excursion thermometer (Fridge-tags cost about $20 each) might provide the raw material to replicate the Fox/Schulman study using your refrigerator.  Can you rouse interest in any of the local experts?

Buckley

Posted March 3, 2013 link

It's doable, but I don't want to put in the time and effort.  I plan to have a blind taste test here at my house using my brother and daughter as tasters.  My brother enjoys espresso, and my daughter was a barista for a year.  I'll also taste it of course, but it won't be blind, so it's of no value to the test.

We'll see how it goes.

 
My tongue is burned
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CoffeeRoastersClub
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Posted Mon Mar 4, 2013, 9:12am
Subject: Re: Yet another thread about freezing roast beans at home
 

Buckley Said:

Parenthetically, Walt Disney was cremated and interred in Glendale, California.   Disney died in December 1966.   The first known human cryonic preservation was performed on James Bedford in January 1967, a few weeks later.  Thick food material, such as James Bedford, requires slow cooling/freezing to preserve cell structure while most small food items benefit from being frozen quickly, as in your LN idea.

Buckley

Posted March 3, 2013 link

Now now, the info out there that Disney was cremated and interred in Glendale California is just urban legend.  We all know that his head really was frozen in liquid nitrogen.

Len

 
"Coffee leads men to trifle away their time, scald their chops, and spend their money, all for a little base, black, thick, nasty, bitter, stinking nauseous puddle water." ~The Women's Petition Against Coffee, 1674

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CMIN
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Posted Mon Mar 4, 2013, 10:04am
Subject: Re: Yet another thread about freezing roast beans at home
 

I just use my fridge freezer as don't have any place to put a chest freezer, garage is occupied, have a massive enclosed outdoor FL room with bar etc but especially in the summer I'm sure the freezer would be sucking some power to keep cold in South FL heat. I usually have 2lbs at a time on hand which works out well for our needs, weigh out around 90g or so in zip bags and then seal squeezing air out and place in Ball Canning Jars and stick in freezer, taking one out at a time to defrost overnight. Gone maybe close to 2 months when I had an extra lb of beans, but usually month or so is avg, seems fine as far as taste. Sometimes have to adjust the grind finer, or actually like today when temps have dropped big in South FL and past few days, had to go a full macro back on my Preciso as the weather was f'n with my grinds lol.

Some beans I could tell a slight difference towards the end, but either way it's still waaaaaaay better then sealing in jars or whatever and just leaving in a cabinet which I tried to compare.
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