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Freezing lightly roasted beans before grinding?
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Discussions > Espresso > Q and A > Freezing lightly...  
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cingkrab
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Joined: 10 Jun 2009
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Location: Ottawa
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Posted Sun Apr 13, 2014, 8:39am
Subject: Freezing lightly roasted beans before grinding?
 

I was following this thread on HB about freezing beans for single dosing: Click Here (www.home-barista.com) , and it seems like some people do not thaw their beans before grinding, or even single dose straight out of the freezer.  It was mentioned in the thread that frozen beans shatter more easily (and grind more finely), which makes sense because they're harder and more brittle.  But then I got to thinking, usually the stated cause of underextraction with extremely lightly roasted beans are that they are not brittle enough (talked about various times on HB, like here: Click Here (www.home-barista.com) ).  So would grinding these lightly roasted beans from a frozen state help with this?  Has anyone noticed a difference?
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RobbW
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Posted Sun Apr 13, 2014, 8:36pm
Subject: Re: Freezing lightly roasted beans before grinding?
 

I have very little experience with espresso having only gotten into the "hobby" of pulling shots within the past week.  However, I've been roasting my own beans and brewing "regular" coffee for years.  Personally, I would never store beans in the freezer, and especially not lightly roasted beans.  Depending on how lightly they are roasted, there is potentially still some amount of water content in the beans.  Freezing these beans will cause water crystals to form within the beans.  Have you ever pulled a container of ice cream out of the freezer to find that it is freezer-burned?  Frozen water crystals all over the ice cream?  Kind of disgusting, eh?!  Same thing could be happening with beans stored in a freezer.  

Freshly-roasted coffee kept in an airtight container in a cool dark place (not the refrigerator or freezer) will keep the beans fresher than storing them in the freezer.  It would be analogous to cooking with meat fresh from the butcher/deli/store rather than frozen meat that has been allowed to thaw.  The fresh meat will always taste better (sorry to any of my fellow vegetarian or vegan coffee drinkers for the analogy).  Also, you run into the issue of condensation every time you pull the beans out of the freezer and open the container to prepare a dose.  Water will condense on all the beans in the container every time you pull it out.  That water will then freeze once you return the beans to the freezer.  Again, you are risking freezer burn with your beans.
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cingkrab
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Posted Sun Apr 13, 2014, 9:18pm
Subject: Re: Freezing lightly roasted beans before grinding?
 

RobbW Said:

I have very little experience with espresso having only gotten into the "hobby" of pulling shots within the past week.  However, I've been roasting my own beans and brewing "regular" coffee for years.  Personally, I would never store beans in the freezer, and especially not lightly roasted beans.  Depending on how lightly they are roasted, there is potentially still some amount of water content in the beans.  Freezing these beans will cause water crystals to form within the beans.  Have you ever pulled a container of ice cream out of the freezer to find that it is freezer-burned?  Frozen water crystals all over the ice cream?  Kind of disgusting, eh?!  Same thing could be happening with beans stored in a freezer.  

Freshly-roasted coffee kept in an airtight container in a cool dark place (not the refrigerator or freezer) will keep the beans fresher than storing them in the freezer.  It would be analogous to cooking with meat fresh from the butcher/deli/store rather than frozen meat that has been allowed to thaw.  The fresh meat will always taste better (sorry to any of my fellow vegetarian or vegan coffee drinkers for the analogy).  Also, you run into the issue of condensation every time you pull the beans out of the freezer and open the container to prepare a dose.  Water will condense on all the beans in the container every time you pull it out.  That water will then freeze once you return the beans to the freezer.  Again, you are risking freezer burn with your beans.

Posted April 13, 2014 link

You should probably give this article a read:

http://www.home-barista.com/store-coffee-in-freezer.html
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RobbW
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Posted Mon Apr 14, 2014, 9:57am
Subject: Re: Freezing lightly roasted beans before grinding?
 

cingkrab Said:

You should probably give this article a read:

http://www.home-barista.com/store-coffee-in-freezer.html

Posted April 13, 2014 link

Thanks for the link.  It was a great read.  I like experiments such as these.  It was interesting that the tasters were not able to discern (with any statistical relevance) the difference between frozen coffee and fresh, never frozen coffee.  Good to know!

However, this article does not negate the statements I made.  Although, I would have to clarify the conditions on which I based my statements.  First, I have to admit that when I read through the HB posts to which you linked in your OP, I did not realize I was reading the second of two pages of posts.  For whatever reason, I got the idea the posters were talking about keeping their beans in the freezer, pulling them out to dose for a shot, and then returning them to their freezer.  THAT would definitely not be recommended, and the authors of the article noted as such in their conclusions.  Also, I made the assumption the posters were talking about storing their beans in the freezer compartment of the refrigerator.  I wouldn't recommend THAT either.  Most freezer compartments of refrigerators do not get cold enough for such storage.  Also, the compartment is constantly being opened and closed, which causes significant temperature fluctuations.  And if the freezer compartment is self-defrosting, that will also mess with the temperature consistency.

With all that being said, I can definitely see short-to-medium-term storage of freshly-roasted beans in a freezer as being completely viable, given certain conditions (as stated in the article).  The beans should be placed in the freezer immediately after roasting, or as soon after as is practical.  Only a deep freezer that can consistently maintain sub-zero temperatures should be used.  The freezer should not be one that is used daily and opened and closed frequently.  I would store beans in airtight containers of a size that is suitable to your coffee usage.  If you only go through a pound in two weeks (lightweight!), I wouldn't store the beans in anything that holds more than a pound at a time.

The only variable left out of the article and still unanswered is exactly how long can you store frozen coffee and still have it taste as good as freshly-roasted once removed from storage?  The authors claim that the coffee can be stored for at least eight weeks, but that's only limited by the fact that they used coffee that had been frozen for only four and eight-week periods.  I wonder how much longer the beans could go?
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cingkrab
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Posted Mon Apr 14, 2014, 7:46pm
Subject: Re: Freezing lightly roasted beans before grinding?
 

RobbW Said:

For whatever reason, I got the idea the posters were talking about keeping their beans in the freezer, pulling them out to dose for a shot, and then returning them to their freezer.

Posted April 14, 2014 link

Yeah, some people were doing that in the thread.  It's not something I would do, but apparently they haven't had issues with it.  There's also the conversation of whether or not to let the beans come to room temp before unsealing to avoid condensation problems.  I have ground frozen beans on occasion (due to poor planning), and I have noticed the effect that people in the thread are talking about, which is a somewhat finer resulting grind.  I haven't noticed any taste difference between the two.   It could be my palate, but other people in that have not either.  This is why I was wondering if anyone if anyone has actually tried using frozen, lightly roasted beans and noticed if it helps any with underextraction problems.


RobbW Said:

 The only variable left out of the article and still unanswered is exactly how long can you store frozen coffee and still have it taste as good as freshly-roasted once removed from storage?  The authors claim that the coffee can be stored for at least eight weeks, but that's only limited by the fact that they used coffee that had been frozen for only four and eight-week periods.  I wonder how much longer the beans could go?

Posted April 14, 2014 link

The article linked has a 2nd part to it linked in the editor's note at the very beginning: Click Here (www.home-barista.com)

Part 2 followed up with the same test after 4 months, and it appears to have no ill effects either.  That's probably a long enough period of time for most people.
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RobbW
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RobbW
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Posted Mon Apr 14, 2014, 8:46pm
Subject: Re: Freezing lightly roasted beans before grinding?
 

This reminds me very much of an article and huge debate in the home roaster world about the best methods for long-term storage of green, unroasted beans.  The debate came down between vac-packing the beans and storing them in a deep freezer or storing them wine cellar-style in breathable bags in a cool dark basement on racks kept at a steady temp and humidity.  Now I have to see if I can find that article and debate again.  It was many years ago that I remember seeing that.
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calblacksmith
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Posted Mon Apr 21, 2014, 7:08am
Subject: Re: Freezing lightly roasted beans before grinding?
 

The freeze or not freeze debate has been a long standing one. I did not go to the link, I have read lots and lots of threads like that with and without taste tests etc.

In short, freeze some and see if it makes a difference to you. For me, it does not. I do not advocate opening a bag of frozen beans, taking some then closing the bag back, you WILL get condensation on them, that WILL have a negative effect on them.

I suppose you could break your beans into single dose size bags but that is a whole lot more work than I like to do. I simply break a large bag down into apx 3/4 pound lots (whatever easily fits into a quart zip top bag) remove air and freeze. The coldest part of a home ref/freeze is not like a deep freeze but for up to a month or so, I have no problems there with no taste loss that I can detect. If you can tell a difference then do something different.

As to grinding frozen beans, WHY?

A good grinder will do a good job and does not need any "help" from frozen beans, in fact, I can see how frozen may not grind as evenly as room temp beans but, hey, do what you feel like, you are the one drinking the result and if you like it, who is anyone else to say you are wrong?

 
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CMIN
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Posted Mon Apr 21, 2014, 10:11am
Subject: Re: Freezing lightly roasted beans before grinding?
 

I've been freezing for like 2 years, no problem. I break down orders into zip bags and seal squeezing air out then place them in ball canning jars that seal. Can go a month out from roast easily in my fridge freezer with no discernible taste difference. Placing them in the cup board doesn't work as it'll still go stale (freezing doesn't stop the staling process, but slows it). I broke two of my jars so I have some in some small vac seal containers in my cup board right now, almost two weeks old now and going stale already and just pulled shots that spritz'd and channeled everywhere and already isn't tasting the same (a Papua New Guinea), had to adjust finer to get an ok pour. I can pull one of my jars out from the freezer after 30 days and pull a shot no problem. I don't put back in the freezer though, I take out one at a time, let it defrost in the cabinet and then use it in the morning and repeat process over when it's running down. Usually a jar last me 2 1/2 days. I usually order at least 2lbs at a time so have to freeze.
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cingkrab
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Posted Fri Apr 25, 2014, 8:19am
Subject: Re: Freezing lightly roasted beans before grinding?
 

Oops, I should really turn email notifications on.  Kind of forgot about this thread.

I was afraid this thread would derail into a pro/con discussion of freezing beans in general, which was definitely not my intention.  This topic has been discussed to death on both HB and here. Many people do it, and many don't.  I'm content to leave it at that.

What I'm really after is if anyone had experience with grinding frozen lightly roasted beans, specifically ones that are so lightly roasted that they have under extraction issues.  I just think it's possible to aid in that by utilizing the extra brittleness grinding from a frozen state will give it.  I don't currently have any beans that are THAT lightly toasted on hand to test, but freezing perhaps a single dose would be fine for testing.
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