The Challenges of Coffee Quality

Just a quick blog post taken from a recent interview that was done for local publication answering the question: 'What are some of the challenges you face [running a specialty coffee business]?'

One of the challenges we face is helping our customers understand what makes the individual coffees we buy objectively better. We've spent a lot of energy defining our coffee buying philosophy, and educating our customers on the finer details of coffee production to prove that we are actually adding value and not 'hand waving'. There are a lot of misconceptions out there about coffee.

A lot happens from the time the coffee is planted and harvested, to the time we actually receive it in a shop, and it's those steps that contribute the most to the flavor in the cup. These are the things we pay attention to and try our best to convey to the customer in a palatable way. We do this through in-person interactions and product descriptions on our website. But there's a lot that gets glossed over.

Our level of coffee freshness – Young Buck Coffee is always roasted the same week it's delivered – is a pretty foreign concept to most people. Any coffee you can get at a chain grocery store cannot compete with the freshness of our roast nor the quality of our source materials. Explaining the importance of this detail is challenging; it requires a level of understanding many people don't find necessary. But once you experience truly fresh roasted coffee, the difference is clear.

The preconception that coffee is a 'dry good' and therefore lasts forever couldn't be further from the truth. During the roasting process, the oils within the coffee heat up and flavor and aroma compounds begin to escape the beans in the form of gases (the smell you get when you open a fresh bag of coffee). The longer a coffee bag sits on the shelf, the more of these gases are released. This process is also accelerated by grinding. These aromatic gases are a big part of a great fresh coffee flavor that only fresh roasted specialty coffee can provide. Simply put, the closer you can make the time between when a coffee is roasted and when you grind and brew it, the more flavor it will have.

We recommend brewing your coffee within the month you buy it and grinding it within 24-hours of when you intend to brew it. Whole bean coffee can last on your shelf for up to 3 months before being considered "stale" (meaning most of those gases are gone from the coffee). Whether you brew it hot or cold, the flavor compounds inherent in the roasted bean are extracted into the water (or milk, if you're making a milk brew) and end up in your the cup.

A principle challenge we face is helping people understand that our coffees are different because they're made from better beans (responsibly sourced, fair-trade coffees from small family farms around the globe), and then locally roasted, not so dark we burn out all of that quality flavor, but close enough to the time they arrive in your home that you can enjoy a great cup of truly fresh coffee. These basic principles are why we roast coffee every week on the day after the orders come in to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy truly fresh coffee. It's life changing; once you've tried it, you'll never want to go back.