General / Coffee
Does roast date matter?
Yes, but not in the way that you think. I apologize in advance for the length of this answer, but it’s very important. Old coffee is not necessarily bad. Around the roastery, we routinely open bags of coffee from months ago to evaluate and enjoy them, and they are every bit as good, if not sometimes a little better, than they were a week after roast. Our coffee tastes fresh for a looong, long time. Let me explain why with a little bit of science:
Two things happen over time after coffee is roasted:
- The carbon dioxide created and trapped in the beans by the roasting process is gradually released, until it’s all gone. After about a week, it’s mostly gone. This is good, because carbon dioxide doesn’t taste good. It’s a sharp, bitter taste that does good things for sugary soda drinks, but bad things to the taste of coffee. That’s why most roasters recommend waiting at least a few days after roasting to brew coffee, and for brewing coffees as espresso, we say to wait at least a week.
- Oxygen, in the presence of coffee, chemically reacts with good flavors in the coffee beans, and makes them into bad or off-flavors – this is coffee going stale. Additionally, light, heat, and moisture also speed up staling, but oxygen is the worst culprit, and the most difficult to remove!
One of these processes is good, and one of them is bad! If you can remove all 4 enemies of coffee (oxygen, light, heat, and moisture) from the presence of coffee, you will slow down the staling process dramatically, and I mean dramatically. I have a number of times hid a bag of our coffee from myself, and found it after a year, brewed it, and thought it tasted about as good as it did when it was just roasted.
So how do we get rid of oxygen and the rest? Light, heat, and moisture are easy problems to solve. Seal the coffee in an opaque, airtight bag or container, and keep that container in a non-warm, dark place. Oxygen is the tricky one, but here at Narrow Gate Coffee, we’ve solved it for you. Each and every one of our coffee bags, gets vacuumed of all air, flushed with nitrogen gas (which is inert, meaning it won’t react with anything), vacuumed again to ensure the oxygen level is as low as possible, and then immediately sealed. Et voila, coffee bags that are as fresh as the day they were sealed for at least a year, until you open them, at which point you should enjoy that coffee within about 3 weeks.
You used to have a coffee that I really loved, but I can’t find it now. When will it be back?
We may bring back a similar coffee within the next 6 months. Coffee is a wonderful thing and we love to drink it all the time, however, because it is a crop that grows in different seasons all over the world, it is rare for any single coffee to be available all year round. Because of this, we like to switch coffees out for fresher ones on a seasonal basis. Just as roasted coffee brews best when it’s fresh, green coffee roasts best when fresh.
We love our Ethiopian coffees too, but their harvests usually land in the US around May-June.
How much coffee and water should I use when brewing your coffee at home?
Start with a ratio of 1 part coffee per 17 parts water (1:17). If you have a kitchen scale that can read in grams, this is easiest, but if all you’re working with is a coffee pot that says “12 cups at this line,” and a Tablespoon scoop, we have to get creative. One Tbsp of our coffee, on average, weighs 7 grams, and most coffee pots frustratingly call one cup 5 ounces of water, so 12 cups would require 14 level Tbsp scoops, or one heaping Tbsp scoop per coffee-maker cup. Thanks for bearing with me for all that pseudo-math.
What is the best method of brewing coffee at home? Just a regular coffee pot? French Press? Pour over?
Which home coffee grinder do you recommend?
The Baratza Encore, for most people. Any electric burr grinder will do the job, but this one is a particularly good value and it’s not made to be thrown out when it breaks (which will take a decade), but repaired. Baratza will send you parts and videos on how to repair your grinder if anything. You can get better grind quality for the money if you purchase a hand-grinder, but you really have to enjoy grinding your coffee by hand (it is therapeutic and enjoyable).
I received a bag of your coffee with a roast date from a month ago - is it still fresh?
Yes it is! It’s as fresh as the day it was sealed - which was the day after it was roasted. We use a type of bag sealing machine that’s very special - before each bag is sealed, the machine flushes out any oxygen in the bag. This prevents the normal staling processes from happening. It’s generally true that you should try to get coffee soon after it’s roasted, but with our bags sealed how they are, your coffee will taste as fresh as the day it was bagged, whatever the roast date says.
For legal reasons, our bags state that our coffee is fresh 100 days after roast, but I have personally tried a bag one year after roast that I thought tasted amazing.
How long does my bag of coffee stay fresh once opened?
We recommend using up a bag of coffee within 3 weeks of opening. However, if your coffee is pre-ground, the staling process is greatly sped up, so a bag of ground coffee should be used within 3 or 4 days of opening. This is part of the reason we recommend buying whole bean coffee and grinding it as you brew it.
I’ve heard it’s better to order whole beans and grind them fresh at home, is that true? What is the benefit of grinding fresh versus ordering pre-ground coffee?
Grinding fresh drastically extends the amount of time your coffee will be tasting its best. Oxygen is the main enemy of coffee, causing it to go stale and lose aromatics (read: flavor) over time. Grinding gives oxygen in the air much more access to your coffee, accelerating this process.
To get the most out of your coffee, grind it right before you brew it.
I don’t like a lot of acidity in my coffee and prefer a darker roast. What would you recommend?
Try a darker-roasted single-origin like our Sumatra, or our Signature Blend Fireside. Acidity generally decreases the darker you roast a coffee. Our darker coffees are roasted to a level that is far before you tend to experience those horribly bitter flavors, but dark enough to gain a heavier body and decrease acidity!
What is Fairtrade and what does Fairtrade+ mean?
The Fairtrade certification basically means that the producers and farmers were paid well, or at least more than what is normal in their country or origin. If one of our coffees say they are Fair Trade+, they are not certified by the Fairtrade organization, but it means we know that the producers are paid more than Fairtrade requires.
What is the benefit of putting my coffee on subscription?
Not only does our subscription option give you an easy, hassle-free way of making sure that you never run out of coffee, you also save on every single bag, in addition to making it easier to take advantage of free shipping over $50!
How do I edit or manage my subscription?
Can I cancel my subscription anytime? Are there any penalties?
Yes you can! No penalties! Enjoy the convenience and savings with no downsides! Stop, start change or pause your subscription as desired. We only charge you when a new order under active subscription ships!
Do I have to pay upfront for my subscription "package"?
Nope! Unlike many other coffee subscription services, ours is designed to give you maximum benefits without a big up-front commitment. Get a discount on every subscription order that ships, and start/stop it as you wish.