I stopped freezing
I have some experience freezing vacuum sealed green (unroasted) coffee. There is no doubt that it keeps coffee fresh for longer, if done right. I had a very good experience especially with one lot from honduras that kept fresh for well over a year. Regardless of this, I stopped freezing my greens. (Although I might use freezing in the future, if I feel it is necessary.) There are many reasons for this that I have listed below:
1. Freezing is expensive. In Norway I keep my green coffee in a basement. The temperature is between 0C to 12C during a year with slow change of temperature making it quite stable. Freezing would add a big cost to my storage, which means I have less money to pay farmers as it is hard to compete with higher prices in a saturated market and we are already one of the most expensive coffee roasters in Norway. I would rather invest more money in to improving the quality at farm level rather than spending it on cold air. (also see point 5 below)
2. Freezing means I need to vacuum seal all my coffee. This is expensive and creates a lot more waste than keeping coffee in grain pro bags. Some Origins still don’t offer vacuum packaging, which means I need to do it my self which adds even more to the costs.
We do vacuum seal our Kenyan coffees, but that is because we want to keep it for the whole year. The co-opreratives we buy from do a great job drying and processing the coffee which ensures me that the quality will be maintained for a long period. I recently cupped my 2010/11 kenya against some fresh 2011/12 kenyan lots together with the Coffee Collective guys in Denmark, and everyone was blown away how great the 2010/11 lot tasted. I dear say it was by far the best coffee on the table. Not a sign of wood at all in that cup. Vacuum packaging helps preserve well processed coffee, even without a freezer. Badly processed coffee will not keep fresh in vacuum bags in my experience.
3. Freezing at the coffee’s “peak” is for me a statement that reminds me of phrases like “perfect espresso”. It is difficult to state when a coffee is peaking and people have different opinions on when the peak occurs based on personal taste. (I am all for personal taste that is why I have my name on my coffee bags as it should reflect my taste.) The 2010/11 Kenyan lot mentioned in my second point on this list has definetly changed since I bought it, but not necessarily for the worse. Like a wine changes after it is opened, I find it interesting to follow a coffee from when it is slightly too green and astringent when it is fresh until it opens up and then develops over some months. For me it would be difficult to state when that lot had peaked. It had many peaks.
4. Freezing and vacuum sealing can be good, but for me it did not make sense as some coffees did not keep well regardless. I felt there was bigger improvements that could be done at origin in order to prevent coffee from fading too fast. I could write a long blog post on this alone. To sum up I have been working on improving drying techniques, improving storage and packaging while coffee is stored at origin. Taking control over shipping conditions is next step. So far this seems to me to be a lot more efficient in order to keep coffee fresh for a little longer than normal. It also improves the overall quality of the coffee a lot, which is a bonus. Not only do I get fresher coffees, they taste better as well. My old employee, Ola Brattås (now green buyer at Solberg & Hansen) once said that “Freezing is like putting a band aid on an open sore. Instead of buying band aid, we need to focus on preventing the sore from occurring.” That pretty much sums it up for me.
5. We changed our buying strategy to buying less and buying fresher coffee more often from various origins that harvest on different times of the year. This way we change coffees more often, but rarely have coffees that tastes woody. Last year we had 2 lots that started to fade right before we sold out of it. My goal for this year is to not have woody coffees at all. It is more risky, and more difficult logistically, but a lot more fun.
These are some of the points explaining why I don’t freeze my coffee. I could go on and on, but wanted to keep this short and hoping that we could get a discussion going. I do endorse implementing new technology to coffee production. Therefore I have nothing against freezing coffee, but for me it doesn’t make a lot of sense right now as I try to work differently and get better at buying coffee and coffee logistics. I do see the benefit of keeping coffee from one year in order to taste it next to coffee the following year, but I feel that this is more of a curiosity and fun as an experiment to see the difference between one crop vs another.