Aging Coffee Like Wine

coffee aged in barrel

I came across some interesting coffee preparing methods and stumbled across aging coffee. Aging wine can unlock new flavors. But normally you don’t want your coffee to sit around. Imagine drinking brewed coffee after it has set out a day or some stale beans. And I am always talking about getting freshly roasted coffee beans and freshly grinding your coffee before you brew. So can aging coffee actually work?

The answer is yes. I imagine almost any form of coffee will have some people touting its superiority but there is something behind aging coffee that could really add new layers of complexity to your cup – like a fine whisky.

Now you don’t just keep your single-origin coffee you bought for a few months and called it aged, there is a process and technique to aging coffee. Furthermore, not all coffee will magically taste better just because you let it sit in a wooden barrel.

How to Age Coffee

Coffee coming from Yemen to Europe, aging in the salty sea air.

1st of all you don’t age the roasted beans. You age the green beans. The unroasted beans may be kept in a warehouse usually near the ocean so the salty air interacts with the aging process. The salty air idea is inspired by how coffee used to make its way from Yemen to Europe by a 6 month boat trip during the 1500s – 1869 (the opening of the Suez Canal). Europeans had grown so accustomed to the aged coffee that when the fresh coffee was available they preferred the aged coffee.

Coffee is usually aged in tropical climates because the humidity doesn’t allow the beans to completely dry out but they dry enough during the dry season to develop the aged characteristics. The coffee can be aged anywhere from 6 months to 3 years and some even up to 10 years, but really the length of time is not an indication of quality. Many coffees that sit around and are “aged” will just taste stale and flat. So the aging process has to be carefully observed and tasted so that the unique properties of aging are released.

By aging the green beans the flavors change. If aged correctly the coffee should not lose its oils. The oils are what give coffee its aroma and flavor so you don’t want those to be lost. That’s why a ten year old coffee will probably not taste very good, all the flavor is already gone. One of the sought after effects of aging is an increase in the body of the coffee. Body of coffee refers to how it feels in your mouth. Full body feels like whole milk, whereas light body feels like skim milk. Aged coffee is commonly described as having a syrupy feel which enhances the smoothness of a decrease in the acidity.

Other tastes that may make their way into aged coffee can be considered good or bad depending on the person. Some aged coffee has a burlap funk because it was aged in burlap bags. That to me is not a pleasant flavor. However, the coffee aged in wooden barrels like wine or whisky should have an “oaky” or “woodsy” flavor to them. And if the coffee was aged in a barrel that once held whisky or bourbon then hints of those flavors will find their way into your cup. I prefer dark roasts with woodsy characteristics so an artfully aged coffee is right up my alley.

Starbucks’ aged Sumatra

Another flavor/aroma that begins to show up with aging is “spice”. Starbucks says that incorporating the aged coffee in their blends give it
 cedary spice notes. Spicy does not mean like chili, it means more like cloves or cinnamon.

Aging the coffee alters the resulting coffee in your cup, and it could be for the better or could certainly be for the worse. Starbucks ages coffee from Sumatra, Indonesia and uses it in their Christmas, Anniversary, and Starbucks Tribute blends. There are many specialty roasters jumping into the aging trend and I am sure we will start to taste some incredible coffees coming from it.

How to Brew Aged Coffee

For these particular coffees I would use a french press or if I had a better espresso machine I would go for that. The french press is going to allow the oils and that fuller body to be more apparent in the cup. If you use a paper filter pour over or autodrip that will certainly reduce the oils and remember many of the oils have already been reduced by aging process.

Step One

Heat up your kettle to a boil.

Step Two

Measure out 16 grams of coffee and grind on a coarse setting.

Step Three

Put the ground coffee in the french press. Take the kettle off the heat and for about 30 seconds appreciate that fact that you are standing in your kitchen about to enjoy the fruits of many people’s labor. Then pour the hot water into your french press and put on the lid but do not press it down.

Step Four

Spend about 4 minutes relaxing and breathing in the new day.

Step Five

Press the plunger down and pour the hopefully amazing coffee into your cup. Do not let the coffee sit in the french press too long or it will get bitter.

Where to Buy Aged Coffee

The easiest way is to buy the Starbucks blends that use aged coffee, but this would not be the full aged coffee experience. Aside from that you can order from companies that ship to Thailand but you are going to pay a hefty shipping price.

Peet’s Coffee Aged Sumatra

Cooper’s Coffee Company Barrel Aged