Oily coffee - what's the deal?

If you've ever bought coffee from a grocery store, you've had your fair share of oily beans. Contrary to what many people think, oily coffee is not generally a good sign. It signifies one (or both) of two things: a) the coffee is over-roasted, and/or b) the coffee is old.

As roasted coffee ages, the oils naturally start to extract from the bean. This happens regardless of the type of coffee and the natural oils are part of what makes the coffee taste the way it does. The darker the roast, the faster the oils extract. Even Equator's darker roasts will start to get oily after a week or so. Lighter roasted coffee will rarely develop the oiliness of its darker versions.

The bad thing about oil is that not only does it mean the coffee likely is old (roasted coffee ideally should be consumed within a week or two) or over-roasted (which is a nice way of saying burnt), it tastes stale, harsh, and bitter. Once those oils are out, they go rancid fast. Don't know about you, but even writing "rancid coffee" (heck, rancid anything!) makes my stomach turn without drinking the stuff.

So, why does the average coffee consumer think oily coffee is a good thing? Well, once again we have decades of the industry's training well at work. If oily coffee is all you've ever seen and tasted, how would you know any different? But alas, there is a whole other world of light brown, oil-free, fresh beans waiting to be brewed and enjoyed! Game-changer for the coffee drinker.

How do you avoid oily beans? For one, stop buying coffee that has a one year expiry date on it. Coffee's shelf life - no matter what brand, what package, what certification, or what type - is not and will never be a year long. Considering that it could be is crazy talk. Grocery stores treat it like a can of tuna when really it should be treated like a freshly baked loaf of bread (blog post pending). Buying it from the local roastery (or on our website!) is like buying from the local baker - get it fresh, get it often.

Second, try lighter roasts. Even if you have to hold onto that coffee longer than the optimal 1-2 weeks, the lighter roasts will not extract oils to the same degree as darker.

Say "no" to stale coffee!