Oily Coffee Beans - What’s the Deal?
by Equator Coffee Roasters on Feb 18, 2021
This blog post was updated on March 17, 2021
Coffee beans. Rich, aromatic, chocolatey brown coffee beans. If you open up your coffee canister right now, what would you see? Have you ever noticed your beans go oily? Or maybe they were that way when you bought them. What’s up with that? In this post, we will explore why roasted coffee beans become oily, what this means for the flavour of your coffee, and how to ensure your coffee is fresh and tasty.
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.
While oil extraction is a natural process that is not harmful to your health, the process can unfortunately be an indicator that the coffee may not be as fresh as we would hope. It can also mean that it has been over-roasted (which is a nice way of saying burnt). This can make it taste stale, harsh, and bitter. Also, once those oils are out, like any oil, they can go rancid quickly which does not make for the pleasant, sweet, high quality cup of joy you were looking for!
So how do you keep your coffee from going stale?
As obvious as it sounds, start by buying fresh, quality coffee! The fresher the coffee, the less time it has for the oils to extract and build up on the beans which means the less chance it will be stale. Unfortunately, there is a lot of stale coffee out there! Buying online direct from the roastery is a good way to ensure freshness. When you buy from the grocery store, check the “Roasted On” or “Best Before” date - most roasters will give a year Best Before so that gives you an idea of when it was roasted so you can choose the freshest bag. If and when possible, buy local! Less time in warehouses and transit means less potential for staling - key to keeping the quality high!
Second, store your quality coffee well! Once the bag is open, remove what you need for a week (might be the whole bag!) into a sealable container (glass or metal is best) and store the rest of it in a sealable bag/container in the freezer.
Lastly, if you’ve decided oily coffee is not for you, go for lighter roasts. The lighter roasts will not extract oils anywhere near the same rate as the darker ones, thereby preserving for a longer period of time.
No matter which coffee you buy, if you are looking for the best tasting beans you want to look for: fresh, quality, whole bean, organic coffee.