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Oily Coffee Beans - What’s the Deal?

Brewing Tips Coffee
Coffee beans. Rich, aromatic, chocolatey brown coffee beans. If you were to open up your coffee canister right now, what would you see? Your coffee beans should be smooth and dry, not wrinkled, and certainly not oily. Is that information surprising, even shocking to you? Let us explain why oily beans do not represent quality.

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.

If you have ever bought conventional whole bean coffee, you have had your fair share of oily beans. Contrary to what many people think, oily coffee is not generally a good sign. It signifies that the coffee is over-roasted and/or 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 (making freshness extra important if you prefer dark roasts). 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 quickly.

So how do you avoid oily beans? For one, shop for fresh coffee. Some stores treat coffee like a can of tuna when really it should be treated like a freshly baked loaf of bread (read more about freshness here). Buying it from the local roastery 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.

No matter which coffee you buy, if you are looking for the best tasting beans you want to look for: fresh, whole bean, coffee.


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