I am guilty. I've done it a lot of times and I m sure I am not the only one. I ignored a perfectly good coffee in my home brewing shelf because I got something better, more exciting or just fresher. I've ignored that fine coffee to the point where it got stale.
Especially when coming from a coffee festival with exciting new beans in my bag I wonder: what to do with all the leftovers?
But first of all, what is stale exactly?
A coffee that has lost it's full complexity of taste and aromas due to dominant roasting flavors which take over the coffee after a certain point in time.
Next question: When is stale?
The answer depends on where you use coffee, a shop or a roastery or at home.
This article will focus on home use mainly.
As roasting and packagings are always improved, coffees last longer than you might think, if you store it adequately. Also in my experience, it depends a lot on the processing of the coffee, too. A natural needs longer to develop its' full round sweetness, which can take more than 3 weeks and therefore can' t be stale after 4.
That being said, "my" stale begins in average after 3 months.
Throwing the stale away is not an option. It still is a specialty product that took a lot of care and effort to make.
Cold brew also is NOT the answer. Some believe cold brewing is for processing older roasts. But as a professional specialty brewer let me tell you: "cold brew" should not be equivalent to "old brew".
The idea for me, is to use the high sugar level and tannins in stale coffee. These will vary depending on the origin, processing and roast style of the stale coffee, so there must be several ways to use the old beans
Here's what I came up with so far:
1. For a stale natural coffee, try making Kombucha.
Not everyone is a friend of vinegary tasting beverages but what can I say- it s probiotic and therefore too good for you not to drink it. For Kombucha you need an interesting looking thing called a scoby which is a living culture of bacteria and yeast that eats tannins and sugars and ferments them for you. Usually you get the tannins from black or green tea, but since we have it lying around lets soak some coffee beans instead.
2. Get them balanced old espresso roasts in the oven and chop up some veggies for a meal.
Stale tastes are not positive in a cup but can be amazing in different combos such as root vegetables for a savory dish.
3. Last but not least: drink coffee like tea.
Pouring hot water on whole beans, extracts less as you work with less surface of coffee. But you still get some pleasant caramelized sweetness that reminds me of roasted rice tea. Try a floral stale coffee such as Ethiopian!
If you like our experiments with old coffee, just wait till you see what we do with fresh one in this article: