5 Things to Do with Stale Coffee (& 1 Way to Avoid It Altogether)
A few weeks ago, I received a gift of coffee from a friend. It was from a small, independent roaster I'd never heard of, and their whole branding concept was quite delightful. That alone made the gift worth it, regardless what the actual coffee was like. The problem was that this was supposed to be a Christmas gift, and my friend had finished her shopping well before the holidays. By the time I got the coffee, it was at least 4 months past the roast date (thank you, pandemic isolation). Also it was pre-ground and a seasonal, flavored coffee. The sad result: it was stale before I even opened the bag. Rather than pitch it, I decided to do grab my favorite Christmas mug and do a little experimenting.
Attempt #1: Drip
First, I brewed it first in my trusty electric automatic drip coffee pot. It was drinkable, but poignantly acidic, flat, and oily. Not unexpected. Also not particularly enjoyable. I prefer my coffee black, but this one required some milk and sugar to help it along.
Attempt #2: French Press
The coffee was pre-ground too fine for an ideal French press, but the result was still an improvement over the drip brewed coffee. It made the mouthfeel more mellow... with a little grit. (If you're new to French press method of brewing, you'll want your coffee ground more coarsely than you would for a drip coffee. Otherwise, the finer grounds slip through the mesh sieve in the press and add a bit of gritty texture to your mug of coffee that you may not find enjoyable.)
Attempt #3: Freshen It Up
I tried halving my holiday roast 50/50 with some fresh ground coffee before brewing. Mostly, that just ruined the fresh coffee rather than bettering the stale grounds. I do not recommend this method.
Attempt #4: Cold Brew
I swirled up some cold spring water and the stale grounds in a large glass bottle and let it brew in the fridge over 24 hours. This was the most enjoyable of the methods so far. The cold brewing cut a lot of the acidity I found in the drip brew, and it had a cleaner feel (bye bye grit!) than the French press brew method.
Attempt #5: Admit Defeat
Ultimately, I gave the rest of this bag away to a family member who found it preferable to her usual grocery store brand. (I do wonder, which of the two coffees would actually be more stale?) There's something to be said for coffee from a specialty roaster, even several month old Christmas coffee consumed the following spring.
Did I miss any key stale-coffee-rescuing attempts? Let me know your suggestions in the comments.
While there are a few things that you can do to salvage coffee that's, shall we say, past its prime, there's no substitute for freshly roasted, freshly ground coffee beans for your daily brew. This priority on freshness is why all Red Eye Bistro coffee is roasted to order. No coffee is sitting around here on stockroom shelves for months. We send your orders to our roasters twice a month, and beans - or grounds if you prefer - arrive at your home or workplace within about a week of the roasting date. The taste experience from fresh coffee is incomparable!
Amy, Founder of Red Eye Bistro