Hardcore coffee geeks wouldn't even consider buying anything but freshly roasted whole coffee beans from a skilled local roaster. But what if you don't live near an Intelligentsia, Stumptown, or Blue Bottle roasting location?
In that case, the Atlantic Food Channel gives some tips for selecting the freshest coffee beans from your local grocery store. Among them:
Few markets date their bulk bins. If coffee is properly packaged in a valve bag (the bags with the internal buttons and little slits), it probably will taste fresher than bulk coffee, which has been exposed to atmosphere. Put your nose up to the valve and squeeze the bag. Evaluate the aroma.
There are a few supermarkets and wholesale clubs that roast coffee in the store. That should be freshest, but evaluate the skill of blending and roasting. Roasting requires skill and experience. If you live far from multiple sources, the freshness of in-store roasting may override other, more subtle taste considerations.
OK. I'm going to admit something. I'm kind of a coffee heathen. For me, it's a caffeine-delivery vehicle, and I'm not above buying a can of Chock Full o'Nuts and brewing it up crazy strong. That doesn't mean I can't appreciate a proper espresso or a cup of individually brewed drip coffee from one of those crazy Clover machines—just that I NEED MY COFFEE, STAT and often don't have time to grind and brew.
What about you? How seriously do you take your morning coffee?