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Another myth that gets repeated from time to time, is the one about oily beans being fresher than dry beans. While I can understand the logic here—i.e., dry beans are dry because they have sat around for a while and “dried out”—it is simply untrue. The presence of oil (the shiny coating on a dark roasted bean) does not indicate freshness, caffeine content, or even flavor. The shine on a coffee bean, although very pretty and eye-catching, tells you more about the roast than it does about the bean.

What do I mean by this? I mean that every coffee bean, regardless of quality, has a certain level of oil and water inside of it. During roasting, the bean undergoes a number of structural changes, the first of which is cooking the moisture out. A green coffee bean will begin the roasting process with approximately 10-12% water, but after roasting the same bean will contain approximately 1-2% water. Lighter roasts will be dropped after this moisture has been cooked out, but before the flavor oils in the bean begin to secrete to the surface. This accounts for the “dry” appearance of lighter roasts. Once the water has been effectively cooked out, the heat will begin working on the flavor oils of the bean, eventually getting the bean to a high enough internal temperature where the oils begin to travel from the inside to the outside of the bean. Shiny, or oily, beans indicate that this process has taken place—nothing more and nothing less.

Any bean can be roasted to look oily, just as any bean can be roasted to look dry. A shiny bag of coffee beans may appear more delightful than its non-shiny counterpart, but this appearance indicates nothing about the actual freshness or quality of either coffee. If your preference is for a darker roast (lower acidity), then the shiny coffee is probably the safer bet; if your taste preference is geared more to the lighter side of the roast spectrum, you will probably be happier with the non-shiny beans. Either way, be sure to check for a roast date. If the coffee was roasted more than a couple of weeks ago, keep looking. In fact, keep looking until you find We don’t roast any of our beans until you order them. Dry or shiny or somewhere in between, our coffee is always guaranteed to be fresh…