Andrew Cotter’s day does not begin until he’s had his “cup of Joe,” a ritual he takes seriously as one of a growing group of coffee consumers who grind and brew specialty coffee beans at home for a more flavorful and fragrant experience.
One morning, as the scent of freshly brewing coffee enveloped his kitchen, he wondered if storing roasted coffee beans in the freezer — a popular preservation method — was helpful in maintaining their aroma.
As a food science major in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, Cotter, who graduated in 2018, had a unique opportunity to investigate his pondering.
“One of the great things about food science is that you have the opportunity to study food products that you enjoy yourself,” said Cotter, whose research findings indicate that freezing does help preserve the aroma of certain varieties of beans. The results were published recently in the journal Beverages.
“Like many people, I really love a good cup of coffee in the morning. With the rise in popularity of craft coffee, I wanted to do a project that will help coffee connoisseurs maintain the quality of coffee beans,” he said.
He found an enthusiastic supporter in Helene Hopfer, Rasmussen Career Development Professor in Food Science, who believed the research would yield insights that would be of value to consumers, especially those investing in “specialty” or gourmet coffee beans, which can cost more than traditional coffee due to careful selection of beans and small batch roasting.
“When it comes to specialty coffee, there are lots of different opinions about how best to preserve the coffee,” she said. “There are many who are against storing coffee beans in the freezer to avoid condensation, but looking into the scientific literature, Andrew could not find any evidence of that.”
Under Hopfer’s supervision and with support from Tiffany Murray, coordinator of the Penn State’s Sensory Evaluation Center, Cotter in September 2017 began his two-part study, which began with a chemical analysis of six bean samples of roast levels from a light “City” roast to a dark “Vienna” roast.