By Mike Pomranz
Updated June 16, 2016
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High-end coffee roasters like to tout how fresh their beans are. Meanwhile, many lower-end coffee brands could start talking about how long their beans have been aged – sometimes as long as nine years. Not that it’s a good thing – most coffee beans don’t age like fine wine – but apparently it’s true.

According to the Wall Street Journal, wild fluctuations in the Arabica bean market over the past half-decade have led to stockpiling and now an unloading of these higher quality beans. Typically, companies making lower quality coffee gravitate towards the cheaper and less flavorful Robusta beans, but as prices on Arabica have come down, especially for beans that have been deteriorating while sitting in storage, makers of inexpensive coffee are seeing an opportunity to bolster quality by adding Arabica to their blends. “Nine-year-old coffee is discounted by $1.55 a pound, which would make it essentially free,” the WSJ writes, “as Arabica coffee for July delivery on Tuesday closed at $1.35 a pound.” Sound like these bean suppliers might be paying you to take them off their hands.

Thankfully, discerning coffee consumers don’t have to worry about these old beans ending up at their favorite coffee shop. Allie Caran, an educator from the excellent Brooklyn-based roaster Toby’s Estate, told the WSJ the difference in beans that are even two years old compared to one year old can be striking. Instead, most of these nearly decade old beans are instead destined for bulk and instant coffee roasters. “You’re not going to see this in your Starbucks,” Jorge Cuevas, chief coffee officer at importer Sustainable Harvest, was quoted as saying. “It’s mostly going to be in generic brands that you might get at an institutional level.” I think what Cuevas is imply is this is one more reason to stay out of prison.

Still, the idea coffee beans that were picked in 2007 might be in any cup of joe is kind of tough to wrap your head around. Not as hard to wrap your head around as the fact that 2007 was nine years ago – but still tough. Man, does time fly!