The fresher the better


Best before or worse after what date?

Pure coffee never becomes completely unusable and nor does it go rotten, the taste merely fades away, a little at a time.

The perfect way of delaying this has yet to be found.

FRESHLY GROUND: Alan Hawkins is the chief roaster of Cutman & Hawk Coffees and is passionate about making sure coffee lovers enjoy the best cuppa Picture: FILE

Buy your coffee as soon as possible after roasting to ensure that it is full- flavoured.

I was quite shocked recently when I saw a bag of ground coffee that was marked with a so-called best before date of late 2018!

My guess is this was a business decision and not that of the roaster himself.

Just imagine the journey of a tiny little coffee bean, carefully and lovingly roasted in Europe perhaps, and then packed and stored.

The bean will soon find its way into a carton, then a pallet, and eventually into a shipping container.

Our small bean might eventually reach Johannesburg before spending a few weeks, or even months, between warehouses and trucks until it eventually finds its way into your trolley.

What can you do?

In addition to seeking out the freshest product, there are a few things you can do to retain as much flavour as possible.

If you have a grinder, select beans over the ground variety, as whole beans hold their flavour longer.

Unless you use a lot of coffee, choose the smaller bag over the bulk option and use your coffee as soon as possible after opening.

Once exposed to air, the flavour loss accelerates. But this can be slowed by storing unused coffee in a sealed container and in a dark cupboard.

Refrigerating the opened product is not recommended as that lovely coffee flavour could be affected by other aromas that can be found in a fridge.

“To me the smell of fresh-made coffee is one of the world’s greatest inventions.” – Hugh Jackman

Alan Hawkins is the chief roaster of Cutman & Hawk Coffees and founder of the East London Coffee Co.


  • TIMES Media Community Newspapers (TMCN) in conjunction with owner and coffee master blender, Alan Hawkins of EL Coffee Company are running a coffee competition with weekly prizes of coffee hampers and  a first prize of the “rolls Royce” of coffee machines valued at R11 000.
    This Jura coffee machine worth R11000 is up for grabs in the Winter Warmers competition


    TMCN consitst of the Go!&Express in East London, The Rep in Queenstown and The Talk of The Town in Port Alfred.  The competition runs from May to August when the grand winner of the coffee machine will be named.

    In the first week of each month three winners will be announced who will win coffee hampers, and their names will automatically go into the final draw to win the Jura Coffee Machine, what Hawkins calls the Rolls-Royce of coffee machines.

    Entries may be emailed to or posted onto one of the websites, depending on the area you live in.

    Question: Who is the owner of EL Coffee Company?

    Please submit answers with full name, address and contactable phone number. Winners will be contacted via phone, prizes may be collected at Daily Dispatch Building in East London, Penny Farthing Bistro in Port Alfred and Freshly Roasted in Station Street, Queenstown.


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