Read a Coffee by Its Label?

The Essentials

We’ve designed our labels to provide the essentials on the specific bag of coffee you’re purchasing, in part because we offer custom roasting.

Since there are endless variables for achieving coffee flavor, our label offers a few of the foundations to help you decide on the perfect bean and roast for you. It’s not unusual for someone to like the medium roast of a coffee but not care for the dark roast (or vice versa). We like to let you decide by giving you the key elements of the coffee.

Roast Date vs. Expiration Date

In the bottom-right corner of your label, you’ll find the roast date. This date is at the heart of what we do and is a point of pride for us at Surreal Coffee Roasters. In most cases, we roast your coffee 3-6 days beforehand in order to allow the coffee to properly release carbon from the roasting process. At that point, you can know that you’re buying beans in the best moments of their flavor-filled lives!

It’s no doubt essential to know the shelf-life of your products, and expiration date is the key indicator we’ve come to focus on when we think about freshness. Coffee is a little different. If your tastes are anything like mine, there’s a difference between “fresh” coffee and “drinkable” or “OK-to-drink” coffee. That’s the real distinction.

Coffee lasts a long time. Freshness, though, is at its peak from approximately 24-72 hours after roasting to a few weeks after roast. Lines get blurry after that. Will your coffee be a tasteless bag of sand after three weeks? Doubtful. Will it tell the same flavorful, complex story that it tells in the early stages of its post-roast life? Probably not.

Who We Are & How to Reach Us

This part of the label lets you know who we are, what we do, where we do it, and how you can contact us. Selling coffee is great, but we genuinely enjoy forging relationships, having conversations, and interacting with the folks who buy our product. Ultimately, we want to make coffee that you like and want to provide some basic avenues for feedback and/or questions. We always welcome your feedback!

A Note About Our Mission

The slogan “The Beans That Give Back” represents another iteration of our vision and purpose to contribute. This portion of the label is a way for us to say thanks for providing us with the opportunity to make a variety of significant contributions to causes that affect us deeply.

About Your Coffee

Here, you learn a bit about the origin of the coffee, which has a tremendous effect on its flavor. The “profile,” which you may sometimes hear us describe as “flavor,” refers to the way the coffee tastes, smells, and feels in your mouth (including acidity).

It also refers to flavors inherent to the bean itself. You won’t necessarily experience an overwhelming, long-lasting sense of all of the traits listed; they may be distinctly apparent or sneakily subtle, fast-fleeting or lingering. This complexity of flavors is what makes coffee so divine, so we try to note a few of the more prominent characteristics you might expect.

Coffee Score/Rating

You may notice that some coffees feature a “score” or “rating” on the label. This score is based on the Specialty Coffee Association’s score for the quality of the raw coffee.

For a quick glance at details about scores, though, here’s a quick excerpt from the Specialty Coffee Associations scoring/grading system (under Cupping Protocols/Final Scoring):

The Final Score is calculated by first summing the individual scores given for each of the primary attributes in the box marked “Total Score.” Defects are then subtracted from the “Total Score” to arrive at a “Final Score.” The following Scoring Key has proven to be a meaningful way to describe the range of coffee quality for the Final Score.

Total Score Quality Classification

  • 90-100 – Outstanding – Specialty
  • 85-99.99 – Excellent – Specialty
  • 80-84.99 – Very Good – Specialty
  • < 80.0 – Below Specialty Quality – Not Specialty

About Your Roast

I base each roast around the profile and properties of the raw bean in combination with the roasting method that I think will produce the best roast for the bean. At the same time–outside of custom roasts–I try to find a balanced roast for the bean, one that will give a wide variety of coffee drinkers a sense of the taste and texture. Sometimes, that means I like to roast Light-Medium or Medium-Dark.

Your bag will have a mark clearly showing where on the roast spectrum your beans fall. If you think the coffee might be better for you a little lighter or darker, this gives you a reference point for requesting a specific roast. Before you determine if its the roast you’d like to tweak, check out the info about grind sizing and coffee-to-water ratios.

About the Grind (if ground)

It may seem inconsequential but grind size can have a tremendous impact on the taste and body of your coffee. Depending on your brew style (drip coffee maker, Keurig, pour-over, French press, espresso) and on the types of drinks you want to make (coffee, espresso, lattes, cold brew, iced coffee, etc.), you’ll want to alter the size of the grind.

Different brewing methods use different methods of extracting flavor, so suiting the right grind to your personal coffee routine could give your cup an extra awesomeness. With our custom roasts, I’ll work with you to find the perfect coffee-roast-grind combination for your setup.

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