There are differing opinions about the aging and degrading of green coffee and every roaster has their own way of trying to stop the clock. At Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters, they’ve invested in freezing their green coffee.

If you’ve ever scrolled through the Phil & Sebastian website I am sure you have come across the phrase “This green coffee was frozen immediately on its arrival in Calgary, to preserve freshness.” We caught up with Phil Robertson, the co-owner of Phil & Sebastian to learn what exactly this means.

“Freezing green is one of the most important things that we do for quality. The real reason for doing it is quality preservation,” Robertson began.

So here is how it works: the shipping containers holding their green coffee are delivered to their freezing space (a third-party freezing warehouse used to store frozen food). Once removing all the bags and putting them on pallets, they are put in a special chamber that rapidly freezes the green. Once frozen, they are put in the warehouse where they remain until they are ready to be roasted. Once a week, the coffee that will be roasted within that same week is released from the warehouse and given 3 days to defrost.

They got the idea of freezing their green from George Howell, founder of George Howell Coffee in the United States. Howell is widely considered a pioneer of specialty coffee.

As a vocal advocate for freezing green coffee, Howell has hosted events where he will release vintage coffees– between 5-6 years old– from his “frozen library.” Though recognizing that it could make competition stiffer for him, Howell is outspoken about wanting other roasters to freeze their green coffee.

Of course, there are pros and cons to the practice. 

“Freezing is very expensive and you can make an argument about the carbon footprint; we are looking for ways to lower that. But from a quality standpoint, I have never seen anything that can touch it,” Robertson explained.

Since coffee is seasonal, but we want to drink it all year round, roasters have always been posed with the challenge of maintaining the freshness of their coffee. Something Robertson, like all roasters, is keenly aware of.

“The hardest time for coffee is February and March because you haven’t got your fresh crop coffees from the northern hemisphere, and the coffee from the southern hemisphere is aging. But with green freezing, you can basically stop the clock. So once we get the coffee, I can tell you with a high level of certainty that whether you order it today or in 6 months, it will taste the same.


February 10, 2023 — Zara Snitman

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