Since i started my coffee roasting business i have oftened pondered this question. There are those who drink coffee for the caffine content only, and any coffee will suffice and there are those among us with a scale and fancy brewing apparatus which requires more than folgers or maxwell house can offer.
I wanted to make three key points that speak to making the leap and buying gourmet fresh roasted coffee and why it is either important or not important.
Fresh or Not: Can you really tell the difference between fresh roasted coffee and the stuff that has been vaccum sealed and warehoused for 8 months to a year. The answer is absolutely!
Fresh roasted coffee is just like any other food item, fresh products always posses the original qualities, flavors etc, that are missing when stored for longer periods.
Quality over quantity : Well most gourmet fresh roasted coffees are from specific farms, and are roasted in smaller batches. Kinda like grandmas pies, she makes one or two using apples from her trees. Well the same applies here as the roastery will aquire a small amount of coffee from a specific farm and roast in small batches being careful to roast it in such a way it maximizes all the flavor. Often the micro roaster will have there own special roast profiles that creats a whole different cup of coffee for the customer. On the other hand big box roasters pull up with pallets and they drop 4 or 5 hundred pounds at once. The roast profile is the same and its packaged and warehoused till orders are recieved.
Noastalgia or Loyalty: Many people love trying new coffees, wines, beer, and other items all the same but different company, different package, different location, so many variables that can make a coffee purchase interesting. Often you will try a new coffee just for the story behind the roastery, or the ideals they support. Often to find out the coffee isnt to your liking but, oh well, cool experience none the less. On the other hand there are many who will only drink one brand because their great, great, grandpappy was loyal to that brand. They may have never experienced a great fresh roasted sumatran or ethiopian yegacheffe. To them its my brand only.
Summary: Being a coffee snob or just brew the joe man, it matters not. Whats important in the grand scheme of things is enjoying that cup brewed in a belgium syphon or a westinghouse 12 cup drip. Just enjoy it your way. Coffee is a social drink, a comforter and a friend in times of fatigue.