Keep It Fresh: How to Store Coffee
We’ve all indulged in a high-end bag of coffee beans leaving our taste buds happy, but our pockets not so much. So how can we get the best bang out of our buck and make artisanal coffee last longer? The secret to success lies in how you store your coffee. When beans are stored correctly, they make better-tasting, longer-lasting coffee.
We break it down for you and share tips on how to keep your coffee airtight, buy the right portions, and extend your coffee’s freshness.
Whole Beans or Ground Coffee?
Let’s start from the beginning. Coffee begins to lose its freshness as soon as it is finished roasting. Roasting coffee transforms the chemical and physical properties of green coffee beans into roasted coffee products. By roasting or heating green coffee beans, coffee gets its characteristic flavor and rich brown color.
Experts recommend buying whole bean coffee that has just been roasted if you’re looking for a quality cup. Ground coffee has more surface area and increased exposure to oxygen compared to whole beans, so it can go bad much faster. Whole beans protect the quality of coffee. Once you break or grind the beans with a grinder, the coffee oxidizes quickly and you have a set amount of time until it becomes stale.
For optimal coffee freshness, buy whole beans and grind the amount you need just before you brew them. Whole beans are best within one month of roasting. If you go the ground coffee route, they should be ideally consumed within one to two weeks of roasting.
Balancing Time and Amount
As discussed, coffee begins to lose freshness right after roasting. Coffee experts recommend buying smaller batches of freshly roasted coffee more frequently – enough that can last one to two weeks.
If you keep coffee beans for too long, you’ll notice they eventually go stale, which will have a serious impact on the taste of your drink. Kitchn says, “drinking your coffee within two weeks of the roast date is a good rule of thumb.”
If you can’t stock up on freshly roasted beans on a regular basis, you have options. There are several companies that can ship their product directly to your door. Also, if you prefer to buy larger quantities of coffee, you can properly store it (we’ll discuss techniques in a minute) and keep a smaller container for daily use. Only open the large container when you need to refill the smaller container. This will help reduce air exposure to the larger container of coffee.
Best Way to Store Coffee
Your beans hate anything and everything that involve air, heat, and light. To preserve freshness, we’ve outlined some tips for how to store your coffee.
- It’s in the bag. Coffee’s original packaging is generally not ideal for long-term storage. As mentioned before, exposure to air is bad for your beans. It’s best to store in canisters with an airtight seal, a re-sealable bag, or a glass jar with a lid. Make sure to use clean containers so there are no residual smells from whatever was in it before.
- Hot in here. To preserve your beans’ roasted flavor as long as possible, store them in a cool location. Any surface area that gets direct sun is a no-go. Same for any cabinets or storage units above the oven – it’s often too warm for coffee beans.
- Lights Off. It might sound mean, but keep your beans in the dark. Resist the temptation to show off your beautiful beans and avoid clear canisters – the light can compromise the taste of your coffee. Store them in an opaque or solid colored container.
Can You Freeze Coffee?
Why do we see so many coffee connoisseurs freeze their stash of coffee? It’s probably because people are stocking up on their coffee, buying in large amounts, and need to resort to the freezer to preserve for a longer time. However, experts strongly recommend not storing your coffee in the fridge or freezer for a few critical reasons.
Freezing is not good for coffee's freshness because it causes the flavorful coffee oils to separate and get pushed to the surface. It can actually age coffee faster. Also, when you are taking coffee in and out of the freezer, the fluctuating temperatures create moisture in the container. By changing the temperatures on a daily basis, the cell structure changes and results in a loss of oils that give coffee its aroma and flavor.
Coffee also absorbs moisture, odors, and tastes from the air around it. So, if your packaging isn’t airtight, then your coffee beans can start to taste like the inside of your freezer. Not great. Most storage containers also let in small amounts of air, so coffee stored a long time in the freezer can suffer from freezer burn.
If you have no other choice but to freeze your beans, use an airtight container, airtight foil, or heat-sealed film bags of coffee. These can be stored for up to one month in the freezer. Once you remove coffee from your freezer, take as much as you need for a week and return before any condensation forms in the package.
The main point is that freshness is critical to a quality cup of coffee. In our busy lives, it’s not always possible to buy coffee right after it’s been roasted and on a regular basis. In that case, to get the best out of your coffee, store whole beans in a cool, dark area and tightly sealed package for one to two weeks. And enjoy!