Store your coffee for optimal freshness
Your local supermarket has an extensive selection of stale, lackluster coffees at a pretty reasonable price. If that sounds good to you... you're probably not reading this post. If you want delicious, lively, interesting coffee, you're going to need to learn where to find it, how best to brew it... and the proper way to store it. Today we're going to talk about how to store coffee beans for optimal freshness so you can get the most flavorful cup possible.
Does coffee go bad?
Yup. While it won't get rotten, moldy or rancid except under extreme conditions, it will lose flavor over time. You can keep your coffee beans freshest by reducing their exposure to:
All of these factors will contribute to coffee getting stale and losing flavor and aroma. We'll give some more specific storage tips below, but if you keep your coffee beans in a cool, dark, dry place in an airtight container, you'll have fresh coffee that lasts a long time.
How long will coffee stay fresh?
If properly stored, whole bean coffee will retain its full freshness of flavor and aroma for one month. After that, it will start to lose some of its liveliness. The first thing to fade will be the bright, aromatic and botanical notes - floral, herbal and fruity subtleties will diminish. The coffee will still be quite tasty up to the two-month mark. After that, you'll start to notice a staleness that will increase over time.
Ground coffee is best when consumed within two weeks. After one month, notable loss of flavor and aroma will be apparent.
Our coffee storage advice, simplified
Buy whole bean coffee if you can.
Keep your coffee in its sealed bag until you're ready to use it.
Use a resealable bag or an airtight container after that.
Keep it in a cool, dark, dry place. A kitchen cabinet is usually best. Avoid high shelves (heat rises) or cabinets next to the stove.
What about putting it in the freezer?
We get asked this one a lot and we always advise against freezing your coffee. Freezing your coffee in anything but a fully airtight sealed container is a bad idea. Coffee will absorb unwanted aromas and can suffer from 'freezer burn' just like an improperly stored steak. Furthermore, even if your coffee is properly stored in the freezer, you have to take it out before you brew it. In these moments, condensation will develop, and the moisture will greatly speed up the degradation of the coffee.
Some people get decent results by storing coffee in the freezer if they pre-measure portions and store them in individual airtight containers. There's no real evidence that their coffee retains freshness better than coffee stored properly at room temperature, though... and it seems like a lot of hassle for dubious benefit.
A good coffee bag is good coffee storage
The right coffee bag can protect your coffee from air, moisture and light (and if you store it in a cool place, it's protected from heat, too).
For optimal protection against air, choose coffee that's heat-sealed in a bag that has a degassing valve (that's what those little holes are). Coffee releases CO2 and other volatile organic compounds after roasting. The degassing valve allows those gasses to escape without allowing outside air into the bag. Bags that are closed with tin ties or clips won't protect your coffee, and bags without degassing valves are only good for coffee that's already stale (the natural off-gassing of fresh coffee will inflate them).
If your coffee is protected from air, it will also be protected from moisture. Again, room temperature storage without large fluctuations in temperature is best.
The best coffee bags are made of materials that block 100% of visible and UV light. While paper bags and bags with viewing windows may look good, they do a poor job of keeping light off your coffee beans. Heat-sealable laminates like Mylar are industry standard. They're waterproof, sturdy and they keep your coffee freshest.
Here at The Coffee Store, our bags are constructed of premium Mylar and every bag has a degassing valve. Our bags also feature the EZ-zip resealing system: a simple pull tab easily opens your new bag of coffee, and a built-in zipper seal allows you to quickly reseal it. The zipper is airtight enough for coffee that will be brewed within a couple of weeks. For longer term storage, we recommend using an airtight canister.
Coffee storage containers
There are countless coffee canisters on the market and some of them are quite fancy. You can find marine grade stainless steel canisters, motorized vacuum pumps, digital timers and thermometers... and none of it is the slightest bit necessary. When choosing a canister, all you need to do is find one that seals and is the right size. We like glass Mason jars. They're inexpensive, easy to find and they come in all different sizes. They seal well and glass is totally non-reactive and easy to clean. Clear glass lets light in, so keep them in a dark cabinet.
Don't throw out that stale coffee, though
Just because coffee is past its prime, it doesn't mean you can't use it. Cold brew is a great way to use older coffee. This brew method already de-emphasizes the subtle botanical flavors in favor of more durable, richer flavors, so it won't make as much difference when those subtle flavors have faded. Plus, fresh coffee is hydrophobic - it actually repels water, especially cold water. As a result, stale coffee can make for a better cold brew extraction than the freshest coffee.
When you need fresh coffee, buy the freshest coffee
Of course, it won't do much good to properly store coffee if it's already stale when you get it. Skip the supermarket shelf and get premium coffee direct from a trusted roaster.
Here at The Coffee Store, we are fanatical about freshness. We roast continually in small batches, and we roast just what need so that our coffee is shipped out within a few days of roasting. If you need ground coffee, we grind to order and seal it in our premium bags immediately. Wherever you are in the world, we offer shipping that is fast and reasonably priced. If you're on Maui, stop by for the ultimate in roastery-fresh coffee.
A hui hou!