So, you’ve shelled out a small fortune on a bag of premium coffee beans that admittedly taste out of this world. However, that moreish premium coffee isn’t going to taste so great by this time next week if you don’t ensure that they are stored correctly. Please, don’t make the mistake that many people make by using a wrong or inadequate coffee bean storage container.
If you want to preserve the freshness of those coffee beans, keep on reading because I have some top insider tips that are guaranteed to keep your beans fresher for longer.
How to Spot Freshly Roasted Coffee Beans
There’s no point buying and then storing old stale coffee, so here are a few tips to ensure that you’re always buying the freshest beans you can. Actually, it’s not as difficult as you might think. Fresh whole coffee will always have a glossy shine due to the oils leaching out from the bean. And contrary to other perishable food items, seeing oil on the bag of coffee is a good thing.
However, there are a few exceptions to this rule.
- The lighter the roast, the less of a glossy appearance the beans will have. This is caused when the coffee beans have not been roasted for as long. But with that said, they should still have a dull shine and should not be completely dry.
- Also, if you’re a decaf drinker, your coffee beans might have undergone, what is called, the Swiss Water Decaffeination process, which will also remove a lot of the glossy shine. But again, the coffee beans should still have a slight shininess to them.
Sometimes it can be challenging to see the coffee before you buy due to the beans being sealed inside of packaging. But all is not lost. Freshly roasted coffee will always emit gases, so if the packaging does not have some sort of valve, it means that the beans had stopped gassing before they were packaged; simply put, they are already past their best.
Look for a bag of coffee beans that has an escape valve. Also, look at the bag to see if it has slightly expanded and puffed up like a balloon due to the gases being released from the beans. These are the freshest coffee beans you will find on a grocery store shelf.
Coffee Beans Will Spoil Quickly
Just like any other natural perishable food product, such as bread or milk, coffee also has a shelf life. And as much as we would love our coffee to last for months and still be as fresh as the first day, the sad truth is that coffee starts to lose its freshness after about a month. But that shelf life can be reduced by nearly half if you don’t carefully store your coffee beans correctly.
Storing your coffee beans isn’t as simple as throwing them in a Ziplock bag and forgetting about them. Oh no, there’s more to it than that. So, let’s take a look at four silent killers of fresh coffee, and then we’ll give you the insider tip for keeping your coffee beans as fresh as possible.
The Four Silent Killers of Fresh Coffee
When we talk about the “four silent killers of coffee,” we refer to oxygen, heat, light, and moisture.
Oxygen is the biggest threat to the freshness of your coffee, and the problem is it’s everywhere. It’s not like you can open your bag of coffee in an airtight container unless you’re a Nasa crew member aboard the International Space Station; no, I didn’t think so. As soon as you crack the vacuum seal on the bag of coffee beans, oxygen will start to seep in, causing havoc on the freshness and longevity of your coffee.
Another threat that you need to watch out for is heat. Allowing your whole coffee beans to be in a hot environment is a recipe for disaster. For every increase in temperature of 10 degrees, C, unpreventable chemical reactions such as oxidation will happen twice as fast.
You want the coffee to release all of its locked-in flavors when you’re ready to pour over your hot water, not when the coffee is sat in your cupboard. Storing your coffee in a warm area of your kitchen, such as over your coffee maker or near your oven, is a guarantee that your coffee will lose a considerable amount of flavor, and the shelf life of those coffee beans will drop to almost half.
Light is another element you need to make sure you keep your coffee beans away from as much as possible. UV rays emitted from natural light will break down the aroma compounds found in your coffee. So, if you have your coffee stored in a large glass mason jar on your kitchen window sill, you better run and put them somewhere dark.
So, we’ve talked about oxygen, heat, and light that can only leave moisture. This last silent killer of fresh coffee can leave your beans moldy and damp. Also, constant fluctuations in hot and cold temperatures can cause condensation on your stored coffee beans. This condensation can lead to potentially harmful mold spores growing on your coffee.
So, with so many external dangers looking to reduce your coffee beans’ freshness and shelf life, how can you ensure that your coffee beans stay fresh? The answer is, you need to do all you can to ensure you protect the coffee beans from those four silent killers. No, you don’t need to lock them in an airtight container and bury them six feet underground. It can be as easy as merely investing in a suitable coffee storage container.
How to Store Different Types of Coffee Beans?
So, now you know what’s going to destroy your coffee beans slowly, let’s look at the best ways to store your coffee beans – raw coffee, freshly roasted beans, or ground coffee.
Storing Roasted Whole Coffee Beans
Most of you reading this, I suspect, are cornered about storing roasted whole coffee beans. Now, The National Coffee Association USA (1) suggests that you follow a straightforward strategy for coffee storage – “what you need is an airtight, opaque container” like one of these. I’ll let you into an insider secret. You don’t have to spend a small fortune on an expensive coffee storage container if you plan on brewing your purchased coffee within a couple of weeks.
You can safely keep the beans inside of their original packaging. But there is a simple technique that I recommend you do to ensure they stay as fresh as possible. Once you’ve opened your bag of coffee and you’re ready to store it till the next brew, don’t just loosely close the bag and leave it sitting on your countertop. If you plan on keeping your beans in the original packaging, I highly suggest that you tightly roll the bag to remove as much oxygen as possible from the inside of the bag.
Once you have done this, wrap an elastic band around the bag to ensure that it’s tightly closed to help reduce the amount of air entering. Then place the bag of coffee somewhere dry and cool.
However, if you’re serious about coffee and storing your beans, so they don’t perish quickly, I recommend, no, I insist, that you get yourself a suitable reusable coffee container.
Storing Ground Coffee
How many of you are guilty of purchasing pre-ground coffee? In a perfect world, we would buy whole coffee beans and grind them right before we brew. But I get it. Some of you don’t have the time to weigh, grind, and hit all of those coffee brewing ratios when you’re trying to get the kids out the door in the morning. So yes, ground coffee is convenient, but how do you go about storing it to ensure it stays as fresh as possible; this can be tricky.
The problem with ground coffee is that the clock is ticking as soon as you open a new bag, and your new bag of coffee will deteriorate within a few hours if not stored correctly. Even then, you’re looking at a couple of weeks of palatable coffee, if you’re lucky.
Ground coffee loses its freshness fast due to having more surface area exposed to the air (oxygen). Simply put, because the coffee has been ground, it has no protective outer coating to lock in the coffee goodness!
So that brings me to how to store ground coffee. For starters, if you must buy pre-ground coffee, I recommend buying smaller tubs or packets. Once they’re opened, you will use the coffee within a week. If you’re insistent on buying a large amount of pre-ground coffee, then the advice is pretty much the same as with whole coffee beans.
You’ll want to limit the amount of air (oxygen) that can make contact will the coffee. The best way of doing this is to store the coffee at room temperature in a vacuum-sealed container made of materials that won’t impart unwanted flavors to your coffee; a ceramic container is perfect for this!
How About Raw Coffee Bean Storage
If you manage to get your hands on some raw, green coffee beans and plan to roast your own at home, storage is pretty easy compared to roasted beans. I recommend that you keep the raw coffee beans inside of an everyday brown paper bag, rolled up tightly, and placed in a dry, dark place such as the back of your kitchen cupboard.
Then keep the bag somewhere cool and dry – not in the refrigerator where moisture will condense around the grounds when you open the bag, and off aromas will permeate it.
Can you Freeze coffee?
Yes, you can, but I do not recommend doing it; here’s why. The main issue when freezing or even storing your coffee in the fridge is moisture. Coffee loves to absorb moisture and odors like a sponge from the air around it since it is hygroscopic. If you’ve ever frozen a loaf of bread, you know it doesn’t taste as good as it would if it was fresh. The same goes for coffee.
However, if you’re dead-set on freezing your coffee beans, ensure that the original bag hasn’t been opened and is still sealed. And please don’t open the bag of coffee beans once they’re in the freezer trying to sneak a scoop or two. Remember the moisture concerns? If you defrost, don’t put the beans back in the freezer, the condensation can lead to an awful freezer-burn taste.
When you eventually decide to take your coffee out of the freezer, make sure you let them thaw to room temperature before opening the bag. By doing this, you will help to prevent condensation from forming on your coffee beans.