Storing Coffee

There are a lot of misconceptions about how to keep your coffee. Ground coffee expires and loses its freshness at a faster rate than whole beans. But, whether you keep your coffee in whole beans or already ground, airtight and room temperature is the proper way to store your coffee. Consider air to be the enemy of fresh coffee.

Here, you'll learn about the common practice of keeping coffee in the freezer and whether it's the best way to store your coffee.


Let's Get Started


"Keeping it Fresh" Fresh whole coffee beans kept fresh

The clock of freshness starts ticking as soon as the coffee is exposed to air or heat. Think of it in terms of foods with preservatives, and foods without. If something goes bad when exposed to air, at least you know your body will be able to process it. But, it's not good for your system to process something that doesn't expire - it's the opposite of fresh! When the coffee beans are put into an airtight container that you have at home, you can rest assured that they will still be full of flavor by the next morning. So, what containers are good?

Ideal Storing Spots

Airtight Container

The ideal storing place for coffee is an airtight opaque container kept in room temperature.

Heat-Sealed Wrapping

If you have a heat-seal wrapping machine, you're all set. If you can use it to separate your coffee beans into just the amount that you would make at one time for a standard pot of coffee, then I am envious of you. It would be a dream for me to have small vacuum-sealed bags of just enough coffee beans to make one pot. From that point, nothing is wasted because your beans aren't in a container that's being opened and re-opened day after day, with the beans exposed to air over and over. Of course, the drawback would be the amount of packaging you go through.

Tupperware

Since most of us do not have a heat-seal wrapping machine in our kitchen, 'Tupperware' containers are a step up from re-sealable bags. Some have threaded lids, but you can be sure even this isn't keeping out all air. This is a better option than the re-sealable bags, but still isn't perfect. Give coffee in a tupperware container 72 hours to one week before it goes stale.

Sandwich Bag

A plastic "sandwich bag" with the re-sealable fastening device is the simplest way to keep air and coffee separate. Naturally, you wouldn't eat a sandwich that was sitting in one of those re-sealable bags after a few days. Likewise, while it keeps air out, it doesn't keep all air out. Eventually, air seeping through the fastening device is reaching the coffee and eating away at its delicious flavor. Give coffee in a re-sealable bag 24 hours to 72 hours, and at least keep it in a dark place and not in sunlight.

My advice

Kitchen stores usually sell ceramic, airtight containers. They are airtight from a rubber band that circles the inside of the lid of the container. When a latch attached to the lid closes the container shut and the entire lid is sealed, the rubber band creates a strong seal from air. Give coffee in an airtight container up to two weeks, because even this doesn't promise a complete airtight seal.


"Keeping It Simple" Buy and store small amounts frequently

Always have a clean mug and spoon for the coffee, and clean coffee pot.

2 Week Rotation

You should aim to drink your coffee within a couple weeks of buying it. This isn't to stay that 3-week old coffee in an airtight container has gone completely stale. It's still quite drinkable, especially if it was a high-quality coffee to begin with. After the two week mark, however, it will have lost some freshness. To get the most out of coffee and assuming you stock up on food at least every other week, aim to buy only two weeks worth of coffee at a time.

Do Not Freeze Coffee

And now, to answer an all-important question: do not freeze coffee. Some people store their coffee beans in the fridge or freezer, assuming that like anything perishable, it should be kept cool or frozen. But if you go to better coffee shops, you won't see their beans stored in a freezer or even refrigerator. The fact is that the change in temperature will cause a 'condensation' of the humidity that is natural in fresh coffee. That 'condensation' will result in the humidity leaving the bean when it congeals, and with it, much of its flavor and freshness. Warm is not good for coffee, but room temperature is fine. You can keep your beans in the fridge, but the longer they sit when taken outside of the fridge, the quicker they could go stale from exposure to the change in temperature. On top of all this, there is little keeping the coffee beans from absorbing odors from other things being kept in the fridge or freezer, and that will figure into your brewed coffee. Best to keep your coffee beans stored in an isolated container that is airtight, opaque, and kept at room temperature.

Leftovers

What if you have a supply of beans that you simply will not be using in the next couple weeks. ? Would I have you throw them out? Of course not. If it's a decision between throwing out good whole beans and freezing them for freshness, then freeze them. Just make sure they are sealed in as reliable an airtight container as you can. You want to keep them isolated in the freezer, since you are storing so many other things in there. And while airtight doesn't mean thermal, you will minimize chemical reaction with an airtight seal. Once you take them out of the freezer, consider your countdown to grind and brew them to be even tighter if you want to get as much delicious flavor as possible.

Next Step - Grinding

Check out Marc's posts on storing coffee