What's the Best Way to Store Coffee Beans?
Something many people don't know is that coffee like many other food items does have a shelf life. It can go stale however it will not go bad enough to cause a stomach ache like other food. Needless to say, coffee tastes best when it is fresh. Here are some ways to store coffee at home to preserve its flavour and aroma.
Before we get into best storage methods, let’s talk a bit about the process of coffee staleness. There are more than a 1,000 chemical compounds in coffee, it’s full of various oils, acids and other organic chemicals. Many of these molecules react with oxygen in the air which contribute to its freshness. Coffee starts oxidizing immediately after roasting. To protect the coffee, we need to shelter it from air, heat, humidity and light. Here are the different ways you can do that.
If you’re planning on consuming your freshly roasted coffee within the next month, the best thing you can do is keep it in an opaque airtight container at room temperature. Typically, the best place is in the pantry or any shelf not too close to the oven. The opaque container protects from light, while the airtight feature protects your coffee from well… air. Try to avoid clear jars even though they are visually more appealing. It will expose the beans to light and speed up the staleness process. If you do not have an opaque canister, make sure to keep the jar hidden in a cool cupboard. Many roasters nowadays sell their coffee in non-transparent and resealable bags. Although the bags are typically not air tight, they do offer some level of protection. This is a good enough storage method if you consume your coffee within a couple of weeks but is not ideal for long term storage.
Coffee is porous and hygroscopic. It has the tendency of absorbing moisture from its surrounding environment. Many people assume that placing their coffee in the fridge will keep it fresh longer. The fridge environment is actually not ideal for coffee. Food gives out odours and humidity that the coffee beans attract and absorb. The humid climate of the fridge compromises the flavours and aromas of the coffee, adding undesired flavoured notes that eventually get 'breathed in' by the beans. Beans are optimal for absorbing water as they are low on moisture after roasting.
When it comes to freezing coffee, the research is still inconsistent. When the cold moisture interacts with the beans, it degrades the oils and acids in the coffee that gives it its unique flavours. However, if you won’t be able to brew the coffee within an optimum time frame, and would like to save it for the future, then it is best to freeze it. To avoid freezer burned beans, there are a few things you need to do prior to stashing your coffee in the freezer:
- Remove the air and heat seal the bag, or place in an airtight container before freezing. Vacuum packing is ideal pre freezing
- Resist the urge to take your beans out of the freezer. If you do, avoid putting them back in
- When you remove the frozen beans, let them thaw for a few hours before grinding and brewing
- Try to consume the coffee within two weeks after thawing
- Always clean the canister before refilling it with other coffees as it collects oils from the previous batch
Keep in Mind:
We cannot leave you without mentioning that the best thing you can do to maintain freshness and peak flavour, is grinding your coffee just before you brew it. Ground coffee has a much larger surface area and will drastically speed up the aging process.
Try to buy enough coffee for the next two weeks' consumption and always note the roast date, aim for the freshest roast date out there. It’s better to buy fresh coffee more frequently and reduce exposure to oxygen as much as possible.