So you’re just getting into coffee but don’t know how to store coffee? You have found yourself a great coffee roaster who roasts fresh to order and stocks plenty of unique origins for you to brew and enjoy. When your order arrives, you can already tell what it is just from the scent that escapes when you pick up the parcel. This is only intensified when you finally open it up and grind some up for the very first time.
So, so good.
But a few days later, you open up the same bag and notice that the intoxicating smell is gone. You brew your cup of coffee, exactly as you usually would, but it doesn’t quite taste the same! Why is that?
Buying fresh, quality coffee is fantastic and will certainly lead to better cups of coffee but do you know how to keep it fresh? We will go over some important points on how to store coffee, keeping that delicious, fresh aroma locked in for longer.
Why is freshness important?
From the moment the coffee comes out of the roaster, it begins to degrade and eventually go stale.
Coffee can, however, be too fresh. If you drink coffee straight out of the coffee roaster, it will be lacking in flavour and typically a bit too sharp and acidic. It takes anywhere from 1-14 days for the coffee to fully develop and reach it’s peak flavour.
It all starts to go downhill from there. Ideally, you want to have finished your coffee within 4-5 weeks of the roasted date. I know it’s not always easy to make that happen but it is worth keeping in mind next time you place a coffee order. Better to buy less and order more frequently.
Pre-ground coffee is okay, right?
It’s better than instant coffee, that’s for sure, but ideally, you want to buy whole beans.
In bean form, imagine that the bean is protecting all the lovely smells and delicious oils, keeping them locked and ready to extract into a cup of coffee.
When coffee is pre-ground, we are breaking that “seal” and increasing the surface area exposed to the world. It becomes a lot more vulnerable to the factors we will discuss in the following section.
Grind as little as you can get away with and consume immediately for the possible best results.
Oxygen, Moisture, heat and sunlight
These are the primary factors we are working against. If we can mitigate these when storing coffee, we will ensure our coffee keeps fresh for longer.
Exposure to oxygen causes the coffee to suffer from negative chemical reactions, rapidly degrading the coffee and leaving it lacking in both flavour and aroma. This is certainly the worst thing for coffee.
Similar to oxygen, heat and sunlight cause negative chemical reactions to occur inside our coffee leading to unpleasant tastes such as bitterness.
Coffee is very absorbent, it sucks in whatever moisture and odour it has around it. Moisture content is very important and not something we want to mess with once it has come out of the coffee roaster. Moisture is everywhere and it is crucial we keep it away from our coffee, as well as foods with strange/unpleasant odours.
Trust me, fish or cheese scented coffee does not taste good…
With the above in mind, we have a good starting point for understanding how to store coffee.
How to store coffee and where?
I am guilty of showing off my lovely coffee beans in a glass jar with a lovely cork lid on my kitchen counter, but you are not doing yourself any favours. Best to pop it in an opaque, vaccuum-sealed container and store it in a cupboard or other cool, dark place.
This will help avoid oxygen, moisture, heat or sunlight from reacting with your freshly roasted coffee and strip it of it’s delicious smell and taste.
Can I store coffee in a fridge or freezer?
Yes, you can. With either option, you want to keep in mind what we’ve discussed above: keep it airtight and keep it away from moisture and odours (if your freezer has frost inside, it won’t be suitable.)
Make sure you start with fresh beans, no point in freezing coffee that is already stale or pre-ground.
Keep in mind that once you’ve pulled the coffee out of its chilled hibernation, you do not want to put it back. It is best to store in batches that will last 1-2 weeks.
If you’ve stored it correctly, your coffee could potentially stay fresh for years. This is a great option if you find a unique, small batch coffee you absolutely love and are not sure you’ll ever find some again. I personally have a few outstanding coffees that live in my freezer, just waiting to be thawed and enjoyed.
Can I store my beans in my grinder / hopper?
Absolutely not. This is one of the most common mistakes I see when visiting cafes that have recently decided to start serving our coffee.
Storing your coffee in your bean hopper will leave it exposed to light and oxygen as most are transparent and not air-tight.
Other than that, your beans will be leaking oils which eventually go rancid. If these rancid oils are not cleaned away, they will taint every batch of beans you pour in there and could potentially damage your grinder too.
Best practice is to only fill what you will use immediately. In a professional setting like a cafe or restaurant, you can put up to 1 hour’s supply into the hopper.
Does coffee expire?
Accidently, I’ve brewed coffee that was over 5 years old to no ill effect. As you can imagine, it did not taste very nice but it did not make me sick either. Rather than an expiry date, I would say coffee has a best before date. We opt for 12 months, some roasters go as far as 24 months.
What you really want to look out for rather than the expiry date or best before date is the roasted date. That will give you a clearer idea of how fresh the coffee is and whether or not it is stale yet.
On all our coffee you will find a label with the roasted on date and a best before date.
What can I do with stale coffee?
Stale coffee, and used coffee for that matter, has a lot of great uses. We don’t throw any of our coffee away.
You can repurpose your coffee waste into body scrubs, compost, meat rubs and more! I personally find that stale coffee can even work for cold brewing long past it’s usefulness in more traditional methods.
Your coffee deserves it! Store it well and it will reward you with consistently great coffee.
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