Is there anything better than the smell of freshly roasted coffee? If you are a coffee lover who wants their beans to maintain that beautiful aroma and taste, you have to learn how to keep coffee beans fresh for at least a few weeks. While the main secret to storing coffee beans is an airtight container, there are other important factors. And this article will teach you everything about how to store coffee beans so they stay fresh and taste fantastic for as long as possible.
Especially if you are spending more money on specialty coffee beans, learning about the proper storage of coffee is worth the extra effort to have fresh coffee that does not taste flat and boring within a week!
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How to Store Coffee Beans: The Basics
Coffee does not expire as quickly as other perishable food in your kitchen, and even when it is past the expiration date, it is still safe to drink for several months. You can read the full details of coffee expiration in our article on how long coffee lasts in all its forms, which includes how to spot bad coffee. But know that trusting your instinct is usually okay when it comes to food safety issues.
The main issue with storing whole bean coffee is that the freshness of flavor and aroma can disappear quickly. Freshley roasted coffee has an unmistakable quality, and proper storage will slow down the aging process so you can enjoy it as long as possible.
Coffee Bean Storage 101: The Enemies of Freshness
To properly maintain the amazing smell and taste of fresh coffee beans, it is crucial to know what factors in your environment will cause coffee to age. Understanding the enemies of coffee freshness will allow you to prolong the life of your coffee even when you do not have the fanciest storage equipment.
So let’s check out the common factors that age coffee and how the proper storage of coffee fights against them.
Most food spoils because of oxidation, and oxygen has the same aging effect on roasted coffee beans. Storing your beans in an airtight and sealed container is the best way to delay this process. Investing in a coffee grinder and grinding just before you brew will also delay the speed at which air makes your coffee go stale.
Due to the high temperatures of coffee roasting, beans contain almost no moisture. But in a humid environment, the beans can reabsorb moisture and take on weird flavors. Moisture speeds up the aging process and can even induce mold growth. To prevent moisture, store in a dry environment and avoid regular temperature changes.
Heat and Light
Light is a form of energy. And just like fruit ripens on your counter, both heat and light will age your coffee. So while glass airtight containers are convenient, keep them out of direct sunlight.
Storing Coffee Beans for Flavor
By this point, you are probably realizing that coffee storage is about freshness—maintaining that delicate smell and taste for as long as possible. And the unfortunate truth is that none of these coffee storage measures will matter much if you buy pre ground coffee. As a whole bean, the internal structure of the coffee is protected from contact with the air.
But ground coffee is almost entirely exposed, and all of that extra surface area allows oxygen to age the coffee significantly faster. So when you can, try to grind right before brewing.
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How to Keep Coffee Beans Fresh Longer
Besides keeping coffee in whole bean form, the best way to keep coffee beans fresh is to avoid those enemies of coffee you read above. Not storage solutions avoid everything harmful, but a cool, dark, dry, and airtight environment is what you want.
For example, storing coffee beans in a glass jar is a common solution, but that is less ideal than using an opaque container that also prevents light from hitting the beans. As long as you understand why coffee expires, you will have the best chance of keeping it fresh longer.
Storage of Coffee: Why Coffee Expires
You know by this point that coffee expires, but why does that happen? Why can green coffee beans last for years but roasted beans only a month or two? Similar to cooked food, roasted coffee beans undergo certain chemical reactions that leave them susceptible to aging.
Besides the Maillard reaction that changes the color and chemical content, the caramelization of sugars occurs later in the roast. This reaction is when the bean’s complex carbohydrates break down into smaller sugars that can dissolve in water.
These compounds that dissolve in water are what give coffee its flavor, but with time and oxygen, they also break down.
The Best Way to Store Coffee Beans
There is no avoiding time and oxygen, and your coffee will age no matter what you do. But keeping the following rules in mind will slow down the process as long as possible. Your coffee will still taste best for 1-2 weeks after its roast date, but with proper storage, you will, hopefully, not notice a change before you finish the bag.
Keep Coffee Beans In An Airtight Container
Many roasting companies package their coffee in resealable bags that you can close like a ziplock bag. This type of coffee bag is better than the loose-fitting/bendable ties that most have, but you should still store that bag in an airtight container for further protection.
Most coffee containers have an airtight seal, but the better models have a vacuum pump (either manual or electric) that removes any remaining air inside after you seal it.
**Check out our guide breaking down the best airtight coffee storage containers available today.**
Find A Cool Dark Place
Warm environments speed up aging, as do light and moisture. So once you have your beans in their airtight container, store that in a cool, dark, and dry place. A dark room-temperature cupboard is a fantastic solution.
The key is to avoid any extreme temperatures or temperature changes. Temperature changes create moisture that speeds up aging and encourages mold growth.
Buy Small Amounts at a Time
The National Coffee Association recommends something that may sound obvious but will go a long way to ensuring fresh coffee at home. Try to buy coffee in small batches that you can finish within a week or two. This schedule is not possible for everyone, but small batches plus the storage tips above will mean fresh coffee all the time.
How to Store Coffee Grounds
If possible, you should invest in a grinder and always store coffee in whole bean form. As mentioned above, the increased surface area makes storing ground coffee trickier—oxygen has much easier access to the coffee bean material.
But sometimes, we can only find coffee grounds, and the tactics for how to store ground coffee are similar to the storage of coffee in whole-bean form.
Putting pre ground coffee into an opaque airtight container will not work any miracles, but it will maintain as much freshness and flavor as possible.
How to Store Coffee Beans Long Term
The ideal scenario is having small batches of coffee that last you 1-2 weeks. But there are more extreme methods for storing coffee beans long term. One option is to invest in a vacuum sealer, ranging from hand pump jars to expensive vacuum sealer machines.
The primary key to long term coffee storage is avoiding air, but freezing coffee beans is a fantastic trick. Frozen beans, when packaged correctly, can maintain coffee freshness for six months to a year.
Roast Coffee at Home
Because green beans last for years, another way to ensure long-term coffee storage is to learn how to roast them at home. It might take time to learn the skills, but many people successfully roast small batches at home without any specialized equipment.
How to Store Coffee: FAQ
Before you leave us with an upgraded plan for storing your coffee beans to keep them fresh, let’s wrap up with a few of the most common questions people have about coffee storage.
Should you store coffee in the refrigerator?
While a refrigerator seems like the perfect cool and dark environment for coffee, you should avoid storing coffee there. Fridges are too cold, the beans will absorb odors, and the regular temperature changes will cause moisture to form on your beans.
Should I store coffee beans in the freezer?
If you consume your coffee within 1-2 weeks, freezing coffee beans is not helpful. But for long-term storage, the freezer will keep your coffee fresh for six months to a year. Vacuum seal the beans and defrost them before opening them to avoid moisture.
What container is best for coffee?
The best containers for storing coffee are airtight and opaque, and the best models will have a vacuum pump that removes air before sealing.
What does expired coffee taste like?
Expired coffee loses the delicate tasting notes that fresh beans have, which are replaced by muted and sour flavors. And in the extreme case, old coffee will taste rancid.
Storage of Coffee Beans for Freshness: Final Thoughts
Hopefully, you have a greater appreciation for the science behind coffee freshness. Even though coffee holds up to aging more than other foods, the taste of your brewed coffee begins to degrade quickly when you fail to store the beans correctly.
Remember to avoid coffee’s enemies—air, heat, light, and moisture—to stretch out those delicious flavors as long as possible!
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