If you’re investing in quality coffee beans, it is crucial that you understand the best way to store your coffee beans as well. Just like wine, beer, or an original Van Gogh painting, it’s important to keep your coffee in a safe environment so that you can savor every bit of flavor that the roaster intended.
Luckily, there isn’t too much to know about the proper coffee storage, and we plan to teach you everything right here in these few paragraphs.
So, let’s get right into it.
1. Buy Your Beans in Small Quantities Direct from the Roaster
This is the first place where many people fail when it comes to coffee storage. It can be tempting to purchase a 10 pound bag of coffee from Costco because the price is so appealing. And we get it, sometimes it is simply convenient to grab a bag off the shelf when you’re doing your weekly grocery run. But for a couple of different reasons, it is far better to get your beans in small quantities, on a regular basis, direct from a roaster.
Let’s gloss right over the fact that most grocery store coffee is roasted as dark as it gets, tasting primarily burnt and bitter and jump to the more important part - shelf life.
Depending on who you ask, due to the degassing process, coffee is best enjoyed somewhere between 4 and 15 days after it was initially roasted.
If you’re purchasing your coffee from your local grocery store, think about how long it likely took for that coffee to even find its way to the shelf. More than likely, between production, packaging, shipment to the distribution center, shipment to the local grocery store, and time spent waiting for there to be space available on the shelf, those beans are already more than 2 weeks old before you even have the opportunity to put them into your shopping cart. Most grocery stores buy their coffee in bulk to get cheap prices and spend the next few months selling them on.
That is actually why most grocery store, mass produced coffee beans are roasted so dark. By selling a coffee bean that is practically burnt, lacking in the beautiful fruit and floral aroma and flavor that many beans provide, they can hide the fact that the beans are stale before they even reach your kitchen.
As for those big bags that are sold at a discount? Well they will simply take ages to get through, leaving you with coffee that is, excuse our phrasing, but old AF by the time you’re finished with them.
So, step 1, the most important step - small quantities, direct from the roaster, as you need them. Something akin to the Creature Coffee membership where you can have a bag of coffee, roasted that week, sent to you on a regular basis.
2. Grind Your Beans At Home
We know. We were once like you too. Ground coffee is just so darned convenient! But if you’re looking to store your coffee properly, the best container available is the coffee bean itself.
The moment that you grind your coffee beans, they begin to oxidize quickly. Perhaps if you’re buying coffee for your office and you go through a full bag in just a day or two, you might be okay with pre-ground coffee, but ultimately, it’s never the best idea.
It’s well worth a relatively small investment in your morning ritual to purchase a coffee grinder so that you can release the incredible profile of your coffee beans just before you make a glass for yourself.
3. Use an Airtight Container
There are 4 primary elements that coffee hates:
If you can store your coffee away from these four things, you’ll have done your job.
Oxygen and Coffee Don’t Mix
Storing your coffee in an airtight container is the best way to keep it fresh as you go through it bit by bit each day. Keeping oxygen away from your freshly roasted beans is going to keep them at peak flavor.
Think about it like wine, where the concept is a bit more widely understood and accepted. Once you remove the cork from a bottle, the wine mixes with the ambient air and the flavor begins to change. With wine, there is actually a moment where this creates a desired effect. That’s why people will swirl their glasses or even use a decanter or aerator to quickly add a bit of oxygen to the final product. But, anyone who has left a bottle of wine open on their counter for a week will let you know that after just a couple of days, it begins to change for the worse.
Coffee is similar, but there isn’t a grace period. You want to keep as much oxygen away as possible or it will begin to, you guessed it,oxidize, leading it to lose its flavor, aroma, and become stale.
Keep your Beans Dry
This probably goes without saying, but you want your beans to stay dry. Coffee beans go through a long process of wetting, drying, and eventually roasting. Coffee farmers and coffee roasters take great care when it comes to the level of moisture within each bean. Once those beans are in your hands, do your best to keep them at that same level of moisture as when you got them. Again, an airtight canister will do the trick.
Just as you wouldn’t want to store your beer collection next to the washer and dryer, you don’t want to store your coffee beans near a heat source either. If you can avoid keeping your coffee beans near the stove, dishwasher, or any other warm appliance in your kitchen, it will greatly help with the flavor of your coffee. Best bet? Keep your coffee beans in a cool cupboard where there is minimal chance of temperature fluctuation.
This is probably the least of your worries when it comes to storing your coffee properly, but where possible, keep those beans away from direct sunlight. Using an opaque canister, storing your coffee in a cupboard, or simply leaving the coffee within the bag that it came in should do the trick. Sunlight can have a dire effect on a number of food products, so best to keep your precious morsels of joy away from the light.
4. Should You Store Coffee In The Freezer?
It’s a great question and one that is often argued about. While there are people who will argue either side of the case, your best bet is to avoid the freezer and thereby avoid the debate.
You'll need a vacuum sealer, a bag, a fridge that goes to -40F (dry cold) and the patience of a saint when it comes to properly freezing and thawing your coffee without completely screwing it up!
There are a myriad of reasons that you’d want to keep away from freezing your coffee. For one, like with any item in the freezer, you run the risk of freezer burn if not sealed properly. On top of this, freezers, while cold, are very moist environments. It is relatively easy for your beans to inherit a bit of the cold, damp environment into their own packaging, no matter how well sealed, thereby destroying more of the flavor in your beans.
Most importantly, this all goes back to lesson number 1 - you should be buying your coffee in small quantities, directly from a roaster, on a regular basis. Stick to this rule, and you won’t need to ask the dreaded freezer question.
Looking for coffee beans to ship directly to you on a regular basis? Roasted fresh every week, arriving right on time, tasty as ever? Try one of the Creature Coffee memberships. You can choose either easy going, nutty, big bodied, dark chocolatey coffee beans or their more playful, fruity, floral, and milk chocolatey beans.
5. Use Old Coffee Beans for Cold Brew or Baking
It happens to the best of us. Coffee gets old. Maybe you spent a few days out of town or you just made more trips to the local barista than usual, causing you to have left over beans before your next order comes through.
These might not be the best for drinking, but they are fantastic for making cold brew, grinding up for some chocolate coffee brownies, or even using in a rub on your steak.
The best way to store coffee is to not need to worry about storing coffee in the first place. Make sure you are only buying what you need and be sure that what you buy is super fresh and not pre-ground.
If you do find yourself in a situation where storage matters, find an opaque, airtight container, keep it in a cool, dark place, and try to stay away from the freezer.
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