A lot of effort goes into growing, shipping, roasting and packaging coffee to ensure a great-tasting cup. However, the benefits of those efforts can be lost at the very end of the line: in your own home! The way you store coffee has a profound impact on its taste and shelf life, so here we will explore the best ways to keep your beans fresh and delicious — plus a few pitfalls to avoid.
The first step in learning how to store your coffee is to understand what causes coffee to lose its freshness and flavor. Coffee is sensitive to several environmental factors, including air, moisture, light and heat. Coffee readily absorbs surrounding smells and moisture, which will negatively affect the flavor (“leftover garlic pizza” is not a tasting note you want). Light and heat both introduce energy into the coffee, speeding up oxidation and spoilage.
Now that you understand the enemies of coffee freshness (light, moisture, heat and oxygen), you can do what it takes to minimize their effects. Store your coffee in a cool, dry place, like your kitchen cupboard or countertop. Keep it in an opaque, airtight container — you can even keep your coffee in its original packaging, rolled tight and enclosed in a resealable plastic bag. If you want to go the extra mile, try a vacuum canister to remove excess oxygen and moisture between brews. Be sure to keep your container away from the stove, or above the refrigerator or microwave, as these appliances all generate heat which can affect the beans!
Keep it out of the fridge. This is a common misconception! While refrigerators do keep many things fresh, coffee is not one of them. Coffee will quickly absorb the moisture and smells in your fridge, causing it to spoil and take on the flavors of the foods around it. The cold doesn’t increase the shelf life of the beans, either — room temperature is just fine.
Keep it out of the freezer, too! Similar to storage in the fridge, the freezer does provide help in dealing with some of the elements that damage freshness. But these are often negated by increased exposure to moisture, including moisture caused by condensation as you move coffee in and out of the freezer. Similar to the fridge, there is also the risk of the coffee absorbing smells from the surrounding foods in the freezer.
Avoid buying coffee that is already stale. Not all coffee is packaged equally, and it might have lost freshness before you even get to it! Keep an eye out for a tightly sealed bag that is made to resist light and moisture. The bag should also have a one-way seal to allow CO2 to escape after the roasting process. If the bag lacks a one-way valve, it means the coffee was allowed to sit for a number of days to off-gas before it was packaged. In other words, the coffee went stale before it even went in the bag! You can also look for nitrogen-flushed bags, which help remove excess oxygen from the bag before it’s sealed. Finally, you want to purchase coffee that was roasted as recently as possible. Buy direct from a roaster or look for best-by dates to make sure your coffee isn’t past its prime.
Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge to store your coffee right, you’ll be able to get the best out of your beans every time you brew.
Do you have any other tips for storing coffee? Let us know in the comments below.