So you bought exquisite quality coffee beans? Unless you intend to use them right this instant you better consider how and where to store them. Roasted beans start losing freshness almost instantly after roasting.
Coffee beans have four major enemies: air, moisture, heat, and light. If you want to avoid losing the fresh-off-the-roast taste and aroma, you’ll have to take measures to fight these deadly enemies.
Long term or day to day?
Different amounts of coffee have different requirements. If you keep a small amount of beans for your day-to-day coffee, avoid the freezer and refrigerator – these would only contribute to moisture accumulation. Store in an airtight container, this is something you might want to invest in as it will play a major role in keeping the fresh taste. Keep the container in a dark and cool spot.
If you have a large quantity of beans though, divide them into small batches, wrap separately in airtight bags and you can store those in the freezer for up to one month. Just like meat, albeit for different reasons, once you thawed one out, do not re-freeze.
Should I Vacuum?
While you might be used to seeing vacuum-sealed coffee bean bags in stores, keep in mind that the beans were allowed to age before they were sealed. As part of their ‘aging’ process beans release gas, which might cause your coffee bags to pop, creating a comic and aromatic scene in your freezer. Valve-sealed bags allow coffee gasses to vent from the packaging, while not letting any gasses in, so those can be used to package coffee immediately after roasting.
What about storing ground coffee?
As a general rule, if you already went to the trouble of buying roasted beans and grinding them, you should do that on the spot before you intend to brew (see our primer on coffee grinders for more details). Because of the larger surface area of the grounds, they’ll lose their freshness even faster. That said, the same storing rules apply to ground coffee – airtight, dry, cool, dark.
Keeping Coffee Beans Fresh – A Dark, Cool, Dry Tale
Ahh, the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans, there’s nothing quite like it. And of course the fresher the beans, the better the coffee tastes. Keeping coffee beans fresh is mainly about preserving the oils and aromatics of the beans as these are the major sources of flavour.
So what is the best way to keep coffee fresh?
Freshness of coffee beans is adversely affected by four main elements:
1. Air (Oxygen); 2. Heat; 3. Moisture; and 4. Sunlight.
1. Air: Coffee oxidizes with exposure to air. This causes the aromatics and oils of the beans to evaporate, degrading flavour. To slow this process, keep your coffee beans in as airtight environment as possible.
2. Heat: Heat causes the oils in the coffee beans to sweat out of the surface of the bean, losing flavour and aroma. Coffee should be stored at a cool room temperature. Take care to not store the beans beside hot fridge motors, on top of the coffee machine or under a sunny window.
3. Moisture: Keep coffee in a dry environment. Coffee beans absorb moisture and moisture on the surface of the bean will leach out much of the aroma and flavour. Never store coffee in the fridge or freezer as these are moist environments.
4. Sunlight: Light also speeds up the oxidation process so avoid beans in clear packages and store is a cool, dark, dry place.
Time is also a factor in the freshness of coffee. Interestingly, coffee bean freshness is determined by time since roasting, rather than time from harvest. Coffee beans should be used within six weeks of roasting.
Ground coffee, on the other hand, should be used without delay. Grinding the coffee beans speeds up flavour loss as the increased surface area greatly speeds up oxidization. This is another of the benefits of the “bean to cup” automatic coffee machines that PureBean Office Café supplies.
Finally, coffee acts like a sponge for flavours and odours around it. So do not store your beans near smelly foodstuffs or chemicals (or in containers that smell). This is true also for food smells in the fridge, another reason to not store in the fridge.