Like tea storage, coffee storage is rife with misconceptions and poor practices. Here are the fast facts on how to store coffee beans and ground coffee correctly for maximum freshness and flavor.
What to Avoid in Coffee Storage
Coffee Storage Locations
- Warm spots, like above/next to the oven or in cabinets that get hot from exposure to sunlight or cooking equipment.
- Countertops that are away from direct sunlight and other sources of heat can be appropriate if you use opaque, airtight storage vessels.
Coffee Container Types
- Once coffee’s original packaging is opened, coffee loses its freshness quickly.
- Glass, ceramic or non-reactive metal containers with airtight gaskets are ideal for storing coffee.
- Coffee can be stored fresh in clear, glass canisters or clear plastic ware only if the canisters are kept in a cool, dark place.
- For countertop storage, opaque, airtight containers are best.
Coffee's Freshness Over Time
- Coffee begins to lose its freshness as soon as it is done roasting, and is at its peak in the first few days after it is roasted.
- Ground coffee is best when consumed within one to two weeks of roasting. Whole beans are best within one month of roasting.
- To keep your coffee fresh, buy just-roasted coffee often, in quantities that will only last you one to two weeks, and then store your coffee properly.
- If you want to buy a larger quantity of coffee, store the bulk of it tightly sealed in an airtight container in a cool, dark area and keep a smaller quantity in a smaller container for daily use. Only open the large container to refill the smaller container. Storing coffee this way will reduce air exposure for the larger portion coffee.
Freshness of Ground Coffee vs. Whole Beans
- Ground coffee has much more surface area than whole beans, so it goes bad much faster.
- Whole beans are ideally consumed within one month of roasting.
- Ground beans are ideally consumed within two weeks of roasting.
- For optimal coffee freshness, grind your beans just before you intend to brew them.
Green Coffee Beans
- Green coffee beans are available from many of the better coffee retailers out there.
- Green beans store much better and longer than roasted coffee beans. If green coffee beans are stored as outlined above, they can stay fresh for over a year!
- With a little work, you can roast green coffee beans at home and then grind them as needed for the freshest coffee possible.
- In the first few days after you roast your coffee, the beans will put off a lot of carbon dioxide. Store them in a valve-sealed bag (see below) or put them in an airtight container and open the container once a day for the first several days after roasting to release the built-up carbon dioxide.
- Freezing is not good for coffee's freshness because it causes some of the flavorful coffee oils to break down. Furthermore, if the packaging isn’t airtight, then the porous, hydrophilic ("water-loving") coffee beans will begin to taste like the inside of your freezer. (Yuck!)
- If necessary, airtight foil or heat-sealed film bags of coffee may be stored for up to one month in the freezer.
- No matter what you do, do not return bags of coffee to the freezer once you’ve opened them, or your coffee will lose coffee flavor from repeated freezes/thaws and gain the flavor of your freezer.
Vacuum-Sealed & Valve-Sealed Coffees
- Vacuum-sealed coffee is allowed to age before it is sealed. (This is because coffee releases gas as it loses freshness, causing the packaging to expand and potentially even burst.)
- Vacuum-sealed coffee is intended for grocery store shelves and is not of the same caliber as fresh-roasted coffee.
- Valve-sealed coffee allows gasses to escape from the coffee packaging but doesn’t let any gasses in, so coffee can be packaged in it immediately after roasting.
- Valve-sealed coffee can be fresher than vacuum-sealed coffee, but fresh-ground coffee usually has the freshest flavor.
- Vacuum- and valve-sealed coffees are best within one to two weeks of opening.