How To Store Coffee Beans to Maximise Freshness, Taste and Strength
on Aug 25, 2022
So, you’ve just purchased a kilo of your favourite specialty coffee beans. You’ve opened the bag to make yourself a nice, fresh cuppa and now comes time to put the rest of the beans away - what do you do? Do you roll up the bag and set it on your counter or maybe put it in a plastic bag and place in the fridge or the freezer?
It may seem like a silly question at first, but the way in which you store your coffee beans is very important, dare we say essential, to ensure the beans retain their freshness, aromas and flavours for as long as possible.
So, what is the best way to store freshly roasted coffee once the bag has been opened?
THE IMPORTANCE OF COFFEE BEAN STORAGE
Before we get into how to store coffee beans, let’s discuss why it’s important to store your coffee the right way.
Buying fresh coffee beans and storing them properly are two of the most essential steps to making a great coffee with beautiful aromas and top-notch flavours. When you store your coffee properly, you increase the shelf life of your beans meaning you can use them for longer and don’t need to worry about them losing freshness. Plus, you’ll continue to experience those great aromas and flavours for much longer.
Proper storage also preserves quality of your coffee beans, shields the beans from chemicals in the kitchen and protects them from absorbing scents, tastes and flavours from other foods in your home.
WHAT CAUSES COFFEE TO AGE AND GO BAD?
But what actually causes coffee to go bad and lose its freshness? There are four elements that are your coffee bean’s worst nightmare.
- Air: Coffee beans contain natural oils that oxidise and go stale or sour when exposed to air, making your coffee taste a bit…flat.
- Moisture: All coffee beans are hygroscopic, meaning they absorb and retain moisture. Whether that’s moisture from the air or from the leftovers in your fridge, it’s bad for your beans and will lead to a disappointing cup of coffee.
- Heat: Heat will speed up the degradation process of your coffee beans by pulling the natural oils to the surface quicker, leaving them stale with little to no flavour.
- Light: Similar to heat, excessive light will also cause your beans to deteriorate at a much faster rate by breaking down the chemical compounds that make up coffee.
You want to make sure to protect your coffee beans from each of these elements in order to keep them fresher for longer. The good news is that proper storage will do just that.
HOW LONG DO ROASTED COFFEE BEANS LAST ONCE THE BAG IS OPENED?
After opening a bag, coffee beans are technically ok to use for around six months, but that doesn’t mean they’ll produce a great coffee. At home, we recommend using your coffee within a week of opening to experience optimal freshness, aromas and flavours. Two to three weeks after opening, your beans should have retained most of their freshness, so you can still make a solid coffee, but only if they are stored in a cool, dark, dry place, away from the four harmful elements.
Again, it all comes down to proper storage, so let’s get into the best ways to store your beans.
BEST CONTAINERS TO STORE YOUR COFFEE BEANS
Once you’ve opened your bag of coffee beans, you should take care to store them in the right container to help retain their freshness. Though it would be easy to just keep them in the bag they came in or simply toss in a plastic bag, neither of these options will keep your beans safe from their worst enemies.
We always recommend storing your coffee beans in an airtight container to prevent the accumulation of moisture and oxygen. There are heaps of different storage canisters on the market, so here are a couple of pro tips to help you find the best option to keep your beans fresh.
One of our top tips is to purchase an opaque or amber glass container. Though it can be tempting to buy a beautiful, clear glass canister to display, this makes your beans susceptible to light. Both an opaque or amber glass material will prevent UV light from initiating photo-oxidative degradation.
To prevent oxidation from destroying the quality of your coffee beans, you can also look for synthetic canisters. These would be made from butylated hydroxytoluene or butylated hydroxyanisole, synthetic antioxidants that inhibit chemical reactions that lead to oxidation.
Arguably the most innovative and effective storage container is the Airscape, an airtight container. The Airscape lid features a valve that forces air out of the container as you push down on it, then seals to keep any outside air from getting in. We’d highly recommend giving these canisters a whirl.
VACUUM-SEALING COFFEE BEANS
Another, more elaborate way you can look to store and preserve your coffee beans is through vacuum sealing. A vacuum sealer prevents any air or moisture from entering the sealed bag, creating an ecosystem that is ideal for food storage and keeping your beans fresh and fragrant for an extended period of time. However, it’s important to remember that the same general principles apply regarding where you store the vacuum sealed bag (aka keep it in a cool, dark place.)
WHERE TO STORE COFFEE
As we’ve previously mentioned, air, moisture, heat and light are coffee’s worst enemies and can destroy its freshness. Given this, it’s important to not only think about what you’ll store your coffee beans in, but where you will store them. The best place would be a pantry or cupboard that is cool, dry and dark. Keep away from cupboards near your oven as its heat can travel and impact the freshness of your beans.
CAN YOU REFRIGERATE OR FREEZE COFFEE BEANS?
It can be tempting to store your coffee beans in the fridge, but this is where moisture thrives. When kept in a refrigerator, coffee beans will draw in moisture from every food item sitting around them, significantly diminishing the flavour of your brew.
So, what about the freezer? Technically, coffee beans can last for up to two years in the freezer, however we don’t recommend this as your beans can still pick up moisture from the frozen chicken and veggies sitting nearby. They’ll also lose some of their taste and freshness over time producing a cup that’s just “okay”. If you do choose to go this route, make sure your beans are in an airtight or vacuum sealed container.
HOW TO STORE FRESHLY GROUND COFFEE
When it comes to pre-ground coffee, storage is even more important as coffee grounds have more surface area that is susceptible to oxygen, moisture, heat and light, causing it to degrade in freshness more quickly than whole beans. We recommend the same best-practices for ground coffee as beans - using an airtight, opaque container and keeping it in a cool, dark, dry place like a pantry.
USES FOR OLD, STALE COFFEE BEANS
If you brew a cup of coffee that tastes bland or stale with little to no aroma, your coffee beans may be past their prime. Instead of throwing the beans in the bin, consider finding an alternative, more sustainable use for them. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Compost the beans and use them as a fertiliser. The high nitrogen content of coffee produces a nutrient-rich compost to use in your garden (just make sure you’re using them on nitrogen loving plants).
- Put your arts & crafts hat on and create a unique home-decor item - Pinterest is full of ideas.
- Use the beans as a natural pest repellent.
- Place a bowl of coffee grounds in your freezer to soak up extra moisture and remove any foul smell.
- Fill your home with the aroma of coffee with some homemade coffee candles.
- Create your own coffee scrub by mixing coffee grounds with your skin products to clean dirty pores.
- Extract a natural dye from the coffee grounds.
- Make your meats tender and soft by using stale coffee grounds as a tenderiser.
PRO TIP: GET FRESH COFFEE EVERY TIME WITH A WILL & CO SUBSCRIPTION
At the end of the day, the best thing you can do to ensure you brew the best cuppa every time is to buy your beans (or grounds) fresh and only buy what you need, when you need it.
Looking to make it even easier on yourself? Check out our subscription options and get your preferred coffee (beans, pods or grounds) delivered to your door on a monthly, fortnightly or weekly basis. Best part? You can change or cancel your subscription at any time, no questions asked. A no-brainer.