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Coffee roasters frequently are asked questions about coffee storage. Should coffee be stored in the refrigerator? The freezer? Away from sunlight? Coffee canister? storage jar? In glass jars?
The truth is that there are many myths wandering around the coffee world about coffee storage, some of them repeated so often that they’ve taken on the patina of truth. The truths about coffee storage may surprise you.
Quick – what do you do with that two pounds of coffee that you just bought? Ask that question in any group and at least one person will extol the virtues of storing your coffee in the freezer. Another will tell you to leave it in the vacuum stored container in which it was bought. Still a third will tell you to keep it in a glass container or coffee canister, and a fourth is sure to tell you that it really doesn’t matter at all. The truth is that each of those methods of coffee storage is the right answer – in certain conditions. Here’s some common sense advice from people who know about coffee – coffee growers and roasters.
Coffee beans are taken from a living plant, and as such, have a limited shelf life. Like most organic products, you can increase their life by storing them properly. More importantly – at least to most coffee enthusiasts – storing coffee properly preserves the flavor of the coffee. You see, coffee beans contain volatile oils – chemicals that give coffee its characteristic flavor. Those oils are released by the roasting process, and decay rather quickly once the coffee has been roasted. Grinding the coffee beans speeds up the flavor loss even more. Because of the difference in the way that those oils behave, there are different methods of coffee storage that are best for coffee at different times in its life.
To get the best flavor from your coffee, you should brew it within two weeks of roasting, and immediately after grinding. In fact, coffee is at its peak flavor about 48 hours after roasting. That’s a timeline that’s pretty close to impossible unless you’re buying raw beans and roasting your own(if you decide to roast your own coffee, then read this article on how to roast coffee at home). If you buy your coffee as whole roasted coffee beans, you can make a point of looking for the date that the coffee was roasted – but you’ll seldom find it. Failing that, here are some tips on coffee buying and coffee storage that will help ensure that you get a great tasting and fresh cup of coffee every time.
The first rules of proper coffee storage have nothing to do with containers or temperatures. They have to do with how you buy your coffee.
When considering coffee storage, keep in mind the two main enemies of fresh coffee flavor – air and moisture. Your coffee storage solutions should prevent either from getting at your coffee beans.
1. Don’t store ground coffee. Buy your coffee as whole beans, and grind it when you’re ready to brew. If you do buy ground coffee for the convenience, store it at room temperature in an airtight container after it’s been opened. A ceramic canister with a vacuum seal is a good choice – but avoid clear glass. Sunlight and heat are not good for your coffee.
2. Store up to a one week supply of whole coffee beans in an airtight canister at room temperature. You can use those pretty ceramic canisters, but they’re really not necessary. Any canister that you can seal with an airtight seal is fine, including the can that you bought it in.
3. If you find yourself with more coffee than you’ll use in one week, you can store up to another week’s supply in the freezer – but you should take some precautions to keep the air and moisture away from it first. Here’s how to store coffee safely in your freezer:
– Put the beans in an airtight canister.
– Or – put the beans in a zippered plastic storage back. Whoosh out all the extra air, or use a straw to suck it out. Then wrap the bag in one or two layers of plastic wrap and finish up with a layer of aluminum foil.
– Either way, once you take the canister or package out of the freezer, don’t put it back in. Refreezing your coffee will only dehydrate it and hasten the flavor decay.