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Where coffee is concerned, freshness is vital to getting the best flavor. Green coffee beans can go stale over time, but the staling process becomes rapidly accelerated once the coffee has been roasted. After the coffee is ground, it stales even more rapidly because the surface area of coffee that is exposed to air is so much greater. Proper coffee storage can extend the shelf life of your coffee and keeps it fresher and better tasting for significantly longer. If you care about quality coffee, these tips and procedures can help ensure that your coffee always tastes great.
Buy Fresh Roasted
Know the roast date of your coffee. It’s easier and easier to find specialty coffees that list the roasting date on the package. If you buy online, look for a coffee roaster that stamps the packages with the roasting date and promises to ship your coffee within a day of roasting it. In the store, look for packages that list the roast date rather than the “best by” date. If you’re buying canned supermarket coffee, check the “best when used by…” date. Choose vacuum-sealed coffee rather than “specialty” coffee beans from big, transparent bins.
Buy Just Enough
Don’t over-buy. Only buy the amount of coffee that you’ll use up within a week or two so you don’t have to worry about taking special storage precautions to keep it fresh.
Buy Whole Bean
No matter what brew method you use, coffee is always best when it’s ground just before you brew it. It’s also easier to keep your coffee fresh when you store whole beans rather than ground coffee. Grinding the coffee exposes more surface area to the air, so that it loses more of the volatile oils and chemicals that give it flavor. Whole beans will go stale also, but they won’t go stale nearly as fast.
Heat, light, oxygen and moisture are the four biggest enemies of good coffee. Store your coffee away from those four things, and it will stay fresh longer. The ideal storage container for coffee beans is fairly airtight and opaque. Place it in a cool, dark, dry place – like your kitchen cabinet (not the one next to your stove, though!).
Most roasters ship fresh coffee in bags with one-way valves which allow carbon dioxide to escape without letting oxygen get in to attack the coffee quality. Once the bag is opened, the valve is no longer useful. At that point, transfer the coffee to a suitable container (see above) and store it in a cool dark place. Do not put it in your refrigerator. While there are some experts (and some very well-regarded ones, at that) who recommend freezing coffee beans, pretty much all of them agree that it’s never a good idea to refrigerate your coffee.
If you get your coffee in a re-sealable zip-close bag from the coffee roasters, and you’re going to use it within a week or two, the bag should be fine for storing your coffee. Just squeeze out as much air as possible before zipping the bag up and store it in a cool, dark place.
If you’ve bought more coffee beans than you can use up before it goes stale, most experts agree that the freezer is the best place to store it, as long as you follow these guidelines.
Storing Ground Coffee
The same principles apply to ground coffee as do to coffee beans, but they’re even more important. Only buy as much as you’ll use in a week or so. Store it in an airtight container in a cool, dark, place, and do not refrigerate it.