Coffee lovers are finally picking up on the truth that freshly roasted coffee isn’t just better… it’s essential. But we still have some work to do in the area of how to store coffee beans.
Many people have zero idea how important it is—but why pay good money for great beans when you’re going to let them go stale in a few days?
In this practical guide to coffee storage, we’ll cover:
- The 3 things that will destroy your coffee’s flavor fast
- Easy storage ideas to protect flavor
- How to store beans in the freezer to prolong freshness
You’ll leave with things you can try today to make your coffee better tomorrow, so let’s dig in.
The 3 Coffee Flavor Killers You Need To Avoid
Your nice, fancy coffee beans start falling apart (chemically) just 2 days after they’re roasted.
The sweet sugars slowly dissolve into nothingness. The acids break down into more bitter compounds. The vibrant aromas fly off into space… never to be smelled again.
Your once complex and tasty coffee becomes a slurry of muddy, indistinguishable flavors. Sad.
It’s a natural process you can’t avoid. But you can slow it down.
Here are the three things that you need to avoid to preserve your coffee’s freshness and flavor.
- Oxygen — Breathing is nice, but oxygen does have a dark side. Oxidation. It causes apples to brown, metal to rust, and coffee to lose its mojo.
- Light — Ever heard of photodegradation? It’s decay-by-light… and it’s a real thing. Sunlight is the worst, but even light waves from regular light bulbs and phone screens can accelerate decay.
- Heat — Hot things move faster at a molecular level, so heat (quite literally) speeds up decay. It’s one reason we store food in the freezer: to slow down chemical changes.
These are kryptonite to your coffee beans. Keep them separated!
Practical Ways To Store Coffee Beans
Good coffee storage essentially boils down to three easy rules:
- Store your beans in an airtight container
- Store your beans in a dark place
- Store your beans in a cool place
Most people simply keep their beans in the original bag. It’s about as easy as it gets, but it’s not always the best option.
Coffee bags with a reclosable zipper are great, but most bags just fold up without actually creating a seal, which means there’s a constant supply of fresh oxygen getting to the beans (no matter how tight the fold is).
Vacuum-sealed storage containers are better. These devices can literally suck the oxygen out of the container. That way, when you open up the container to make coffee each day, you’re not replenishing the oxygen supply (exposure to oxygen just lasts a few minutes at most, rather than a full day).
Make sure the container is pitch black inside. Don’t let your beans go into the light! Actually, some containers are specialized to let a tiny amount of light through so you can see how much coffee is left—these are still pretty effective.
Let your coffee chill in the shade. If sunlight comes through and graces your coffee area, it’s great for pictures, but not coffee. The added heat on the container will speed up decay, so find a spot that’s shady all day.
What About Storing Coffee Grounds?
All of the same rules apply! But you have to be extra careful.
Ground coffee particles are tiny, which means they decay faster when they come in contact with oxygen, heat, and light. It also doesn’t take as long for them to lose their natural aromas because the gases can get out of the particles pretty easily compared to a whole bean.
This is why we strongly suggest storing your coffee as whole beans.
In fact, ground coffee, if you just let it sit out, can go stale in under an hour.
Whole beans take 2-3 weeks.
So here’s how to store you ground coffee to maximize freshness:
- Store in a vacuum-sealed container
- Open the container only for seconds at a time
- Always use the top-most grounds
- Seal and create a vacuum again by sucking out the air
It’s not ideal, but you can make it work.
Can Coffee Be Stored In The Freezer?
Turns out, grandma was onto something with freezing coffee!
(She was terribly wrong about Folger’s though, but we still love her.)
Freezing coffee actually works… if you do it right.
Coffee pros have traditionally been against freezing coffee because it allows the beans to soak up a bunch of extra moisture. This extra moisture and condensation destroys the coffee’s flavors—and the more you take your coffee in and out of the freezer, the faster it happens.
If you want to freeze your beans, do it like this:
- Vacuum-seal them in small bags. Only enough for 3-4 days at a time. Close them up completely and stick them in the freezer.
- Only take out what you need. The small batches help you only defrost what you need so you don’t end up with stale beans.
- Allow the beans to thaw completely before opening the bag. Leave it out on the counter for a few hours and don’t open it! If you do, condensation will form on the beans and your hard work will have been for nothing.
This is really only necessary in three scenarios:
- You bought your coffee pre-ground
- You bought your coffee in bulk
- You’re taking a vacation and leaving your coffee at home
Freezing shouldn’t be your go-to strategy for coffee storage (lots of work), but it’s an especially helpful trick for when Aunt Lucy brings back four bags of coffee from Costa Rica as a gift and you know you can’t drink it all in two weeks.
Store Your Beans Like Family
With loving care.
And when it’s time, they’ll love you back.
Of course, if your beans are stale, there’s pretty much no love to give… which is why we always suggest buying uber-fresh coffee to start.
Freshness is the only non-negotiable in coffee.
It’s what gives your beans vibrant aromas, a crisp acidity, and sweet sugars.
So pair your new coffee storage skills with a bag of fresh beans and experience the full spectrum of love that coffee can offer.