How to Store Coffee and Keep it Fresh
Everybody wants their coffee to possess the full flavor of a coffee shop beverage. There is nothing quite like the aroma of a fresh brew, but not everyone knows the correct way to store the beans and maximize the taste over time.
It really is difficult to stress enough how important the effect of good or poor storage can be upon the quality of your brew.
In these 8 tips on how to store coffee, I give some practical advice on the best ways to keep coffee fresh and the main things that you should seek to avoid. Some of my tips may well surprise you!
Unfortunately there are a number of misconceptions that have developed over the years, regarding the storage of coffee. Some people wrongly believe, for instance, that refrigerating or freezing coffee beans will preserve the taste, when the truth is that the opposite is more likely to be true.
My aim is to use my own experience in the coffee trade to help people to make the finest quality beverages in the comfort of their own home, or workplace.
The 8 Main Methods
Below is a summary of the main things to consider:
- Buy beans, not ground.
- Buy valve sealed, not vacuum sealed.
- Store in an air tight container.
- Store in a place that is cool, dark, and dry.
- Don't keep longer than two weeks.
- Don't freeze.
- If you do freeze, don't return to freezer after.
- Don't refrigerate.
I will explain in more detail below.
1. Always buy fresh coffee beans, rather than ground
You should also avoid grinding the coffee beans until right before you want to brew your drink, if you want a full taste. This simple advice makes an enormous difference.
Buying a grinder need not be an expensive purchase either, if you don't already own one, there are plenty of inexpensive machines out there. My personal favorite in the affordable price range is the . KRUPS F20342 Electric
Another alternative is to buy a coffee maker with a grinder built in, that way you can grind and brew your beverages with one machine, saving on space, time, and expense.
The Different Types of Grinder
There are several different types of coffee grinder, with different features and attributes.
- Blade grinders are often the most affordable type of machine and work by cutting up the beans with a rotating blade. They are easy to use, but can be relatively loud. Blade machines are usually electrically powered, but there are also manual versions which operate using a hand crank.
- Burr grinders are more expensive, but are quiet and deliver a more accurate grind. They work by crushing the beans with a grinder wheel. There are two main types, conical and burr. Wheel machines are less expensive but conical grinders are the most accurate.
2. Buy valve sealed bags of coffee beans when possible, not vacuum sealed.
That is because of the process used. Coffee beans that are vacuum sealed have already sat around and lost some of their flavor before the vacuum sealing process begins.
3. Store the coffee in an airtight container
there are many stylish and affordable airtight containers out there built for this purpose. A good container will protect the beans from moisture, temperature extremes, and excessive light (see #4). The beans will quickly begin to lose their taste if exposed to these elements.
The ideal material for a coffee container is glass or ceramic, although stainless steel can also work well. The important thing is that the container has an effective seal.
4. Store coffee in a place that is cool, dark and dry.
After air, moisture is the second greatest enemy of coffee freshness and should be minimized.
Keeping coffee in say an ornamental glass jar on the kitchen counter, where it will be exposed to sunlight and possibly heat from an oven, is not a good idea.
In essence you need to store coffee somewhere convenient, but away from its four main enemies, air, moisture, and sources of light and heat.
5. The maximum length of time for storing coffee is one to two weeks.
After 14 days, it will have lost much of its freshness .
You should therefore aim to buy your coffee in small quantities, enough to last you one or two weeks, if you want it to remain fresh.
A Brief History of Coffee
- The earliest coffee culture developed in the Ethiopian highlands. According to legend, a goat herder called Kaldi noticed that when his goats ate berries from certain plants, they became very spirited and didn't sleep at night.
- The Arabs were the first people to cultivate and trade coffee. Large-scale cultivation first began in Yemen. From there, the drink gradually became known in Persia, Egypt, Syria and Turkey.
- As well as at home, coffee was also drunk in public coffee houses, known as "qahveh khaneh" by the Arabs.
- News of the drink spread to other places largely through travelers to the holy city of Mecca.
- Coffee reached Europe in the 17th century. It initially caused some controversy, with some wanting the drink made illegal. Pope Clement VIII was asked to impose a ban, but after experiencing a cup, he did the opposite and gave it papal endorsement.
- Coffee houses began to appear in England, Austria, France, Germany and Holland. In London alone there were 300 of them by the middle of the 17th century.
- Coffee was first taken to America in the mid 1600s by the British. Tea would remain the most popular drink, however, until the "Boston Tea Party" in 1773 when there was a revolt against British taxes on tea. After that, Americans drank coffee as their preferred beverage.
- The Arabs were very protective about their coffee cultivation, but at the end of the 17th century, the Dutch managed to get hold of some seedlings and, after failing to grow them successfully in India, managed to cultivate them on the island of Java (now part of Indonesia).
- Other European powers began growing coffee and its cultivation spread around the world. Nowadays it is grown in Asia, Africa, Central and South America, the islands of the Caribbean, and the Pacific. It is the second most lucrative legal trade after oil.
Black Coffee (PBS Documentary on the history of coffee)
6. Storing coffee in a freezer should be avoided, when possible.
This is because firstly, the coffee is liable to absorb other flavors from the freezer such as seafood and secondly, an essential part of a coffee’s taste is in the oils that it contains and these oils are broken down by the freezing process.
7. Don’t to tempted to store your coffee in the fridge either.
This is for similar reasons to those mentioned above. Strong smells will contaminate the beans and cold temperatures will damage the taste. The storage space should be cool but not as low as refrigeration levels.
8. If you do have to freeze coffee, then do not return it to the freezer once you’ve removed it.
This might mean splitting up a bulk bag of coffee beans into weekly portions in order to avoid this.
The dramatic temperature changes involved with freezing and thawing are not good for the freshness and should at least be minimized, if not stopped altogether.
© 2011 Paul Goodman