The Best Way to Store Your Coffee

Keeping your coffee fresh is extremely important in ensuring you get the best coffee experience possible, for as long as possible. Storing your coffee the right way will maximise the taste of the coffee and help you keep the flavour for longer, thus making sure you get the best value for money.

So what is the best way to store your coffee?

Before answering this question, I'm going to explain a little about the roasted coffee bean and what happens to it over time.

When coffee is roasted, gases (mainly Carbon Dioxide, but also a tiny amount of Carbon Monoxide) are locked up inside the cell structure. After roasting, these gases are released over time by the coffee bean. This process is known as degassing.

The taste and aroma compounds in coffee also dissipate at roughly the same rate as the rate at which the coffee degases, which makes it much easier to measure by monitoring the weight of the coffee over time. Research on the degassing rate of coffee has resulted in some insights into how you can store coffee to keep it fresh for longer.

The first piece of advice on how to store coffee to keep it fresh is:

Keep your coffee as whole beans

Yes, that's right and you might think this is a little obvious. The rate of degassing correlates with the amount of surface area in contact with the atmosphere. So the greater the surface area, the faster the loss of Carbon Dioxide into the air. You also have to remember that roasted coffee beans are perishable. They oxidise with the air so the less actual coffee in contact with the air the better.

When coffee is ground, you effectively increase the surface area considerably. Also most of the gas, along with the taste and aroma compounds, that is locked up in the bean is released during grinding, not after. It will begin going stale immediately and will be at its best only for a few days.

Be aware also that along with Carbon Dioxide, a tiny amount of Carbon Monoxide is also locked up in the coffee bean. Grinding a large amount of coffee (but I am talking on a commercial scale - about several kilos an hour) releases a level of CO that could be dangerous. That's why we much prefer to supply you with coffee in whole bean form if possible.

So store your coffee as whole bean and only grind the small amount you need only when you need it. The first and best investment you can make in your coffee gear is a decent burr grinder. If you haven't got one already, then my advice would be to get one and start ordering your coffee in whole beans and only grind when needed.

Avoid decanting the coffee to another container

As you may have gathered; air, and in particular Oxygen, is the coffee bean's worst enemy. You need to minimise the contact with air as much as possible if you want to keep your coffee fresh for longer.

Opening your bag of freshly roasted coffee and then promptly pouring it out into another container mixes it with the air and increases the oxidising rate. Keep it in the original bag if you can, where it will be in its own little micro-environment keeping it fresh for longer.

This is why it's important to buy coffee that comes in a foil-lined resealable bag with a one-way valve that lets gas out but prevents air getting in.

When you need to brew your coffee just:

  • Open the bag
  • Pour out the coffee beans you need (because you have your own grinder!)
  • Re-seal the bag
  • Squeeze out the air - the valve will let the air out but nothing back in

Then store it back in the cupboard.

Don't buy too much at once

Roasted coffee doesn't last forever. In whole bean form it will last a month or so and ground up it will last for less than a week.

So don't buy more than you need for the next couple of weeks to a month.

Don't put it in the fridge

There are a variety of aromas floating around in the fridge that can contaminate the flavour of your coffee. There's also the risk of condensation forming on your beans - not good. It's best to store them in a sealed container, preferably the bag they came in, in the cupboard at room temperature.

You can freeze your coffee beans

If you really need to store your coffee beans for longer, it's possible to freeze them. They don't actually freeze, because the coffee bean contains very little water.

In fact, you're just cooling them down and as with any food, they will last longer when stored in the freezer. In fact, if you do it right then they could keep for up to a year. But you need to do it correctly to avoid the risk of contamination from other foods and also the dreaded condensation.

The right way to freeze your coffee beans...

  • Only freeze whole coffee beans, not ground coffee.
  • Make sure the bag they came in is air tight with a one-way valve.
  • Don't open the bag.
  • Squeeze out any remaining gas from the bag.
  • Put the bag straight in the freezer, unopened.

When it comes to the time when you need them, defrost the entire bag first then you can open and use the coffee beans just as though they'd been delivered fresh that day. But don't put them back in the freezer once defrosted!

Store Your Coffee Properly

In summary...

To store your coffee properly, make sure it is kept as whole beans, in the original bag the coffee came in at room temperature in the cupboard. Only buy the amount you need to last about two to three weeks and don't keep it in the fridge!

Are stale coffee beans unsafe to consume?

When considering whether stale coffee beans can become unsafe to consume, it's important to look at factors such as age and storage conditions.

Coffee beans are typically low in moisture, which helps prevent the growth of mould and bacteria.

However, if coffee beans are kept for an extended period, such as over two years, there's a potential for mould development if the beans were exposed to moisture or poorly stored.

While consuming slightly stale coffee beans—those that are just past their optimal freshness date—might only affect the flavour and aroma, consuming beans with visible mould or an off smell is not recommended due to health risks. Therefore, it's essential to store coffee beans properly and use them within a reasonable time frame to avoid health issues.

Does the roast level (light, medium, dark) influence the freshness of coffee beans?

The freshness duration of coffee beans can be affected by their roast level. Lightly roasted beans generally retain their freshness for a longer period than darker roasts.

Despite this, within the recommended consumption period for any roast level—light, medium, or dark—the quality or state of freshness is not significantly impacted by the roast itself.

What are the signs of coffee bean oxidation?

To identify if coffee beans have undergone oxidation, observe the following indicators: the beans may exhibit a glossy or oily appearance. Additionally, if the beans emit a dull or unpleasant smell and taste noticeably sour or excessively bitter, these are likely signs that the beans have oxidized.