The idea of preserving your coffee rarely crosses the mind of the average drinker. To most, it’s a simple matter of going to their local coffee shop before work and disposing of the cup later at the office.
Some other drinkers prefer brewing their own coffee though. For them, the preservation of their beans is of the utmost importance. Doing this ensures the quality and freshness of their brews.
For those who have no clue on how to preserve their coffee beans, or fear they’re doing something wrong, this article is for you!
Let’s dive in.
Roasting Your Beans
Before coffee can be brewed, the coffee beans themselves must be roasted. This is an essential step that many companies do already. The packages of beans that you’ve seen in supermarkets or coffee shops are very likely already roasted.
Companies have adopted this step in their coffee bean processing so that customer’s simply have to grind and brew their coffee, not roast.
This has drawbacks though. If you’re looking for the best time to brew your coffee after the beans have been roasted, generally the sooner the better. Some sources do say that freshly roasted beans need a couple of days to “rest,” or to let the aromas in the beans mature.
If you’re brewing expresso though, the beans can and should be given a few more days (roughly 5 total) to rest.
Generally, beans will stay more or less fresh depending on their method of storage, which we will touch on shortly. After roasting you should generally expect between 1-2 weeks of freshness if the beans are stored properly. At that point, the beans begin to leak their flavors and aromas, essentially what makes coffee as delicious as it is.
And nobody wants a stale brew. This is why some drinkers choose to roast their own coffee beans. This process of roasting yourself is a lot of trial and error. It definitely takes some time to perfect, but may ensure a fresher brew than purchasing roasted beans from a store.
For those who buy pre-roasted beans though, brewing their coffee right after the beans are roasted is not an option. And even though companies take lots of measures to ensure freshness of their beans, it would be best to buy pre-roasted beans in small and frequent batches.
Grinding Your Beans
On top of this, coffee beans must be grinded before brewing.
Some companies also sell pre-ground coffee, which is a whole other opportunity for the beans to lose their freshness. Actually, ground coffee begins to lose its freshness within mere hours of grinding. In the case of whole beans this process would take days, or even up to a couple of weeks.
Ideally, you should grind your beans right before brewing, so that the grinds have less time to oxidize. This is why it’s not ideal to buy ground coffee. If you do choose to buy a package of coffee grounds, already grinded, your best bet is to limit oxygen exposure as much as possible.
Keeping the beans/grinds in sealed tins or packages will go a long way in preserving the quality of your coffee.
A tip for those who buy whole beans is to grind only the beans that you need for your brew. That way you can minimize any loss of freshness in the rest of your supply of beans.
Storing Your Beans
Coffee beans are just like any other food: they’re very perishable. Because of this it’s important to know how to store them so you consistently can have the freshest cups of coffee.
We know oxygen is (one of) the kryptonite’s of coffee beans. Plastic wrapping/packaging, where a lot of coffee beans come in, is not the best way to store your beans. Oxygen can easily get in, especially after the first time you open up the packaging.
An even worse method of storage is paper packaging, which can cause coffee beans to go stale several days before plastics.
Other more airtight containers help take care of the oxygen issue, but coffee beans are also susceptible to light. It’s important that your storage is not see-through, as the light filtering in can mess with the freshness of your beans.
If your coffee comes in a poor storage container, we recommend using tins that are not see-through, and that can be screwed shut.
By far the best option for storage are the packages with one-way valves. Lots of companies sell their coffee already in these containers. These valves allow the coffee to come out (as well as the CO2 that beans produce) while keeping the oxygen out of the package.
If you have your coffee in these one-way valve containers you can expect your beans to stay fresh for up to a few months. Some of the highest quality containers have been shown to keep beans fresh for between 6-9 months. This is definitely a step up from the few days of freshness that paper storage provides.
Will Fridges and Freezers Preserve Coffee Beans?
The short answer…. No.
Coffee beans actually tend to age faster if stored in fridges. And if your beans are in a freezer they don’t tend to have the same taste once they thaw out.
On top of this coffee beans are prone to absorb the aromas of what is around them. Imagine the various odors in your fridge and freezer ending up in your morning cup. This definitely isn’t something you’d want.
The Best Method is the Most Simple
It turns out that the best method to preserving your coffee doesn’t involve any fancy tricks or freezers. An ideal method for storing your coffee is:
- Buy your coffee as whole beans, not grounds
- Make sure that your coffee beans are either stored in an opaque airtight tin, or (ideally) that it comes in a packaging that has a one-way valve that keeps out oxygen
- Keep your beans in the pantry, or anywhere where they won’t pick up unwanted aromas, no refrigerators/freezers necessary
- Only grind the beans that you need for one brew, leave the others in your tin/packaging, and brew immediately after grinding
If you follow these steps, your beans will stay fresh for up to a few months, and you will always have a fresh tasting cup in the morning. Happy Brewing!