What would mornings be without coffee? What other drink can make a Monday morning budget meeting tolerable? If you’re a coffee aficionado, you know the power of a good brew, and you won’t settle for subpar.
That said, it can be tough to properly store your coffee beans. You need the right kind of environment and supplies. To start, it helps to know a little about the science behind preservation.
What Makes Coffee Beans Lose Their Flavor?
In the coffee world, the roast date is a guideline for freshness. Once manufacturers roast the beans for your brew, they start to go stale immediately through a process called oxidation. On average, your beans will last approximately a month in your cupboard, longer in your freezer. We recommend consuming your coffee within a month for maximum flavor, however your beans will last approximately 6 months from roast date if stored properly.
Since oxygen is the culprit, the packaging your favorite brand uses influences the tastiness of the beans. After all, before they make it to your grinder, they spend time in delivery trucks and hanging out on grocery shelves. Some manufacturers include specialty storage containers as part of the package you buy.
If you purchase store-bought brands, you’ll find beans in two types of bags depending on the method used to expel the gas that builds up after roasting:
- Valves: Did you ever wonder why your bag of beans had that valve on the front? It’s to release carbon dioxide emitted as the product sits on store or cupboard shelves.
- Gas Flushing: If you see a bag without a valve, the manufacturer used gas flushing. Some argue that this method keeps the product fresher, but only you can decide.
Another factor that can impact the flavor of your beans is humidity. Too much moisture in the air can spell trouble, so try to find a cool, dry place to locate your bean storage. Don’t be afraid to think outside the kitchen — after all, that room holds in heat every time you run the oven. Consider using a well-organized shelf in your garage or a similar spot along your basement stairs.
The Best Methods of Storing Your Beans
Now that you know that oxygen is the enemy of coffee bean freshness, what method should you use when storing your beans? You have several choices, and the ideal technique may vary depending on whether you tend to buy in bulk.
1. Airtight Containers
You can’t go wrong with a high-quality airtight container for storing your beans. They block out the number one enemy of freshness — oxygen. Plus, you can find stylish versions that match with nearly any kitchen decor and look lovely lining your counters.
If your coffee came in a bag with a valve, go ahead and put the packaging in the storage container. You can dispose of the wrapping if you visit a specialty shop that sold beans by the scoop or pour them from a grocery store dispenser into a plastic bag. Make sure that you don’t leave the lid ajar, or you lose the seal that keeps oxygen away. Beans stored via this method should stay fresh for at least a month, possibly longer.
2. Freezing Your Beans
What if your favorite store is Costco, and you wanted to make sure you survived the pandemic with plenty of coffee? If you stock up on your beans, freezing is one way to preserve them. While they won’t taste quite as fresh as those that came directly from the store, you can stockpile a supply using this method. However, make sure that you only put unopened and sealed packages of beans into your deep freezer. Open containers allow the beans to absorb the flavor and aroma of the food you also store there — garlicky java? No, thank you.
When you go to defrost your beans, don’t even think about putting them in the microwave or going directly from the freezer to the brew pot. You need to give them time to gradually warm to room temperature. This process preserves the oils that produce peak flavors.
3. Bring New Life to Stale Beans
What if you have some beans that went stale but don’t want to contribute to food waste? Why not whip up a tasty cold brew version that you can use for iced coffee? This method of brewing involves letting ground beans infuse the water for 12 hours before serving. It removes most of the compounds that make your brew bitter and lends sweetness without using stevia or sugar.
4. What About the Refrigerator?
The bottom line — don’t store your beans using this method. It makes your coffee age faster by pushing all the oils to the surface. Plus, it can make for an unpleasant taste.
Store Your Beans Correctly and Enjoy a Better Brew
If you spend big bucks for the perfect brew, you want your coffee beans to last. Follow these storage tips for a tasty cup of coffee for weeks after purchase.
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Author Bio: Dylan Bartlett, aka, “The Regular Guide,” writes about food and similar topics on his site. Check out Just a Regular Guide for more, or follow Dylan on Twitter @theregularguide for frequent updates.