How to Store Your Coffee

Published on 04/08/2024 · 7 min readKeep your coffee fresh longer! Learn the best practices for storing your coffee, from airtight containers to the right temperature, ensuring peak flavor every time.
Nate Harrison, Coffee Expert
By Coffee Expert Nate Harrison

Photo by Mlipirsini

You just got home from your favorite local coffee shop and have in your hands a fresh bag of washed Ethiopian coffee beans. It smells fruity and wonderful even when smelling through the bag. Whether that’s the placebo effect or not, it gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling inside, making it all worth it. If you look at the bag, it probably has a roast date on it or maybe even a “best by” date. That date could hold an important key to making sure that the coffee bag that you just purchased tastes its best on every brew.

If a person were to go through one bag of coffee at a time, it would probably last around 15-20 cups of coffee depending on the brew method and dosage. This means that the coffee you just bought needs to be stored somehow for the next couple of weeks. Or maybe you purchase multiple bags at a time? The question remains: Where do I keep the coffee beans that I’ve purchased?

Why You Should Store Coffee Beans Properly

Photo by Creative Family

Coffee beans are seeds of a coffee fruit, which grow on a coffee tree. The green beans, or coffee seeds, that are taken out of the coffee fruit are then processed and sent, usually in burlap bags, to roasteries around the world. The roaster puts the green coffee bean in an oven of sorts, and “roasts” the green beans until the desired aroma, taste, and look are achieved. They are then bagged up and sold to you, the coffee drinker. Why do I tell you all of this? It’s to show you that the coffee bean that we are so used to is a food item with a shelf life just like a fruit or vegetable.

Three main things will make coffee lose its freshness: oxygen, light, and heat. Storing coffee properly seeks to combat all three of these to keep your coffee as fresh as possible.

Oxygen

When coffee is roasted, carbon dioxide gets trapped inside the coffee bean. And the longer the coffee is roasted, the more carbon dioxide ends up in the bean. It is protecting the coffee bean from the oxygen surrounding it. Now carbon dioxide does not give the coffee the best extraction and taste, so it is usually advised to let the coffee beans rest for a couple of weeks after roasting before being used to brew. That’s because this carbon dioxide is naturally released over time.

Fun fact: This is why the bloom is so important in brewing a cup of coffee. It helps release the rest of the carbon dioxide in the coffee bed. Once the carbon dioxide is mostly released from the beans, there is nothing left to protect it from the natural process of oxidation.

Light

When coffee beans are exposed to light for long periods, it causes the chemical compounds in the coffee to break down. This process is known as photodegradation and leads to the oils being prematurely brought to the surface and evaporated, which results in a loss of aroma and flavor. In short, it makes the coffee taste bland. So it’s best to keep your coffee beans stored in low light or dark places.

Heat

Heat is going to lead to much of the same coffee bean degradation as light, but it will happen at a more rapid pace if not stored properly. If the coffee beans get too hot, it will accelerate the oxidation of the bean, causing it to go stale quicker.

Keeping these three things in mind, a coffee storage solution should do a good job of trying to minimize each of these things. Keep the coffee beans in a cool, dark place and inside of a container to limit oxidation. Let’s look at a few different coffee canisters that will differ in functionality and features but can still be effective.

Airtight Containers

Photo by Conor Brown

An airtight doesn’t let air into it after the lid is screwed onto it. This Airscape glass coffee canister is an excellent example. These types of containers are meant for you to decant the full bag of coffee that was purchased into the container for storage. They are usually designed in a way that makes them feel and look at home on your countertop or kitchen shelves.

An airtight seal is going to protect the beans from sunlight, heat, and humidity, but it traps the oxygen inside the container, which is not ideal for long periods. But if you are looking for a storage solution to keep coffee for a short time, an airtight container is one way to go.

Vacuum Canisters

Photo courtesy of Fellow Atmos

A vacuum coffee canister is much like an airtight container but taken to the next level. The intention here is to protect the coffee bean from the oxidation process by removing the oxygen in the container. Depending on the exact design of the canister, this process can be done through different methods. One of the most common canisters is the Fellow Atmos vacuum canister. This specific product comes in multiple sizes and colors as well as a sleek design with the option of a glass canister or stainless steel construction. Since light exposure can lead to decreased freshness, I would recommend going for the metal one. This Atmos canister has a lid that twists back and forth to pull oxygen out of the container and a silicone gasket to help make the canister airtight.

Remember that coffee beans release carbon dioxide as they age. So in any vacuum canister, the seal is going to gradually release over a few days because of the equalization of the air inside the container. Because of this, the vacuum is going to have to be reset and resealed every so often to maintain a vacuum seal. It’s not an ideal long-term solution, but if you are looking for something that is going to keep your coffee beans the freshest they can be for a couple of weeks, this is a solid option.

The Bag It Came In

Photo by Jon Tyson

Usually, when you purchase coffee, it comes in a bag. Over the past few years, coffee roasters have begun to increase the quality of their packaging to maximize the shelf life of the coffee. These bags are often vacuum sealed upon purchase and have one-way valves that release the carbon dioxide inside of the bag without letting other gasses inside. This protects the beans from light and oxidation ensuring that the coffee remains at optimal freshness until opened.

Most bags also have some sort of resealing option for storage after they are opened. If you plan on drinking the bag of coffee within the next few weeks after opening, this could be the most convenient option for storing your coffee beans. While it won’t keep oxidation at bay after the bag is opened, the coffee should not go stale within just a few weeks of exposure.

The Best Way to Store Coffee

Of course, when talking about storing coffee, freshness is the most important factor. My recommendation is to buy whole-bean coffee as you drink it (not in bulk) and open the bag a couple weeks after roasted. After the bag is opened, take the coffee beans and store them in a vacuum canister with a one-way valve such as the Fellow Atmos. This will keep the coffee beans dry and free from rapid oxidation, light, and heat exposure, ensuring optimal aroma and taste when brewed and giving them a longer shelf life.

Should I Freeze My Coffee?

One question often asked is, “Should I freeze my coffee?” The answer to this question is not as straightforward as some would suggest. Freezing goods can give them a longer life. It is possibly the most effective way to prevent the degradation of the item. But freezing coffee introduces moisture and humidity, which can cause coffee to lose freshness unless the coffee is completely vacuum sealed. Should you freeze coffee? Only if you can completely vacuum seal it before you freeze it.

Pro Tip

When you are getting the beans out of the container to brew with, use a scoop so the beans at the bottom are not disturbed. This will help the beans at the bottom of the bag or container to not lose freshness at the same rate as those on top.

For more information and tips, reach out to one of our Curated Coffee and Espresso Experts. They would be happy to talk about any and all aspects of coffee with you as well as offer more pro tips on how to develop your coffee habit!

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