Storing coffee beans the right way will ensure you get as much out of your cups of coffee as possible. After all, there's no point in buying a 6 lb bag of coffee beans and having it go stale after a few weeks.
So, how are you meant to store coffee beans ? And how to you know if they've gone stale ? Or even bad ?
We'll discuss this in detail today, so let's get into it. First, let's see what damages or dampens the flavor of coffee beans, so we know what to avoid.
What makes coffee beans stale ?
Stale coffee is the worst. It's still got caffeine, as we've noticed in my other post, but the flavor is all gone. How does this happen ?
As with spices and tea, flavor is very much influenced by exposure to air, humidity, other smells, heat, and direct sunlight.
So this is what you're going to need to avoid with your coffee beans storage strategy, otherwise you're going to be very unhappy with your coffee.
Exposure to air leads to oxidation, which is basically oxygen making the coffee release all its flavor. This is why an airtight container is mandatory when storing anything flavorful, otherwise the flavor will lose itself in the air.
It's also the way perfume works, or other scents made to give the air a specific smell. After a while, you'll notice they've worn off, because they've released completely into the air.
So this means that if you were to leaves your bag of roasted coffee beans opened on the counter for a whole week, only the lowest part of the bag would still retain some flavor. The upper and middle part would be very much exposed tot he air, and stale after a few days.
Humidity is another element that you must watch out for. It's usually the main culprit when spices and coffee beans develop mold.
Humid air, especially if warm, will lead to a very slow brewing of the coffee beans, which will lead to an odd flavor in them. This is before they even lose their flavor.
Moist air is not welcome for keeping scents intact, and as such should be avoided. This means not storing your coffee in the bathroom, or in the kitchen if you cook very often and there is lots of steam and hot air and very little ventilation.
Try to find a cool, dry space in your home to store the coffee. Each time you open the container a bit of moisture will seep in, so be careful. If you get an airtight container you'll get more protection from moist air.
Other smells can and will ruin you coffee. In some cases, it can be used to your advantage. For example if you want to infuse your coffee beans with cocoa or cinnamon or vanilla flavors, storing said spices with the coffee beans will flavor the accordingly.
However, this can go in the wrong direction if you store you coffee poorly. Say you get a coffee container and the lid won't close. This means that any time a strong smell is close to the coffee (like food, or perfume, or air freshener) then you're going to get flavored coffee.
This, again, is linked to having an airtight container. Airtight means no smells will go in or out, and not moisture as well.
Heat is another problem, because many people store their coffee in their kitchen. If you cook often, the kitchen will get very warm. On a regular basis, and if you live in a humid place, this can slowly ruin your coffee.
This is especially true if you store you coffee on the upper shelves. Heat will always rise to high points, means air close to the ceiling will be hotter than air close to the floor.
If you want to continue storing your coffee in the kitchen, store it on the lowest shelf, or better yet in the lowest drawer you can find. If you're worried about children or pets reaching the coffee, place child locks wherever necessary, like on the cabinet doors or on the container itself.
Direct sunlight will ruin the coffee, because it will strip the coffee of its flavor, again. Sunlight 'burns' the flavor away, same way it bleaches color in time. If you've ever had drapes exposed to sunlight for years on end, you know what I mean.
So, the best thing to do is to get a completely opaque coffee container. Or, if you absolutely can't find such a thing, make sure to place your container in a drawer or cabinet. There is no direct sunlight there, and you coffee will be safe.
And another thing about sunlight, depending on the time of the year and how strong the sunlight is in your region, it can also actively heat the coffee container.
Even if it is opaque, if it's thin metal (like most commercial ground coffee cans) it stands a high change of heating up, and you'll bump into my previous point.
How to store coffee beans
Okay, now that we know what can ruin coffee, we know what we need to look out for. There's 2 parts to storing coffee properly, and they're both important.
First is exactly what kind of container you use. A good airtight and opaque container will resist most elements, but it can only do so much.
Second, the room you keep your coffee in, and the placement of the container matter very much. For example placing the best container ever in a damp cellar will not help your case, because every time you open the container you let in some moisture.
So let's get to finding a great coffee container. One that's going to stand up to pretty much anything, and help you have fresh coffee.
This Airscape container from Planetary Design is going to keep your coffee beans fresh, with a new technology.
It's a stainless steel, thick walled 64 oz/ 1.800 kg capacity container that can be adjusted according to how much coffee you have left.
The canister's lid can be pushed down, thus releasing all the extra air in your container, and allowing none to seep in. This means your coffee container will hold only as much air as necessary, which is as much as there is just between then beans themselves.
And you can also get a transparent insert to see how much coffee you've got left.
The walls of the container are completely opaque, and the whole thing comes in several colors, so you can pick whichever you like best.
You can check the listing on Amazon here, and read the reviews as well.
Now that you've got your own, nifty coffee container, let's get to where to put it in your home.
I keep mine in the kitchen, on the counter. This is because I do cook often but my the apartment is very well ventilated, and on the summer when it would get hot, I can open all the windows and get a constant breeze through.
There is also very little humidity, since the fresh air come in dry.
Sunlight does hit the kitchen directly, and reaches the counter, but my container is right next to the microwave, which always keeps the container in the shade.
And I have no children or pets to tamper with the container, so it's safe on the counter. If I did have any, I'd store the container in one of the drawers in the kitchen, where I also keep my tea, and put a child lock on it.
So, what you should look for in your home is a place that's:
- not humid, look for the driest place possible
- got some shade, so there's no direct sunlight
- a drawer or closed cabinet will work well
- is close to the ground (cooler) if your home is routinely very warm
- gets plenty of air circulation, since strong smells can sometimes seep into the coffee
Where would that be in your home ? In most homes the kitchen is where most spices are stored. If your kitchen meets all the criteria above, then feel free to keep your coffee there.
Other options could be a pantry, or even a storage cabinet on the hallway (usually well ventilated).
How long do coffee beans stay fresh ?
Roasted coffee beans keep their flavor for a few weeks before becoming stale. Of course the process can be slowed or sped up, depending on how you store the coffee.
If you store the coffee properly, it can take up to 2 months for the beans to lose their freshness. This is if you have a very, very good container. Keep in mind that you're going to keep opening the container ever day, or ever other day and this helps it lose some flavor.
If you were to leave the beans in a very poor container, like the bag the came in, only clipped shut then it would lose flavor much faster since it would get more airflow.
As for coffee beans that haven't been roasted - so green coffee beans - these have no specific flavor to speak of. The flavor is brought out by the roasting process, meaning you could store green coffee beans for a couple years and only roast them then, and they would still be great.
Of course, when storing green coffee beans you need to take care that they, too, are well kept because they can go bad in time. The same rules apply as with already roasted coffee, but with special emphasis on keeping these in a dry place.
Green coffee can grow mold easier than roast coffee.
Do coffee beans go bad ?
Yes, coffee beans can go bad. They'd need to be very poorly stored, or stored for decades, but they can go bad. Coffee in the form of whole bean has a long shelf life.
You'll notice the coffee has gone bad when it's not only lost all its flavor, but has also started to smell bad. As in a musty, mildew-like smell. It's something that can happen if you keep your coffee in a warm, humid place.
You might even see colored droplets on the inside of the container, where the moisture brewed the coffee and stained the inner wall.
Another thing that can happen, minus the humidity, is the coffee going rancid. Meaning the coffee oils in the beans have been exposed to heat for such a long time that they've become toxic.
You can notice the same process with vegetable oil, lard, or any type of fat exposed to heat for several days.
If you live in a very hot part of the world and you A/C breaks down, then you're going to need to be careful where and how you store your coffee.
If you suspect your coffee has gone bad, it's best to not even try it. You can brew a cup just to make sure, but really there's no point to it and in some cases you may risk your health (if the coffee is really bad).
Best to just throw it out and get a new one.
Can you freeze coffee beans ?
I've heard of people doing this to keep their coffee beans in top shape for months on end. I'm going to tell you the same thing I said when tea leaves were involved.
In theory, freezing coffee beans is not a bad idea. But it's very, very hard to do so without ruining it, since you need minimal to zero moisture in the air surrounding the beans for this to work.
No average Joe has such a freezer, unless your freezer has the same tech used for freezing fruits and veggies on commercial assembly lines. And I doubt any regular household freezer has that.
The problem is that the moisture in the air is what creates ice. So it's also the main culprit when your beans defrost, in order for you to use them.
And that layer of ice becomes water, meaning it can and will slowly brew your coffee. And it will make grinding them very, very difficult since the beans need to be completely dry before you add them to any sort of grinder.
And finally, freezing coffee beans in a regular freezer means the beans will stick together when the ice forms, because the humidity threshold isn't close to zero.
So, this means that scooping out only a few beans at a time won't be feasible, since you'll have to kind of chip away at a block of frozen coffee beans.
And of course each time you open the container and the freezer, more moisture will get in, and more ice will form.
All in all, not a good idea to freeze coffee beans in order to make them last longer.
How well you store your coffee is going to dictate how fresh the coffee will be when you brew it. After all, whole beans are kind like unopened packets of coffee.
So store your coffee beans properly, and you'll always get fresh coffee.
Do not make the mistake I've seen done one some coffee shop in my hometown back in the 90s. They had big burlap sacks, filled with roasted coffee beans, just lying around the shop.
Just glass window panes, all around the shop, and as much direct sunlight and heat as you wouldn't like on your coffee beans. We were simpler people back then.
If you want to know more about coffee or tea, feel free to check the related articles below. Who knows what else you might find ?