Whether you prefer using a French press or a coffee machine, using fresh coffee beans is one of the easiest ways to dramatically improve the quality of the coffee in your cup.
The problem is, coffee beans start losing their freshness from the moment they are roasted. Once coffee beans lose their freshness, both the flavor and aroma is diminished.
Store your coffee beans in the right way, though, and you can use them for up to a month after the roasting date. Ground coffee, by contrast, lasts no more than a week or two after roasting before the quality starts degrading.
So, what is it that makes coffee beans lose their freshness, and how can you combat this?
I. What Makes Coffee Beans Go Bad?
Coffee beans are impaired by the following elements:
Air is the primary enemy of coffee beans. As we’ll outline below, storing coffee beans in an airtight container goes some way toward mitigating exposure.
If you keep your coffee beans in glass, ceramic, or plastic containers, ensure the available air is kept to a minimum or oxidation will occur. Achieve this by using a small 16oz container to keep only the coffee you need. Decant it as you go from a larger container or the original packaging – more on that below.
Heat also accelerates oxidation in coffee beans, so keep coffee away from heat at all times except brewing.
When storing coffee beans, keep them well clear of appliances like dryers, dishwashers, ovens, microwaves, or radiators.
Instead, keep your coffee beans inside a cool and dry cupboard, protected from the elements. Avoid refrigerating coffee beans. It may be cool and dark, but the humidity levels are not right.
Keep your coffee beans away from direct sunlight and sunny windowsills.
As soon as the sun’s UV rays hit coffee beans, this kickstarts a process called photodegradation. This damages the chemical structure of the coffee beans, stripping fats and oils, while also leaching away the natural brown color of the beans.
Moisture is the final major enemy that coffee beans face.
If you allow water to get near your coffee beans, you’ll find they clump up, and potentially even go moldy.
Sealed jars or cans offer the best humidity levels, ideally opaque so as to minimize exposure to light.
So, with an awareness of what you’re looking to avoid when storing coffee beans, how can you keep them fresher for longer?
II. How Should You Store Coffee Beans to Keep Them Fresh?
While some coffee lovers keep their beans in the original packaging, this is not the optimum method of storage.
If you insist on keeping the original packaging, invest in some plastic clips to guarantee an airtight seal.
Ideally, you should decant your coffee beans into a container. The best materials are as follows:
If you use glass containers, opt for opaque glass as mentioned above. This will ensure that not too much light penetrates. Failing that, keep a glass jar inside a cool, dark cupboard.
Also, look for containers with silicone or rubber gaskets. These will help prevent air from escaping, and they will also stop the aroma spreading.
Both glass and ceramic containers look great in the kitchen, too.
The least effective method of storing coffee beans is to use either a plastic or tin container. Neither of these will contain the smell of the coffee beans as efficiently as the other options outlined above. They will not safeguard your beans against odors penetrating either. They have no rubber gaskets, and the lids are typically too loose.
For anyone forced into using one of these containers, always fill it to the top to minimize the amount of air that can enter. Too much air, as we highlight above, will cause your coffee beans to lose their freshness prematurely. Decant the coffee beans you need as you go along into a smaller airtight container.
Using a container also serves to stop any cross-contamination from other foods in your cupboard. Not only that, it will stop the smell of coffee beans from working its way into other foodstuffs.
The main benefit of using a container to store coffee beans, though, is protecting them from the oxidation that causes them to lose their freshness. This is achieved by minimizing exposure to air, moisture, and light, while at the same time ensuring humidity levels are in check.
Now, before we close today, there is one final question that needs addressing: should you grind your coffee beans or store them whole?
III. Do You Need to Grind All Your Coffee Beans At Once?
If you want to maximize your chances of getting a gourmet cup of coffee at home, storing fresh beans whole is the best approach.
As soon as you grind coffee beans, the process of oxidation outlined above begins. Once this happens, the coffee beans will start losing their flavor, and at the same time becoming less aromatic.
You can avoid this happening to your beans by storing them whole and grinding the amount you need directly before brewing. Not only does this give you the best possible coffee in your cup, but you’ll also spare yourself the time and effort of grinding a large package of coffee beans.
A super-automatic espresso machine comes with an integrated grinder, but you can also buy both manual and electric coffee grinders at a fairly reasonable price point. Opt for a ceramic burr grinder if you’re looking for the pinnacle of grinding quality.
If you take the trouble of following these steps, you’ll be rewarded with a coffee that’s delicately sweet and aromatic.
By grinding only enough beans for your brew, you’ll arrest the processes of oxidation and photodegradation that can hasten the demise of your coffee beans. You should only take a minute or less to grind before brewing, so using this method won’t involve any extra hassle, but will deliver an improved lifespan.
We very much hope today’s guide has shown you how to store your coffee beans so they stay fresher for longer.
If you insist on using the original packaging, firmly clip it closed to ensure an airtight environment. Your best bet, though, is to use a glass or ceramic container stored in a cool, dark place. Take care of this and you can expect up to a month of lifespan from your coffee beans before they start losing both flavor and aroma.
The final thing? Remember to grind them directly before brewing and use some filtered or bottled water. Do this and you’ll soon be enjoying barista-grade coffee at home the easy way.
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