How to store coffee beans at home?
As with most things in life, to care for something properly you need to understand a bit about it; what conditions suit it and why? Where has it come from? Where is it ultimately going to end up? This also holds true if you’re getting ready to answer one of life’s great questions – how to store coffee beans at home?
Sit back, pour yourself a freshly-brewed cup of your favourite coffee, and let’s look at how to do it properly (with a sprinkling of science thrown in for good measure).
The enemies of coffee beans and how to keep your beans fresh?
Fresh coffee is the best coffee, right? Rule 1: know your enemies. In this case, what the coffee bean most fears is sunlight, heat, moisture, and oxygen. Of course, when you buy coffee beans, you should try to use them as soon as you can, but that isn’t always possible – so keep in mind these enemies when storing beans. Let’s look at each one in more detail:
- Sunlight and heat – bad for beans because warmth can cause flavour changes as the chemicals and compounds in the beans heat up.
- Moisture – can cause mould to grow. Be especially careful, as some packs advise storage in a fridge, which can actually increase the amount of moisture the beans are exposed to – every time you take them out of the fridge they warm slightly, and when you put them back in the fridge it creates condensation. (Also remember that fridges contain strong odours of other foods, so avoid them unless you really like onion flavoured espresso!)
- Oxygen – can react with the chemicals in the bean, gradually rendering them flavourless and dull.
Given these known enemies, it’s a good idea to store your in an airtight container, away from direct sunlight, somewhere dark and cool. The bottom shelf of a pantry or kitchen cupboard would be ideal. Good containers include things like Mason jars as they have strong seals, and other opaque glass or ceramic containers that don’t let too much light in. Special coffee bean storage container is also a great choice!
Coffee chemistry – how long do roasted coffee beans last?
The roasting process itself causes chemical reactions – carbon dioxide gas is given off from freshly roasted beans. Have you ever noticed a one-way valve on a bag of coffee beans you bought? That’s to let the CO2 escape and prevent the bag from splitting. This is one way to prove that beans are fresh, as after a while in storage, the CO2 levels reduce.
How long do roasted coffee beans last? Well, that depends on how you store them. If you want to keep roasted beans for more than a week, then remember: avoid metal or plastic containers, which can also cause chemical reactions and give an unwanted flavour to the beans – use glass or ceramics instead. And for long term storage of weeks or months, use a vacuum sealer to remove all oxygen, and consider freezing them.
Let’s look at freezing coffee as a form of storage. Good or bad idea? Well, freezing can be used to store beans, but only if the container is truly airtight (oxygen can cause ‘freezer burn’, which is when food loses moisture and oxygen moves in and takes its place). Also, if you take any beans out of the freezer, replace the container straight away to avoid letting in moisture due to temperature change. Ideally, freeze beans as soon as possible after purchase, and definitely not if they’re more than 2 weeks old. How long do coffee beans stay fresh? When frozen, beans can be kept for a couple of months – but if you’re a fan of coffee each morning, it’s unlikely they’d be around for that long anyway!
How to store green coffee beans?
Inside the colourful coffee ‘cherries’ that you see on the coffee plant are green ‘seeds’, which are what we know as coffee beans. These are beans which will eventually get roasted, and are now in an ideal state to be stored. They should stay relatively fresh for up to 12 months if kept airtight, cool and out of sunlight. But of course, if you’re buying green beans to store, you’ll need to roast them and then grind them yourself. Talking of grinding…
When storing ground coffee, always remember the rules you’d use for storing beans – avoid moisture by using an airtight container; keep away from strong odours; and get the temperature right (the Goldilocks temperature is best – not too hot, not too cold, but just right). If possible though, grind as soon as you need a coffee, and don’t keep the grounds sitting around for much longer than that. Ground coffee has a higher surface area than whole beans, and thus is more susceptible to moisture and oxygen. Grinding also releases oils and gases from the beans (that brown foam on your espresso is ‘crema’, caused by those oils reacting with water) so grounds should be used as soon as possible.
If you want to get really technical about your coffee, then look for the roast date of the beans (if there is one) – ask your roaster or look on the packet. It can help you to determine the best moment to brew the beans, and is more helpful than an expiry date, which is usually just a legal requirement. Freshly roasted beans can benefit from ‘rest days’ after roasting – between 4 and 12 usually. (The proper term for this is ‘degassing’, which is when you allow the beans to release gases after roasting.)
Don’t store your coffee beans in a grinder
One other thing you might be thinking of is whether to use your grinder to store coffee in. When it comes to storing coffee beans at home, it can seem very convenient. Well, the short answer is no, it’s not generally a good idea. Grinders are not usually airtight; it could also cause a build-up of oils in the grinder which might affect the mechanism; and finally, what if you want to change to a different bean every now and again? Best to keep the grinder for grinding only.
And if you’re wondering how best to store instant coffee, then you’re unlikely to be reading an article about storing beans anyway… but sometimes we all need to call on that tin of instant coffee, so rest assured it’s designed to be stored easily – but it still needs to be kept away from moisture and strong odours.
Beans out of date and flavour? Don’t just toss them!
We’ve covered a lot of ground here, and hopefully you now have a better understanding of how to store different types of coffee at home. But if you have left beans too long, or stored them in the wrong way and they can no longer be used, then all is not lost! There are some fascinating other uses for coffee both in the home and in the garden, such as:
- a cleaning agent;
- as a natural air freshener;
- as a body scrub;
- as compost in the garden.
So, store them well, or if unlucky – make sure to find another use for your coffee beans to reduce waste. In the meantime, have fun drinking (and storing) your coffee! And if you want to drink the best coffee for less, go visit DealsDaddy for great deals!
FAQs / quick read summary
Q. What are the things I should avoid when storing coffee?
A. The main things to avoid when storing coffee beans or grounds are: sunlight, heat, moisture and oxygen.
Q. Why should I avoid these? What do they do to coffee?
A. These things can cause subtle chemical reactions in the beans, leading to loss of flavour and even mould
Q. Should I freeze coffee?
A. You can, but it must be in an airtight container (to avoid ‘freezer burn’), and you should never freeze beans which are more than 2 weeks old
Q. What about green beans, can they be stored before roasting?
A. Yes, green beans are ideal for storing – they can last for 12 months or more but must be kept airtight and out of sunlight.
Q. Can I store ground coffee?
A. Ground coffee has a larger surface area so is more quickly affected by moisture, heat, light and any strong odours nearby. If possible, grind immediately before brewing.
Q. How is a roasting date helpful?
A. A roasting date tells you when the beans were roasted, which is more helpful than a simple use-by date. If you know the roast date, then you can calculate when it is best to brew the beans – usually after 4-12 days have passed and the beans have ‘degassed’ and rested.
Q. Can I store beans in the grinder?
A. This is generally not a good idea as it can damage the grounds and the grinder.
Q. What are the best containers to use to store coffee in?
A. Mason jars are great, as they are made of glass and have a strong seal. Try to avoid plastic or metal as they can alter the flavour of the bean. Opaque containers are best as they don’t let in as much light.
Q. If my beans have been stored incorrectly and can’t be saved, what can I do with them?
A. Coffee can be used as a cleaning agent, as a natural air freshener and as compost in the garden, as well as in many other different ways, so all is not lost.