With an average of 120 millions bags of coffee beans produced every single year, it’s no wonder that people are searching for how best to store their coffee beans.
As lovely as it is to sit in a cafe and enjoy a latte at your leisure, sometimes you just want (or need) to make it at home. So, what should you do with the leftover coffee beans? We have made a handy guide, covering everything you could ever need to know about how to store coffee beans and freshly ground coffee.
How you store your coffee beans matters
You may be able to keep instant coffee in the cupboard for months at a time (or years - yes, that old jar forgotten in the caravan is perfectly fine to drink). Fresh coffee, ground or otherwise, is a whole different matter. So how long do they last and how exactly should you store coffee beans?
It is important to remember that, unlike its freeze dried cousins, coffee beans are an organic material: they have a shelf life and will degrade, no matter what you do to protect it. That being said, there is a lot you can do to slow down the process, and protect your beans from any outside variables that may affect the quality of the cup they produce.
You may think right next to your kettle or coffee machine is perfectly fine; not so, as both are likely to get either hot or damp any number of times a day, two things that coffee beans do not like! The biggest enemy of your coffee is moisture, that is, until you are ready to mix it with water to make the most popular drink world wide.
The cheat sheet guide for keeping your beans fresh is: to avoid heat, light, moisture and air (or more specifically: oxygen).
How to store fresh coffee beans
When you purchase fresh coffee beans, they will usually come in a special paper bag with a valve to allow carbon dioxide from the beans to escape. Some bags, such as our delicious exclusive blends, come resealable, and are generally perfectly fine for keeping your beans in, for the period of time it takes for you to work through them. In fact our new range of packaging is all both recyclable and resealable.
The absolute best thing you can do is to buy small quantities of the very best beans, grind them as you need, and drink it as quickly as you can. Other than that, an airtight container, in a cool, dry place is your best bet.
Consider vacuum storage if you’re really passionate about getting the best from your beans. This doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated - most places sell these small containers which keep the beans free of oxygen by removing it from the canister (the exact method varies depending on the make).
When choosing what to store your coffee beans in, opt for a container that is not see-through. Sure a glass jar of beans may look cool, but light is a killer of good coffee, especially of the sunshine variety: UV light is your worst nightmare. These pesky rays will work on a molecular level to destroy everything you love in your beans, degrading the flavour and smell pretty quickly.
Keep away from contaminants. Not just those that could ruin the beans themselves but also any smells that could affect the way that they taste. This is one of the reasons why storing your coffee beans in the fridge is a bad idea. Onion tainted coffee anyone?
How to store ground coffee beans
With ground beans, you want to be even pickier about how you store them. Essentially once the bean has been broken up, it begins to oxidise quickly. In an ideal situation, you will grind the beans just before you use them - this is one of the reasons coffee shop drinks taste so good: they grind the beans right before they go into your cup. Within just 15 minutes of grinding you’ve already lost as much as 60% of the flavour of the coffee. You have to grind the coffee to give it a larger surface area, making sure it has the best chance to release all of the aroma, taste and potency locked inside.
If you're paying for high quality coffee, you want to do all that you can to allow it to showcase its potential. We sell all of our coffee blends both as beans or to whichever grind is best for your preferred brewing method.
How long will my fresh coffee last?
This entirely depends on what type of end product you are willing to accept from your cup of Joe, but ideally you won't be keeping your coffee beans any longer than 4-6 weeks. With ground coffee, the shelf life is even shorter. That is one of the reasons it is always preferable to get your beans and ground coffee from an independent roaster: you will know exactly when it was roasted and when it was ground.
Another thing to take into account is how it is packaged and how it is stored:
Coffee kept in an airtight container will be good for the time stated above, but without it, such as in an unsealed paper bag, will be good for 1-4 weeks, with the quality decreasing as the time goes on as the coffee degasses.
Anything longer than that is likely to taste stale. It won’t necessarily be bad for you but it won’t taste as good, and, after a longer period of time won't be as strong.
Can I store coffee beans in the fridge or freezer?
Coffee beans, and especially ground coffee beans, are porous in nature and will pick up the smell and moisture found in the air which they are exposed to. You know that weird omnipresent smell in your fridge? Now imagine it in your cuppa, and you’ll know not to ever store your beans in the fridge. Plus it will age your coffee quicker by pulling the oils to the surface via condensation. Not nice at all.
If you absolutely must store your beans in the freezer make sure that they are sealed. The way in which freezers work will quickly destroy your coffee if it is left uncovered. When you come to use them, make sure they are fully thawed and at room temperature before using them.
Don’t throw away old coffee!
So you’ve still got plenty left of that brilliant blend, but it’s been sitting in the cupboard a while, or you forgot to store it properly and it’s gone a bit stale. The solution? Cold brew. Any coffee that is going to steep for hours at a time are perfect vessels for coffee a little past its best.