Storing your coffee properly is one of the best ways to keep the flavor and aroma where it belongs, in your cup. The enemies of coffee are heat, air, light, moisture, and time so the idea is to minimize your coffee's exposure to any and all of these things. The best advice one can give about storing coffee is don't, or if you must, store it for as short a time as possible. In other words, the best coffee is fresh coffee and you should purchase only as much as you plan to drink for the week. That said, most of us prefer to stock up so here are some tips on how to keep your stored coffee as flavorful as possible.
Most coffee storage questions come down to one thing: To freeze or not to freeze. Before we look at this question, it needs to be said that coffee should never, ever be stored in the refrigerator. The moisture, odors, and constantly changing temperatures create a nightmare environment for coffee, so just don't do it!
As for freezing, there are a few things to consider. Freezing coffee, even if done properly, will have an effect upon the structure of the coffee oils, which contain the key to coffee's flavor, the aroma. However, coffee oils will become rancid over time and freezing can slow the process of spoilage, right? Using some common sense can help you decide whether to freeze your beans or not.
It is important to remember that coffee beans are very porous. Most freezers get a lot of use which means that the temperature inside the freezer is fluctuating and creating moisture which will end up on your beans and turn into ice. When you remove your coffee from the freezer, the ice will turn to freezer-flavored water. This water will find it's way into your porous coffee beans and, alas, into your cup. When you put the coffee back into the freezer, the cycle begins again. However, for long term storage, there are a few ways you can minimize the negative effects freezing can have on your coffee's flavor:
- Portion: Ideally, coffee that is going to be stored in the freezer should be separated into one week portions. Wrap the beans tightly in plastic wrap or a Ziploc, removing as much air as possible and place all of the portioned packages into a paper bag to keep out the light.
- Do not refreeze: Coffee should never be refrozen once it has been removed from the freezer. Remove your weekly portion as needed and then store it in a cool, dry, container with a good seal.
- Don't freeze fresh coffee: Do not store coffee that you plan to use within 1-2 weeks in the freezer.
- Never store your coffee in the refrigerator!
A little extra effort can go a long way in maintaining the flavor and aroma of your stored coffee beans.
To store fresh coffee, place unground, whole beans in a clean, dry, dark cool place. A ceramic canister with a good seal and a tight fitting lid is a perfect storing environment for your fresh beans. To have the best possible coffee experience, start with fresh beans, buy only what you plan to drink for the week, store properly and grind just before use.