Learn how to keep your coffee beans fresh with our guide to coffee bean storage methods

By | June 4, 2015

Do you worry about your coffee bean storage? Losing sleep over how your coffee will taste tomorrow? Probably not. But if you don’t, then that’s because you never drank a cup of disgusting brown liquid before. I have …

Well, let me tell you, if you take your time to buy good coffee beans, and spend lots of money on buying the best coffee makers, then storing your top quality coffee beans only makes sense…

Find out more about ways to store coffee beans by reading about the natural enemies of coffee, different coffee types, why coffee beans go bad, and how you can implement some simple storage remedies to ensure that your coffee tastes as good as you would like it to be.

Coffee’s Natural Enemies

There are four natural enemies that impair or destroy the flavors in roasted coffee beans: air, moisture, heat, and sunlight.

Moisture also affects coffee bean storage: keeping your beans dry will help keep them fresh, inhibit the growth of molds or bacteria and the ‘sweating’ process that would occur if they were also exposed to heat or sunlight. Keeping the beans in the refrigerator or freezer also exposes your beans to moisture.

Air is an obvious one: the fresh air will naturally react with the complex chemical composition of the coffee beans, especially the roasted ones. This produces a gradual impairment of the flavor, leaving the beans bland, tasteless, and odorless. In your coffee cup, this means a cup of brown sludge, if you’re lucky. Keep the beans in an airtight container.

Sunlight, too: because of the sunlight, the beans will be gently heated perhaps for prolonged periods, if you leave the coffee jar under the sun. The light itself will also impact the delicate flavors of the coffee beans.

Heat is a natural destroyer of the flavors of coffee beans except when you’re actually preparing your coffee. During the preparation, you use a controlled amount of heat for a specific duration; but exposure to inappropriate heat prior to use will remove some of the flavors you are looking for. Keep your beans cool.

Remember: MASH – moisture, air, sunlight and heat – will destroy your precious (and expensive) coffee beans, so it’s important that you choose appropriate methods for coffee bean storage. And the steps are pretty simple to set up.

Green beans vs. roasted beans

Green beans (the unroasted ones) will keep for several years if you put them in a cool, dark and dry coffee bean storage. You will need to make sure that the container is tightly sealed and properly stored. But you should still be able to make a decent roast!

You can vacuum seal unroasted or green coffee beans for future use and keep them for years if you like home roasting. Once they are roasted, though, you should grind them and use them within a few days. Freezing is not recommended because of the inevitable condensation that ruins the flavor of the coffee.

Roast It Yourself

If you’re into roasting your own beans, then you will be able to keep your beans for up to 1 or 2 weeks at room temperatures. Putting them in an airtight container, especially a dark one, will help to preserve the damage the light does to the beans.

Unfortunately, green beans don’t make a great cup of coffee when you need it! You still have to roast and grind the beans. In many situations, it’s impossible to roast the beans when you’re on a 10-minute coffee break, for example.

But roasted beans are a lot fussier and extended periods in coffee bean storage, even when well-packed, will reduce the flavors in the cup. So you’ll likely end up purchasing freshly (or at least, recently) roasted coffee beans. However, these beans are more volatile if you don’t store the coffee properly.

How do coffee beans go bad?

It is important to properly store coffee beans, especially after they have been roasted. Why is that? To understand how delicate your coffee beans’ aroma and taste really are, you should find out how it comes about, what leads to its flavors, and what happens to turn aromas ‘bad’.

Once you roast your coffee beans, the oils that contain the flavors and aromas come are expelled from the bean. You can see this because the oils are visible on the surface of the bean. After a few days without proper coffee bean storage, these aroma-carrying oils turn rancid because of exposure to the air, and the coffee flavor is degraded to the point that you no longer discern the delicate aromas.

Freshly roasted beans also expel gasses that are the product of the roasting process. After about a week, these gasses dissipate so you will have to make sure the carbon dioxide is vented properly, either through special bags or by opening the canister.

Most commercial roasted coffee beans sold is packed in a special bag that allows the gases to escape while preventing oxygen from entering. This bag facilitates proper coffee bean storage, but won’t keep the beans fresh forever.

Once the gasses are vented, the coffee is highly drinkable, but keeping the coffee in tiptop condition becomes a challenge, one that you are destined to lose if it goes on too long.

Proper Coffee Bean Storage

The best way for optimum coffee bean storage is keeping the beans in a tightly closed container. There are several kinds of attractive containers that have a strong lock on the lid and a rubber seal but any type of tightly covered jar or can will do as long as you use the beans quickly. Don’t plan on keeping the beans for three months in a transparent jar with a loose lid, and expect them to retain the same flavors!

This is the best way to protect the oils of the coffee beans and get the best flavor from your freshly ground and brewed coffee. Also, keep the beans away from MASH – Moisture, Air, Sunlight and Heat! Doing that will help you keep your beans longer and in better condition.

Ground Coffee

But that is why ground vacuum packed coffee is so mediocre; the flavors and aromas from the oils have dissipated in the packing and storage processes.  There are some methods for storing coffee beans, such as using vacuum coffee containers for roasted coffee beans and ground coffee.

These vacuum containers are excellent for preserving green coffee beans (unroasted) as well as your freshly roasted coffee beans. However, the process of vacuum sealing removes the natural smells and flavors from ground coffee. Worse, ground coffee tends to be particularly vulnerable to the MASH symptoms I outlined above.

So, if you are using ground coffee, keep it in the fridge in a sealed container to prevent additional condensation inside; and use the coffee as quickly as possible.

Avoid buying large containers of ground coffee unless it can be drunk reasonably within a short time. Even keeping it in the fridge will not prevent ground coffee from going off shortly.

Video: How To Store Your Coffee Beans

Maria Cleaveland, from Equator Estate Coffees, advises us quickly on how to store coffee beans properly in this short video. Worth watching.

Personal Recommendations

I don’t store my coffee in the fridge because I usually buy a large bag, and grind the beans daily. I’m not tempted to put the beans in the refrigerator, because of the risk of creating additional stress on the flavors. I do need to buy a decent coffee can or ceramic jar to protect the coffee from light; and put the beans in a cupboard away from the sun streaming through the kitchen window.

I’d also recommend that you purchase your beans and try to use them up within about 10-14 days at the very most. If you can’t, you may find that you need to buy smaller quantities of coffee. While this cuts down some of the savings you might make by buying in bulk, your taste buds will thank you a great deal when you buy less and use proper coffee bean storing methods.