How to store coffee for freshness can be a bit of a mystery, especially when you hear all the mixed ideas that everyone else swears by. Do you freeze it, do you keep it in jars, do you just store your coffee in the containers it came in? In reality, you need to store your coffee based on how you buy it in the first place. So make sure you only use the right storage or you will end up with stale coffee next time you brew.
How to Store Coffee for Freshness
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Ground Coffee - Most people buy their coffee in cans or foil packages, already roasted and pre-ground. Its easy, convenient and the most common form in the grocery store. And its also the format that will go stale the quickest. In fact, once the coffee beans have been roasted and ground, they will stay fresh for several days. So the reality is that your big can of ground coffee is likely stale within 3 to 4 weeks after opening. You should keep it stored in a dry location, in the air-tight can that it came in but you're fighting a losing battle for the most part.
Roasted Whole Bean Coffee - The next step up is how to store roasted but still whole bean coffee. By leaving the beans intact, they hold in their aromatic oils much better and will therefore stay fresh longer. You also have a few more options for storing your coffee beans. If you intend to use your beans within about 2 weeks, then you can keep them in an air-tight container that won't let any light in. Room temperature storage is just fine, so you can just keep your beans in the cupboard or pantry.
Depending on how recently your beans were roasted, you may have to contend with gas. Freshly roasted beans give off a lot of carbon dioxide, and a tight container can actually build up pressure inside because of this. Enough to even pop the lid off. So every day, open up the jar or can and let out any gas. A few days of this would be enough. For anyone who takes pride in their coffee, and usually has whole beans around, valve bags are a better option. They are air-tight bags for storing coffee, but come with little one-way air valves in them that allows the extra gas to escape without letting in any more air. Expensive, but really the best choice for storing coffee.
If you have more beans than you can use in 2 weeks, only then should you consider freezing them. Wrap your beans as tightly as you can in plastic wrap and they will stay reasonably fresh for more than a month. We do not recommend you put coffee in the freezer because it will take on the flavor of the freezer. Best bet is to use your coffee within a month of receiving it from your roaster.
Green Beans - The only way to store coffee beans for longer periods of time is to use green (unroasted) beans. You can keep them for up to a year this way, in a cool spot and air-tight container. It's not the handiest way to have coffee around, as you will have to do the roasting and grinding yourself. No matter what form of coffee you have in your kitchen, never store it in the fridge.
- Bill McClure