We hear you’ve gone and bought yourself some coffee beans!
Congratulations! This is an investment sure to reap benefit after benefit in delicious cups of coffee. We’re confident you sourced the freshest, nicest, most wonderful, ethical, beautiful, fragrant, and brownest beans you could find. You’ve paired them with a top-notch burr grinder to make the most out of their potential at home. You deliberated painstakingly over which coffee to select, turning over every bag to make sure you found the freshest roast date stamped on the bottom. You’ve maybe even texted a photo of your coffee beans to a couple of your closest friends—one was a selfie with the bag. You probably want to take the utmost care with them—who wouldn’t?
Whether you’ve come into a sudden glut of amazing coffee beans far beyond your drinking-soon potential or whether you’re just wondering how best to preserve a particularly special bag you’ve recently acquired, this guide is here to help you learn how to store coffee beans in a way that works both for you—and the coffee!
Remember, no matter what method you settle upon, the factors you need to keep in consideration are moisture, air, light, and temperature— too much of any of those will have a negative effect on the longevity of your beautiful coffee beans, and how you manage them will be different depending on whether you live in the Florida Everglades, Boulder, Colorado, in a dark cave, or on the International Space Station.
How is Coffee Packaged for Freshness?
Luckily, before you even came to the internet to ask “How should I store my coffee beans?” or “How do I keep my coffee beans fresh?”, the people who roasted and sold you those coffee beans already thought of these questions! Coffee companies far and wide have done exhaustive research on how best to package and seal coffee beans for freshness and transport after they’re roasted. You’ve probably seen quite a few ways that coffee roasters package their beans.
Some of these are:
- In DIY-looking craft paper bags with the logo stamped on by some cool person
- In paper or foil-lined bags that you can re-close with a metal tie
- In stand-up bags with a zip-style closure
- In bags with little one-way valves that let the coffee release CO2 over time (degassing)
- In bags without any valves at all
- In stylish boxes with plastic bags inside
- In metal cans (but you might want to stand back when you open them!)
Suffice to say, there are lots of ways a roaster can choose to package fresh coffee beans. And once that coffee gets to your kitchen, there are even more ways you might choose to store it once it’s open. How you choose to store it will depend on a number of things, including the method your coffee was packaged in when you first purchased it. Resealable bags are great for keeping coffee reasonably fresh for a few days after first opening it, but depending how that bag reseals – or was made in the first place – will determine how good it is at keeping your coffee fresh.
Foil-lined bags with one-way air valves (that is, they let gases that need to escape the coffee exit easily, but don’t allow air back inside) are a great way to keep coffee fresh and at-the-ready while you get through a bag. Resealable bags are the easiest, but ones that require you to re-tape a closure (or which you’ve fumbled the baggie-tie-style closure on already) may need a little extra care. Some close with both zipper-style closures AND include a baggie-tie-style closure! And then there are some very simple kraft paper bags that have no one-way valve or additional protective lining will allow your beans to go stale faster than other packages, so you may wish to quickly transfer them to an airtight jar in a cool, dry place, once you’ve cracked that seal.
Finding the Right Cadence for Ordering Fresh Coffee
Though everyone has different coffee consumption habits, your habits are the ones best suited to you. Don’t worry about what Big Bernadette or Cool Jedediah say about how quickly to drink up a whole bag of coffee beans. Even if you’re buying coffee beans at your usual rate, there will still be times where you have more coffee hanging around than you can consume at your intended pace. (Just ask anyone who’s ever traveled to a coffee convention, and who may in fact still have several pounds of the world’s finest coffees lost in the bottom of their suitcase…)
Most folks in coffee like to come back to the rule of thumb that’s also applied to traditional fresh fruit and veggies (after all, coffee IS a fruit), and it’s still a good one: buy less coffee, more often.
A great way to do this would be by joining the GGET Coffee Club, which allows you to automate the delivery of delicious coffee to your doorstep—and you can make adjustments on the fly, so you never end up with too much extra to keep around.
If your habits dictate having coffee beans around for longer than average—which is, let’s say, plowing through a 12–16oz bag of coffee in a week or less—there are a lot of options on how to keep your excess coffee in as good a shape as can be until you have time to give it all your love.
Why You Need to Keep Coffee Fresh
Before you go crazy buying airtight canisters, vacuum sealers, and buying coffee in bulk, remember that there are a lot of reasons to keep coffee as fresh as possible:
- Preventing flavor loss
- Preventing the loss of the acidity and balance that the coffee was carefully roasted to express
- Preventing the loss of beneficial compounds within the coffee.
Furthermore, we reckon that people enjoy their coffee a bit less and may be inclined to let more go to waste when they’re not enjoying it at its freshest.
Since coffee is an agricultural product that’s the result of an incredible, almost unfathomable, amount of work from the farm level to the time it’s roasted and packed into your bag to take home, it makes sense to be conscientious about how it is enjoyed and stored. The best solution will always be to buy less coffee at a time but at more frequent intervals. That said, here are some great ways you can store coffee for those times you really need to—whatever your reasons. Ready? Let’s go!
The Best Ways You Can Store Coffee at Home
The easiest way to store your coffee beans for maximum freshness is generally going to be by leaving them in the bag you brought them home in. If your coffee was packaged in a high-quality resealable bag with a one-way valve that allows air to escape, your coffee should be tasty for several days after first open. And if you’ve never opened it? It should be great for at least a month, maybe even several months—but drink it quickly once you dive in.
Should you wish to store your coffee beans by moving them from the original package into a more sturdy-seeming container, vacuum-capped canisters and airtight jars are a good solution while you drink your way through the bounty.
We like both the OXO Pop (which comes in a perfect size for 16oz of coffee) and Bodum Yohki canisters for stylish functionality, and in a pinch, even a typical kitchen storage container like a Tupperware or Ziploc box can still slow down the staling of beans packed in truly inferior packaging. Some people also like to store coffee beans in metal cans or boxes, though be mindful of anything with a hinged lid or without a snug seal—those closures may allow air to sneak through.
Now…. we realize you may have a few questions remaining. We will attempt to answer them now.
The 3 Most Common Questions About Storing Coffee
1. “But wait, can’t I store coffee in the hopper of my lovely burr grinder? Isn’t that what that hopper is for?”
Though it may be terribly tempting to fill up that empty, hungry-looking grinder hopper to capacity and make your house look like the neighborhood coffee shop, experts advise it’s really not best to do this. Coffee grinders hoppers don’t offer any protection against oxidation and flavor loss and can let air get in and begin to stale your beans. Try to measure out only as much coffee as you’ll need for grinding fresh each time you do it, or at the very least, just don’t fill the damn thing up every time and let the beans sit there for days.
2. “But I thought I was supposed to store my coffee in the freezer!”
There is both old and new thinking on storing coffee beans in the freezer: long ago, many coffee drinkers used to think that stashing a bag of beans in the freezer would preserve freshness past the one-week mark. Then, a new guard of coffee experts came in and decried freezing as ineffective or even damaging to the coffee.
But yet a newer way of thinking has emerged that is the old way again: some research shows vacuum-sealed, frozen beans can stay comparably fresh (even for years!) when tasted alongside recently roasted beans stored traditionally. Elite roasters like George Howell have even showcased “vintage” beans, frozen several years prior, to demonstrate the possibilities of this technique. How effective this method is for a typical home coffee drinker will likely be a result of how quickly the beans are transferred to the freezer, how airtight your freezer container is, and whether any moisture has been introduced. If you feel really passionate about making this method a part of your coffee routine, a vacuum-sealer would not be an unreasonable addition to your kitchen appliance lineup.
3. “What if I mess up my coffee storage technique, and my coffee gets a bit old or gets stale quickly, should I just make cold brew or something with the rest of it?”
Yes, go for it! While we do recommend cold brew be prepared with fresh beans as well most long-steeping cold brew techniques tend to result in smoother, flatter brews anyway. You could easily get away with using your older coffee beans (or some of your older coffee) this way—and you might be surprised to find out how many popular cafes do exactly this with their coffee of a certain age.
Shhh! We won’t tell. Alternatively, cooking recipes that involve coffee, but which don’t rely on its acidity or liveliness, are also a good way to make sure those less-than-fresh coffee beans don’t go completely to waste. If you’re tired of sweet treats and mocha brownies, consider a dry spice rub for grilling meat, like this example from Midyett Premium Rub.
TL;DR: How To Store Coffee For Maximum Freshness
Always start with buying great coffee that’s freshly roasted (check for the date!) from a quality roaster. Try to select coffee that’s thoughtfully packaged, ideally in a resealable, foil-lined container, and always with a valve. Only open the coffee right before you’re going to use it, and only dose out as much into your grinder as you need to brew right then. Keep it sealed in its bag and use it within ten days, or transfer it to an airtight container—transfer it sooner if you’re not sure the bag it came in is a good one. When shopping, only buy as much coffee as you’ll use in the next few days, and simply buy another bag when it runs out.
Consider signing up for a Coffee Club subscription so that you’re always resupplied with freshly roasted beans at just the right time! And if you have to leave town for a few days (or a few weeks) in the middle of the bag, go ahead and put that coffee in a bag you’ve squeezed all the air out of and it will probably still be alright—and almost certainly better than coming home to no coffee at all.