As someone with a slight addiction to fine coffee and quite a lot of experience in the coffee production industry, I can tell you that proper coffee bean storage is critical to the outcome of your fresh morning brew.
The best way to store coffee beans is to keep them safe from damaging external factors like oxygen, light, heat, microorganisms, and physical impact.
Table of Contents
- 1 Storage Canisters That Actually Work (What I recommend)
- 2 Storing Coffee Beans In The Freezer Can Work Well (When Done Properly)
- 3 5 Tips for Preserving and Storing Your Coffee Beans
- 4 Beans From The Tree To Your Cup: Understanding Storage
- 5 Wrapping it up
Storage Canisters That Actually Work (What I recommend)
After you first open your coffee beans by breaking the seal on their packaging or on the container that they came in, the clock starts ticking.
To ensure that your beans will taste the best for the longest, you’ll want to move them to a better storage container immediately after you first open their bag.
Even coffee pean packages with zipper seals aren’t that great. Most bags are designed for shipping and cost reduction, not for long-term storage.
To protect your beans, you’ll want to either get a storage container specifically designed for coffee or freeze them.
Since air, heat, light, moisture, bacteria, and breakage are enemies to coffee beans, you’ll want to move them to a better container.
Opaque containers that are airtight work best. You should pick one with a CO2 valve as well.
There are many impressive coffee bean storage containers out there with CO2 valves. Here are just a few of them.
I particularly like the Coffee Gator Stainless Steel Container because of its handy design and calendar wheel. I own one and use it regularly.
Coffee Gator Stainless Steel Container
This is a canister with a CO2 valve that releases CO2 but and effectively keeps air at bay.
It’s sleek, sturdy, and easy to clean.
It also has a calendar wheel that lets you see how long your coffee beans have been in there.
That is really useful to check if you are still within the two weeks “freshness” window after roasting
This coffee beans storage container preserves the flavors of all types of coffee beans and comes at a really decent price.
OPUX Coffee Canister
Another impressive coffee bean vault, the Opux Coffee beans canister available on Amazon comes in a few nice color choices and has a CO2 vent as well.
It also has a date tracker. It’s made of premium food grade stainless-steel and also features a dial date tracker.
Storing Coffee Beans In The Freezer Can Work Well (When Done Properly)
If you have some really awesome coffee beans and you can’t use them right away, freezing them may also be a good option.
While there’s a lot of debate on the topic, in blind taste tests, most people were unable to tell the difference between freshly roasted beans and beans that had been stored properly in a freezer for four months.
The key word here is properly.
You can’t just toss your coffee beans in the freezer in a plastic zipper bag. You’ll need a special freezer container of some kind.
Fill your alternative freezer-safe storage containers up as fully as possible to eliminate air.
If you can vacuum seal your coffee beans and then put them into another opaque container before you freeze them, this is best.
You have to keep them completely dry and away from light and condensation.
On a side note, keeping your coffee beans in the fridge is one of the worst things you can do because of the high humidity levels.
The key to freezing coffee beans is keeping the air and humidity out and thawing them out properly before you grind them.
You’ll want your coffee beans to thaw out in their container completely before opening them after they’ve been frozen. Otherwise, the condensation that will accumulate on their porous surfaces will totally ruin their flavor.
Freeze beans in small portions so you don’t have to do as much thawing. Then, thaw your beans in a cool dry place for at least four hours. Also, remember to never grind frozen coffee beans.
5 Tips for Preserving and Storing Your Coffee Beans
Let’s see how you can extend the life of your beans.
Essentially, you’ll want to eliminate exposure to air, humidity, bacteria, light, and heat.
You’ll also want to keep your coffee beans whole and intact. Here’s why.
Remember, oxygen is enemy number one.
Coffee beans are very porous. Oxygen can start to seep into your coffee beans as CO2 is eliminated.
There’s a window after degassing where coffee beans have minimal CO2 and almost no oxygenation impact.
This is when your beans will taste the best. The longer beans are exposed to air, the more they lose flavor and oils.
Oxygen breaks down oils and disperses them. Simply put, this makes coffee beans taste bland.
Humidity leads to staleness; avoid it.
Humidity is the number one contributor to staleness, not air.
When the microscopic droplets of water found in the air reach your coffee beans, they begin to degrade immediately.
Humidity can also lead to bacterial growth and mold.
Coffee beans are prone to UV damage so keep them in the dark.
Ultraviolet light can also harm your coffee beans. Coffee beans, like any organic matter, are prone to photodegradation.
Photodegradation is just a fancy word that means light damage.
When storing coffee, opaque containers are your best bet. They’ll help to keep out light and protect your coffee beans on a cellular level.
Mold and bacterial will ruin your day.
Suffice to say, bacterial growth and other foreign microorganisms can totally destroy your coffee beans.
Even though coffee beans look very durable and hard, they can be decimated by these factors.
If your coffee is moldy, just throw it in the trash can.
To prevent getting disgusting unusable coffee beans, always make sure that the beans you buy are within their expiration date and in packaging that is free of rips or punctures.
Store your coffee beans in a cool and dry place.
Heat is another problem that you’ll want to avoid when storing your coffee beans. Heat breaks down the structure of coffee beans at an atomic level.
This is why you brew coffee grounds hot. Keeping your coffee beans cool and dry will protect them from this kind of damage.
Whole beans are happy beans.
Coffee beans are also prone to breakage.
When a coffee bean breaks or is crushed, it starts releasing important oils and drying out.
To avoid crushed coffee beans, only buy bags of beans from trusted retailers. For storage, keep your coffee beans in a place where they won’t accidentally get smashed.
Beans From The Tree To Your Cup: Understanding Storage
If you really want to protect your coffee beans, it can be extremely beneficial to first understand how exactly those beans are picked, roasted, and preserved.
Coffee beans are a lot more complex than most people realize. How else would you get the unique and irresistible flavor profiles and aromas found in your morning cup of joe?
Knowing what goes into each batch of coffee beans before they wind up on the shelves of your local grocery store or coffee shop can help you better understand how to store to and protect your coffee beans in the long-run.
Growing Up Green
First off, coffee beans are actually seeds. They’re similar to cherry pits in many ways.
They come from the ripened fruit of the Coffea plant.
There isn’t just one kind of Coffea plant either; there are over 100 different Coffea plant species and subspecies.
Today, only four types of Coffea beans are used to grow most of the world’s coffee beans.
Of these four, only two plants are used to produce up 90% of the coffee beans on the mainstream market: Arabica and Robusta.
Liberica and Excelsa beans are far less common. Generally, all coffee beans can be stored in a similar manner, with a few exceptions.
Robusta beans are smaller, rounder, more compact, and more durable than other types of coffee beans.
Their shape, size, and robust nature allow them to hold on to more oil in the roasting process.
They tend to have a slightly longer shelf-life and grinding window than the other three types of coffee beans. Still, the difference isn’t that big.
Whether you’re using Robusta beans or Arabica beans, storage methods will be pretty much the same.
Picked for Perfection
Coffea plant cherries are picked green and then ripened to perfection.
The fruity outer layer is removed and the coffee beans are extracted and dried.
Most large-scale coffee producers use industrial drying machines, though some coffee producers still hand turn and dry their Coffea cherries on large tables.
All coffee beans must be dried out before they can be stored and roasted.
Otherwise, the water in the beans will spoil the flavors and oils that make coffee taste the amazing way that it does.
Roasting and Oil Transformation
In the roasting process, coffee beans are given their caramelized color and complex flavors.
There are a few different ways to roast coffee beans: Light roasts, dark roasts, and then there’s also a separate roasting and decaffeination process used in decaf coffee.
As beans are roasted, many chemical changes begin to take place.
Lipids and oils are transformed into complex and unique flavoring agents. Caffeine is also created by the development of an oil called Caffeol.
Caffeol shows up at around 200 °C (392 °F) and is largely responsible for the aromas and flavors found in coffee beans.
A Little Break to Rest and Become Mature
When coffee beans are roasted, heat induces certain chemical changes which create gasses inside of the coffee beans.
The gas must be removed before coffee beans can be ground down and consumed.
Degassing is also known as resting in the coffee industry. The degassing process is responsible for the elimination of CO2 in coffee beans.
It’s like a coffee bean’s version of aging. Just like with a fine wine or craft beer, coffee beans are allowed to “age” in an open storage for a period of time, usually around two to twelve days.
On the first day of degassing, about 40% of the CO2 in a coffee bean will be released. By the time coffee beans are packaged, they’ll only have about 5-10% of CO2 left in them.
Why is this important to coffee bean storage you may ask? Well, the more CO2 that gets released, the more prone to oxygenation the coffee beans become.
Prime for Packaging and Processing
When coffee beans are packaged, as much air will be eliminated as possible.
This helps to preserve the beans for longer.
With many international coffee bean shipments, a process called nitro-flushing will take place.
Nitro-flushing is a way to use nitrogen to eliminate air from coffee beans. This is necessary for beans to be shipped all over the world without going bad in-transit.
Many fine Italian coffee beans will arrive nitro-flushed.
Some people prefer unprocessed coffee beans and claim that nitro-flushing negatively impacts the flavors and scents found in coffee beans.
In my humble opinion, nitro-flushing has little to no impact on the overall flavor of the coffee you get from the beans.
It simply helps them last longer. Coffee beans are almost always packaged in thick opaque bags or containers.
Wrapping it up
So there you have it. The best ways to protect and preserve your coffee beans.
Did I leave anything out?
What methods do you prefer to use to store your coffee beans?
Please feel free to comment, share, or leave your feedback.