The best-tasting coffee starts with the freshest beans but you may buy a couple of months worth of coffee beans at a time because it is cheaper and more convenient to buy a 1kg bag of beans than it is to keep buying more expensive 250g bags weekly.
So how do you know how to store coffee beans and keep them fresh?
Some say keep them in the fridge, some say to keep them in the freezer and others say to do neither of those and store them in a cool dark place for maximum freshness.
We will dispel all of the myths and give you the facts rather than stories and opinions that may or not be true.
Should you store coffee beans in the fridge?
In short, no. Certain food types benefit from being cooled and refrigerated and some do not.
Common examples that generally get misunderstood as being best in the fridge are things like eggs and tomatoes. It kind of makes logical sense to think they will be better off in the fridge but room temperature is best.
Coffee is the same. Putting it in the fridge will do nothing for it and in fact, may adversely affect the quality as fridges are obviously cold places that can have moisture and condensation which are the precise things that you want to keep away from coffee beans.
Oxygen exposure will start to erode the quality of the beans over time but it will take a lot longer whilst they are in whole bean form so one place to consider if you want to retain the freshness of the beans for longer is the freezer.
There is much less oxygen in the freezer than the fridge and temperatures are also much lower so you will get some benefit by keeping them in there for a short period of time.
One of the most common purchase sizes for coffee beans is a 1kg bag. Even if you drink a decent amount of coffee that will probably last you for a good 2-4 weeks if not longer so consider putting half into an airtight container and storing them in the freezer until you need them.
Is it ok to store coffee in the bag provided?
Not really. If you buy your beans from the supermarket you will notice that they have a valve on them. As soon as the beans go into the packet the air is sucked out of the bag to create a vacuum inside that is oxygen-free. The manufacturer knows that sucking the air out of the bag will keep the beans fresher for longer.
Some of those beans with vacuum seals could have been roasted a year ago so without the removal of the air they will go stale very quickly.
As soon as you open the bag the vacuum is broken and oxygen floods into the bag and the corrosion process begins immediately.
If you keep them in the bag try and grind and drink the coffee within around 2 weeks otherwise you will start to notice a deterioration in the quality of the coffee.
If you think it is going to take longer than a couple of weeks you can store the rest in the freezer (but not the fridge)
You will only see the vacuum seal on mass-produced coffee that gets roasted in a specific country and then shipped worldwide.
If you are lucky enough to live near to a specialist coffee roaster they will just provide you will a nice bag that has been sealed but not vacuum sealed. The beans will most likely have been roasted in the last few days or a week at the most so they will be super fresh and drinkable at maximum freshness for a good couple of weeks
What is the best way to store coffee beans?
Without a doubt, the best place to store your coffee beans to retain the maximum amount of freshness is an airtight container.
Make sure to get a genuine airtight container that sucks all of the air out when the lid goes on otherwise you might as well just put them in any old jar.
Pay a little bit more and go for a see-through one so that you can see exactly how much coffee you have left at a glance. Once the air is sucked out it will give you a good couple of extra weeks more than if you just put it in a standard jar or container or kept it in the bag that the coffee came in.
A cool, dark cupboard in an airtight container is by far the best bet for storing excess coffee beans ready for grinding.
Start with the freshest coffee beans
This is super important because if you start with beans that are off, storing them in the correct way will do nothing because if they are stale to start with you won’t be able to keep them fresh because they were never fresh in the first place.
There is one simple rule that we strongly recommend following before you purchase your beans.
If you don’t know the roasting date don’t buy the beans.
Some of the largest manufacturers of coffee beans in the world such as Lavazza don’t put the date of roasting onto their bags and for good reason.
They may have been roasted a year ago by the time you buy them and then maybe up to another month goes by before you grind the beans and turn them into a cup of coffee.
Without getting technical they have different techniques to maintain the freshness such as flushing the beans in Nitrogen before removing the oxygen in the bag to help keep the beans fresh.
This definitely helps to a certain extent but would you rather be drinking coffee from beans that were roasted a year ago or a week ago?
If you normally get your beans from a supermarket then you will struggle to find many, if any, coffee beans with a roasting date on if you shop in the likes of Lidl, Aldi, Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Asda because their ranges of beans lean more towards the cheaper mass-produced stuff which tends to be of a lower quality.
Waitrose and Marks and Spencer, on the other hand, are much better and a have a decent selection of beans from specialist roasters that show the date of roasting and in some cases the name of the person that roasted the beans personally by hand.
You will pay a bit more for beans roasted recently but you will notice the difference in flavour 10-fold.
There are also many different options online from companies that specialise in roasting beans to order.
Here are some really good options to consider when it comes to choosing and buying coffee beans
If you can see the roasting date on the packet try and get beans that have been roasted in the last couple of weeks and completely ignore the use by date which is actually quite hard to do because that is what we are used to doing but it is not applicable when it comes to coffee.
If you were to leave it until the use-by date you would be getting a very poor tasting coffee compared to drinking it close to the roasting date.
As a general rule use up your coffee beans within around a month of the roasting date for maximum freshness.
Storing your coffee in the correct way during that time will help to maintain the freshness.
Only grind what you need for right now
Once ground coffee is exposed to the air it will start to lose maximum flavour within around 30 minutes.
Have you ever wondered why when you go to a coffee shop they only grind the beans that are used to make your coffee after you have placed your order?
It would be easy to think that it is for authenticity or to create a bit of a show to make you think you are getting more for your money but it is actually for one reason only. The fresher the ground coffee the better the flavour and you can’t get much fresher than about 30 seconds.
So when you are storing your coffee never store ground coffee, only store the coffee beans.
Coffee ground one day and used the next day will taste different and you may wonder why you can’t quite get that coffee shop taste at home and put it down to the megabucks super-duper coffee machines you see in Costa or Starbucks but most of the time it just comes down to how fresh the coffee is.
A simple low-cost cheap espresso machine can produce surprisingly good results as long as you grind the beans just before brewing your coffee.
Does coffee go off?
When you think about something going off you tend to think of things like milk that smells disgusting and would make you vomit if you tried to drink it after leaving it out at room temperature for a couple of days.
And we are all guilty of leaving some food type or another in the fridge for too long and when you spot it with a bit of mould on it you realise that it has gone off and it goes straight in the bin.
Coffee beans are not like that. If you keep your beans in a jar in the cupboard and forget all about them only to discover them at the back a few years later and took a look you could easily be fooled into thinking that they were fine. They wouldn’t really look that much different to when you put them in there.
If they are a dark roast bean it would be more obvious that they had been in there for a while because the nice oily finish that is present on recently roasted beans would be gone and the dark shine would have faded but other than that there would be no mould present and you may be tempted to whack them straight in to the grinder and make yourself what is essentially a free coffee because you had forgotten all about them anyway.
You won’t come down with a fever or any kind of illness if you grind and drink coffee beans that have been in the cupboard for a few years but we wouldn’t recommend it.
Coffee is a drink to enjoy and savour. Any beans that have been in the cupboard for that long are going to be stale and flavourless.
So I guess the definition of coffee going off is coffee that just tastes naff as opposed to goes all mouldy and visually decayed.
Here is a short video explaining how coffee long coffee lasts, why and how to keep it fresher for longer