A Comprehensive Guide to Coffee Storage

You find a coffee that you fall in love with. It’s the best tasting cup you’ve ever tried. You take your new-found coffee home… and after a week it doesn’t taste at all as good as it used to. So the question is: How are you storing your coffee? Keep reading for the best storage tips to keep your coffee tasting like it should!

Coffee Bean Enemies

Coffee enemies cartoon, including water, temperature, light, and oxygen

There are many environmental factors that can alter the flavour of your beans. But a few common factors can affect the freshness of your coffee beans much more than expected. Proper storage of your coffee will keep your beans fresh and delicious for weeks. But first, it helps to know some fresh coffee enemies.

1. Oxygen Exposure

Cartoon of oxygen as a food enemy

The first enemy to coffee storage is oxygen. Oxygen is a necessary factor for all life as we know it. But exposure to oxygen over time affects the flavour of your coffee. Every coffee bean contains oils, acids, and chemical compounds that we call “solubles”. Many of these solubles are what give coffee its amazing flavour. These solubles begin to degrade when exposed to the oxygen in the air. You’ll especially notice this with coffee that is pre-ground.

2. Light Exposure

Cartoon of a light bulb as a food enemy

The second coffee storage enemy is being exposed to light. Light exposure is also called “photodegradation”. It’s the phenomenon that occurs when the energy in light waves start to erode a physical object. You may have noticed this in an old painting or a faded umbrella. Photodegradation also speeds up the oxidation process in your coffee.

3. Moisture

Cartoon of water as a food enemy

Moisture is the third coffee storage problem. Wet or damp conditions definitely will have a negative effect on your coffee beans. If your coffee beans get wet they can grow mold, making the coffee unsafe to drink. Storing your coffee beans in a dry place is imperative. Humidity refers to the moisture that exists in the air. It can be hard to control humidity depending on where you live.

4. Temperature

Cartoon of temperature as a food enemy

The fourth coffee storage problem is temperature. Temperature fluctuations change the coffee beans chemical structure. Storing coffee above room temperature can speed up the aging of your bean. Heat will also increase the rate that C02 and oils leave the bean’s surface. On the other end, storing coffee in too much cold can leave your cup tasting flat.

The Ultimate Coffee Storage Guide

So now you know what to watch for to keep your coffee fresh. Now we’ll go over some great ways to avoid the coffee enemies. Here’s some great tips for coffee storage (and other foods too!)

Avoid Direct Sunlight

Three corked jars with coffee beans inside them

To keep coffee safe from photodegradation it is best to keep it away from direct sunlight. If you are storing your coffee in an opaque container, you can keep it on your counter at your coffee station. However, if your coffee canister is clear plastic or glass, you should keep it tucked away in a pantry or cupboard. Darkness is definitely better for the best freshness.

Airtight containers

An airtight container will keep your beans safe from oxidation and moisture exposure. There are many airtight options for storing your coffee. In this section we go over a few of our favourites.

1. Our custom recyclable coffee bags

When you buy fresh roasted Cupper’s coffee, we seal it in our custom designed, recyclable bags. The bags have a fresh seal zipper on top to keep any air from escaping. They also have a semipermeable air valve on the back. This allows the C02 in the coffee to escape, without letting any oxygen into your coffee. As two bonuses, you can reuse them in our store, and when you’re done they are #2 bin recyclable in Lethbridge.

2. Planetary Design Airscape Containers

Planetary Design Airscape Containers come in plastic, glass, metal, and ceramic. There is a variety of sizes and colours to suit any decor as well. The unique part of their design is they all have two lids. The inner lid has a patented valve that allows air to escape before sealing. The outer lid is often clear, allowing you to see when you need to restock your coffee. This is a huge improvement on many coffee containers that trap harmful air in with your beans.

3. Your own container

Top view of coffee beans stored in a clampable mason jar

If you have a favourite container that works as coffee storage, feel free to use that. We’re big fans of using what you already have. If you haven’t seen a degradation in the quality of your coffee, don’t feel pressured to get something new. Basically, don’t fix what’s not broken.

The Debate: Pantry vs. Freezer

Always keep your coffee in a place where it will be safe from light, temperature, and humidity changes. For these reasons one of the best places to store your coffee is in your pantry.

a woman looking in a cupboard vs. a woman looking in a fridge freezer

Many people have their coffee storage in their freezer to keep it fresh. We don’t recommend this for a several reasons:

  1. The moisture content in a freezer is higher than is good for coffee. You wouldn’t store coffee in the freezer for the same reasons that you wouldn’t store flour in the freezer.

  2. Another problem is the bad effect that temperature change has on coffee beans. It can change the flavour as it is cooled and warmed repeatedly.

  3. Freezers are notorious for their flat, stale smell. Coffee is an excellent absorber of odours. No one wants their coffee to taste like the inside of their freezer.

Having said this, the freezer can be an excellent place to store coffee. But if you want to store your coffee in your freezer, consider a few key factors. First, make sure that your coffee storage container is completely 100% airtight. Second, you need to thaw the beans well in advance of using them. When thawing your beans it is best to be away from light and air. Third, examine the beans for any trace of water before putting them in your grinder. Remember, condensation can happen on any cold object!

Even with all this care you still may experience a flat flavour from the changes in your beans. Often it’s simpler and easier to keep your coffee in a pantry or cupboard.

Sustainable Coffee Storage Practices

Measuring coffee into an airscape for coffee storage

When buying coffee it’s important to remember the environmental impact of your packaging. Of course you want to keep your coffee fresh, but you should also be mindful of what you may be adding to the landfill. Look for coffee packed in recyclable or compostable materials. Many coffee shops will also allow you to reuse your storage containers. And if you bring in your own container or reuse our Cupper’s coffee bags, you’ll also get a discount for that coffee!

Cupper’s Coffee & Tea has made a commitment to shrinking our environmental footprint. That’s why all our coffee comes in bags that are #2 recyclable. Check out our sustainability efforts in Cupper’s Coffee Roasters, Keeping it Green.

Assessing Coffee Bean Freshness

Coffee is a shelf stable product and doesn’t go bad or expire. But while it doesn’t spoil, it can definitely loose freshness and flavour. With more time (and bad storage!) it can become musty, stale, flat or otherwise taste terrible. When coffee passes its best before date there will be some key indicators that it’s no longer fresh. In this section we will go over some quick indicators that your coffee is stale.

1. Aroma Check

A man smelling a scoop of coffee for freshness

The first and easiest step to checking your coffee’s freshness is to smell it. Fresh coffee will have a pleasing rich and smooth aroma. Coffee that has aged out will smell more musty or like cardboard. Trust your sense of smell. If your coffee doesn’t smell right, it’s likely not fresh coffee.

2. Visual Inspection

A man looking at individual coffee beans for freshness

As coffee beans age the natural oils in the beans come to the surface. This is normal in a dark roast, but not something that should appear in a medium roast. A very shiny or oily bean from a medium roast is a good indicator that your coffee storage is inadequate. As mentioned earlier, oxidation speeds up this aging process in your coffee.

3. Do a Brew Test

Fresh coffee bloom in the top of a pourover

If you’ve ever made a pourover with fresh coffee, you know that the grounds ‘bloom’ when you first pour water on them. The bloom is the burst of bubbles that erupt from the grounds. If you pour your hot water too fast, your coffee (and grounds!) will froth over the top of your carafe and make a big mess. This is because fresh coffee grounds release C02 as the hot water hits them. So a great way to test the freshness of your ground coffee is to brew it. If you’re not noticing a big, bold bloom, it is likely that your coffee is older, or the storage is poor.

Coffee Storage Conclusions

In conclusion, if you want to keep your coffee safe from the elements you need to invest in a good storage solution. The best advice is to keep your coffee in an airtight container in a cool and dry place. We don’t recommend keeping your coffee in the freezer to keep it fresh. There’s a host of better options that will work for you with minimal effort. And you’ll get better tasting coffee, which adds great value!

FAQs on Coffee Storage

1. Can you freeze coffee beans?

Storing your coffee beans in the freezer is not recommended. Moisture, humidity, and temperature have a drastic effect on the freshness of coffee. And the absorption of aromas from the freezer can affect the flavour of your coffee. No one wants to drink coffee that tastes like freezer burn!

2. How long do coffee beans last?

While coffee does not have an expiry date, it will start to degrade over time. Well stored coffee can last more than a month from the roast date. While it may not have the bloom of fresh roasted coffee, the flavours do last better in good storage.

3. What is the best way to store coffee long term?

We recommend storing your coffee in an airtight canister in a cool dry place. Our favourite storage combo is a tightly-sealed Airscape in the pantry.

4. Is coffee still good after 5 years?

Coffee does not have an expiry date. As long as it hasn’t come into contact with moisture and doesn’t appear to have mould on it it should be safe to drink. The flavour does degrade over time, so a 5 year-old coffee will have little or very compromised favour.

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