How to Store Coffee Beans For Freshness 

 February 12, 2016

By  Enda McLarnon

The absolute best way of storing coffee beans is to put them into an airtight container. Then place that container somewhere cool and dry and out of the daylight.

This applies to instant coffee, ground coffee and even coffee beans. If you do that then you can add considerable length to the storage period, and also keep your coffee as fresh as you can.

You will notice that even with instant coffee manufacturers seal the jar and also have it with a screw lid or some type of close suction cover. They are trying to prevent the grains coming into contact with the air as that is what starts to impact on the taste, aroma and freshness of your coffee.

The tighter seal that the container has the better.

Personally I would never recommend storing any coffee in those kitchen jars usually called "Tea," "Coffee" and "Sugar." They are designed to look pretty rather than be functional.

Most of these simply do not have an airtight seal, and that makes them useless for storing coffee beans or coffee grounds.

How Long Does Coffee Stay Fresh?

When coffee has gone through the roasting process, the two weeks after it has been roasted and packaged, will be the time when the coffee is as fresh as you are ever going to get.

That is not a long period of time but when compared to coffee that has already been pre-ground it actually is.

For many years I bought pre-ground coffee and kept it in the fridge to try and keep it fresh.Ground coffee starts to lose its aroma and flavour in about 24 hours after being ground.

That is why we highly recommend buying the roasted beans, or even roasting them at home, and then only grinding those, as and when you fancy a cup of coffee.

Roasting beans at home though is a lot of work and takes quite a bit of skill to master. Most coffee drinkers in the UK buy pre-ground coffee, or buy coffee beans and then grind them when they want a cup of coffee.

This article concentrates on storing either the coffee beans or the coffee that has been ground and bought in a sealed bag.

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4 Top Tips for Storing Coffee

Below you will find some very useful tips for storing your coffee which I hope you will find useful.

Tip 1 - Storing Ground Coffee

If you like to buy your coffee pre- ground, then only ever buy what you are going to use for about a week. I would recommend buying from a local supplier where you can go and get them to grind it in front of your eyes.

They will seal it and put it into a bag. With supermarkets it is hard to know how long it has been there.

If there is a "Best Before" date always check that. If there is no date on the bag then just do not buy it. When you get it home put it into the best airtight container that you have and then put it into a cool dry cupboard out of sunlight.

Avoid buying large quantities of this as the lifespan for the best freshness is still short.

Coffee does not like air, moisture, extreme heat or extreme cold conditions. A dark cool cupboard is always the best option, and ideally the coffee should be stored in an airtight container.

Tip 2 - Grind Your Own Beans

There is no question that if you want the best cup of coffee that freshly ground beans is the best way of doing that. Buy your beans and then grind just enough for your actual brew.

Now I know that is time consuming and if that is the case, then grind maybe enough for a day or 2 days. You can then store those grounds as I have outlined in Tip 1.

I agree that buying pre-ground coffee is always tempting. The manufacturers of these products know that too, and that is why you always find a large selection on the supermarket shelves.

It is still very good coffee and it is vacuum packed to keep it fresh. Once that packet is opened though and exposed to the air, it starts to lose its freshness. Properly storing it will certainly keep it a great deal fresher.

If you don't own a coffee grinder, then we would encourage you to buy one. That way you can store the beans and grind them as and when you fancy a brew.

Tip 3 - Use the Best Storage Jars

Ideally anything with a strong airtight seal will make a good jar for storing coffee.  They key here though is making sure that the seal is properly airtight.

You also want the storage jars to be non-porous which means that air can not get in through the material of the jar.

Glass and/or stainless steel is an excellent choice for this and also some type of rubber solution as a seal. Below I have included what I think are the best coffee storage jars currently available on the UK market.

That is because they all have very good airtight seals, and they are non-porous.

Tip 4 - Develop the Putting Away Habit

I am as guilty of this as are many other people. When I open my jar and take the coffee out to make a brew, I have the really bad habit of not instantly sealing the jar again and storing it away.

I get distracted and focus too much on the machine and making the coffee. It is a lot better if you remove what you need, put the seal back on and put it away.

This is simply about creating a good habit. It did however take me months to get into this discipline.

Why Does Coffee Not Stay Fresh?

There are some scientific reasons why the grinds start to lose their flavour. Now I do not want to bore you with chemistry or scientific facts, but a little knowledge can certainly help understand why this happens.

There are three factors that work together which will start to impact on your coffee. These are:

  • Oxidisation
  • Fermentation
  • Volatility

Process 1 - Oxidisation

If coffee grains are exposed to the air they are in fact exposed to the oxygen in the air. Almost always that will mean they can also be impacted by temperature, light and moisture.

If you ever cut open a piece of fruit like a melon or an apple, you will notice that they will start to go a brown colour.

The same thing happens with coffee grains and that is called oxidisation. It makes your coffee start to taste a little stale as the oil and aroma is impacted by the environment around them.

With fruit it is easy to see that happen quite quickly. With coffee beans or grounds, due to the dark colour, that is very difficult to see, but it still happens.

Process 2 - Fermentation

Moisture in the air causes fermentation and you want to try and avoid that at all costs. The more coffee is exposed to water in the air, then the bigger the chances are that the coffee starts to ferment.

Fermentation is simply a chemical breakdown by substances like bacteria, yeast or other micro-organisms. It usually shows itself by heat.

Process 3 - Volatile Chemical Reaction

Various chemical reactions create the pleasant aroma of coffee, which we want to have for the best tastes. The chemicals however can evaporate very quickly when brought into contact with the air.

In other words when coffee is exposed to air, we lose the chemicals that actually go towards making the aroma and taste of the coffee. The longer they are exposed, the more aroma and flavour we lose, when it comes to brewing time.

So when these three processes start to happen together, and mainly that is because the grains have been exposed to the air, a number of chemical reactions take place of the surface of the bean or the grains and the coffee starts to be impacted.

In a tightly sealed container stored properly the coffee will simply stay fresher and last a great deal longer. Ideally if that container has a very good seal, and is also non-porous, then your coffee will stay fresher for longer.

Can You Store Coffee in the Bag Provided?

It simply depends on the bag that you are given. The silver foil type bags with some type of vacuum seal work great.

On the other hand a brown paper bag that you can get from some coffee shops is just not ideal. The paper is porous and there is not any easy way of getting an air tight seal.

Rolling the bag up to seal it simply doesn't work. It will help keep some air out of it, but it just does not create a nice tight seal. Keeping it in the bag is better than pouring it into a kitchen canister, but it is just not the best way to store your coffee.

Should You Store Coffee in a Fridge?

When we asked around the various writers at our website where they stored their coffee, I was pleased to find out that no-one stored their coffee in a fridge. It really should never be stored there as there is simply no benefit, and actually reduces the life of the grounds or beans.

That is because the cooler temperature inside your fridge will actually create moisture, and that of course is bad for any type of coffee storage.

Conclusion on Storing Coffee

The best advice is only to buy as much coffee as you are actually going to use in a short period of time. That of course will depend on how much coffee is actually consumed in your home.

Personally I buy around a one pound weight in bean format. I then grind this coffee just before I do the actual brew as I really do like my coffee to be fresh.

I store the beans in my Friis Coffee Canistor, which I find does an excellent job of keeping them fresh.

Any storage jar is better than none and worth the effort of putting the beans into the jar, and into a dark dry cupboard.

Enda McLarnon

Enda McLarnon has a Business Management Honour's Degree and applies his professional insight, to analyse and write helpful product reviews with tips and useful advice. I am also a coffee lover and enjoy tasting all of the coffee types the world has to offer.

Enda McLarnon

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