The Secret to Storing Coffee Beans How to Protect your Beans
After trial and error, (or like me you just love trying any specialty coffee you can get your hands on) you have finally found the roast that has the perfect balance of aroma, flavor and body, now what do you do to preserve your precious prize until the last bean is gone? As we have discovered, roasted coffee has a few foes; (check out our post, “Coffee’s Enemies”) that will attack the overall quality, taste and freshness of your beans. Avoiding coffees foes with proper storage will help extend the wonderful origin flavors that have been brought forth in your specialty roast.
These guys are out to get your precious beans:
Oxidization begins immediately once the roast is compete. Oxygen is coffees number one enemy.
As soon as coffee comes in contact with liquid, the brewing process starts. Once the brewing process starts, the beans or coffee grounds are left void of all flavor.
Coffee is absorbent, it will suck in any surrounding odors and they will be present in your cup.
Pulls out the existing oils in the coffee leaving behind bland tasting beans.
Any source of light will cause your coffee to become flat and stale. Never store your coffee in direct or indirect light.
Extending the Life of your Roast
For starters, make sure you are purchasing roasted to order coffee. When you purchase beans from the supermarket, you are already losing out on quality and flavor. Coffee sold in the supermarket is already several months old by the time you get your hands on it. Just because it is a new bag of coffee doesn’t mean its a fresh roast!
Look for the roast date on the bag. A roaster that takes pride in fresh, full flavor beans will proudly stamp the roast date on the bag. Always choose the bag that has the most recent roast date. Keep in mind, coffee intended for auto-drip or manual brew methods need to rest for about 24 hours after roasting, whereas beans roasted for use as espresso need around 5 days of rest before consumed. The rest period, also known as degassing, give the beans time to off gas carbon dioxide. If the beans are too fresh, meaning they have not had ample time to off gas, there will be slight salty and/or chemical taste from the release of carbon dioxide during the brewing process.
Whole Bean vs. Ground
Whenever possible, purchase whole bean! The bean itself is the best vessel for safeguarding the subtle flavors of the coffee. Once the vessel is broken (ground) the coffee will quickly begin to decline in quality. Coffee grounds degrade in quality and flavor much faster than whole beans. Ground coffee has a larger surface area for oxygen to leach out the flavor and stale the grounds.
The Coffee Bag
There are several types of coffee bags. Most are Kraft paper bags with thin plastic linings. These types of bags will not keep your coffee fresh for very long. In fact, after about a week the coffee will begin to loose flavor and can start to taste stale. Bags that are foil lined with a one-way valve are a far better choice when compared to thinly lined paper bags. These bags vacuum seal your coffee as they release gas through a small pinhole in the valve, while preventing air from entering the bag. High quality bags equipped with a resealable zipper and a one-way valve can keep your coffee fresh for a few weeks. If your beans come packaged this way, maintaining freshness can be achieved by simply placing your sealed bag in the pantry or cabinet.
The number one requirement to look for in a coffee storage container is that it is airtight (hermetic). Oxygen is the fastest way to lose freshness and the amazing flavor of your coffee. In addition to keeping your coffee fresh, airtight containers also prevent coffee from absorbing any nearby odors that will affect the taste of your roast. The second, and equally important requirement for a coffee storage container is it should be opaque. When coffee is exposed to direct or indirect light the beans will begin to stale and the taste will be affected. The best storage option should also include a vacuum seal to allow carbon dioxide gas put off by the beans to escape. There are many different hermetically sealed vessels available that are created specifically for storing coffee. If purchasing a specialized container is not an option, you can use an airtight ceramic, glass or metal container.
Storing Green Beans
Unroasted, or green, coffee beans need to be stored properly to retain freshness. Green beans are more durable than their roasted counterparts, making storage a little easier. Coffee beans are actually seeds from the fruit (cherry) of the coffee tree. Like any other seed, if exposed to harsh conditions, it will dry and whither away. Like roasted coffee beans, green beans need to be stored in an airtight container and kept in a cool environment. The temperature and humidity in the storage area should be kept from fluctuating to much to keep from damaging the quality of the beans. If green coffee beans are stored properly, they can stay fresh up to a year.
Coffee stays fresh the longest when it is left whole bean, kept in an airtight container and is stored in a cool, dark and dry environment. Keep in mind, no matter how well you store your coffee, optimal freshness typically begins to degrade after a few weeks of roasting for whole beans and within a week for ground coffee. It is best to purchase fresh roasted, whole bean coffee on a weekly basis.