By Terri Paajanen
Should you freeze your coffee beans or just keep them in the fridge? What type of container should it be kept in? Does it matter if it’s in whole bean form or already ground for brewing? Storing coffee is no simple matter. How should you answer these questions?
Well it mainly depends on what form your coffee is in: whole bean or ground.
Unroasted (green) beans store the best and will last the longest. If they are stored in a cool area, in a sealed container (glass or plastic is fine), they can last over a year and still be very fresh when you get around to roasting them up for brewing. The problem with green beans is that there is a lot more work involved to turn them into a cup of coffee when you are ready to use them. You’ll have to roast them and grind them.
This may not be the best route for an average coffee drinker who prefers a quicker cup. Green beans can be harder to find too as many grocery stores don’t carry them. If you want unroasted beans, you’ll need to try your local coffee shop.
After that, the next best way to store coffee is to store in roasted but whole bean form. Grinding your own beans is pretty simple, and will be worth the effort once you taste the final results. Roasted whole beans will last 1 to 2 weeks, when stored at room temperature. You should keep it in an airtight container. Plastic or metal containers may contaminate the flavor, so try to use ceramic or glass if possible. If you must use clear glass, then store in a dark place so the light doesn’t degrade the beans.
One other thing to consider is gas. Roasted beans create a lot of gas (carbon dioxide to be more specific). For the first few days after you’ve roasted them, you should open up your coffee container each day to vent out extra gas. Some containers can actually burst if you don’t. Another alternative is to use valve bags. They have little one-way valves in them to allow CO2 to escape but don’t allow oxygen in. The downfall is that these bags can be pricey, and even harder to find than green beans.
If you can’t use up your whole bean coffee in 2 weeks, then you should freeze it. Coffee stored this way will last about a month, maybe two and still be reasonably fresh once brewed. Wrap it up in 2 or 3 layers of plastic wrap, or use an airtight container with as much air removed as you can manage to prevent freezer burn. Once your beans have been frozen and thawed, do not refreeze. You don’t even have to thaw them out before grinding. Frozen beans will grind up just fine.
Don’t try to compromise by storing in the fridge. That is the worst place for your coffee. It’s just not cold enough to keep it fresh. With all the other foods in your fridge, your coffee is likely to pick up odd flavours. That’s never good. Either store it at room temperature or in the freezer.
The last kind of coffee would be roasted and ground. This is the most volatile form, and isn’t good for storage beyond a few days. Again, use an air-tight and light-proof container. Don’t bother trying to freeze ground coffee. With all that extra surface area, it’s going to go stale very quickly even when frozen. This type of coffee should be purchased or prepared in small quantities so you can use it up quickly while it is still fresh.