Maximize Freshness: The Perfect Way To Store Your Coffee

There’s a good chance you have strong opinions about which coffee you buy to brew at home. But have you ever given much thought to how you store your coffee? Or why you store it this way? If not, you may be surprised to hear that coffee storage is pretty important and has a big influence on coffee freshness. And there’s a chance you’re not doing it right — especially if you’ve made a habit of tossing your coffee grounds or beans in the refrigerator.

Given that there’s a whole lot of debate around coffee storage out there, we reached out to the experts who could quickly help us separate the truth from the myths. Here’s everything you need to know about storing coffee to maximize freshness and flavor, and why your storage method matters.

What’s the best way to store coffee?

Coffee storage may seem complicated, but it’s actually pretty simple as long as you keep a few rules in mind — you want to keep your coffee in an airtight container, in a cool, dry place, and away from direct sunlight.

The goal is to protect the coffee from anything that ages it more quickly, which includes humidity, air temperature, light and oxygen.

“I jokingly say that all the things good for humans are bad for coffee — like air, moisture and light,” said Jiyoon Han, a Q grader, barista and co-owner of Bean & Bean Coffee. “Proper storage is crucial to maintaining the quality of the coffee.”

The same principles apply to both coffee grounds and coffee beans, but ground coffee will age more quickly than coffee beans no matter how it’s stored, simply because the greater surface area of ground coffee means more of the coffee is exposed to the air.

“Because you want to limit air exposure, whole bean coffee has more of a natural barrier against the air than ground coffee, and it will maintain all of its great flavors for longer,” said Maryna Gray, director of coffee at Bean Box.

How long does coffee stay fresh?

Remember, coffee loses its freshness when exposed to air, light, heat and moisture. “Like any other specialty item in your pantry, [coffee beans] will go stale and lose their flavor after a certain length of time, but if kept in their original packaging and stored properly, you’ll be able to enjoy a coffee for weeks after it is roasted,” Gray said.

Specialty coffee is often sold in a sealed coffee bag with a one-way valve that lets out carbon dioxide that the beans naturally release after roasting while also limiting exposure to oxygen, helping preserve the coffee’s flavor. Unopened, the coffee in this type of packaging will taste great for six weeks or longer, Gray explained. But once you open the packaging, it’s best to consume it within two weeks.

Do you need to keep your coffee in a specific type of container?

Coffee stays freshest when stored in its original packaging or an air-tight container — preferably one that’s opaque and doesn’t allow light to get in. If you’re using a canister, make sure it’s clean and doesn’t smell like anything you previously stored in there, because the coffee will absorb those odors, said Caroline Bell, founder of Café Grumpy.

“There are special coffee canisters that will let a coffee’s carbon dioxide escape while keeping oxygen out,” Gray said. “You’ll want to keep the coffee container in a cool, dark space and avoid air and light exposure.”

Between uses, you can wipe down the canister with a paper towel to remove residue, but avoid using scented soap if you choose to wash it and make sure it’s completely dry before adding coffee.

You can also keep coffee in its original bag, especially if the packaging has the one-way valve that allows carbon dioxide to escape.

“Once you open the bag the clock starts ticking much faster, as it is being exposed to oxygen,” said Laila Ghambari, a coffee industry consultant and former U.S. Barista Champion. Be sure to reseal the bag as tightly as possible with the tie it’s packaged with or even some tape.

Can you store coffee in the refrigerator?

Tossing your coffee beans or grounds in the refrigerator is a big no, according to the coffee experts we spoke with. Your refrigerator is home to a lot of moisture, but coffee beans and grounds maintain freshness for longer when stored in a dry environment.

But exposure to moisture isn’t the only problem with storing coffee in the refrigerator. Coffee also absorbs odors easily, and this can affect the coffee’s taste. So storing your coffee near a bunch of food with potentially strong odors isn’t ideal.

“Coffee beans, in both whole bean and ground form, are like little sponges, very porous and susceptible to absorbing moisture and scent,” Gray said. “It’s preferable to keep your coffee away from other foods and sources of odor.”

What about the freezer?

Whether you can store coffee in the freezer is a bit more nuanced. On one hand, storing coffee in the freezer isn’t the best idea because moisture and odors can get in every time you open the bag to get some coffee beans or grounds.

“Both freezer and fridge storage has to be done in a very specific and controlled way for it to actually benefit the coffee,” said Steven Sutton, CEO of Devoción Coffee. “About 99.99% of the time, consumers don’t have the tools for this, so they will actually harm the coffee.”

When done right, freezing coffee can also slow the aging process and extend coffee’s shelf life — just like it extends the shelf life of many other foods.

If you’re committed to freezing your coffee, this should be done in airtight, single-serving doses, using vacuum-sealed bags or containers, Han said. This will help prevent the coffee from being exposed to moisture and aromas every time you open the package..

“The challenge with freezing coffee comes once you open the bag of coffee — it is no longer in a sealed bag,” Ghambari said. “Unsealed, the coffee will begin to take on freezer flavor. You also risk introducing moisture when you pull the bag out as it begins to unthaw.”

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