Coffee roasters frequently are asked questions about coffee storage. Should coffee be stored in the refrigerator? The freezer? Away from sunlight? In glass jars?
The truth is that there are many myths wandering around the coffee world about coffee storage, some of them repeated so often that they’ve taken on the patina of truth. The truths about coffee storage may surprise you.
The Most Common Myths about Coffee Storage
Quick – what do you do with that two pounds of coffee that you just bought? Ask that question in any group and at least one person will extol the virtues of storing your coffee in the freezer. Another will tell you to leave it in the vacuum stored container in which it was bought. Still a third will tell you to keep it in a glass container, and a fourth is sure to tell you that it really doesn’t matter at all. The truth is that each of those methods of coffee storage is the right answer – in certain conditions. Here’s some common sense advice from people who know about coffee – coffee growers and roasters.
Why is coffee storage so important?
Coffee beans are taken from a living plant, and as such, have a limited shelf life. Like most organic products, you can increase their life by storing them properly. More importantly – at least to most coffee enthusiasts – proper coffee storage preserves the flavor of the coffee. You see, coffee beans contain volatile oils – chemicals that give coffee its characteristic flavor. Those oils are released by the roasting process, and decay rather quickly once the coffee has been roasted. Grinding the coffee beans speeds up the flavor loss even more. Because of the difference in the way that those oils behave, there are different methods of coffee storage that are best for coffee at the different times in its life.
To get the best flavor from your coffee, you should brew it within two weeks of roasting, and immediately after grinding. In fact, coffee is at its peak flavor about 48 hours after roasting. That’s a time line that’s pretty close to impossible unless you’re buying raw beans and roasting your own. If you buy your coffee as whole roasted coffee beans, you can make a point of looking for the date that the coffee was roasted – but you’ll seldom find it. Failing that, here are some tips on coffee buying and coffee storage that will help ensure that you get a great tasting and fresh cup of coffee every time.
Coffee Buying Tips
The first rules of proper coffee storage have nothing to do with containers or temperatures. They have to do with how you buy your coffee.
1. If you can, buy from a local roaster who will tell you when the coffee was roasted. Then you know that you’re starting with fresh coffee.
2. Buy coffee in vacuum sealed bags or cans. Those lovely self-serve coffee bean displays with a dozen different varieties of coffee beans are pretty to look at – but the bins allow air to attack the coffee beans, and you have no idea how long the beans have stood there.
3. Buy no more than two weeks supply of coffee at a time. After two weeks, even freshly roasted coffee will begin to lose its flavour.
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