Fresh coffee should be treated like fresh bread. Time is of the essence with coffee and there is no substitute for fresh coffee. Even the best storage methods will not replicate fresh coffee in the cup. However, there are some things you can do to mitigate the coffee in your cupboard from degrading like a drunken family at Thanksgiving.
First off, try to consume the coffee within two weeks of the coffee being roasted. Coffee reaches its zenith approximately 72 hours after roasting. During this time, the coffee is degassing, that is, releasing CO2 gas in large amounts.
Coffee should be stored in an airtight glass container and stored in a cool, dark place. If the coffee is really fresh, it might pop the top open; but after 72 hours, this should not really be a concern. We want to keep oxygen from interacting with the coffee. Coffee, heat, moisture and light are the enemies.
Coffee Storage Locations
Cool, dark, dry places (such as pantries and cabinets) are best for coffee storage. People often ask if they should refrigerate the coffee. That answer is an emphatic no. There is moisture in the refrigerator and please remember that coffee is hygroscopic. That is, it will absorb any and all flavors around it. If you have fish in your refrigerator, be prepared to have fish flavored coffee. When it comes to freezing coffee, that question and answer gets a lot more complicated. There is no moisture in a freezer, and thus, the coffee stands a much better chance than leaving it in a heated area, or in the refrigerator. When it comes to freezing coffee our answer is usually this: if you are not going to consume the coffee within two weeks, freeze it in an airtight container, otherwise, store it in a cool dark place. But freezer storage doesn’t extend the shelf life. And once you remove coffee from the freezer, don’t put it back. A freezing-thawing cycle is guaranteed to introduce moisture.
After opening the coffee packaging, the coffee will begin to degrade quickly. It is imperative that you transfer the coffee to an airtight container as soon as possible. Glass or ceramic containers with airtight gaskets are perfect for storing coffee. If they are clear glass containers, please make sure to store them in a dark place.
The best way to keep your coffee fresh is to buy a quantity that you will drink within two weeks. If the coffee is going to be stored longer than that, a freezer is an unacceptable storage method as long as it is an airtight container.
Ground coffee has more surface area than whole beans, so it will begin to degrade much faster. Grinding your coffee before you brew will ensure that essential flavor compounds are not being oxidized as fast.
If you’re a true coffee connoisseur you probably are not purchasing your coffee at the grocery store. If you are purchasing at a grocery store, please realize that you should be purchasing bags with one way degassing valves over vacuum sealed bags or cans. The one way degassing valve is an indicator that carbon dioxide has been allowed to release without oxygen being allowed to enter the beans. Furthermore, vacuum sealed coffee has to degas before it’s sealed or else it will pop the container open. This period of waiting for the coffee to degas allows oxygen to oxidize the coffee beans. Coffee stored in bags with a one way degassing valves will be packaged immediately after roasting, thus eliminating the oxygen from oxidizing the beans.
Remember, the four enemies of fresh coffee are air, moisture, heat, and light. Knowing how to properly store coffee isn’t like launching the Space Shuttle. But knowing the basics about coffee properties will go a long way towards ensuring that perfect morning cup of coffee.