As a coffee fanatic, you probably spend a lot of time and money in pursuit of the perfect brew. Whether you’re purchasing the latest bean-to-cup machine (such as these), sourcing exotic beans or watching brewing tips on YouTube, I’m sure you’re always looking for a way to improve the taste and consistency of your coffee.
Despite this obsession, there’s one vital aspect of making coffee that’s often overlooked: how you store your beans.
Regardless of quality, if you don’t store beans correctly they start to lose flavour and freshness. Perhaps more importantly, improperly stored beans prevent consistency. This can make brewing a frustrating experience.
With that in mind, here are some tips for storing coffee for maximum flavour, freshness and consistency.
Avoid Large Batches of Beans
Coffee beans start to go stale as soon as they are roasted. The more time between roasting and grinding, the less fresh the coffee will taste.
For this reason, it’s a bad idea to buy large batches. While the first few cups will taste fresh, the beans will become progressively staler.
I recommend buying no more than two weeks of beans in one go. If you drink a lot of coffee, you may want to sign-up for a service that sends recurring batches, so you always have fresh beans available.
You should also avoid pre-ground beans if you want consistency and flavour. Once coffee is ground, the oils start to evaporate. This is why bean-to-cup coffee machines, which grind a new batch of coffee for each shot, are often the best option.
Store in an Airtight Container
While coffee beans start to lose freshness after they are roasted, there are several factors that can speed up the process.
The most common causes of staleness are air and moisture. Make sure you store all your beans in an airtight container, so they remain fresh for longer. This also prevents moist air from affecting the beans.
An obvious problem is that air enters a container whenever you remove beans. To minimise this, I recommend using multiple small containers to help your coffee stay fresher for longer.
Note: Pre-ground coffee is more susceptible to being affected by air, as the granules provide greater surface area. Whole beans should still be stored in an airtight container though. For more information, check out our guide to the science of brewing.
Keep in a Dark Location
Light is another cause of stale or flavour-less coffee beans. When light hits the surface of a bean, it causes a chemical reaction which affects the taste of your final brew.
Fortunately, this is easy to prevent. Just make sure your beans are stored in a dark and cool location that isn’t in direct sunlight.
A common mistake is to store beans in a transparent airtight container. This allows sunlight to reach the beans and cause degradation. If you want your beans to be on display, make sure they are placed away from the window.
Consider Freezing Your Beans
There has been a long-running debate about whether frozen beans taste better.
On the one hand, heat is a major cause of taste degradation, so it makes sense that freezing would prevent this – and freezing could also improve taste. Long-term storage in a container that’s not properly sealed may cause freezer burn though. Freezing may also introduce moisture which can affect taste.
So, should you freeze your beans?
There is probably little benefit to freezing coffee beans and then defrosting before grinding. This introduces added risk of staleness (if the container isn’t properly sealed) and is less convenient.
A study in Nature, however, discovered that cooler beans provide more consistent results – as long as they are ground when frozen rather than allowed to thaw. This is because the frozen beans grind into smaller particles, which allows for greater surface area and a stronger taste.
It’s true that the study was performed by professional baristas who deal with temperature fluctuations from heavily used coffee shop grinders. But the same principle applies to home beans.
There’s an important caveat though. You must store your beans in a properly sealed and airtight container. Even a small amount of air can cause the beans to go stale.
Whether the additional risks of freezing beans are countered by the more consistent ground particles is a matter of opinion. It may be worth trying with a small batch if you enjoy experimenting with your coffee though.
High-quality coffee beans can make the difference between the perfect brew and a disappointing one – but proper storage is just as important.
Beans start to lose freshness as soon as they are roasted. Correctly storing them can slow down this process, so your coffee has more flavour and consistency.
Here’s a quick overview of how to keep your beans fresh:
- Only buy what you’ll use in 1-2 weeks. The longer the time between roasting and grinding, the less flavour the beans will have.
- Store beans in an airtight container. Ideally, you should use multiple small containers rather than one large.
- Make sure the beans are kept away from direct sunlight. This is particularly important if using a container with transparent sides.
- For greater consistency, you may want to consider freezing beans and grinding them without thawing. This may lead to more consistent particles and a stronger taste. Make sure the container is fully air-tight though.
Do you have any questions about storing coffee beans? Or do you have a tip you would like to share with us? Please use the comments form below!