A cup of coffee at the right time can refresh you and give you the energy to do more with the time you have. Most people struggle with knowing when to buy their coffee and how to store it to ensure it remains fresh even several weeks down the line. If you do not know how to store coffee beans, this article is for you as it will explore how long coffee should last as well as how to ensure it lasts for that long or even longer.
How Long Do Coffee Beans Last?
Although coffee can be considered a food, it does not expire or go bad like other foods and beverages do. Many coffee bean bags do not come with an expiry date. What many of them indicate is the “best before” or “best by” dates, which is when the coffee starts to lose its freshness.
One thing you might not know is that coffee starts to lose its freshness as soon as the outer shell is broken or cracked. This is because it is at this point that the coffee bean is exposed to oxygen. Once the beans finish releasing carbon dioxide (degassing), they start absorbing oxygen and undergoing oxidation. It is the oxidation process that is the main reason why coffee loses its flavor.
Whole Vs. Ground Coffee
If you want your coffee to remain fresh for longer and to ensure it retains its flavor for longer, it is better to buy whole coffee beans. This is also true if you intend to consume the coffee beans for a long time. The reasoning is that the grinding process accelerates oxidation which leads to spoilage.
This is because the smaller ground coffee particles have a larger surface area than whole coffee beans and this means more of the coffee is exposed to oxygen at once. The natural result is ground coffee going bad faster (losing flavor, texture, and other profiles) faster than whole coffee beans.
Storing Coffee: The Basics
To know how to store coffee, you need to know what to protect the coffee from. The four elements that make coffee lose its flavor and freshness faster are oxygen, moisture, heat, and direct sunlight. This means the best way to store coffee beans is in a container or in a way that helps protect them from all these elements. The best candidate is a dark, airtight container that is kept away from direct sunlight.
A simple airtight container can keep the coffee fresh for anywhere from a month to several months depending on how often the container is opened. Storing coffee beans in their original packaging will keep them fresh for two months to several months, again depending on how often you open this container. You can purchase an airtight container that would be great for your coffee online.
If you want to go further, consider purchasing a vacuum container when looking for the best way to store coffee beans. A vacuum container removes all the air from the container, thus minimizing the amount of oxygen that the coffee beans are in contact with as they are stored. By protecting the coffee beans from oxygen in this way, the coffee beans can last for longer.
It is important to note that some vacuum containers can dry the coffee beans and remove their natural oils. This means the coffee beans will not provide the flavor they are supposed to once you use them to brew coffee. It is therefore important to do some research on specific vacuum containers to see which one works best.
Storing Coffee Beans in the Fridge
Whether to store coffee beans in a fridge or not has been debated for a long time and the only thing you can do is learn the facts. Coffee beans are highly porous, especially after the degassing process has completed. This means they absorb the odors of items or foods around them very easily, and keep them. This also means storing coffee beans in the fridge can lead to different flavors being produced.
There is also evidence to show that the moist and cold conditions of the fridge can cause the beans to age faster, meaning they will not last as long as you would like them to. The cold environment also pushes the natural coffee oils to the surface where they will be lost. Storing your coffee beans in the fridge, therefore, should be done for a limited time and only if you are looking to consume the coffee soon.
What about the freezer? When looking for how to keep coffee beans fresh and having ruled out the fridge if you have foods with strong odors in there, the next option to consider is the freezer. Anecdotal research suggests that storing coffee beans in the freezer does not prolong their freshness for much longer than storing them in the fridge.
The most important thing to remember is to store the coffee beans properly, even in the freezer. Use water and airtight container that is also opaque.
Selecting a Container to Store Your Coffee Beans
There are several things you should consider when choosing a container to store your coffee beans in. We have touched on some of them above and we will expound them here. First, the container should be made out of a non-reactive material. Such a material does not impart any odors or flavors on the coffee beans, thus giving you as close to the optimal taste and flavor as possible. Non-reactive metals, glass, and ceramic are all great containers to consider.
An airtight and watertight container is ideal since oxygen and moisture will lead to loss of flavor. Opaque containers ensure that coffee beans are protected from sunlight. Roasted coffee beans look very nice when stored in a transparent container and placed on a countertop. Doing this exposes the coffee beans to direct sunlight, and UV rays and heat accelerate the oxidation process, thus reducing the shelf life of your beans.
Store Coffee Beans in Small Batches
While you might do everything you can to keep your coffee beans fresh for the longest time, many people forget about opening and closing the container the beans are stored in. Frequent opening of the container lets in some air, exposes the beans to the elements and reduces your coffee beans’ shelf life.
It is therefore a good idea to store the coffee beans in smaller batches. This will ensure that the coffee containers you do not need right now remain sealed until you need them.
Buy Only What You Need
Another very important thing to remember is to only buy the coffee beans you need. Remember that the best cup of coffee is one that is made fresh. If you buy coffee in bigger batches - which a lot of people do because it saves money - you will keep the coffee for a long time. This means the coffee will have lost most if not all of its flavor by the time you finish that batch.
The best thing to do is to purchase coffee that you will be consuming in the next few weeks. Buying smaller quantities ensures you have a fresh cup of coffee whenever you make one. Smaller batches are also easier to store, especially when you think about buying enough containers to fit all the coffee you buy.
Buy Raw Coffee Beans
The last option for those who are in for a learning experience is buying raw coffee beans. These are coffee beans that have not been roasted. This is a great option because unroasted or green coffee beans retain their flavor for longer, usually a year or more. Buying unroasted coffee beans also allows you to experiment with different types of coffee beans (robusta vs. arabica) and also allows you to learn how to roast coffee beans yourself.
When you buy unroasted coffee beans and learn how to roast them, you will have a lot more control over the roast and the subsequent flavor and coffee profile. This will allow you to make your cups of coffee the exact way you like and not have to worry too much about how to properly store coffee beans. The obvious caveat is that roasting coffee the right way can be incredibly challenging but is still an opportunity to learn something new.
Although coffee does not technically go bad, it loses its flavor and other profiles over time. Coffee lovers will know that coffee can retain its flair and remain fresh for a few weeks to a few months depending on how it is stored and where it is roasted. Storage is such a significant factor that if you want your coffee to retain its flavor and its other profiles for a long time, you have to learn how to store it properly. Remember that the three main things you need to protect the coffee from are direct sunlight, moisture, and oxygen. Time is also a factor because coffee loses its favor the longer it is stored.