We all want to be able to make fresh, great tasting coffee at home. We invest in equipment, perfect our espresso pulling, milk steaming, and pour over techniques. But all of this attention to detail goes to waste if we’re not storing our coffee properly.
Whether you’re using whole bean or ground, it’s useful to know how coffee storage can impact its taste, and what to do about it.
Coffee’s four main ‘enemies’ are air, heat, light, and moisture, and minimising your coffee’s contact with these things will help it stay fresh for as long as possible. If you’re not sure where to start, then we’re here to walk you through it.
How to store coffee beans properly
Before we dive into specifics, it’s worth mentioning that we recommend buying whole bean coffee rather than ground coffee, if you’ve got access to a good quality grinder.
Although air will eventually cause coffee to stale whether it’s whole bean or ground, as soon as a coffee is ground, there’s more surface area for the air to come into contact with, which speeds up the process of flavour and aroma loss.
Alongside the format you buy your coffee in, there are some other important components. The shelf life and roast date of the coffee, the packaging you buy them in, and storage conditions like darkness, dryness, and temperature are all matter. In this section, we’ll give you some useful tips for keeping on top of these.
Roast date and shelf life
Freshly roasted coffee beans
Generally, a coffee is considered ‘fresh’ for about a month after its roast date, as long as it’s kept in an airtight pack or container.
Most coffees need a day or two to degas (to lose the excess carbon dioxide that becomes trapped inside the beans during roasting) in order to taste their best, but after that, a coffee will gradually begin to taste less interesting, and eventually stale.
The key thing here is that if properly stored, this process will be very gradual, and you should have up to a month of its flavours and aromas being at their peak.
The packaging you receive your beans in makes a difference, too. Where possible, try to buy beans that are sold in opaque packaging – transparent and translucent panels let light through – and keep an eye out for packaging which is resealable, like zip-lock bags.
That said, some roasters like us are making a move towards fully recyclable paper packaging, and not all of these are resealable – most zip locks are made of plastic, after all.
One of our new, recyclable paper packs
In this case, you’ll want to manually reseal your bag, or transfer the coffee to an airtight container. We’ll cover some container options next.
Storing coffee in the pack you bought it in isn’t the only option you have. Airtight containers, like mason jars, are an easy-to-find option, and they do a good job of keeping air and moisture out.
But they tend to be transparent, so in order to keep light and temperature at bay, you’ll need to store them in a cool, dark place such as a pantry or store cupboard.
More and more, those that are serious about keeping their coffee fresh are investing in specialist coffee storage equipment, and there are some great options out there – our personal favourite being the Fellow Atmos Vacuum Canister.
What sets it apart from other canisters is that it has an integrated vacuum pump, concealed within the lid, to suck oxygen away from the coffee and prevent anything else getting in.
The Atmos is also opaque, so no light can get in, and its stainless-steel structure is more durable and less porous than other materials like plastic or glass.
How to store ground coffee
Grinding your beans at home is the best way to maintaining freshness for longer, but having a good quality grinder to hand – especially one that’s geared up for dialling in espresso – might not be possible. Grinders are an investment and can take up space in the kitchen.
Wholebean and ground coffee
If buying ground coffee is your best or only option, then everything we’ve already said about beans still applies – it’s just even more important. Buy coffee that’s been freshly roasted, and keep it in an opaque, airtight bag or container, in a cool, dark, dry place.
Another great tip for ground coffee is to buy it in smaller quantities more often rather than larger quantities less often. After all, ground coffee has a shorter period of peak freshness – think a week or two when properly stored, rather than a month.
Storing green coffee - why this matters too
If you’re reading this, you’re much less likely to be storing green coffee than you are roasted coffee, but knowing how green coffee beans should be stored after they’re grown, picked, and processed at origin is important too, as it can impact how your roasted, brewed coffee will taste.
Green coffee beans, which are coffee beans that have yet to be roasted, are more robust than roasted coffee beans but they’re still sensitive to same main threats: air, heat, light, and moisture. Pests can also be an issue at origin, depending on where in the world this happens to be.
The shelf life of green coffee beans can be anywhere from six to twelve months, and the more carefully and thoughtfully they are stored, the longer this will be.
Green coffee being stored in burlap sacks
Burlap sacks were once the most popular means of storing green coffee and shipping it around the world, but they can be susceptible to moisture and other threats.
These days, storage bags that are airtight (hermetically sealed so that no air can enter or leave it) are pretty widely used, and considered the best method for storing green coffee.
Take GrainPro bags, for example, which are made from polyethylene and offer protection from air, moisture, mould growth, and pests.
In theory, burlap sacks are still a sound option, but the spaces in which these are stored and transported need to be monitored carefully for threats such as moisture, insects, and excess humidity in order for the green beans to stay safe.
The role of moisture
Controlling moisture is a particularly important part of storing green coffee. After coffee is processed, it is usually dried from having a moisture content of 45-55% to having a moisture content of 8-12%. It’s then down to storage conditions to maintain these levels, with temperature and relative humidity two of the key factors that should be controlled.
Excess moisture may result in soft beans which lack flavour, and in the worst cases it can result in mould. On the other hand, green beans that are too dry are at risk of losing flavour.
So, we’ve covered coffee beans and ground coffee, and how best to store each of these. Hopefully you now have a better idea of how to store your coffee at home, as well as an insight into how important it is to store green coffee beans with care. After all, everything that happens at origin has a massive influence on what we taste in each cup.