A big part of the joy of grinding great fresh coffee, is fresh coffee.
Coming home with a fresh bag of great coffee is a warm and fuzzy moment: so many great flavors await you! Opening the bag, you smell that smell and want to take it in forever! It’s tempting to try and preserve your coffee, to make it last as long as possible. But how do you go about doing it the right way?
First and foremost, it helps not to buy more coffee than you can drink in a reasonable span of time. A 5lb bag of beans is great if you’re hosting a wedding, but might be overkill for a couple or small family. Buying just a 12oz or 1lb bag at a time ensures that your coffee won’t get old enough to become stale.
What you don’t want to do is put that bag in the freezer or fridge. This may seem like the right move; it’s how you keep most food fresh. The thing to remember, though, is that coffee is very low in moisture, to the point where it does not require refrigeration to remain safe.
In fact, freezing or refrigerating coffee is going to negatively effect flavor. Big changes in temperature are destructive to the chemical structure of coffee and the flavor-making components it contains. As coffee freezes and thaws, those compounds break down and resulting brew lacks a lot of what it could have had in terms of taste.
Also, freezing beans can lead to the development of ice crystals which, upon grinding, will cause a nasty clog. Water is never good for your grinder’s burrs, even in the form of ice!
On the other side of things, be sure to avoid keeping coffee on a kitchen window sill, or in direct sunlight. This can also degrade the beans and lead to lackluster brews.
Instead, the best course of action is to keep coffee stored at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, away from moisture, and preferably in an airtight container. Room temperature is usually very stable – certainly more so than going from room temperature to freezing! Out of direct sunlight means the beans will stay fairly stable as far as heat is concerned, at least until brewing! An airtight container helps delay staling. This is actually the best way to retain freshness, not via refrigeration. In fact, some people even use vacuum-sealed containers for their coffee.
Chances are, your coffee came in a sealed bag. Many roasters use bags with zip-ties and one-way valves. This allows you to open and re-seal a bag and then push out the air left behind from the process. It’s a great touch and requires no extra expense on your part!
That being said, if you drink coffee frequently enough, we at Baratza suggest keeping your beans in the hopper of your grinder! Our hoppers should fit a 12oz bag (a very common size). Although not air-tight, our hoppers have lids and there is just a narrow gap between burrs, which limits oxygen exposure. We find that the added convenience of ready-to-go grinding is worth it!
Whether you’re buying vacuum-sealed canisters with pumps and gaskets or just closing up the bag with a binder clip, buying just enough coffee and keeping it at room temperature, and away from sunlight or moisture, will ensure that amazing flavor you anticipate every time you come home with fresh coffee!