Why does storage count when it comes to coffee?
Coffee is a food. It is an agricultural product that lives, grows, is harvested and goes stale over time. Like bread, broccoli and even chocolate (mmm, chocolate), It is best when fresh.
While making coffee out of very old beans will not make you ill, as long as it has not been exposed to bacteria, it will lose all the wonderful characteristics that make up a great tasting drink.
The oxidisation process starts from the very moment the beans have finished roasting and continues over time. While the bean requires some ‘down time’ post-roasting (much like a steak, you need to allow the cells to ‘rest’ for optimum flavour and texture), the ongoing ageing process will continue over time until the beans carry much less nutrients, oils, and aromatics.
It is best to consume coffee within 1 – 2 months of its roast date and to grind only as needed. Grinding speeds up the ageing process exponentially because the beans are broken down and no longer cased within their protective exterior. Oxygen exposure to a higher surface area in ground coffee beans means faster oxidisation.
No-one wants stale, flavourless, bitter coffee in their life. So let me explain more, and share some tips on how to best store your beans and what to do if they are getting a bit long in the tooth at the back of the pantry!
Tips for storage
1 Buy & grind fresh.
Buy smaller amounts of coffee more frequently, and buy from a roaster who roasts fresh. This is a sure fire way to guarantee fresh beans and awesome coffee. Avoid the discount bargains in the supermarket coffee aisle is number 1 for great coffee at home. If you need to buy in larger amounts, make sure you only grind what you need THAT DAY, and keep the rest stored correctly.
Get a great grinder like this stainless steel hand grinder and use it every day!
Try a coffee subscription for absolute guarantees of fresh coffee everyday of your life. Delivered to your door monthly, straight after roasting. This is the way of the future, trust me!
2 The fridge & the freezer
Beautiful beans are delicate little things. Freezing and cooling them will affect their structure. Let me explain more, as lots of people think keeping fresh beans cool will retain their awesomeness.
They are porous after they are roasted and will absorb odours from a humid fridge environment. Curry chicken flavoured coffee may sound exciting to some, but not to me!
Humidity in the fridge will cause a reaction with the oils on the surface of the beans, leading to degeneration of flavour.
Freezing beans will halt the staling process ONLY IF they are absolutely airtight, preferably vacuum sealed, and brought to room temperature before grinding. Keeping them in the freezer and taking out a daily use amount will lead only to increasing moisture within the larger supply package and destroy the delicate structure of the beans, as well as expose them to ice burn.
The best containers for keeping beans fresh are opaque and airtight (vacuum sealable if possible).
Coffee beans are so beautiful and look very very pretty in a glass canister on your shelf, but this will not give you the freshest coffee possible as the light, air, and heat will get to them. Perhaps try a little display jar of beans in your favourite glass bottle for the kitchen bench. Coffee art is a thing!
Keep them at a consistent, relatively cool environment and away from air. Metal, opaque glass or dark plastic canisters kept in the pantry cupboard will serve you best as they keep out air, heat, light, moisture, and odours.
4 Treat fresh coffee like fresh bread
Air, heat, light, moisture & odour are enemies of a fabulous coffee. Keep these to a minimum when storing coffee and you will reap the rewards. Just like when you store bread in the freezer and defrost it, it won't be so nice, it’s the same with your beautiful beans.
5 Choose your beans
Darker roasts are more porous and go stale quicker as they absorb heat/smells/air faster – a medium roast, just past the second crack, will offer the best longevity. Check out more about The Crack here.
6 Choose your brew
If you want to use your beans and they are hitting the 2-month mark, all is not lost.
Two types of brewing are more flexible when it comes to the age of the beans…
Cold brew coffee lends itself to using older beans due to the style of brewing, which is extraction over time rather than heat extraction. On average, a cup of cold brew is 67% less acidic than a typical brew, and a great option for those with sensitive digestive systems.
The 12 – 24 hour slow extraction brings out the flavours and characteristics, but leaves the acidity at a minimum. The aging of beans makes the coffee more acidic, so choose Cold Brew for fewer acids in older beans. Because you are extracting coffee at a lower temperature, you avoid dissolving large amounts of coffee oils that produce acids. And as not all solubles for the bean will be released, this brewing style is more forgiving than heat-brewed coffee methods.
More about cold brew here.
A very coarse grind and a Plunger (or French Press) is another brewing method that makes the most of beans at the 2-month mark because of the greater surface area of the beans, just make sure you use a bigger amount (about 25% more) in an older bean, coarsely ground batch.
More about the plunger here.
Waste Not, Want Not...
7 Past the use-by date
So, what to do with that giant bag of coffee I got for Christmas in 2017, before I signed up for a Kimberley Coffee Company Coffee Subscription? Being 100% coffee lovers, we want to make sure you don’t just throw away your old beans and waste all the love that has been given to them in their journey from the coffee fields to the back of your pantry!
- Make a big batch of brew and use in baking and cocktails. Keep the grind course though.
- Chocolate coat the beans and snack on.
- Grind and use as pest control and fertiliser in your garden, or as an air freshener.
- Check out more ways to use coffee grinds here, as this does not call for freshness as an important element.
Check out our subscription deal here to guarantee you only use fresh beans, and take a look at my latest coffee shot, which explains a bit more about coffee bean storage.
My latest Coffee Shot is all about coffee storage - check it out!