Within the large segment of the population who enjoy coffee it seems there are two distinct factions constantly at odds with one another: those who store their coffee beans in the freezer and those who do not. The argument in favor states that freezing beans helps to preserve the flavor and prevents the coffee from going stale. The argument against, on the other hand, states that freezing coffee exposes it to excessive moisture, which negatively affects the taste of the resulting beverage.
Of course, there are always outliers to any conflict. Personally, I find value in either stance. However, contemplating this eternal struggle got me thinking about how to best store coffee beans.
1. Get grinding
Look, I get it, pre-ground coffee is convenient and saves a bunch of time and effort. However, in the interest of freshness and taste, nothing beats some freshly ground coffee. Coffee begins to oxidize at an increased rate once it’s ground, which means it gets stale sooner. If you really want to enjoy the freshest coffee possible, you need to ditch the pre-ground bags and invest in a good coffee grinder.
2. Drink it quickly
Ideally, ground coffee should be drunk within two weeks of its roast date; whole beans should be drunk no more than one month after the roast date. Coffee doesn’t really go bad per se; however, over time it will become stale. Stale coffee is perfectly drinkable, but it lacks the flavor and aroma of fresh coffee. Most good coffee roasters will list the roast date on their coffee bags.
3. Keep it sealed
Oxidization is the enemy of fresh coffee so make sure you keep your beans in a sealed container. If your coffee comes in a bag with a grip seal then you’re good to go. If not, you might want to consider transferring it to a Ziplock bag or, alternately, a clip-top glass jar.
4. Hello darkness, my old friend
Coffee shouldn’t be exposed to excessive heat or light. It’s best to keep it stored in a cupboard and not on the counter.
5. Freeze if you must
As I’ve already mentioned, there are two opposing views on the matter of freezing coffee beans. The truth is that coffee can be frozen, provided certain conditions are met. The main issue with freezing coffee boils down to the beans’ tendency to absorb moisture. A freezer is a moisture-rich environment and exposing the beans — or the grinds — to moisture will result in the coffee tasting dank and unpleasant. However, storing the coffee in an airtight container can prevent this from happening.
So if you are certain that you won’t be able to drink the coffee in time, freezing it is a totally viable option. I would recommend placing the beans in a vacuum-sealed container and refrain from removing the coffee from the freezer as much as possible in order to prevent condensation forming on the beans.